The colorful, arty sign above Smoffee’s gave me a preview of what’s inside this former motion picture theater. Starring a fun and inviting atmosphere and homemade food, this inventive bakery, bistro, and coffee/smoothie shop is the happening place in Colby! A cast of local characters gathers here daily to leisurely sip gourmet coffee while conversing about the world’s problems. Friends connect over a lunch of green chili or apricot chicken. This is the community gathering spot owners Shawn and Mary Larson hoped it would be. And visitors are welcomed as family.

On this morning, I ordered a cup of hazelnut coffee from the list of specialty drinks ranging from expresso to fruit smoothies, hence the name Smoffee’s – a combination of smoothies and coffee, the two drinks the Larsons favor. A review of the menu revealed such items as a breakfast burrito, egg soufflé, and biscuits and gravy, but after learning the mega-muffins in the pastry case were homemade and fresh-baked, I chose the peanut butter and chocolate chip, two of my favorite flavors. It had just the right amount of chocolate so the muffin was not overly sweet, but peanutty…and perfect!

Shawn told me that although Smoffee’s is open daily only for breakfast and lunch, occasional dinner events are scheduled such as live entertainment, art exhibitions, and even workshops to make sleep mats for the homeless. It’s all about bringing people together. And since Colby Community College is important to this Western High Plains town, beginning in June Smoffee’s will host an affair called Final Friday that will feature the artwork of CCC students and a special dinner menu on the last Friday of every month.

Is there a restaurant in your city that has become a community gathering place?

I cooked up the idea of making a career combining my love for writing, eating, and traveling after my sons were born. I grilled my friends living in other parts of the state about their favorite restaurants, and some of those establishments eventually became the topic of my Historic Restaurant series, and later the Tastes column, published in KANSAS! magazine. I simply enjoy the adventure of discovering great food found at unique restaurants, small-town grocery stores, and farm-based processors throughout Kansas, and then sharing what I’ve learned with you.