Since the ripe old age of nine, Kathleen Day has known she wanted to own a restaurant. Fast forward, and Day has been the owner of line-out-the-door breakfast and brunch spot Katalina’s at 1105 Pennsylvania Ave. in Harrison West for the last five years.
In the years since Day has taken ownership, the eatery has been through a progression of changes, found in both the name and the menu. First it was Cafe Corner, then Katalina’s Cafe Corner and now just Katalina’s.
The new name is an appropriate reflection of the overhauled menu that is finally full of Day’s own creations.
“I always had that vision to make it a breakfast place, organic, gourmet sandwiches, things like that,” she says. When Day took over the spot, there was definitely an initial update of the menu, but she still kept a few of the sandwiches from the previous list as to not alienate the existing customer base.
“Immediately there was a change in the customer,” Day notes. The crowd went from university-goer to foodie.
“Business did increase immediately,” she says.
It’s still a foodie crowd that frequents Katalina’s, but thanks to things like the storied recognition and amazingness of dishes like the pancake balls, the small shop is drawing a crowd from the suburbs, and even the world. Day knows just how far her name has spread thanks to the graffiti wall in the bathroom, which boasts signatures from Chicago to Brazil.
While some staples have stayed, the menu has been an evolution throughout the years to what it is now. Day describes it as having a “Latin touch and Southern twist.”
“Everything has an eclectic twist,” she says. “I think it just shows my broad range of locales and my personality as well. I have a very eclectic personality.” Day’s adventures have taken her to New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle. She learned to cook in Paris and grew up in the South, and it’s all reflected in her food.
Day strives for a you can only get it at Katalina’s menu. She’s taken away traditional breakfast staples like hashbrowns and the breakfast burrito, often causing an uproar, but “They slowly come around and like it better,” Day says. “People like what they like and they like safe foods, but when I introduce them to new things, they find out that they like that experience.”
Whatever the dish that diners are enjoying, they can be sure of one thing. It’s ethically sourced and organic and local as much as possible.
“When people ask why the food costs more, it’s because of that,” Day says. Such ingredients aren’t always the cheapest option, but it’s something that Day is unwilling to compromise on – even if it means a lower profit margin.
Responsibly sourced food has been a cornerstone of Katalina’s from the start. When she came to Columbus, there weren’t many places filling their menu with local, organic or ethical foods. Especially not in the casual space.
“There wasn’t near the competition that there is now,” Day says. But on the plus side, the increased interest is starting to make it easier to source local.
Even with the competition, Katalina’s has established itself as a brunch powerhouse. The hours have been trimmed to 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. to reflect their specialty. Day has experimented on and off with dinner hours, but realized between their reputation and lack of alcohol, the restaurant isn’t a place people normally think to come at night (even though it often meant shorter lines).
The location is an island of sorts in the neighborhood, not seeing the double-sided corridor of High Street in Short North, but Day says it wasn’t something that worried her as much as it probably should have in the beginning.
She was right not to be worried. It’s almost a guarantee the line will be out the door during brunch, so diners can also try their hand at the Katalina’s pop-up at Oddfellows. It’s the only partnership for now, but Day says she’d love to do more. And a food truck on the horizon should make that easier.
For more information, visit katalinascolumbus.com.
To read more about Katalina’s menu and food evolution, click here to visit Columbus Underground.