It sounds like a perfect beginning to a day — stop at a local gallery to browse and then drop into a cafe for a bite to eat.
Now you can do both at the same time.
The Artist’s Cafe on 22 Washington St. is a new eatery featuring more than tasty food. The cafe has 60 pieces of art on the walls done by local artists.
“It’s been a dream of mine to have an art gallery and a cafe,” said Donald Herook, owner of the cafe. “I’ve always done art and I’ve always done food. When I saw that the Purple Onion had left, I inquired about the location and it was a perfect fit.”
The Purple Onion restaurant operated in downtown Haverhill for a few months, but then closed. The vacant storefront and Herook’s creativity have combined to bring a different kind of business to the resurgent downtown, with its popular restaurants and shops.
Herook has experience in both the art and culinary fields. He was a head chef at the Atkinson Country Club for many years before this new adventure. He also enjoys painting and drawing and is the president of the Greater Haverhill Arts Association. Last November, he opened up the Sage Art Gallery on Washington Street.
Many of the art works on the walls are for sale. Herook said he has sold four pieces of art since the cafe opened up in late July. The art is all from local artists and Herook uses his connections to put art in his cafe which benefits both parties.
“Each town around here has their own art,” Herook said. “In addition to Haverhill, Lawrence and Andover each have an arts association. I reached out to them so that we can cross promote each other.”
Herook said that some of the art work is there for display only, but all of the work add a different twist to his customers’ meals.
“When people come in to eat, they’ll order some food and then while they wait, I hope that they’ll browse the art work,’’ he said.
As far as the food goes, Herook said that this isn’t your normal cafe.
“We’re not a hamburger and french fry type of place,” he said. “All the sandwiches come with either a pasta salad or cole slaw, which are made here.”
Herook said he plans to add more soup to the menu as the temperatures get cooler in the fall. Their most popular item is a tomato and mozzarella sandwich with basil mayonnaise.
Although the Purple Onion failed in the same location, he believes his cafe has a chance to thrive.
“There is definitely a need for this because it’s different,” he said.
The cafe serves breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sundays, it serves an a la carte brunch menu.
Herook said that so far, he’s heard nothing but positive reviews from his customers.
“Everyone seems to like it,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything bad yet.”