Cynthia LeVan spent 35 years working in the supermarket industry, and over the years determined that a lot of working women are responsible for making dinner every night, but hate it.
"It's extremely difficult to serve a healthy dinner after working all day," says LeVan.
With this in mind, LeVan started thinking about starting a business that would provide nutritious, interesting, carry-out meals for busy families. However, when the former Soup's On space became available at 221 N. Water St., just a block from LeVan's Third Ward home, she decided to expand her idea.
"I'm excited to open a business in my home stomping grounds," says LeVan.
In early October, LeVan will open the doors to her restaurant, Cynthia's, which will offer both on-site dining and grab-and-go food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The hours will be, most likely she says, from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and closed on the weekends. LeVan may stay open later in the evenings during the summer months.
LeVan believes many of her customers will grab-and-go for breakfast and dinner, but might eat on-site for lunch. She is going to wait and see how customers use her space / business and make firmer decisions about her hours once she identifies dining patterns.
Some of the menu items will include soups, salads and tacos. Re-heatable take-home dinners will vary, and many will be International cuisine, from Mexican to Moroccan to Chinese to All-American.
"So many of my customers will most likely work down here, and I want them to have a lot of choices so they don't get tired of my food," says LeVan.
LeVan's signature dishes include a Moroccan chicken stew and an Egyptian chick pea soup made with home preserved lemons. Vegan / vegetarian dishes will be available daily, along with meat entrees. Breakfast items will include breakfast burritos, egg strata, yogurt parfaits and more.
Because parking can be an issue in the neighborhood, LeVan says she will run orders out to people's cars if they just want to pull up for a quick exchange. Also, Cynthia's will not have a waitstaff. All food will be sold from the counter.
"Kind of like a Panera," she says.
Much of the interior space is being remodeled. It will feature stainless steel duct work, warm paint including red walls, the removal of a dropped ceiling and a refinished floor along with the spectacular view of the river from both the patio and the inside of the restaurant.
"It was eclectic before. It had been that way for 20 years," says LeVan. "I want the place to have a new personality and a comfortable feeling."
The restaurant will eventually have a liquor license. It will also feature an open kitchen in the front of the space so LeVan can personally greet every customer while she's cooking.
"I really want people to feel like this is their place," she says. "I want people to ask for what they want, to bring me recipes. I hate to use an old reference, but I really do want this to be like 'Cheers,' where everybody knows your name."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.