Former Spats Café and The Rathskeller owners, Duke and Monica Gastiger, transition their newest business venture from speakeasy nightlife to scenic, sustainable, farm to table fine dining.
On July 17, the pair opened RE Farm Café at Windswept Farm on Fillmore Rd, seven miles from University Park.
The restaurant highlights locally sourced produce, dairy, and meat, as well as focusing on sustainable food production with a twist. The establishment is powered by solar energy and decorated with upcycled, reusable materials, including old farming tools arranged as a chandelier and dining chairs reused from Pattee Library.
Unlike most local eateries, RE Farm Café’s layout allows for guests to interact with the kitchen. Customers are able to speak to the chef at their table about the dishes, the source of the ingredients and how the dishes are prepared. Also, guests may approach the kitchen while the chef prepares the courses to watch and ask questions.
To ensure that the experience is customized and exclusive, guests must reserve their table online. This also allows for the restaurant to prevent food waste, and see how committed guests are to their dining experience.
Alongside serving an array of locally sourced and seasonal cuisine, RE Farm Café offers other services. From wedding ceremonies to workshops, RE Farm has experiences catered to all ages. The farm offers a community supported agriculture program, which allows for locals to place orders for locally sourced goods, and then pick it up at the farm.
After seven years of developing the sustainable project and planning its close proximity to campus, Monica Gastiger said that the pair was dedicated to finding a location suitable to still cater to their downtown clientele.
“We wanted it to be driveable, bikeable, and just easily accessible,” said Gastiger. “Students are a huge part of this community and should be a part of this experience just like anybody else.”
Duke Gastiger said that he and Monica are thankful for the strong friendships they’ve established with their visitors from Spats Café and The Rathskeller over the last 35 years, especially around football season. However, the duo love their new location.
“We are glad to be on the farm everyday… enjoying the spectacular vistas, and farm sounds and smells,” said Gastiger. “We love the dirt under our fingernails, the ego of our rooster Alexander, and the bleat of a new mother calling her just born lamb to safety.”
Gastiger contributes his newfound love for sustainable food service to the years of harmful and wasteful experiences he’s seen in his 45 years in the restaurant industry.
“It has opened my eyes to just how much of an abuser of energy and water the restaurant industry is, and how much food it wastes,” said Gastiger. “Our vision was to build and operate a fine dining restaurant that is net zero energy and water and as close as possible to zero waste… to be transformative for the industry.”
Although this restaurant is a new concept in central Pennsylvania, The Gastigers have helped Centre County grow in agritourism since owning Spats Café with the help of local farming families.
“A decade or so before we had to close Spats Café down, we began to source seasonal foods from local farmers. Working with these small family farmers afforded us a great opportunity to understand their virtues and challenges,” said Gastiger. “Having developed those relationships at Spats Café, RE Farm Café works with a dozen or so farming families, buying the best of the local fields and pastures. We helped Centre Region township governments adopt a Farm Café Ordinance that allows farmers to explore augmenting farm income with non-traditional agricultural sources.”
Matthew Long, co-chair of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments’s Sustainability Committee, believes that RE Farm Café’s ability to introduce green restaurants to the State College area is only fitting with the energy efficient initiatives the city has adopted in recent years.
“State College is known for being fairly sustainable, with a comprehensive trash/recycling program and CATA transport buses powered by natural gas as two prime examples,” said Long (junior-journalism). “The fact that the restaurant strives to be carbon neutral and is being run by well-respected restaurant owners who earned their reputation in State College makes this restaurant an apt place for people from the State College community to go and visit.”
Long also said that due to the abundance of local farmland and importance of agriculture to Penn State, RE Farm is the ideal example for restaurants in the area to improve their energy usage and reduce waste.
“The restaurant models how the field of agriculture, which notoriously has poor marks for not being very sustainable, can change to be better for the environment,” said Long. “Having more restaurants like the RE Farm Café around would be nice as the restaurant, by design, has little to no environmental footprint and fits in well with what the university and State College community stand for: environmental stewardship and agricultural development.”
With RE Farm’s scenic views, contemporary décor and seasonal dishes, guests are allowed the opportunity to learn and participate in sustainable practices in a delicious manner.
“Most students enjoy going out and experiencing new and different things. The RE Farm Cafe certainly gives customers a dining experience that doesn't exist in State College or in the surrounding area,” said Long. “Going to eat there for a night out with some friends would give students a unique story to tell.”