The famous orange door is now one door over from where it used to be.
Serendipity at the Orange Door has been a downtown Somerset staple for the last four years, sitting in a space that has housed local lunch options for several years longer than that. But now, they've moved into a new building ... directly adjacent to the one that had previously housed the restaurant.
"The building sold, and we had actually been talking about this location even when we first started. This is where we wanted to be," said Sara Waddle, owner of Serendipity. "The building we had been in, we had outgrown. We knew we needed a bigger place. I think it's a 'God' thing. This is a really good thing for us."
The current space, located on East Mt. Vernon Street, has been remodeled and split into two sections, but the portion taken up by Serendipity is still much roomier than what they had before. Previously, the space had hosted other restaurants, such as Greek restaurant the Gondola, Four Sisters Cafe, and a Mexican restaurant.
Getting used to the new layout will be an adjustment — Weddle noted that they're experimenting with where to place the counter for paying and making take-out orders to find the ideal corner of the restaurant — but having one-third more space than they did before, with the capacity to sit about 35 people, is an advantage Waddle is happy to have.
"Another one of the big benefits is a conference room, so you can come in and have a working lunch in-house," said Waddle. "We'll provide a screen that you can bluetooth into."
Even the menu will see a little bit of a change. Waddle noted that they're tweaking some things, like adding a grilled or fried chicken sandwich to the menu, and a one-size salad. Another focus will be on offering vegan and vegetarian options, as well as gluten-free, and Waddle stressed that Serendipity needs feedback on what works and what doesn't.
"We want to find out what the community really likes," she said. "I'm not a vegan, so it would be great for people to say, 'I liked (this item). I don't want to fix just salads for them. I want more than that. Do they want squash noodles with fresh vegetables? Do they like them sauteed? Do they like them raw. I need to know these sorts of things."
Whatever sells best in the next four weeks is what will make the permanent vegan and vegetarian menu for Serendipity, added Waddle.
Another change coming soon will be expanded dinner service — Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The business has hired another chef to help cover that period and will have delectable offerings such as 'surf-and-turf' with steaks and lobster tails.
That may sound high-end — and Waddle definitely wants Serendipity to be an option for that in this community — but she doesn't want to scare away any regulars who prefer things more modest either.
"I want to have some fine dining experiences — we're not going to be 100 percent fine dining, but if you want fine dining in Somerset, we want to be a destination you know you can come to and get a porterhouse steak, filet mignon, lobster tail," she said. "We want it to be a really good environment with good food but still have have the chicken salad that you can come in and get on a Saturday night. We want to offer what you all want. We want you to feel at home; if you want to wear shorts and a ball cap and sit down, you can do that. It will be the same Serendipity."
Finally, the business will be focusing even more on catering.
"Being one of the top caterers in the area, we want to step our game up and offer everything we possibly can," said Waddle, "linens and flowers and the whole set-up along with the good food."
Waddle, a 1994 graduate of Southwestern High School, had always been interested in the restaurant business. When she learned about plans to sell the previous restaurant in Serendipity's old space, the Cumberland River Cafe, the opportunity presented itself to realize her dream.
It was her parents that came up with the name, “The Orange Door,” however, as they felt marking the entrance to the restaurant with a bright color would help it get noticed. Waddle and her sister Shelley Todd had settled upon the name “Serendipity,” which they'd taken from something Todd had read.
They couldn’t decide, so in a truly serendipitous moment, appropriately enough, the two sisters asked a couple sitting at a table next to them to settle the debate. The woman liked “Serendipity”; the man liked “The Orange Door.” The woman responded by suggesting combining the two.
“And I said, ‘Done,’” said Waddle.
Now, four years into doing business as Serendipity at the Orange Door — including the opening of a second restaurant in Nancy — Waddle is finding her dream of opening a restaurant demanding but ultimately rewarding — and promises to be a much more familiar face downtown now that her husband John has the other location fully on its feet.
"I'm very fortunate, I've got a very good team," said Waddle. "That's the struggle when you're a small business is having good help. I'm very very fortunate to have constants on the team who have been there from the beginning.
"We want to be the best of the best," she added. "It puts stress on me and on the other because they have high expectations too. ... But I still love it."