PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Imagine being a full-time college student and running your own restaurant at the same time. That's what Paul Oesterle and Allison Murrow, two seniors at Johnson & Wales University in Providence have been doing since they opened Cafe Terrace last year.

The couple, who are majoring in culinary arts, opened the restaurant in the fall of their junior year. They saw an ad for the small restaurant in the local paper, checked out the place, and knew immediately it was the perfect spot for them. They borrowed money, signed a lease and prepared to start up.

"It was tricky," Oesterle says. "We were testing our limits as far as our potential goes. You can't forecast how successful your business will be, but we were both very motivated to make it all work."

Murrow took classes during the day so she could work on the restaurant at night, and Oesterle did the reverse. The couple put in a lot of late nights and early mornings, getting ready for their grand opening. They even kept a cot in the basement for power naps.

The 20-seat restaurant made its debut with an eclectic menu of cafe cuisine. Murrow, who had spent a semester in France, enjoys making the crepes, salad nicoise and pastries featured on the menu. Oesterle creates the sandwiches, entrees and a clam chowder that leaves customers raving.

The most popular item on the menu is a chicken salad sandwich made with grapes and pecans on a croissant. It reflects Murrow's Southern heritage, with its origins in her grandmother's kitchen in Athens, Ga.

The little eatery is especially popular at breakfast when all the basics are offered, including bagels, blintzes, pancakes and French toast.

Customers often claim that Oesterle and Murrow make the best omelets in the area. The Cafe Terrace menu features a four-egg omelet with a choice of 10 toppings: bacon, ham, sausage, peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cheese, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

"We've really learned a lot during the past year," Murrow says. "Our customers are very friendly and understanding. They know we're still students. Our regulars will get up and pour their own coffee. Some even help clear the tables."

What lies ahead for this culinary couple?

Oesterle recently learned he has the opportunity to work for three months this spring in a two-star restaurant in Versailles, France, so they may have to put the cafe up for sale. While Oesterle is abroad, Murrow will complete plans for their wedding in August.

After graduation in May, they plan to work for other people for a while, to make more money to pay off their loans. Someday, they hope to once again have their own business, a bed-and-breakfast.

Here is one of the most requested dishes at Cafe Terrace, a very easy-to-make spinach and feta cheese quiche.


8 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 package fresh spinach, cooked and well drained

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream and flour until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Layer the cooked spinach and feta cheese in the unbaked pie shell. Pour egg mixture over spinach and cheese in pie shell. Bake for 1 hour. Makes 6 to 8 servings.