• www.womenslifestylekazoo.com

Tastes from the Kitchen: Cafe ’36

The name Sawall’s has been synonymous in the Kalamazoo area with healthy, delicious food for over 80 years. Opening a restaurant that serves seasonal Modern American cuisine inside a grocery store may seem an unusual choice to some, but for the Sawall family, it was a natural next step in their quest to feed the people of their community delicious, healthy food. Café 36 opened its doors in August of this year and has been eagerly welcomed into the Kalamazoo food landscape.

When the Sawall family decided to open a café inside their health food store on Oakwood Drive in Kalamazoo, they had a specific vision in mind. They carefully crafted an atmosphere that is cozy and approachable while still remaining refined. Committed to their community, they partnered with local craftsmen to construct the interior, which includes a solid walnut bar with a white quartz top and tables made from local ash trees. Reclaimed 150 year old wood is scattered throughout the restaurant, contrasting beautifully with Italian brickwork, LED lighting with hand-blown glass orbs and stained concrete floors. The combination gives patrons the feel of being in the best restaurants of New York City without having to leave West Michigan.

Knowing that finding the right Chef would be paramount to the success of their new venture, the Sawalls set out to find one that could successfully execute their vision for a menu featuring the freshest, heathiest food possible. They found their man in James Beard Accredited Executive Chef Jason Tilmann. A Michigan native, Chef Tilmann’s food resume is long and impressive. He’s studied with some of the best in the business, including Iron Chef Morimoto, David Burke, Ming Tsai and Laurence McFadden (among others) and spent time in Japan, perfecting his Asian cuisine. Determined to be well-rounded, Chef Tilmann studied French cuisine under Chef Alex Lee at Daniel & served as Banquet Chef at the historic 21 Club during his time in New York City.

Chef Tilmann added to his recent resume by opening the New York Yankee Steak House as Executive Chef, appearing on Iron Chef America, Chopped and Restaurant 101 and, finally, returning to his home state of Michigan to open Café 36. Known for his fresh and exciting cuisine, Chef Tilmann has crafted a menu that includes a wide selection of specialty pizzas, featuring fresh and specialty ingredients. Pasta is hand-made and prepared in a variety of ways, including Bolognese (with Pappardelle and Short Ribs) and Amatriciana (made with Rigatoni, cured pork and basil). With entrees like Cast Iron Walleye, Pastrami Portobello and Ginger Crusted Salmon, there is something here for every palate. The bar also serves local brews, Kombuchas on draft and handcrafted cocktails to enjoy with your meal.

Fig, Watermelon and Prosciutto Salad


  • 8 ounces Burrata cheese, sliced
  • 2 cups Seedless watermelon, diced
  • 4 ounces Prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 6 Fresh Mission Figs, quartered
  • 12 Cup Fresh Chive, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp Microgreens, for garnish


  1. On a platter, arrange the Burrata, watermelon, prosciutto and fig in an alternating pattern and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a food processor, combine red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, chives, salt and pepper and pulse until mixture attains desired consistency.
  3. Drizzle platter with the vinaigrette and garnish with microgreens.

Erica Shier is a married mother of four who loves reading, scrapbooking & thrift stores. When she’s not driving her small pack of children around, she spends her time volunteering, writing & trying to keep on top of the laundry.

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