In opening his first restaurant, owner Mike Buettner wants his customers to feel at home. He has brought his own recipes together in forming Nanny Lou’s Kitchen, named for his significant other’s nickname. Buettner has recently opened his eatery in time for the students who will be returning to the Lindenwood University-Belleville campus down the road. Business writer Will Buss visited the “Kitchen” to find out more:
What’s on the menu?
“We have soups, salads, breakfast and lunch specials every day. I tend to go under the impression that this is convenient comfort food. It’s not fast food, but we try to serve it up quick, something that’s like homemade cooking.”
Why did you open a restaurant?
“I worked in fast food when I was going to college. I like to cook. When someone comes into my restaurant, it’s like they’re coming to my house. I want to make sure it’s a pleasant experience, and there is something wholesome for them to eat. When you invite people over, there is always food and drink. So I just feel that you’re coming to my house when you’re here.”
What are your customers’ favorites?
“Our sandwiches are all popular, and we’re starting back with our soups, now. I have a jambalaya that I cook that is very popular. We had a special today on tomato bisque, and we have sold a lot of that. I have a vegetable beef soup that I’m going to start to bring back. When we first opened up, I did some soups, but then it turned out to be too hot on us and I figured it’s just too hot to cook. But people have been asking for it, so we’re going to start bringing back at least one soup a week. When the fall comes, we’ll have more soups and probably a different soup every day. Of course, I have chili because that’s a staple. I have a BLT that people like, and they order that a lot. My ciabatta has three meats and provolone cheese. It is provolone, ham, turkey and bacon on a toasted garlic bun, which is very popular. My sides are all made in house. The potato salad, cole slaw and Italian pasta salad we make in house. Of course, I’ll have chips, because people want chips. Like I said, I try to serve it up fast with quality and wholesome food.”
What attracted you to this spot in Bellevile?
“The college, for one thing. I bought the building four years after seeing the expansion of the college. Right now, I live a block away, and they are moving this way. They are buying up and expanding. This is more of a counter service. Get in, get out.”
How do you compete with other restaurants in the area?
“I don’t have wait staff, and you can get in and get out of here quickly. I try to keep my prices low, because I don’t have a wait staff. My prices are a little more competitive, I think. You can have breakfast for under $5 and you can have lunch for under $10. You can have a drink, a side and a sandwich for under 10 bucks.”
What would you like to do next at Nanny Lou’s Kitchen?
“Starting next week, I’m going to start expanding the hours longer into the evenings. I want to support the college when the kids come back in the middle of August. Instead of getting fast food, they can get something more wholesome here.”
What have you enjoyed most about your business?
“The cooking. I enjoy cooking, for one thing, and meeting the people. It’s fulfilling and satisfying for me to see somebody enjoy their meal. That’s one thing that someone’s always asking, if you like the meal. I hope they do. If they don’t, then I have no problem refunding their money or giving them something else.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 618-239-2526.
Job: Owner, Nanny Lou’s Kitchen at 1926 W. Main St. in Belleville
Outlook: “When someone comes into my restaurant, it’s like they’re coming to my house. I want to make sure it’s a pleasant experience, and there is something wholesome for them to eat.”