No Name, no problem: Chaffee restaurant does good business and doesn't need a name

Thursday, May 1, 2008

At 4 a.m. on most days, Michael Leggett is getting ready to make giant Western omelets, one of his specialties at the No Name Cafe in Chaffee, Mo. At $5.60, it is the menu's most expensive item.

"As long as I make a living and the girls make a living, I'm happy," he said, referring to his six waitresses.

"And we're happy," said Christell Myers, a waitress and cook.

Leggett was a carpenter until February 1998, when he became the owner of what he calls "a hole-in-the-wall restaurant."

He's following in big footsteps, having bought the former Mable's Cafe from the granddaughters of Mable Grissom. She opened in 1958 and her sign is still on the building, Legget keeps a laminated, somewhat yellowed copy of her 1984 menu featuring a poem she wrote to celebrate 25 years in business.

Leggett, 51, said he has heard reports of other No Name Cafes. There are many, including in Mazatlan, Mexico; near a Boston dock; among the restaurants of Google's San Francisco complex; and in Lee's Summit, Mo.

"But there's only one No Name Cafe of Chaffee," Leggett said. He said it never occurred to him to pick a name until he was filing papers for his license and had to fill in a blank.

Chaffee's No Name Cafe is where customers can get breakfast any time. Regulars sometimes bring their own coffee mugs or ask for a favorite among the assorted cups behind the counter. The smart ones know to get in early if they long for peach cobbler and cheesecake or Leggett's barbecued ribs or award-winning chili.

Leggett recently added Philly cheesesteak sandwiches to the menu and has been testing potato pockets: hash browns stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese.

Leggett said he'd hoped leaving carpentry for cooking "would be a change of life."

"This is an adventure here. It's not a job. It's an adventure," he said. "Every day is something different."

In a city the size of Chaffee, most customers know one another, but they make strangers feel welcome, too. It's the kind of place where customers talk across the dining room if they see a familiar face.

The No Name Cafe is open 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

No Name Cafe

887-6960

119 W. Yoakum Ave.

Chaffee, Mo.

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