A seasoned restaurateur who took over a Madison Street diner over the summer has plans to expand its menu, make the food more affordable, and regularly offer promotions and other attractions – like a card-reading fortune teller.
Oktunc Sipahi, who has several years of experience in the dining industry, purchased Thyme and Honey restaurant, 7525 Madison St., at the beginning of this past summer. Since then, the 40-year-old Oak Parker has made a few small changes to the diner – nothing drastic, he emphasized. Thyme and Honey is popular among locals, and Sipahi’s ethos is, to a certain extent, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
Affordable American cuisine will still be served – many dishes will still be available for $10 or less – only now, Sipahi intends to further reduce the prices. He wants to offer patrons more “economical” options, he said.
Sipahi said he also intends to offer specials on a regular basis.
“We will have $6.95 dinner specials with soup included, $5.95 lunch specials with soup included, and free coffee on Monday, from 7-10 a.m.,” Sipahi said. “There will always be some kind of promotion.”
The new menu that Sipahi talked up has not been introduced yet – it will be rolled out on Oct. 15, according to a press release he issued – but the new owner said it will be expanded and will only feature “fresh, never frozen food.”
“The food quality will be top,” Sipahi said.
Presently, Thyme and Honey serves up a variety of traditional breakfast foods, sandwiches, salads and several larger dinner entrees.
If the culinary tweaks – whatever they end up being – aren’t enough to reel in customers, Lady Karima will be on hand, on Tuesday evenings, with a deck of cards, ready to tell patrons’ fortunes, free of charge.
“I do psychic readings,” said Mary Diab, who goes by the name Lady Karima. She said she is able to read fortunes when an individual’s “energy goes into” her cards.
Sipahi said he doesn’t put much stock in the fortune telling, but he thinks having her at the restaurant – Lady Karima approached him and asked if she could do it – is a novel idea.
“It’s kind of, sort of fun,” he said.
Thyme and Honey moved to Forest Park from Oak Park in 2008, and earlier this year Sipahi purchased it from its previous owner, Tom Nicholaou.
Sipahi, a Turkish immigrant, said watching the evolution of Forest Park’s business community over the last 15 years, particularly on Madison Street, encouraged him to buy the diner.
“What the current mayor [Anthony Calderone] did with this place is unbelievable,” Sipahi said. “In 1996, when I came to this country, this street was nothing. It’s become a destination for people to come eat.”
But Mayor Anthony Calderone isn’t the only reason Sipahi is here – it’s the people, he said.
“People are very nice here,” Sapahi said. “That’s why I chose Forest Park.”