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Worth the drive: Keep Your Fork Café

Delectable desserts await patrons at Keep Your Fork Café

Story and photos by Jennifer Crossley Howard

 Juanita Healy, co-owner of Keep Your Fork, has been making cheesecake for 15 years, but plain recipes are her least favorite to cook. Here is a piece of dressed-up New York-Style cheesecake.
Juanita Healy, co-owner of Keep Your Fork, has been making cheesecake for 15 years, but plain recipes are her least favorite to cook. Here is a piece of dressed-up New York-Style cheesecake.

Neither Juanita Healy nor her business partner Donna Reeves Robertson had restaurant experience when they opened Keep Your Fork Cafe last May in downtown Decatur, but they haven’t looked back.

They haven’t had time to.

Workdays often begin at 3 a.m. when they begin baking Danish pastries and croissants and usually end 12 hours later.

When Healy and Robertson made an offer on the former All-Wright Bakery & Eatery, the restaurant wasn’t even for sale. But by the end of the week, their offer was accepted.

“I’ve always been one of those make up your mind and do it people,” Healy says. Healy decided to leave her career as a realtor, and Robertson had worked as a dental hygienist since the 1980s.

All-Wright Bakery & Eatery, a Decatur institution, thrived since 1946 under various ownerships. Keep Your Fork still serves breakfast and lunch, including quiches and tuna melts. The bakery makes the date bars All-Wright was known for, and specializes in the sweet tooth, particularly cheesecake.

Healy baked them at home for 15 years, and then she ran out of space.

“My friends joke that I needed a commercial oven, and a restaurant came with it,” she says.

She and Robertson inherited a large, black oven with the All-Wright building that they rent. The oven, which would look at home in any Grimm’s fairy tale, dates to 1935.

Robin Oden, cake decorator and food prepper, is one of four full-time and two part-time workers at Keep Your Fork. She takes lunch rolls out of the bakery’s original oven from the 1930s.
Robin Oden, cake decorator and food prepper, is one of four full-time and two part-time workers at Keep Your Fork. She takes lunch rolls out of the bakery’s original oven from the 1930s.

The cafe sells 10-inch and 4-inch cheesecakes with such traditional flavors as Bailey’s Irish Cream and caramel-chocolate turtle. But there are also some unexpected recipes, such as balsamic vinegar and basil and bourbon and blackberry.

“I can’t keep them in the case,” Healy says.

Robertson has perfected chicken salad on sourdough bread and cookies, especially fruitcake ones that were a hit around Christmas.

The transition of customers from All-Wright to Keep Your Fork has been mostly seamless. “We had to win over a few people,” Healy says.

Regulars include an older couple that visits once a week and a group of doctors, lawyers and businessmen.

“We need to give them a key if we ever have bad weather and can’t come in,” Robertson joked.

The men stay about an hour drinking coffee. “They talk football, politics, and women,” Healy says. “We laugh at that.”

Both women wore rhinestone fork pens and scurried around the dining area to help customers on a recent winter afternoon. Consistency is key to running a successful restaurant, Robertson said.

“You’ve got to do the same thing, and do it every day,” she says.

Teaming with other restaurants

Keep Your Fork teams with other Decatur restaurants including Albany Bistro, for whom the cafe bakes a signature Coffee & Toffee cheesecake, and Simp McGhee’s. Tennessee Valley Pecan Company sells the cafe’s mini pecan muffins and pecan pies, which feature the former’s pecans.

“We like working with local people, and are very behind the local food movement,” Healy says.

Much of the restaurant looks the same as when it was All-Wright: a wood and mirror display case, black and white flooring and an antique mixer painted blue and green remains in front of the cafe.

Teal and yellow accent colors around the restaurant represent tragedy and hope that have touched both women’s lives. Teal represents ovarian cancer awareness and yellow represents suicide prevention. Robertson lost her brother to suicide in 2007; Healy’s daughter died of ovarian cancer in 2004.

Robertson remains involved with Hospice of the Valley to talk with suicide survivors, and the women support The Brooke Hill Run for Awareness in Decatur, named for Healy’s daughter.

Robertson and Healy honor the past while looking to the future, which includes a lot of cheesecake. Healy’s orders easily reach 60 to 70 dozen.

When you’re eating out, you keep your fork for dessert. The women chose to name their bakery as such because, “the best is yet to come,” Healy says.


Keep Your Fork Café
224 Moulton St. E., Decatur, AL 35601
256-353-2602
Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday
Find them on Facebook: Keep Your Fork Café