outhern cuisine reigns at the 101 N. Main St., Wildwood eatery, for lunch or dinner at Miz Kathi’s wouldn’t be complete without a slice of one of her delicious freshbaked cakes. Of course, there are enticing pies and other sweets, but those layered desserts sitting on old-fashioned pedestal plates really do take the cake. Kathi Hall Vincent, a ninth-generation Floridian and owner of the establishment that bears her name, notes 35 different cake batters are whipped up and baked, but not all on the same day. “My favorite cakes are the coconut and the lemon pineapple coconut, which is my mother’s recipe. She always made it, and it was my favorite growing up,” Kathi recalls. “When I’d go visit her, she would make it in a sheet pan, and I would sit down with the whole pan and a fork!” The sweet lemon treat was Kathi’s comfort food. “It was important to me to have it here,” she says of opening the café in February 2008. “And there are other specialties of my mother and my grandmothers.” Among customers’ favorite cakes are the coconut, chocolate, and carrot cake, while a white cream cake with strawberry slices in the middle is a popular order on Mother’s Day. “My mother was a big baker, and all of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers were bakers; they were always baking,” recalls Kathi, who was also baking as a stay-at-home mom raising her six children. “There was always cake on the cake plate, cookies in the cookie jar, and homemade candies in their Easter baskets,” she says. She honed her culinary skills on her own. “I didn’t work, so I had time to teach myself,” Kathi says. “I decided when the kids were raised and gone that I would have a career.” She began by catering events for Gloria Austin at the Continental Acres Equine Resort, which evolved to catering private parties and weddings at the resort. “It really does blow me away how Gloria trusted this little housewife,” Kathi says,
adding that compliments and requests from others inspired her to open her own restaurant. After several searches, Kathi and her husband Jimmy were drawn to the former Bank of Wildwood building that is more than 112 years old. “We took a mortgage out on our house, saved money from catering, and thought if it doesn’t work, we’d have to move in with one of the kids,” she says. “I felt like it was a chance that we could take.” The café opened with great fanfare, and an eager crowd wrapped around the block. Now, nearly 10 years later, the café remains so popular that reservations are a must. It is open daily except Sundays. “A lady from Ocala who was in here for the first time said, ‘I felt like I was in my grandmother’s dining room!’ And that was such a compliment, because that was what I set out to create,” Kathi says of the eatery that is filled with antiques and vintage accents. Operating a busy café required an adjustment, however, especially since Kathi and her husband had no restaurant experience. “The first two years, we didn’t have time to breathe. We would be here at 6 in the morning and until midnight, and then up again early, and it was exhausting,” she says. “It was just run, run, run.”Her youngest son, Joel, and his wife, Brittany, oversee more of the business now, especially at times when Kathi, a grandmother of 22, is called away on family matters. She’s proud that the café continues its traditions from the
Among customers’ favorite cakes are the coconut, chocolate, and carrot cake, while a white cream cake with strawberry slices in the middle is a popular order on Mother’s Day.