Tater and Joe’s Attracts Local Students and Residents with Unique Approach to Food, Coffee, and Artistic Expression
Boyce Avenue’s cover of “What Makes you Beautiful” by One Direction is played in the dining area on a sunny April day at Tater and Joe’s Café. The smell of coffee is strong in this particular establishment even though the restaurant is also known for its specialty cakes and sandwiches. Kevin Hunt, the owner of Tater and Joe’s, stands behind the counter taking a customer’s order.
“Would you like your sandwich on bread or a baked potato?” says Hunt.
“Oh…I’ll try the baked potato,” says the customer.
Tater and Joe’s isn’t your typical coffee shop. In front of the café, a large chalkboard sign displays the drinks they serve . Donuts, cakes, and pies, are also displayed at the front, but the uniqueness of this restaurant is shown in their sandwich menu. They offer dishes such as the Chicken Bacon Yum, The Taco Tater, or even your classic Ham and Cheese. If you want a pulled pork sandwich but want to try it on a potato, they can do that too. Their slogan “Where Delicious Meets Unique,” rings true in a way you don’t see with other restaurants in the downtown Terre Haute area.
“We want to go for what the core demographics are looking for,” says Hunt. “We want to attract students as well as the downtown crowd.”
Hunt remembers being in college and he wants to have a place where college students can study, eat, hangout, or enjoy a local band. The place certainly offers the comforts a student would want, with artwork on the walls and couches past the dining area that can be used for studying.
The building is located on Wabash Avenue in between 4th and 5th streets. The building sits next to Saratoga Restaurant and Smoke and Peace, which sells smoking accessories. The building has seen a variety of different businesses occupy its space since it was built in 1890.
“Noteworthy businesses that have occupied that space include A&W Rootbeer, Valeria’s Restaurant (Italian), Mellinger’s Pub and Bacchi’s (a tavern/live music place in the 1970s).” says Todd Nation, a councilman who is well studied on the history of the downtown Terre Haute area.
“In the early 20th century, that area of Wabash had pawn shops, second hand stores, and smaller, cheaper theaters than were found further east,” says Nation.
Hunt took over what was formerly known as Coffee Grounds in 2014. Coffee Grounds was founded by a Rose Hulman alum named George Shumay in 1993. It was Terre Haute’s first coffee shop, according to Hunt. The place has remained a coffee shop over the years and developed a loyal following, but has experienced cultural changes due to the growth of places like Starbucks. Although the place has changed its name, Coffee Grounds signs can be seen throughout the restaurant today.
The downtown area of Terre Haute isn’t as popular as it should be, especially with the growing student population. Hunt is trying to focus specifically on students as well as the downtown crowd.
“You can’t be everything to everybody, but you can be everything to a certain group of people,” says Hunt.
Hunt is using his background in music to help grow his business. He used to be a nightclub and concert promoter and he now uses that experience to bring local talent to his restaurant. On Friday, May 1st, the restaurant is throwing a block party where they will showcase local bands such as Moonshine Junction, Brainchild, and Vancouver Ballet. Tickets for the event are only $5 and after expenses 50% of ticket sales will go towards the Children’s Museum of Terre Haute.
Although Coffee Grounds had a loyal following, Tater and Joe’s is still a young business and will need help in order to grow their own. Hunt’s unique perspective on dining and music has helped the place become a place that appeals to a variety of people. Students, businessmen, children, and musicians can all be seen at the cafe on any day of the week.
In order for the business to keep growing, however, students must play a role also. Word of mouth from students who have been there will help the cafe become a student hot spot for years to come.