The Scene

Good Morning Good Day brings traditional Slovenian and Croatian dishes to Streator

Good Morning Good Day Cafe is located at 417 E. Main St., Streator.

Toni Pettit’s mornings used to begin with the same routine.

She and her brother would greet their mother with, “Good morning, Ma.” Their mother would reply in Slovenian, “Dobro jutro dober dan, vsako jutro vsaki dan.”

The phrase translates to “Good morning good day, every morning every day.”

These days, Pettit’s mornings have a different routine. Tuesdays are spent in a kitchen preparing Slovenian salads, pastries and desserts. Wednesdays through Saturdays are spent cooking breakfasts to order at her recently opened cafe in downtown Streator at 417 E. Main St.

Good Morning Good Day Cafe is located at 417 E. Main St., Streator.

But one detail hasn’t changed. Her morning still revolves around her mother’s greeting, which is the inspiration behind the name of Good Morning Good Day Cafe.

Diners who step through the green, gold and burgundy storefront on Main Street shouldn’t expect the usual American array of breakfast food at the cafe.

“My goal is not to sell anything that anybody else sells in Streator,” Pettit says. “You can’t get a breaded tenderloin, you can’t get a cheeseburger, you can’t get french fries, you can’t get hash browns and toast. It’s not on the menu.”

Instead, Pettit’s restaurant is a unique addition to the local dining scene. It serves traditional Slovenian and Croatian dishes paying homage to her immigrant parents. The menu features items such as palacinke, thin, crepe-like pancakes rolled around a filling; žganci, similar to polenta; Kranjska klobasa, a Slovenian sausage; cevapi, grilled sausage with a blend of meats; and more.

Good Morning Good Day Cafe is located at 417 E. Main St., Streator.

Many recipes crossed the Atlantic Ocean with Pettit’s parents when they fled the Yugoslavian dictatorship of Marshal Tito in the 1950s.

“My parents, separate of each other, decided to leave Yugoslavia and come to the United States,” Pettit says. “My dad left Croatia with two friends, and they crossed the Alps in Austria and entered into Germany where they went to a refugee camp just outside of Nuremberg. My mom took the same route with her cousin and her uncle, and she ended up in the same camp he was in.”

Her parents were married in the refugee camp in 1954, and her brother was born there. In 1956, the family immigrated to the United States, where Pettit was born and raised on a diet of traditional central European cooking.

Pettit credits her mother with being an exemplary cook. She used to tell her mother to open a drive-thru window from her kitchen. Their dream was to open a restaurant.

“After she passed, I had an opportunity to do that dream, her dream,” Pettit says.

Many of the menu items at Good Morning Good Day are authentic to Slovenia and Croatia. The cevapi are Pettit’s family recipe and are prepared at a packing plant southwest of Streator. Pettit drives to West Peoria to pick up the farm-to-table sausages weekly. The Kranjska klobasa are prepared in New Lenox; she travels to collect them as well. Other authentic foods include Slovenian potato salad with oil and vinegar dressing and a cucumber salad with onions and a tangy vinaigrette.

Good Morning Good Day Cafe is located at 417 E. Main St., Streator.

Other dishes are moderately altered, such as the grits. In Slovenia they are served slightly dry, but Pettit makes them creamy for the standard American palate. The menu also includes items more familiar to Midwestern taste buds, such as baguette sandwiches with bacon or a chicken salad sandwich.

One of the cafe’s hallmarks is fresh ingredients in every dish.

“We don’t have a freezer, and I don’t have any deep fryers. Everything we make is fresh,” Pettit notes. “Tuesday is our prep day for the rest of the week. We prepare potato salad on Wednesday morning and make it again on Friday morning. Our potato salad is only here for two days before it’s gone. We don’t want to throw food away.

“We have what is probably the freshest food in the area. Our stuff couldn’t be fresher unless I raised it myself.”

Her philosophy is to let those fresh flavors stand out instead of muting them with multiple seasonings.

“It’s all about balance,” Pettit continues. “It’s a balance of flavors. We don’t need to add a lot of spices to enhance the food because if you put the right products together, they complement each other and it’s great.”

Another philosophy she carries through Good Morning Good Day is to reuse and repurpose materials to reduce waste. The cafe uses cloth napkins that can be washed rather than disposable paper napkins.

More than 95% of the decor and fixtures in the cafe are repurposed — like the flooring, which originally functioned as a portable Oktoberfest dance floor in Germany. The colorful kaleidoscope of table linens was bought at secondhand shops, and the glass tabletops were cut from the storefront’s original windows when Pettit had them replaced.

Since opening this summer, the cafe has attracted a variety of diners, including several Slovenians who travel from nearby counties to get a taste of home. The restaurant has acquired several devotees, including a central Illinois couple who discovered it on a road trip. Despite living about 60 miles away, the couple has returned twice since their initial visit.

“We’re getting a lot of out-of-towners,” Pettit says. “It’s a unique and different menu. I think that’s what’s drawing people to us.”

For all who are drawn through the cafe’s double doors, a special greeting is stenciled on the dining room’s south wall. These words are the legacy of Pettit’s mother.

“Dobro jutro dober dan, vsako jutro vsaki dan.”

“Good morning good day, every morning every day.”

Julie Barichello

Julie Barichello

Julie Barichello is the editor of Starved Rock Country Magazine and a graphic designer for Shaw Media niche publications.