When Mark Cagley and his wife Glynis Harvey opened their Creole and Cajun restaurant in south suburban Matteson, they weren’t so sure what to name it until they remembered a Biblical passage that perfectly suited the business’ indiscernible location.
“We actually had a different name in mind at first and when that verse popped up, I was like, ‘This works perfect’ … because we’re hidden,” Cagley said about the retired couple’s popular Hidden Manna Cafe.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re here. We’re off the beaten path.”
Before formally opening Hidden Manna Cafe in 2014, Cagley — a former CTA mechanic — and Harvey — an electrical engineer at the transit agency — were busy investing in real estate properties without any intention of running a restaurant.
But when they bought a historic building at 3613 216th St., they wanted the structure that was built in 1880 to house a heart-warming cozy establishment.
So after three years of do-it-yourself renovations, they debuted Hidden Manna Cafe admittedly without knowing much about the industry.
Still, it didn’t take long for patrons to flock to the restaurant to sample head Chef Victor Jaimes’ from-scratch menu that is heavily based on recipes passed down by Harvey’s New Orleans-raised grandmother.
The cream-based shrimp and grits with spicy chicken andouille sausage has been a longtime favorite, as is the fried catfish fillet over grit cakes. For vegetarians, there’s the “Grits Ya-Ya”— spinach, portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, onions and spices over grits.
Other favorites include the Louisiana trout, gumbo, pork chop and beef brisket. Along with salads, pastas and sandwiches, there’s a full breakfast menu that highlights a variety of omelettes, French toasts and chicken and waffles. For the seafood lover, there’s a seafood boil with shrimp, crab, chicken andouille sausage, potatoes and corn.
“We like authentic,” said Harvey, describing both the recipes and genuine customer service.
“We hug here. We get people who bring in a lot of love. It makes us feel good when we receive that ... [and] we try to share that with people that may be having a bad day,” said Cagley.
In the coming months, Cagley and Harvey plan to expand with a dedicated event space where more customers can hear live music — usually smooth jazz or old-school R&B — on Friday and Saturday nights.
The couple also has a Hidden Manna Cafe Express in Homewood, 17949 Halsted St. That location is mostly takeaway of select items.
So what’s the secret to successfully working together while married for over 20 years?
“Knowing our lanes,” Cagley said with a chuckle. “She [Harvey] has her responsibilities and I have mine.”
Harvey added, “I think because we were friends for so long beforehand, we’re still friends. We fuss at each other but at the end of the day we move on. We’re stronger than we realize. And we make a really good team.”