Libby Catlin has wanted to have her own restaurant since she was 8 or 9 years old.

Growing up on her family’s farm in Palisade, Catlin learned to cook and bake alongside her mom, Liz Catlin and her grandma, May Hensel.

After a brief stint in California, she returned to the Aitkin area and has been here ever since.

“I have done pretty much every food service-related work you can imagine,” Catlin said.

She even worked at her current location when it was the Birchwood Cafe. After working there for a year, Catlin moved on, but when she saw the Birchwood was for sale, she asked for a meeting with the owners.

“I will always be grateful to them for helping make my lifelong dream come true,” Catlin said last week.

Catlin is still exploring the possibilities for what kinds of foods and services she will offer going forward, but the bottom line is good, basic home-cooked food.

“It’s almost all made from scratch, and we offer meals and baked goods to go, for our customers who are going on the road or want to take something home for later.”

The menu has basic American-style breakfast items, sandwiches, and entrees. One whole section of the menu has meals centered around SPAM.

“I wasn’t sure about the SPAM,” Catlin said “But I like it, and I thought I would try it for a lark. It’s turned out to be surprisingly popular.”

The cafe is open five days a week; closed on Monday and Tuesday. Each day there is a buffet with a different theme, and a soup of the day. Catlin offers takeout containers and will fill phone orders for pickup.

She is also open to catering and custom baking.

“People should just call me. I’m in the phase of discovering what my customers need right now, so I want to know.”

The meeting room at the restaurant is available for private meetings and can seat 32.

Finding staff has been a challenge, but Catlin said her current team of five or six is pretty solid. She also employs a few casual employees for special tasks.

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