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September 21, 2018

Farm Station Café brings fresh option to Vint Hill

I think it will be a nice addition to this area. With the volume of people here, now there’s something more to come to than the brewery.
— Samantha Smith, who lives nearby
Farm Station Café
• What: Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, made from scratch with local ingredients.

• Where: 7150 Farm Station Road, Vint Hill

• Owner: Karen Baker

• Opened: Sept. 13.

• Space: 2,000 square feet of a former warehouse, adjacent to Ms. Baker’s A La Carte Catering

• Investment: About $150,000.

• Employees: 20

• Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.

• Facebook: Click here

• Website:
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Staff Journalist
Her new café will serve as a community gathering place at Vint Hill, the veteran entrepreneur hopes.

With 35 years of experience in the catering business, Karen Baker last week opened Farm Station Café in a renovated warehouse on the former U.S. Army base near New Baltimore.

Sharing space with Ms. Baker’s A La Carte Catering, the café will offer healthier versions of comfort food, made from scratch.

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, she believes the eatery will fill a need at Vint Hill, which has only one other restaurant.

“I want it to be a community place for people to come and hang out with their families. Kind of like the ‘Cheers’ of food,” Ms. Baker said. “To feel like it’s their home away from home.”

Farm Station Café serves made-to-order and grab-and-go sandwiches, soup, salads and pastries. It has applied for a state license to serve beer, wine and cocktails.

About 15 customers waited to place orders at noon Tuesday.

Ernie Stellings and seven co-workers from the Federal Aviation Administration control center came on their lunch break. The FAA has 800 employees at Vint Hill.

“We work right up the street and only have an hour,” Mr. Stelling said. “We’re sick of going to Wegmans.

“The food is good and the ambiance . . . . It has a country vibe. It’s homey.”

Ms. Baker eventually hopes to open on Sundays for brunch, add cooking classes and offer “MREs” (meals ready to eat) for customers to take home.

Seating 68 inside and out, the café also can be rented for events.

Through the new eatery, Ms. Baker hopes to “help educate people on what food should be like and making better choices.”

Serving non-processed food without hormones or genetically-modified ingredients, she buys grass-fed beef from Whiffletree Farm near Warrenton and food from other local farms.

“The café is surrounded by the philosophy of supporting local farms,” Ms. Baker said.

The restaurant also will introduce customers to A La Carte Catering.

Some items appear on both the café and catering menus, such as the sweet potato biscuit with Virginia country ham and honey butter — a top seller.

Ms. Baker moved her catering business from Haymarket to Vint Hill in March after looking for consolidated kitchen and office space.

“There was no place in a 10-mile radius (of Haymarket) that would be able to support a catering kitchen . . . unless we built it ourselves,” she said.

Ms. Baker invested about $500,000 in equipment and renovations to move her catering business.

“We couldn’t have found a better location for us, where we can be between our clients in Prince William, Fauquier and Loudoun counties, where 90 percent of our business is.”

The idea to open a café came several months later. At first hesitant, Ms. Baker moved ahead after researching the number of homes and businesses in the area. About 10,000 people live in the New Baltimore/Vint Hill area.

She invested about $150,000 to start Farm Station Café.

“I’ve been waiting for it to open,” said Samantha Smith who lives about a mile away. “I love it. The Covert Café is great, but it’s great to have another choice without driving into town.

“I think it will be a nice addition to this area,” Ms. Smith added. “With the volume of people here, now there’s something more to come to than the brewery.”

Ms. Baker, 57, has worked in the catering business since age 22, but her love of cooking started much earlier.

“My mother was always in the kitchen. I learned at an early age how to cook and bake. I loved it. I supported myself through college working in restaurants and catering.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in art conservation, Ms. Baker decided to switch careers and got a job at Ridgewells Catering in Philadelphia and later in Washington.

In 1999, she started A La Carte Catering with an office in her Haymarket home’s basement and leased kitchen space in D.C.

“I kept putting profits from (catering) one party into the business, and I lived very frugally.”

At the beginning, corporate events accounted for 95 percent of her revenue. When the recession hit, she struggled to keep the business alive and had to cut her staff by half.

But, Ms. Baker bounced back, in part with a focus on wedding receptions.

A La Carte caters about 800 events a year in the area and neighboring states. It does weddings, corporate events, parties and picnics with about 30 full- and part-time employees.

“Everything’s made from scratch. You won’t find a bottled dressing,” Marketing Director Pam Symington said. “We try to buy local. We’re not going to be the cheapest, and we are not going to be the most expensive, but we are going to fall in the middle . . . . Our products cost more, but that’s going to come out in taste.”

Ms. Baker said: “It’s the personalized service, coupled with the quality of food” that define her businesses.

“There’s a lot of love that goes into the food. We care about the ingredients in the food and we want to be the best,” she added. “Service is very important to us. We are going to guide you with the right menu. We want to know about you . . . . It’s a very customizable experience.”
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brianroeder · September 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm
Great people and so glad to see! Much support from the team at Barrel Oak!
Dennis A. Taylor · September 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm
Such a fantastic addition to our local community! Excellent food, comfortable environment, great people!

Congratulations Karen and Team! So happy for you!

Best Regards,

Dennis Taylor
Catlett, VA
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