In the heart of Homer on Pioneer Avenue, what started as a simple quick-serve restaurant has grown into one of Homer’s more eclectic and popular eating spots. This week, Cosmic Kitchen at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Kachemak Way celebrates its 10th anniversary — a milestone for a street where dozens of restaurants have come and gone since 2003.
Founded by Sean Hogan and Michelle Wilson, the couple opened the restaurant on May 1, 2013, the same day as Homer Physical Therapy, another 10-year-old business that opened on Pioneer Avenue.
“The very first day we were busy,” Hogan said. “We had the feeling we were popular.”
The secret to Hogan’s and Wilson’s success? Well, it’s cosmic, but these things might have helped:
• A good location across from Homer City Hall and Kachemak Bay Campus, and a convenient walk from nearby galleries, the Homer Police Station, Homer High School and other Pioneer Avenue businesses.
“We’re easily accessible,” Wilson said. “We’re very happy to have such a great spot.”
• A menu that includes breakfast dishes available until 3 p.m., sandwiches, burgers, Californian and Mexican cuisine, and vegetarian dishes.
“It’s all the food Sean likes,” Wilson said. “People come here for the consistency of our good food.”
• Strong, year-round support from a customer base built up over the years.
“Seventy to 80 percent of our people are regulars,” Wilson said.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Hogan still has a soft Celtic lilt to his speech. He moved to the United States at 20, living in California, Arizona, Florida and Massachusetts. With 30 years experience as a chef, he apprenticed with a Danish chef in California and a Swiss chef in Switzerland, and went to the Florida Culinary Institute in Palm Beach.
Hogan met Wilson in Phoenix. They started coming to Alaska to visit Wilson’s parents, who had a home in Nikiksi and now a summer home in Homer. In 1990, they first came to Homer, and like many who only intended to stay for the summer, wound up living here through the winter. Hogan worked in about 40 restaurants throughout the world, including several in Homer, before starting Cosmic Kitchen.
They began Cosmic Kitchen when the building it’s in went up for sale. Built by former Homer artist Lynn Wolf, it had been an art gallery. Artist Gail Baker had her mask studio in it when Hogan and Wilson bought the place in March 2003. The couple lives upstairs in an apartment.
“It’s convenient, but you’re always on call,” Hogan said in an interview last week at the end of the lunch rush. “I’m here but not here.”
“You wouldn’t have it any other way,” Wilson said.
“I’m a control freak,” Hogan said.
Hogan and Wilson started Cosmic Kitchen to fill what they saw as a void in Homer’s restaurant scene.
“I realized there wasn’t a good, casual quick-service restaurant,” Hogan said.
The menu started with Mexican and Californian dishes — burritos and salads with toppings like avocadoes, grilled chicken and beef. They added burgers, got a beer and wine license and built a south-facing, street side deck with a view down Kachemak Way to the bay.
While lunch is a big draw, people also come for dinner.
“I think our menu appeals to all kinds of folks,” Wilson said. “We think we have something for everybody.”
“It’s hybrid,” Hogan added.
At the same time, Hogan likes to mix up the menu and add new dishes and ideas.
“Sean’s always trying new things through the specials,” Wilson said.
If something new works out, they’ll add it to the core menu.
Along with cooking and running the restaurant, Hogan also has another passion, kite surfing. He was one of the first Homer people to kite surf on Kachemak Bay. With his reddish-brown dreadlocks, he’s a familiar kite surfer out on the bay when the wind kicks up. Hogan said he was tickled that he once made it into the Homer Police blotter when someone thought he was in trouble.
Hogan also has another project: writing the Cosmic Kitchen Cookbook. It’s been an ongoing creative process a bit different from writing a novel because he can’t just make stuff up and has to test the recipes. It might be published in 2014 — or maybe 2020 — he said, joking.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.