Ithaca’s first plant-based cafe to open on the Ithaca Commons

By Haley Doran and Emma McQuade

Traveling at warp speed, Ithaca’s first fully plant-based café will open March 25 of this year. Tammie Olsefki, known for her business, Star Truck, is the sole proprietor behind Ten Forward Café, located just above Autumn Leaves Bookstore on The Commons.

Born and raised in Ithaca, Olsefski went vegan at age fifteen when she bought her first cookbook and began cooking plant-based foods. “I got even more into cookbooks and cooking in my early twenties,” Olsefski said. “That led me to the desire to do a food business kind of thing.”

Along with her passion for food, Olfeski grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and was a big fan of sci-fi shows. A few years ago, she began listening to Carl Sagan’s podcast Star Talk, which led her to open her Star Trek-inspired food truck, Star Truck.

Star Truck has been open for two and a half years now and offers all plant-based comfort foods like mac and cheese, nachos and barbecue tacos. Last summer, Olfeski discovered that the space above Autumn Leaves was available and decided to evolve her food truck business into a café.

“I got super inspired by the space and I thought that I had something to add to it,” she said. “I think this is one of the coolest places to hang out on The Commons.”

Olfeski reached out to Autumn Leaves Bookstore owner Joseph Wetmore to pitch her idea. According to Wetmore, the space has been a series of different cafes run in different styles over the years, although none have been too successful.

However, Wetmore believes Olfeski’s plan will resonate with the Ithaca community. “I’m really excited to see Ten Forward come in,” he said. “I know she has a great reputation from her food truck and I know she has put a lot of thought and effort into this.”

Like Star Truck, Ten Forward Café will feature Star Trek-themed names and decorations. Olsefski plans to offer the same plant-based mantra as her truck, and will offer sandwiches, soups and banana-based milkshakes.

“It’s hearty, healthy plant based food that’s focused on low sugar, low salt, low oil and naturally cholesterol free,” said Olsefski.  “There aren’t any full plant based restaurants here currently, it’s the premiere café.”

Sheena Heise, manager of Press Café, located in Press Bay Alley, is a frequent customer at Star Truck. The truck has been parked outside Press Café for the past two summers and brings brought in a good business with the local community. Heise was interested in tasting Olfeski’s twist on vegan food and soon began eating there five times a week.

“Tammie’s general personality and disposition is really inviting and the food is really good,” Heise said. “It’s quality at a decent price, and she makes it available for anyone with dietary restrictions and she’s located at a place downtown that’s easy to get to.”

The truck, however, is very weather dependent and is closed in the winters. For this reason, Olfeski hopes her customers will be able to go to Ten Forward Café when they cannot go to Star Truck.

As far as her competition is concerned, Olfeski says her café is unique because it offers an atmosphere that is different from other cafes in the Ithaca area. “I feel like this space is more of a community space,” she said. “You can come and eat or just read books and have coffee.”

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