Worldly Flavors, Friendly Face
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
Not many people decide to open a restaurant during their retirement years. Cheri Ann Freeman operates Chez Cheri Café with a vitality and energy that seem to defy her age of 72. Her lifetime of knowledge and experience are woven into her Gettysburg restaurant and—better yet—tasted throughout a fresh, flavorful, and worldly menu.
A Hidden Gem
Freeman has worked in the restaurant and catering industry since 1973. In the early ’80s, Freeman opened the original Chez Cheri Café on Washington Street in Gettysburg, and she may have been way ahead of the trends in healthy eating.
“It was vegetarian, vegan, and farm-to-table, before people were talking about it,” she says. Although her restaurant was successful, she decided to put the food business on the back burner, so to speak, to focus on social services, youth advocacy, and mentoring. She retired 10 years ago.
“When the [current]café came available, I said, ‘Wow, I’m going to redo Chez Cheri Café,’ and it’s been a blessing,” Freeman says. It’s in a fitting location, next to the South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP) facility, a blending of both her life’s careers. Located in the former SCCAP Café, her rent benefits SCCAP’s Adams County Homeless Shelter.
“The majority of our customers call us a hidden gem,” says Freeman of her restaurant’s off-the-beaten path location near North Stratton Street and Hazel Alley. But calling it a gem also may have something to do with its colorful menu options.
Recipes for Success
Chez Cheri Café’s fresh, farm-to-table dishes are loaded with vibrant fruits and vegetables, vegan, and vegetarian options. Freeman enjoys providing meals for those with allergies, such as dairy or gluten.
Flavorful, homemade soups include a non-dairy Cream of Coconut Cauliflower Curry Soup.
“I love all the soups—I never even liked tomato vegetable soup before,” says restaurant employee Robin Romaine of Gettysburg. “I’ve worked at chain restaurants, but Cheri has taught me to cook and eat a lot healthier.”
Breakfast comfort foods—Eggs Benedict, Spinach Quesadilla, Brioche French Toast with Eggs, Creamed Chipped Beef—are available all day. Eggs are delivered fresh from Weikert’s Egg Farm in Gettysburg.
Plenty of protein and meats are on the menu, including the Prime Rib Platter featuring locally-sourced, grass-fed beef grilled with onions, locally grown mushrooms, and horseradish sauce, plus two sides.
Fish Tacos are one of the most popular items. “We use wild-caught fish no farmed fish. And you can taste the difference,” Freeman says.
One of the restaurant’s guests chimed in. “This is one of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had, and I just got back from [Los Angeles],” says SteviAnn Matijevic of Emmitsburg, Md., who was trying the restaurant for the first time after hearing about its gluten-
Many say that face-to-face communication is a lost art today, but at Chez Cheri Café, conversations seem to flow naturally, thanks to Freeman stopping by each table to chat with guests. Little games and cards are scattered throughout the restaurant for a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
A Melting Pot
You might say that Chez Cheri Café is like a culinary melting pot because of the many dishes and events offered to celebrate a variety of cultures.
For instance, there’s the café’s monthly Shabbat dinner, and Freeman bakes all of the restaurant’s Challah, a traditional Jewish egg bread. Bagels and bialy are delivered fresh from Goldberg’s New York Bagels in Baltimore. Bialy are rolls that look like bagels, but instead of having a hole in the middle, the center is filled with onions.
Chez Cheri Café may sound French (and Freeman does have some French ancestry), but the dinners offered on Mondays transport diners around the world, from Korea to India and beyond. These dinners are promoted on the restaurant’s Facebook page and typically sell out.
Even the dessert menu has a global flair, from Noodle Kugel to Gingerbread (secret ingredient: apple butter), plus classics like Double Fudge Brownie. But Freeman, who grew up in Greencastle, honed her cooking skills right here in south central Pennsylvania.
“I was surrounded by women who loved to cook, and I learned from them, especially my mother and grandmother,” says Freeman. Her mother owned Greencastle’s Hillcrest Restaurant many years ago; Freeman and her husband owned and operated a catering business in New Cumberland near Harrisburg.
“We came to Adams County 36 years ago to get an apple dumpling and bought a house instead,” Freeman says with a laugh. She says they fell in love with an old house in Biglerville’s Quaker Valley hills which is still home today.
Chez Cheri Café welcomes groups, bridal showers, and birthday parties to the restaurant regularly; Freeman also enjoys catering special events on location in private homes or corporate settings. And she offers gourmet boxed lunches to tour groups.
“It’s important for me to make every plate look like art,” Freeman says. “At least if you make art with food, you get to eat, and you’re not a starving artist.”
Chez Cheri Café & Catering
151 N. Stratton St. (Rear)
Gettysburg, PA 17325
(From York Street, take Stratton Street past the Gettysburg Fire Department, cross the railroad tracks, and turn right into the parking lot, then continue to the end of the white fence. Look to the left for the building with the long blue roof.)
Check out Chez Cheri Café on Facebook for upcoming dinners and events at