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The Power Behind the Blue Arbor Cafe

Blue Arbor Cafe owner Stephen Power shares the inspiration behind his business.

Almost hidden off Union Street in Occoquan lies the delightful restaurant called Blue Arbor Café.

Owner and manager Stephen Power has owned the restaurant for over seven years. 

“I love it here in Occoquan,” said Power. “It’s a quaint historic town and the people down here are great.  My customers are wonderful.”

Some regulars of the cafe come three times a week, every other week, or once a month. “This is why I got into this: because I love people,” explained Power.

According to Power, the original plan for the café was to open for ten years and let his friend, Sherry Mangas, manage it with him. 

Power explained, “She is a foodie and gives me a vacation once in a while.”  Some of his recipes have been inspired from his travels.

The café has been at this location since the late 70s, when it was called Toby’s Café.  When Power took over the café in 2004, he changed the name and spent about six weeks remodeling.  The remodel included adding walls, fresh paint, new lighting, new tile in the bathroom, and curtains, made by his wife.  Shockingly, all of the cooking at the Blue Arbor is done using only a toaster, Panini press, soup tureen, and microwave.

Coming from a family of University of Michigan alumni, Power is an avid supporter of the school, which is reflected in his naming the café The
Blue Arbor after Ann Arbor where the school resides.  The school theme can also be seen throughout his menu.

Some of the University of Michigan themed entrees include the Fielding and the Bo sandwiches named after coaches, the Revelli sandwich named after a band director, and the Harmon named after a Heisman winner.

According to Power, the most popular sandwich on his menu is the Chicken Tarragon, consisting of homemade chicken salad seasoned with fresh
tarragon on a croissant with mixed greens, tomato and alfalfa sprouts.  Another sandwich called the French Orchard started as just a special and quickly became a staple due to a petition from locals to do so.  This sandwich is a unique mix of honey ham, Granny-Smith apple, Brie cheese with mixed greens and apple-pepper jelly on toasted sourdough bread. 

Desserts at the Blue Arbor do not disappoint and Power provides patrons with many options.  The decadent bread pudding comes topped with a warm rich butter and brandy sauce.  Although rich, this dessert is still light
and will not ruin your meal. However, grab a bite while you can if sharing as this treat goes down deliciously quick.

Growing up, Power said his mother didn’t cook, so the family ate out at different restaurants a lot, which gave him an appreciation for good food. He was always around food growing up as seen in his early job as a dishwasher and bus boy in high school. In college, he studied broadcast journalism and eventually became a radio disc jockey in Toledo, but he always cooked in between those times as well as waited tables and bartended.

His love of food was given more technique through learning from a friend who had gone to culinary school.  His recipes today evolved from watching the food network. “I take a basic recipe and tweak it, add my own type of twist to it,” said Power.

Power’s menu as well as charismatic personality bring diners back time and time again.  Some patrons, which Power called “snowbirds,” return to the establishment as a destination point on their annual trips from NY and Boston down to warmer climate in Florida.  A patron visiting from Europe
even signed the café’s guestbook. 

Café patrons Katie Murtaugh and Jeanine Lyons who were passing through town jointly stated that, “The ingredients are all fresh and the lemonade is homemade and delicious. I would definitely stop here again.”

Interesting Ghost Fact: The Courtyard Ghost, also known as the Silent Ghost, is said to reside in the courtyard outside the Blue Arbor Café.  This ghost is said to have an aversion to sound, so local business owners have found wind chimes knocked down on the ground.  Power said he encountered the ghost once when he was missing a knife in his kitchen. 

While cleaning in his kitchen he said aloud, “I can’t believe I lost that
knife; it’s so upsetting.”  The next morning the knife appeared in the knife block in his kitchen and nobody had been in the kitchen but him. “A chill
went down my spine,” said Power.

For more information on The Blue Arbor Café, call 703-494-1317 or email info@bluearborcafe.com.  The café is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but closed on Mondays. WiFi, carryout, and delivery to the Occoquan shops are offered at the Blue Arbor.

lisajulia November 07, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Great food and great service. Always a pleasure at Blue Arbor!

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