BELTSVILLE—An award-winning urban café here offers a cozy ambiance to visitors interested in trying out a unique blend of waffles and chicken, among other cuisine. Café Rue, located on Route 1/Baltimore Avenue is owned by Cole D. Whaley, an entrepreneur, who says food with “robust flavors” inspires him.
Whaley first became exposed to European cuisine during a six-month long visit with his uncle in Germany while in ninth grade.
“My uncle while he was in the military he went to culinary school as well,” said Whaley. “So eating with him was like having a gourmet meal every night. He did a lot of lasagnas and pot roast. My uncle’s cooking exposed me to a very different style of cooking from that what I had when I grew up with my mom in Cleveland, Ohio.”
Whaley credits his experience in Germany and later on, his travels to London and Paris, for giving him an “appreciation for something different.”
Whaley said he “fell” into the restaurant industry through cooking four-course and five-course meals for his wife and cooking dinner for a married couple because the pregnant wife was on bed rest for six months.
“For 14 weeks straight, I, basically every Sunday, made dinner for this family. It wasn’t anything they asked me to do,” said Whaley. “…fast forward to moving from Seattle to here, my wife was like, ‘Nobody does that. I mean, people will cook for you if you have a baby we’ll make you a couple of meals, but consistently doing different things, the only people who do that the people who are into food and into cooking and serving’.”
Whaley was laid off from his job in Feb. 2012 and his wife saw it as an opportunity for Whaley to go into the food industry. Whaley took his wife’s advice and started a food truck and went to culinary school.
Whaley then started looking for restaurant space and found the space in Beltsville. He spruced up the front house and opened Café Rue in Feb. 2013.
The name for the restaurant comes from a neighborhood Whaley and his wife visited in Paris called Rue Cler.
“I wanted to name my daughter Rue, that was my submission and that kind of got vetoed,” he said. “So when I opened the restaurant I was like this is my little baby so I’m going to name it Rue. Rue means street in French so it’s a street café. It’s always better to say Café Rue but it really should be Rue Café.”
Since opening Café Rue, chicken and waffles has become Whaley’s niche. He makes red velvet chicken and waffles from scratch, which are his most popular menu item. The classic chicken and waffles meal at Rue Café sells for about $12. Details in presentation at Café Rue are important to Whaley from the décor down to the dishes.
“I use a platter because I wanted everything to be like on a canvas. So I use this platter because it’s all-white,” he said. “Everybody gets one of these and on the plate, we place the food on the inside portion so it looks like a framed picture on your table.”
Whaley runs three businesses: His food truck, catering services and Café Rue. Businesses that are more high-end often prefer not to open up shop in Prince George’s County but Whaley has positive perceptions about the county.
“Prince George’s County has been a phenomenal partner,” he said. “The Chamber of Commerce gave me an award for Entrepreneur of the Year. I just assumed that there were a lot of independent and minority-owned restaurants in the county that are super nice and super cool and I found out that wasn’t the case which is kind of sad because it’s a great place to visit.”
Hours of operation for Café Rue are Wednesday through Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Café Rue is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so Whaley can have his “siestas.”