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Posted on Wed, May 2, 2012 : 10:37 a.m.

At Selma Cafe, from farm to table and back again

By Angela Cesere


Lisa Gottlieb, co-founder of Selma Cafe, cooks potatoes in her home to feed the cafe's volunteers.

Angela J. Cesere |

Selma Cafe is more than just a delicious Friday breakfast at the Ann Arbor home of Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe. Watch the video below to find out how this small cafe addresses big ideas of creating a thriving local food system.


Michele McGovern

Sat, Jul 7, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

Community at its best. Wonderful and inspiring.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:50 a.m.

@crayzee: "lisa gottlieb", in a reply to one of the comments above, clearly states that they are a) operating within the law, and b) known to both the county and city. So your accusations about officials "looking the other way" or Selma getting a "free pass" are completely uncalled for. If you know of any law being broken, please cite it.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

Can I vote for Andy Kelly for city council next election? I think what many of us find exasperating about Selma is that the powers-that-be are happy to look the other way at a rule bent here or there in this situation, whereas others (such as Biercamp) seem to provoke exactly the opposite response. I'm sure they are good people and local eating is indeed a worthy cause. But, Selma shouldn't get a free pass just because it boosts the hipster image Ann Arborites are so desperate to project.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

I think so too. Besides, what's the deal of volunteers? Selma probably charges good money for the dishes, why not pay money instead of "free" breakfast?


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

I'm a regular volunteer at Selma- it really is a lot of fun. As Lisa said, the volunteers are crucial to making it work- and it's sometimes a stretch to get enough of us. It's easy to sign up! And breakfast is free. Yum.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

Beautifully shot video and an awesome story!


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

just wanted to say that i both drink the selma kool-aid (i love everything about selma) AND appreciate andy's questions. i wouldn't say he went 'spouting off.' sheesh, reading comments is not very good for the blood pressure. it should be reasonable to expect that we can voice concerns and communicate here without flames.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

ps- lovely video work.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

The video captures the spirit of Selma very well. Great work!


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

What a great idea, I just hope that publicity does not bring in the Health dept.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

As I mentioned above in reply to Andy, Selma is in compliance with health requirements.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 1:47 p.m. Andy, before you go spouting off, perhaps you could take a bit of time to inform yourself. You should know by now that does an absolutely lousy job of providing background and detail in the things they post up. We're left to do their job for them.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

Agreed again Andy...why does everyone get so defensive about this operation?

andy kelly

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Todd, I agree with the lack of information provided by, however exactly how am I spouting off by asking important questions related to food safety and local laws? Instead of the personal attack why don't you just answer the questions? According to a comment section in the link that you and posted, "Selma Cafe is currently under the auspices of Slow Food Huron Valley and as part of that 501c3 foundation you can hold fundraising events in a non-certified kitchen." So, if this is fact, then Slow Food Huron has unearthed a wonderful loop hole that will enable many to do the same with all sorts of unique and tasty culinary delights. While my neighbors might not appreciate the parking issue, if I can find a non-profit sponsor I( can open my home to a make-shift restaurant. I would not be able to make money of the food, but I can sell a cookbook, aprons, or the like to generate a profit. According this loophole, I can also promote this as much as I want and be free of any overhead expenses, food-safety inspections or employees. What a wonderful way to beet (haha, pun intended) the system. And, while this might sound pithy or patronizing, I am serious!

Cindy Heflin

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Todd, thanks for posting that link, which the article also links to. Also, here's a previous article about Selma:


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

As soon as I saw the headline, I thought, "Oh, great, another wonderful Dog Party rained on!" And sure enough, one of the first comments... Keep up the good work, Lisa and Jeff, but be prepared for lots of online trolls! And if you're really lucky, you, too, will earn a visit from that fearless crimefighter, Stephen Postema!

andy kelly

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Yes, by all means keep up the good work. Promote local, good healthy food! BUT DO IT IN MANNER IN WHICH ALL ARE EQUAL!!! Pay your dues!


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

Good job Angela. We heard Joel Salatin speak last week at the Michigan Theater and enjoyed the slide show about all of the local food venues and growers. We will be visiting Joel's Polyface Farm in Virginia in July.

andy kelly

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

While I applaud what is happening locally in the good food scene, I am also VERY concerned. How is this legal? They basically run a restaurant from their house. So, for some reason local officials have allowed Selma Cafe to bypass the hoops that other local business/restaurant owners must jump through, including licensing, inspections, overhead, staff, etc. Are they visited by a health inspector and are the findings available to the public like they are with documented restaurants? Are they making money/paying taxes on this venture or is it solely "donation" based (just another way to take in tax free cash)? Is their kitchen a certified commercial kitchen capable of serving people? Is their place ADA approved? Do they have health permits each time they operate like the folks at the Farmers Market need to have or the local church fundraising gathering? It seems to me that something is not right. Anyone else have the feeling? Can anyone else explain WHY Selma Cafe has been overlooked by city, county and state officials for operating a unregistered, unlicensed food establishment from their house? If in fact it some to light that what they are doing IS legal, then many of us should do the same. Seems like a good way to make some extras cash and support the local food scene, not to mention learn new and interesting culinary delights. Seems interesting to me - however, I also think we should do it by the book - don't you?

