Lakemont cafe is delightful: Family fruit and cupcake business evolves into breakfast, lunch affair

Mirror photo by J.D.  Jaime Drass (left) and Debbie Ulicne are co-owners of D’Lites in Altoona.

The mother-daughter team started out selling elegant fruit arrangements and strawberries dipped in chocolate. In a matter of months, they added cupcakes to their bill of fare and then breakfast and lunch.

In six years, D’Lites Cafe has grown into a popular eatery in Lakemont that draws customers in with its homemade soups, sandwiches, breakfasts and more.

Josette Chambreau who lives in the Juniata neighborhood of Altoona comes in once a week and usually orders the homemade macaroni and cheese, made with three cheeses, and coleslaw.

“But I’ve tried everything,” she said. “Their salads, their tuna melt, their grilled cheese sandwich is to die for. They use three cheeses in that, too. Oh, the tomato bisque. Everything is delicious. It’s my favorite place.”

Co-owner Jaime Drass says that is because she and her mother, Debbie Ulicne, make classic comfort food, and “we make everything with love.

“We cook here like we cook for our family,” Drass said.

She credits her mother for teaching her everything she knows about cooking, as well as for providing most of the recipes used in the cafe developed through the years.

“I was a stay-at-home mom and did a lot of baking and cooking,” said Ulicne.

The mom is the “soup lady” and her concoctions are “heavy on the butter and cream, all the good stuff,” said the daughter.

The soup changes daily: Beef Vegetable on Tuesday, Broccoli ‘n’ Cheese on Wednesday, Loaded Baked Potato on Thursday, Creamy Tomato Bisque on Friday and Cook’s Choice Saturday, which usually is a chili or chicken noodle. (It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays).You can get a cup for $3.95 or a bowl for $5.50 and it comes with garlic toast.

The most popular sandwiches are the tuna melt, chicken bruschetta sandwich and D’liteful Chick, Drass said. D’liteful Chick is a jerk-seasoned grilled chicken with bacon, pepperjack cheese, lettuce, tomato with ranch, usually served on a grilled pretzel roll.

Breakfast is served from 8 to 11 a.m. and features eggs, fried potatoes, meat, French toast and more.

The owners credit devoted regulars with promoting D’Lites Cafe through word-of-mouth.

They said they started the business because nobody was selling fruit arrangements in the area. A few months later, they saw where “Cupcake Wars,” a show on the Food Network, was growing in popularity, so added cupcakes.

“We just experimented with it and we now have 40 flavors,” Ulicne said, noting they make at least six or seven varieties a day, including Meme’s Famous Carrot Cake, Oh Elvis, Chipper Cherry, Red Velvet, Chocolate P’Nut Butta Cup, Vanilla Beanie and Blueberry Crumble.

“Then we thought, ‘That’s not enough,'” Ulicne said. “So we started breakfast and lunch. We just kept adding.”

Will they add dinner?

“No,” Ulicne said emphatically. “Everybody says we need to get bigger, but we kind of like the small atmosphere.”

Added Drass: “We’re happy with it and I think people like the quaintness.”

It seats 22 patrons, plus another 16 outside in the summer.

How do mom and daughter get along in the business?

“Great,” said Drass. “She knows what she does. I know what I do it and it works perfectly. It was kind of scary when we started. But it took off.”

Mirror Life Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.

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