CLINTON — It’s gooey, melt-in-your-mouth goodness fried in specialty seasoned butters, homemade right-on-premises, and Anna and Sharrone Sofer say it will be like no toasted cheese sandwich community members have ever tasted.
That’s the promise at the couple’s new cafe, The Compound, located at 11 W. Park Row. Both natives of the area who by chance met and fell in love while living down in Austin, Texas, the Sofers decided to move back and make the village their home to raise their young family — two sons ages 3 and 1 1/2, and a daughter who’s 5 months.
What will make their toasted cheese sandwiches special, besides the bread and cheese made local, is that each will be fried — made to order — in the customer’s choice of butter flavor. Anna said there will also be an array of fillings besides the melty cheese to customize each order, like bacon, avocado, onion and tomato.
“We also plan to serve soups and salads, and even dessert grilled cheese — like the S’mores grilled cheese with sweet butter, and stuffed with Fluff, chocolate pudding and graham cracker crumbles,” Anna said. “It’s nice and gooey, and we use our Oreo cookie butter” to fry it.
Salads will feature “fresh spring greens with our homemade Parmesan dressing and crumbled blue cheese, with a fried egg on top, which adds an interesting texture and is very tasty,” she added.
Besides sharing a love and background in music, Sharrone and Anna have also previously worked in the restaurant business. At home, Anna would concoct her own whipped butter recipes in a wide variety of flavors featuring an eclectic array of herbs and spices. Those butters would eventually catch on among family members and friends, who would ask Anna to whip up some personalized batches. That eventually evolved into an idea to open a restaurant based on those flavorful butters.
Butter flavors at The Compound will include Garlic & Herb, Raspberry Chipotle, Truffle, Chicken & Waffle, Bloody Mary, Sour Cream & Onion, Matcha, Roasted Pistachio & Sea Salt and Tomato & Basil, to name a few. There are also sweet butters used for toasted desserts, or to simply spread on toast, such as Oreo Cookie, Strawberry Honey, Pumpkin Spice and Rice Krispie Treat. A future menu item, mentioned on The Compound Facebook page, will be the Butter Flight, where customers choose up to four different flavors of butter to try on sliced toast.
“I like to have fun with the flavors,” said Anna. “I even came up with a Fruity Pebbles Butter that’s phenomenal on French toast. The sweet flavors can be used for baking desserts or on toast, while the savory flavors can substitute for oils in cooking, or to add on top of steak or stirred into mashed potatoes.”
And no matter the flavor, each batch of butter is a labor of love.
“I use fresh, heavy cream that’s hand-whipped, then I add the flavors and it’s whipped again. Each batch of butter takes about 45 minutes, and each batch is about eight jars, so it’s quite an interesting process, and there’s nothing like it,” Anna explained, adding that The Compound butters come in small Mason jars typically used for making homemade jams and canning. “Our butters are more spreadable because they’re whipped and they maintain their flavor — they’re more flavorful than if you had a plain stick of butter and just added seasonings.”
Recently, the Sofers partnered with Utica Coffee, located just down the street, with the creation of the Sumatra Roast Coffee Butter. That butter flavor will be available for purchase at the coffee cafe, located at 1 W. Park Row. The Sofers also recently partnered with the new Lucianna’s Boutique next door at 13 W. Park Row, which will feature a variety of The Compound butters for sale. Additionally, they’re working to offer their butters wholesale in the area.
At their cafe, the Sofers said they plan to support local, as well as neighboring businesses — not try to compete with them. Because Utica Coffee is just down the street, The Compound won’t be serving up any cups of Joe. Instead, they plan for their menu to include juices and specialty drinks.
Inside the cafe, Anna said they also hope to feature art for sale by local artists on its walls and shelves of artisanal goods like salts from Syracuse Salt Company, which she uses in some of her butter recipes.
On the east wall, customers can view the giant toasted cheese couple kissing — a mural painted by a local artist and friend. Another neighboring shop owner helped the Sofers apply mandala appliqués to the cafe’s front windows to add a unique, eye-catching decoration. Anna said the newly painted red walls add color and vibrancy to the Row.
In commenting about the new Lucianna’s Boutique, “it’s lovely because our shops both went with vibrant colors for representing the Row, which is now looking so colorful,” she smiled.
Anna grew up in the area until she and her family relocated to Florida when she was age 15. Sharrone had lived in the Schuyler area until age 3, when his family moved away. By chance, the two happened to meet while attending school at the University of Texas at Austin.
“We started a family there (in Austin), and we came back here to get back to our roots,” said Anna. “It’s a better place to raise our kids and give them that innocent, humble upbringing as opposed to living in a big city.”
It’s been the Sofers’ dream to open a restaurant for some time. Sharrone’s father passed away from a heart attack, which was COVID-19 related, earlier in the year. Sadly, his father won’t be here to see his dream fulfilled, but Sharrone said his dad will definitely be there in spirit.
“Thanks to him, we are able to make this a reality,” Sharrone said. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. Of course family is always important, and I wanted to leave a legacy for my children. Hopefully they’ll be running this place some day. I wanted to be able to be part of my community too, and for my family to be part of this community, so opening this business is a big deal.”
The Sofers said they appreciate the neighbors and shoppers along the Row who have knocked on the door or stepped in to see their progress as painting commences and the rear kitchen is built. All have offered suggestions or expressed their well-wishes to the couple.
“Everyone here has been so welcoming,” Anna said. “People have been popping in and giving us ideas, like recipe cards including suggestions for how our butters can be used.”
And because the couple shares a love for music, they plan on highlighting that passion inside the cafe. Anna, who described herself as a “musical theater geek,” has played stand-up bass and grew up having a singer/songwriter for a dad who performed in several bands, and a grandfather who also played bass and was a member of a polka band. Sharrone still plays guitar and enjoys getting the kids involved too.
“We’re definitely excited about the Austin vibe that we hope to bring back here,” Anna beamed. “We want to have events here featuring both artists and musicians, and plan to host some open mic nights.”
“We hope to cultivate a following. Owning your own business is about nurturing the relationships you’ve built,” Sharrone added. “It’s about being able to commit yourself and bring something to the table that you really can’t get anywhere else.”
Starting Sunday, Nov. 1, The Compound will be open five days a week, from Wednesday through Sunday. Anna said there are few places in the area that offer breakfast besides franchise restaurants, and she wants their cafe to fill that niche.
Serving breakfast and lunch, hours at The Compound will be from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. In the future, Anna said she hopes to host Sunday brunches as well. To start, as COVID-19 guidelines continue to be required, The Compound will offer take-out only, “but hopefully things will get better soon,” she said.
“There’s a plethora of great food being offered just on this street alone…We’re helping each other, not competing, and I hope we have many opportunities to work together,” said Anna. “We want to make sure everyone takes care of each other — that’s the way to be in business, and in life.”