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Crave & Co. brings good food, good-for-you to Harrisburg’s café culture.

BY STEPHANIE KALINA-METZGER Israeli Sandwich K Kristin Messner-Baker & John Baker

ristin Messner-Baker is a woman of action. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in creative

writing, she went on to study at the Pennsylvania State/Dickinson School of Law. She then embarked on a variety of endeavors, including running for office in South Middleton Township. Along the way, she purchased property in

downtown Harrisburg, where she wore the hat of landlord for about a decade while practicing law with her mother Dorothy Mott and raising five children—Ethan, 19, David, 16, Sensi, 10, Bowie, 6 and Bijou,4. When Messner-Baker took on the role of busy

mom, she became acutely aware of the dearth of fast, accessible, on-the-go healthy food and dreamed of filling that niche “someday.” Well, “someday” arrived this year when tenants

moved out of her property at 614 N. 2nd St., ushering in a new beginning. Messner-Baker was finally ready to fulfill her dream of running an organic coffee shop featuring vegetarian food. She and her husband, John Baker, decided to call their business “Crave & Co.” and began gutting the building, which once housed a barbershop. Tey used their collective creativity to give the café a contemporary, yet homey, feel. Attractive exposed brick lines the wall where customers place their orders, and a large window adds a bright, airy feel to the space. “We uncovered that when we renovated,” said Messner-Baker,

seemingly incredulous that

someone would block off such a find. Framed posters of rock stars like Joan Jett, John

Lennon, Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan contribute to the hip vibe, while red-and-white striped tables and chalkboards displaying the couple’s artistic talents add a hint of whimsy to the establishment. John, who works as a teacher, is spending his summer side-by-side with Kristin. At times, you can find him drawing decorative designs with chalk on the front sidewalk, having a friendly chat with customers, or strumming a guitar outside the café.


Te menu has been in the works for some time. “I found some of the recipes on the Internet, then adapted and streamlined them,” said Kristin. “Yes, and I was the benefactor of all this creativity and tried all the versions of her food,” added John. Teir tagline: “We aim to satiate.” Breakfast customers on the go can grab a healthy blueberry muffin or a sprouted wheat bagel topped with organic

cream cheese, preserves

or peanut butter. An egg, tomato and cheddar breakfast sandwich served on pita is another option for a hearty meal and can be accompanied by a cup of Jim’s organic coffee or a variety of teas like burdock, chai or dandelion root—or just plain black, for the more conventional. Lunch options include a popular curried egg

salad sandwich, an equally well-liked Israeli sandwich featuring roasted eggplant, egg, hummus cucumber and tomato, or a black bean and quinoa burger, to name just a few. Mikee Bentz, who heads the Harrisburg chapter

of March Against Monsanto, an organization that advocates for non-genetically modified foods, lives up the block from Crave & Co. and is thrilled to have a healthy food option in his neighborhood. “I love going there because, as a person who supports an organic lifestyle and local consumerism, I can vote with my dollar and put my money where my mouth is,” he said. His favorite sandwich is the curried egg salad, and the coffee is an added plus. “I am a huge coffee lover, so it’s great to know that I can walk half a block and grab a cup of organic coffee,” he said. Monica Kline of Myerstown is also a fan and thanks her brother for putting Crave & Co. on her radar. “My office is on State Street, and we always

try to patronize local restaurants,” said Kline, whose choices are somewhat limited due to dietary sensitivities. When she visits, she usually orders the kale and quinoa salad, which is tossed with pecans, currants and feta cheese. “I just love the blending of good food, and that’s what they’re doing at Crave,” she said, adding that the drinks, like the ginger tea with blueberry, are very good also. Te Bakers are hoping to expand their hours as the business ramps up, and an open mic night might not be too far in the future. “Kristin has the best of both worlds, where she

can now mix her creative side with her technical side,” said John. “She has the poet, coffee-shop persona. It was part of her, so now she has come full circle.”

Crave & Co. is at 614 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg. Hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. More information is at

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