Realizing a dream: Mason Jar Café to offer quality food, unique concepts

Published 10:44 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

The New Territory Arts Association will soon be sharing its space at 210 Water St. with the Mason Jar Café. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

The New Territory Arts Association will soon be sharing its space at 210 Water St. with the Mason Jar Café. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

BENTON HARBOR—While the remodeling and construction may have begun at the 210 Water St. space only a few months ago, the dreams that preceded that work are much older.

“I’ve been wanting to do this forever. I mean, ever since I started in the restaurant business, I’ve wanted to do this,” said Jayme Cousins, co-owner of the new Mason Jar Café. “We’ve talked about doing it ourselves for years, but it was a scary concept. We finally decided to take the dive this year.”

Cousins and her husband, Abel Abarca Martinez, plan to open the café, located in the same building as the New Territory Arts Association, on May 5.

“We’re getting there,” Martinez said, looking around at the open-concept kitchen where he will be serving up breakfast and lunch specialties that he has developed over the last 15 years as a chef in a number of local restaurants.

Those dishes will be made with as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible.

“Our food vendors are already set up and ready to order. They’re awesome!” Cousins said. “We’re using Gordon Food Service’s program, ‘Near By,’ and Ferris from Grand Rapids is supplying all of our coffees.”

“We’re going to work with local farmers, too—as much as we can,” Martinez added.

Cousins and Martinez also want to make sure that their new restaurant serves the highest quality foods to customers with a range of special dietary needs and preferences.

“It’s organic, gluten-free, and vegetarian. Definitely, all of our meats will be antibiotic-free,” Cousins said. “We want to be available to anybody.”

Having worked in some restaurants that did not always have such high standards regarding freshness, Martinez and Cousins are looking forward to making their own vision a reality.

“We’re very excited. We’re going to try to do as much natural as we can,” Martinez said.

Those high standards are a point of pride for Cousins, who has 11 years of experience working for a national restaurant chain.

“I started as a busser, and I did everything up to management. Now, we get to have food that we’re proud of, and it’s going to be made fresh every day,” Cousins said. “We’ll be happy to serve it.”

The restaurant will be open seven days a week, serving breakfast and lunch, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. The complete menu is available at

However, some of Martinez’s breakfast specialties include grit cakes with organic poached eggs and goat cheese, gluten-free pancakes with a berry compote, French toast stuffed with berries, and a vanilla bean waffle made with coconut and almond flour.

“For lunch, he’s doing a grilled salmon,” Cousins said. “His crab cakes, I would definitely say, are one of his specialties. He makes amazing crab cakes!”

Seating for about 50 people will be available at 11 tables that Cousins’ own father made in a rustic-yet-urban style that permeates the cafe. Outdoor seating on the patio will also be available when the weather permits.

The new Mason Jar Café can be reached at (269) 757-7333.