CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- She's back.
Connie Bergstedt, most recently renowned for the chicken salad and pepperoni rolls she served from a kitchen tucked inside a former South Hills elementary school, opened Connie's Gourmet Kitchen on Oakwood Road in March.
She left the school facility, which contained a dental equipment business when she was there, in 2007, and concentrated on catering. Now takeout customers can purchase Bergstedt's fresh lunches of sandwiches and salads and a rotating dinner menu at her new location.
The petite restaurant's bright interior seats only 12 diners. Most of her customers carry their orders out, after calling ahead to be sure they're available.
In addition to the popular chicken salad plate, her lunch menu includes Asian grilled chicken, Mediterranean spinach and feta, Greek, chef's and fruit salads each for $6. Customers love her roasted pear salad with gorgonzola, fruit and greens. She sells lots of Reuben sandwiches, but BLT, club, ham, tuna salad and chicken salad sandwiches, most for $5, also sell well.
She offers one hot meal lunch special daily.
A daily rotating dinner menu features a choice of two entrees and side dishes priced between $8 and $10. Last week's entrees were generous portions of grilled pork tenderloin or pecan chicken on Tuesday, beef or chicken satay on Wednesday, lasagna or chicken Florentine on Thursday and salmon coulibiac or shrimp Alfredo on Friday. Connie's is closed Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
"The salmon coulibiac is really special. The salmon is baked in pastry with spinach, mushrooms, shrimp and cheese in a heavy cream sauce," Bergstedt said.
Her food, especially the pepperoni rolls, sells so well that she often runs out. She bakes four to five dozen pepperoni rolls daily, which she sells for $1.50 each. "One man comes in a lot and says he'll take them all." Other customers hear him, and ask if they can have one or two before he buys them all.
Savvy customers call ahead to place lunch or dinner orders, a practice she encourages because she hates to disappoint customers.
Her bakery case usually contains freshly baked muffins, which she's been baking since she opened her first restaurant in the YMCA on Hillcrest Drive. "I started when a tennis friend suggested I open a place. Later, I worked at the former Players Club and operated a place in Boulevard Tower," she said.
The challenges of running two establishments proved exhausting.
"I had good help at the Y, but I was still up at 2 in the morning cooking," she said. She left the Players Club in 1996 and Boulevard Tower in 1997 to spend several years in community service in her native Philippines.