At the tender age of 9, Lindsay Zubay got her first taste of the restaurant business. She worked alongside her mother, father and two brothers at Newt’s, a long-time Rochester burger staple. Lindsay delivered food to customers’ tables.
“I hated it,” she says, laughing. “The tables were numbered and, as a kid, I couldn’t always figure out where the food was supposed to go.”
Now, two decades later, Lindsay is co-owner with her brother, Jason, and chef Justin Schoville of Rochester’s trendy new eatery, Porch, where they serve “urban farm fare that feeds your soul, as well as fills your stomach.”
WORKING ALONGSIDE HER MOTHER
LeeAnn Zubay is a staple herself in the Rochester restaurant scene. She is the owner and creative mind behind the successful ZZest Cafe & Bar, located on 16th Street Southwest, as well as the ZZest Lunch Counter and Market, which operate in the First Avenue Food Court in the downtown skyway.
Despite Lindsay’s initial distaste for the restaurant business, LeeAnn never discounted her daughter as a future restauranteur. “I’m going to pat myself on the back,” LeeAnn says. “My husband, Jerry, and I always talked about how we would pass the restaurants on to the kids. For many years, none of them seemed that interested, but I always say, ‘do not rule out Lindsay.’ And here she is. I’m so proud of her.”
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Lindsay started acting at the Masque Youth Theatre around the same time she started running food at Newt’s. She went on to college to pursue theatre. “I picked up a lot of my creativity for design and interaction from doing improv in the theatre,” Lindsay says.
“What they teach may be intended for the stage, but it’s very applicable to everyday life.”
Lindsay’s creative aspirations eventually led her from performing in front of an audience to working behind a camera, and she gave up the thespian life to graduate with a degree in photography. Her photos adorn the walls of ZZest Café, and now, her work is at home in Porch as well.
LeeAnn’s keen eye and sense of design helped refine the look and feel of all the Zubay restaurants—from the unique atmospheres to the culinary creations. “I can’t stop thinking up new ideas,” she says. “When Justin, our chef at Porch and ZZest, started talking about chicken, the ideas just flowed for me. I knew I had to get everyone else on board.”
Together, LeeAnn and Lindsay brought new life to the historic downtown railroad depot where Porch & Cellar reside—right down to the wallpaper.
“We took a road trip to my grandfather’s farm near Stewartville,” says LeeAnn. The old farmstead had a “for sale” sign in the drive, so the duo started walking around and snapping pictures.
The photos Lindsay captured were sent to a wallpaper company where they were blown up into murals that the Zubays adhered to Porch’s walls. Even the animal shots that seem to come to life on the walls of the downtown landmark are Lindsay’s handiwork. “It’s fun to look around and see her work,” says LeeAnn. “It makes this space even more meaningful.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
According to LeeAnn, all three of her children have roles in each of the restaurants. “The kids own Porch and Cellar, but they work at all of the restaurant locations,” she explains.
Lindsay has an eye for detail. She does the bookkeeping for the restaurants and oversees the training. “I am very organized,” Lindsay says. She is also intent on making sure each table’s presentation is up to her precise standards: “neat with no crumbs and fully stocked.”
Lindsay’s organizational skills are one of the areas where, according to the mother-daughter duo, they differ. “She’s a lot like her dad that way,” LeeAnn says, who admits to organizing things in a less conventional way. “It’s all in my head,” she says. “We are total opposites that way.”
Being part of a family-owned, family-run business has made the Zubay women who they are. “I’ve always worked in this industry,” says LeeAnn. In fact, that’s how she met her husband, Jerry. “I was a waitress at Bank Restaurant (now Hefe Rojo) back in 1978,” she says, “and Jerry was a cook.” Unbeknownst to LeeAnn, Jerry was also co-owner of the restaurant. Four years later, the two were married. Since then, they have run several successful restaurants, each with its own unique vibe.
SUMMER FOR PORCH AND PATIO
Cellar, which is slated to open in late 2017 or early 2018, will have the same welcoming atmosphere with a masculine, cigar bar feel. “It will be a place where you can enjoy small plates and craft cocktails without getting dressed up or spending a fortune on your drinks,” says Lindsay. “Cheap, chic and boutique.”
Comfort is the name of the game upstairs at Porch where fried chicken, meatloaf patty melt and mini “wedding” ham sandwiches populate the menu. The Zubays describe Porch as “approachable dining,” where customers will feel just as welcome in jeans and a ball cap as they would feel coming straight from the office.
“Porch allows people to take in the array of creative, tasty options that our chefs can construct,” LeeAnn says, “in a casual, inviting atmosphere. For those with an even more adventurous palette, come and see us at ZZest.”
Speaking of ZZest, LeeAnn says their spring patio clean-up has begun. Though the porch at Porch will no doubt rival the patio at ZZest as a favorite outdoor hangout for locals and visitors alike, LeeAnn says to stay tuned. “This may be the summer for ZZest.”
Sarah Oslund is a freelance writer and owner of Inspire Marketing & Consulting, www.inspiremn.net.