On Business: Back In The Day Cafe

Cary’s Back in the Day Cafe steps back in time

CorrespondentMay 7, 2013 

— Memories might start flowing when you walk through the doors of Back In The Day Café.

The big-screen television at the bar shows footage from a long-ago concert or a classic game show. Posters of 1980s actors line the walls, along with a vintage lunch pail and a Teddy Ruxpin doll.

There’s even Atari, the classic video game system.

Keith Baldi and Cindy Townsend opted for a retro atmosphere when they opened Back In The Day Café in January in Cary’s Millpond Village.

“We hear a lot of stories. People will see something and say, ‘Oh, I remember back in the day,’ ” Townsend said.

The eatery serves homemade American fare while giving customers a chance to reminisce about days gone by.

“Our mottos is, ‘Relax, refresh, relive.’ You come in here, you relax, you refresh with a nice cocktail or some nice food, and you relive the past,” Baldi said. “It’s a way for someone to escape today’s reality and step back a little bit.”

The search for treasures

Baldi and Townsend moved to Cary with the idea to open a restaurant that featured something people have in common: the past.

So they scoured flea markets, yard sales and Craigslist to find a variety of items from the 1960s through the ’90s. Some of the owners’ favorite finds include a genie bottle from “I Dream of Jeannie,” a Gene Simmons doll, an old Barbie case, roller skates and a “Space Invaders” bike.

“The decorating was fun,” Townsend said. “It’s amazing what you find. For example, we found a game from the “Emergency!” show. We’re still not finished.”

Comfort food with attitude

The restaurant’s menu also incorporates the retro theme. Entrée names recall movies from the past, such as the Forrest Gump (shrimp and grits) or the nod to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with the Dr. Frank ’n’ Burger (a hamburger-wrapped hot dog).

“The Partridge Family” makes an appearance, too, with the Reuben Kinkaid Panini. Cartoons aren’t forgotten with the eatery’s Popeye Pasta.

Prices for kids’ meals also go back in time: Kids 5 and under eat for 1 cent.

Always something going on

Customers are invited to participate in a variety of events at Back In The Day Café. A family movie is shown every Monday night, and classic movies aren’t forgotten.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was recently screened to mark actor Tim Curry’s birthday. Concerts fill the big screen, featuring artists such as REO Speedwagon, The Beatles, Barry Manilow and Rush.

Other nights, such as a recent “Saturday Night Fever” dance party, a disco ball lights up the restaurant. Baldi and Townsend also plan Tuesday trivia nights, a newlywed game and dating game, their own twist on the once-popular game shows.

Tidbits and trivia

The owners want their Facebook page to give customers more than information about their menu. Baldi and Townsend, both history buffs, post trivia about the day in history and note famous people’s birthdays.

Facebook visitors can also play “Name That Tune” to win a half-price appetizer or other deal.

Social media might not be part of the nostalgia, but the owners realize we live in different times now.

“You have to keep the interaction going, because it’s not back in the day,” Baldi said.

carynews@newsobserver.com

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