andy kelly

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Actually Justcurious, it is Ms. Kelly. I believe that you are incorrect and that you DO need to explain yourself. If you put a comment out expect it to be debated. If you choose not to explain your reasoning when you comment on my verse then I will indeed have trumped your argument by default. It would be much better for you to stand behind your belief rather than take the poor-me approach. If this is insulting then public comment and debate may too harsh for you. No apologies offered. Now, you comment about being threatened needs to be vetted. Actually, I am encouraged. If Selma Cafe did in fact find a legal loop hole then it is time to rejoice! This enables so much possibility for small ideas to begin without major investment. Sure, Mark's Carts are a wonderful idea, but there is still large upfront materials costs, inspections and licensing. If we can skirt around all that like Selma Cafe then HUGE possibility is unearthed.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

Mr. Kelly, your comments to me are insulting. I don't need to explain anything to you. You obviously feel threatened by this organization. I have never been there. "explain yourself in an intelligent manner without the feel-good, "we-should-turn-the-other-way-becaue-Salatin if a God" diatribe."

Angry Moderate

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

Why do local churches have to get their kitchens inspected and licensed, but you don't? They're non-profit too.

lisa gottlieb

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Andy raises some good questions about Selma Cafe that I'd like to clarify. We have not been overlooked by the county or the city. Selma Cafe operates as a non-profit thanks to our formal partnership with the Food Systems Economic Partnership (FSEP). The County Health Dept. met with us and assured us that our formal affiliation with a 501c3 gives us the freedom to make and serve food in our home. The city of Ann Arbor also is aware of our Friday breakfasts, and we are not doing anything against any city ordinance. We operate much more like a weekly church supper or school ice-cream social than a for-profit restaurant. I think Andy's idea that "many of us should do the same" is spot on. Other non-profit groups have been doing all kinds of food related events to raise money for good causes and these events have been really fun and delicious. Thanks Andy, for raising these valid concerns. ~Lisa Gottlieb/Selma Cafe


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

As a regular volunteer, I do know that 1) they are in contact with the local authorities, and so far have been approved, and 2) it is a legitimate non-profit venture, funding improvements (hoop houses) that support local farmers. Also, the weekly chefs are often from Ann Arbor restaurants and catering businesses, who 1) are happy to contribute and be part of a community and 2) benefit from the dynamics (free publicity and better access to quality products. I do understand Andy's concern, and I know business conditions are rough, but if our society no longer has room for labors of love that are not commercial, it is too sad. And I don't think a once-a-week venture with no personal profit can really be considered competition. In fact, it's more a question of synergy.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

I see three issues that make this different from a typical restaurant: 1. It's non-profit. 2. It's staffed by volunteers, not employees. 3. There is no charge; it's operated with donations.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

Thank you thank you THANK YOU. I feel like everyone but me is drinking a special Selma-laced KoolAid and buying into this. This is a restaurant, pure and simple. Let's call a pig (an organically humanely raised pig of course) a pig. I am loosely involved with SFHV and have yet to see exactly how being affiliated with them grants these folks the right to run a restaurant free of taxes, constraints, silly pesky things like laws and rules. My brother took me to Selma a few times and, while the food was good, I left hungry and broke. I tried to ask Mr. McCabe some what I thought were respectful, simple questions about finances and did not get a good reaction. One could say he avoided my questions; one could also say he had a hissy fit. As you said elsewhere, Andy, what's to stop anyone from finding an umbrella of a nonprofit and opening up any sort of business? That sounds great in a perfect world where no one gets food poisoning, no one gets hurt, etc. but we don't live in that world. And what about zoning laws? I remember reading that the Elks Club is getting in trouble for having jazz music because it doesn't fit in with zoning does this? What about the Bierkamp folks who are running into all sorts of trouble trying to run their legitimate, legal is this fair to them? Hissy fits not withstanding, I am sure that these two are nice people, but folks, if you want to open a restaurant THEN OPEN A RESTAURANT.

andy kelly

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

You obviously do not own a business or you would also be perplexed as to how certain people can walk on water and others are regulated to their death. I do agree that we are drastically over regulated, but until WE THE PEOPLE change that legally we ALL need to follow the rules, not just a select few. In direct response to Justcurious and Hmsp: Are you saying that just because their "cafe" is unique and Salatinesque they get carte blanche to do whatever they wish with the local food ordinances while ALL others are subjected to following the rules? Justcurious and Hmsp, please explain yourself in an intelligent manner without the feel-good, "we-should-turn-the-other-way-becaue-Salatin if a God" diatribe.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11:39 a.m.

I wondered when a post like this would appear. Why rain on this small parade? Do we really need to have everything regulated to the hilt? Reminds me of Joel Salatin's book "Everything I want to do is illegal".

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

It's a great video and well worth taking the time to watch!

Laurel Erickson

Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

Wow -- very cool. (Nicely done video, too!)