Paola restaurant feeds dream, community

By Annarose Hart

PAOLA – Find a way to get to the county seat of Miami County home of 5,000 people. Stop by the town square and walk around the park. Take Pearl Street from the square, and there will be boutiques, antique shops, several banks, and an art gallery. Walk another block to a building with an old fashioned burnt orange sign proclaiming Molly’s Table.

The Paola restaurant keeps its customers satisfied.

Inside there is a warm glow that streams into the dining room from a lime green kitchen. Sit down on one of the dark stained wooden chairs and prepare your taste buds.

“My mouth is watering right now! I wish I was eating Molly’s Table instead of the Derb,” Johanna Ryckert, freshmen in agricultural education, said. “I eat at Molly’s Table every time I come home.”

Molly’s Table is home of an evolving menu, and always has the edge on the next food trend, energizing and entertaining locals and tourists.

Donna Nagle created Molly’s Table, named after her daughter Molly, as a catering business, market, and deli for the local community. Her son J.T. comes home from college often to assist with the daily activities.

Nagle has more than 20 years of experience in the food business. Good friends and high school students create an enthusiastic staff. Dressed in all black, they are friendly and efficient.

“I always feel welcome walking into Molly’s Table,” Ryckert said.

Donna Nagle named her restaurant after daughter.

Before Molly’s Table existed several cafés and restaurants attempted to create a similar energy in Paola, but all failed. Nagle started out as a self-taught hobby chef who catered on the side for friends. The reception hall, Evergreen Events, approached Nagle with an offer to do in-house catering. Nagle accepted and created many opportunities for the future.

After several successful years mentors, clients, and friends encouraged Nagle to expand her catering business. “I thought there was a need in downtown Paola,” she said.

Chef Michael Hursey, owner of Casa Somerset, a local bed and breakfast, blogged about his excitement when she opened, “I have been waiting for Donna Nagle to open her dream.” Chef Michael writes, “We have been friends for years; she and her husband Bill are such good, wonderful people.” Engaging the community is a top priority for Nagle.

Local celebrities come to cook their specialty dish at Molly’s Table during the annual Local Chef Celebrity Week. It is held the week of Spring Break so everyone can participate. Profits are donated to the celebrity’s favorite charity. A different celebrity is invited each day. Mike Dumpert, Paola High School head football coach, served last year’s favorite dish of fried macaroni and cheese. “It was amazing,” Ryckert said.

Molly’s Table will have 150 – 200 catering events in a year; 40 will be wedding events.

“My menu was brisket with rolls, potato chips, fruit salad, and coleslaw. Perfect in my opinion for a hot summer July night,” said Kelsie Kirk, a wedding client of Molly’s Table. Nagle does wedding menus from fancy picnic foods to gourmet wedding dinners of sea bass and sushi.

New experiences are always happening at Molly’s Table. “My boss is amazing. I get to try all kinds of new foods, like today I just tried a date filled with blue cheese and baked with prosciutto ham on it!” Nathan Laudan, employee since October of 2008, said. He suggests ordering the blackened chicken sandwich or strawberry turkey wrap at the restaurant, or the chipotle chicken and horseradish mashed potatoes for the catering.

“I like to get the daily quiche and soup,” Ryckert said. “Deloris, her pie lady makes the curst for the quiche. It is so flaky and delicious!”

This summer Ryckert will work at Molly’s Table. “I am excited to learn all the secrets of Donna Nagle,” she said.

One of Nagle’s favorite events was a wine tasting with Somerset Ridge Winery. It was difficult, because Molly’s Table does not have a liquor license, so Nagle had to fill out lots of paperwork to secure a two-day city wine permit. In the future Nagle hopes to include a local wine and beer list as a part of her menu.

Nagle dreams of a more organized network to purchase the local ingredients she needs for her menu. She uses as much local ingredients as she can, but sometimes it is difficult to find enough of specific ingredients. Nagle enjoys using local farmers markets, and other local producers. “Donna just bought over 22 pounds of our asparagus,” Julie Zoller, avid gardener and local real estate agent said. When she cannot access enough local ingredients she uses a variety of stores such as US Food Service, Cosco, Price Chopper and Sam’s Club to complete her menu.

Nagle looks forward to working with new food trends. “I would like to play with grass fed beef,” Nagle said. For now she will focus on planning menus seasonally using as many local ingredients as possible.

Her website is http://www.mollys-table.com/