The Small Cafe has been a part of the Payson restaurant scene for nearly two decades. It was started almost 20 years ago by Chuck and Evelyn Evans, and then passed into the care of Todd and Sharon Zelinski.
Now, known as Payson's New Small Cafe, it is in the hands of David Roberson.
Several things contribute to making Payson's New Small Cafe "just a nice little place to eat." It has an endearing atmosphere that is both fresh and cozy.
"Back when Evelyn started it, she had been to Great Britain and really enjoyed the tea rooms she'd visited," said Roberson. "She wanted to recreate that here. One of our regular customers, Victor Cook, is about 90 and a retired English sailor. He said he thought he was back (home) when he walked in here."
The minute customers come in the door there is a sense of being invited to sit and chat with your companions over the meal, or if you're dining solo, enjoy that book or article you have been meaning to read, and linger over that extra cup of coffee with one of the spectacular desserts on the menu.
Naturally, the menu is the cornerstone of the Small Cafe. Roberson, who is a 2003 graduate of the Arizona Culinary Institute, has brought in some specialties of his own, plus popular dishes served at the old Heritage House (now Mad Dawg's and Mel's), when it was operated by his brother and sister-in-law, Randy and Diane Roberson.
But he has also kept house favorites on the menu.
"We debuted the new menu in January," Roberson said.
Among the house favorites offered diners are eggs Benedict, omelets, cashew chicken and chef's salad. Heritage House treats awaiting guests include tarragon chicken, potato salad, tuna salad, lemon surprise pie and Joe Dice's herb breads.
Some of Roberson's specialties are almond-crusted French toast; mini, crustless quiches; slow-cooked oatmeal with sauteéd apples, brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg; and grilled onions and Gorgonzola cheese on mesquite-smoked burgers, served on a grilled rosemary herb bun. He also raves about cook Jared Bownds' lasagna.
Roberson's love of cooking was limited to a hobby for most of his life, then he decided to take the plunge and get formal training.
"I did it with the express purpose of having a breakfast and lunch restaurant in Payson," he said.
"I want to give my customers affordable gourmet items and a good, quality restaurant."
The quality is a matter of record. The Small Cafe received 100 points in its last health department inspection -- a perfect score for cleanliness and food handling practices.
"I am an absolute obsessive nut about cleanliness and food safety," Roberson said. "There's a public trust involved and it's something we take very seriously." He even has his staff disinfect the door handles every night.
The Small Cafe is in the Twin Pines shopping center, near SafeQ Credit Union. It is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and Sunday, and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Monday. While dining at the cafe is a special treat, take-out is available, if orders are placed at least 30 minutes in advance.
For more information, call Payson's New Small Cafe at (928) 474-4209.