Redefining Family Dining
Words by Jenny Lynn Davis | Images by Al Blanton
Inside a 1960s-style house located where Airport Road meets Curry Highway, family dining is being redefined.
Husband and wife Mark and Amy Herren opened The Picnic Basket Cafe, a family-style dining restaurant, in February 2019. Mark was approaching his retirement from Atlantic Aviation. Amy had been a social worker for almost two decades before teaching 2 ½ years in Jasper City Schools.
They wanted to find something they could do together to occupy their time, but what would that be?
“So many things ran through our minds. We knew that whatever we decided to do, it would be family-oriented,” Amy says.
After many thought-filled weeks, it happened. As they drove a route they had driven many times before, something particularly stood out – an empty old house, covered in trees, in need of some care. They saw so much possibility for this property and knew it would become the home of what they decided to do. Soon after choosing the property, the decision to open a restaurant came along.
“It just made sense. Mark had been in the service industry,” Amy says. “Customer service was his wheelhouse. I love to cook and had done some catering in the past. It all just fell into place.”
The Herrens did the handiwork themselves, tearing down walls, installing new fixtures, and transforming the house into a functional restaurant that would be called The Picnic Basket Cafe.
“The name was inspired by the property,” Amy says. “The pavilion outside came with the property, and we thought it looked like a good place to have a picnic. We also thought it would be a good idea to prepare foods that were simple – like a picnic.”
The Herrens want to make their restaurant a place where families and individuals can feel at ease, enjoying their meals without stress or worries.
“People don’t have much time to sit down and enjoy a meal together anymore, so if we can help take some of the burden away by preparing meals for them, we’re glad to,” Amy says.
While customers wait on their food, which is all homemade and cooked to order, they are encouraged to unplug and converse. Conversation starter cards can be found on every table, and the Herrens make time to talk with every customer.
“We’ve made a lot of new friends,” Amy says. “People also come in, see friends they haven’t seen in a while and might spend a couple of hours visiting with each other. We’re thankful we can foster that. It’s so nice to see different generations come in, sit down, and have a good time together.” 78
Visit the Picnic Basket Café Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thepicnicbasketcafe/