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Comfort food and community: Awesome Café opens in Hodgenville

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By Mary Hinds

Restocking the dessert case on the café counter with fried apple pies and miniature carrot cakes, Marie Riggs smiles—not because she has already sold out of lemon and red velvet—but because she is doing what she loves. The LaRue County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting event on Friday March 2 for Awesome Cafe, which recently opened in downtown Hodgenville.

Originally from Louisville, owner Marie Riggs started working in food service when she was 18 and said she has loved to cook her whole life.

“Myself, I like food, and I like good food,” Riggs said. “I enjoy watching someone else enjoy something that I’ve prepared for them—seeing the smile on their face. I mean what more enjoyment can you get than to serve somebody and nourish them?”

After operating a restaurant in Louisville for twelve years, Riggs and her husband returned to LaRue County in 2007. Since then, Marie continued to do catering work at local events such as First Fridays, Lincoln Days and other local festivals; recently she started looking for a cooking space of her own.

“Initially, I was looking for a place to do night cooking classes,” said Riggs, who is also a nutritionist and health coach. “I was going to the post office and I saw they had put a sign up so I asked about this place. At first I thought I would only do coffee and sweets but then people started asking ‘Well, Marie are you going to do your soup and sandwiches?’ and it just kind of turned into this.”

The menu comprises what Marie calls basic comfort foods: sandwiches, soups and salads—and don’t forget dessert.

“These were some of my bestsellers when we were in Louisville,” she said.” I’m starting out small on the menu but I’ll probably add more as we go—especially desserts—because we like our sweets around here. We all grew up on soups and sandwiches; for me, they’re the best comfort foods.”

Riggs went on to list other ideas she has for the café including a children’s menu and selling crafts made by community members as well as seasonal specials like her fried green tomatoes and pork tenderloin sandwiches. Holding up a hand-lettered chalkboard with the current menu, Riggs smiled and said she hopes the restaurant will be a reflection of story behind its name.

“When I moved here from Louisville, I needed a name because people were calling me to do little catering jobs. So I got thinking and praying to the Lord and he gave me the name ‘Awesome Events,’” Riggs said. “Awesome stands for an awesome God. Now this has become Awesome Café and the way I look at it, this is a God thing—because I was retired—I wasn’t going to do it anymore, but He gave me the ability to cook and serve people.”

Housed in a former beauty shop on West Main Street, the cafe underwent extensive remodeling in recent months with new counters and cabinets installed by Marie’s husband Johnny Riggs. Pointing out other details done by members of the community, Marie said she is pleased to preserve a historical place and couldn’t have done it without the help.

“I love the feel that’s in this building,” she said. “It’s a historical building and these windows and the counters with everything how we’ve done it, it just has a good café feel. Little towns are wonderful because they pull together and everyone has been helping each other out; we’ve been blessed.”

Whether she’s serving tourists visiting the Lincoln Birthplace or locals who were born here, Riggs said she is mainly excited to meet people and hopes the café will become a local gathering place. For Riggs, cooking comes naturally, and getting to serve her community is the icing on the cake.

“I just get bubbly about it,” she said with a smile. “This is a small town; everybody grew up together and most people are somehow kin to each other. Ms. Hazle was here yesterday; I went to her and Red Hazle’s place for years so when she came in here that just lit me up and blessed me so much. Another customer walked in to see a menu and after a short conversation, I found out she’s my neighbor! It’s going to be a community place; that’s what I am most excited about.”

Serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, Awesome Café is located at 111 W. Main St. in Hodgenville. Hodgenville. For more information, call Riggs at 270- 723-1533.