Food meets History at Her Story Cafe

Words: Kate Perdoni

Photos: Brian Kwan

Liz Rosenbaum owns and operates Her Story Cafe, located at Library 21c, the newest branch of Pikes Peak Library District. The cafe is tucked away across from the children’s area on the lower level of Library 21c. Patrons browse for books, and families shuffle by for story time, as the faint sound of hissing lattes plays in the background. Rosenbaum considers herself a culinary anthropologist — someone who loves both food and history —and she blends her passions artfully and seamlessly through soups, sandwiches and lattes named after famous women. She said it all started with a bowl of chicken noodle soup made from scratch, which she has now been making “for the longest time."

"I named it Brave Chick and Noodle after the women of the 19th Amendment — Alice Paul, and all of them,” Rosenbaum said. "They were the ones who started the non-violent protest in front of the White House during World War I. They were imprisoned and force fed just because they wanted the right to vote. If that would have been my best friend going through that, I would want to give her a bowl of chicken noodle soup when she got out because she’d be starving! I like to feed all of my friends when they’re not feeling well, and then they feel empowered. I want Her Story Cafe to empower people.”

Rosenbaum's first job was in a restaurant at the age of 16 and she immediately knew she wanted to have her own restaurant someday.  Now, she is empowering people with food and with knowledge. Take her recent potato-leak soup, for example. Named for paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, customers learn about paleoanthropology, archeology, australopithecines and hominid footprints — all from a soup.

Rosenbaum describes Her Story Cafe's motif as cute, funny and quirky. Coffee bean bags, a floor vent from a farmhouse in Iowa, a 39-cent Goodwill picture and photos from PPLD’s archives adorn the walls. Much of the decor is left over from when Rosenbaum was a tenth grade world history teacher. She said her love of history went beyond wars, and she encouraged students to learn in-depth about what families did together historically.

Soup is a cultural universal,” she explained. “Every single culture has soup.

“I found that I was teaching a lot of food history,” Rosenbaum said. “You’ve got a big army. How did they feed the army? … You ate as you went. And people would starve to death.” Rosenbaum said she was, and remains, fascinated by what people have eaten over time — especially soup.

Rosenbaum says the library is the perfect place for patrons to expand their knowledge on something they see or taste at Her Story Cafe. If someone isn’t familiar with the namesake of a sandwich, she might bring the customer out further into the Library to find a book about that person or subject. She loves that her Library customers are often history buffs themselves, and she draws a lot of inspiration from people who come in with amazing stories to share about women — often Colorado women.

“I’ve heard stories about grandmothers being Woman Airforce Service Pilots in World War II, or about a family who has lived in Colorado since 1907,” Rosenbaum said. “They can often identify the historical pictures hanging on my walls.” At Her Story Cafe, both the sandwiches and their ingredients reflect the people they honor. Rosenbaum said her customers often help her name dishes. Sometimes, their namesakes even walk through the door.

“One of my regular customers came in and asked, ‘Do you know Mary Lou MakePeace?’ I didn’t,” Rosenbaum said. “(Makepeace) was the very first lady mayor of Colorado Springs. I had an Italian grinder sandwich I hadn’t named, and then I learned Mary Lou loves red wine. So, we did a red onion and red wine vinaigrette and named the sandwich the Mary Lou MakePeace Grinder. She came in one day and said, 'Hi, I’m Mary Lou.’"  

Rosenbaum says the library is the perfect place for patrons to expand their knowledge on something they see or taste at Her Story Cafe. If someone isn’t familiar with the namesake of a sandwich, she might bring the customer out further into the Library to find a book about that person or subject. She loves that her Library customers are often history buffs themselves, and she draws a lot of inspiration from people who come in with amazing stories to share about women — often Colorado women.

To get a feel for Rosenbaum's vibrancy and the celebratory nature of Her Story Cafe, just take a look at the menu. There’s a breakfast sandwich named after Molly Brown that Rosenbaum said is “for the days you need to survive the Titanic, design the Denver museum, run a gold mine and finish laundry." There’s even a sandwich named after the brainchild of Library 21c.

“Paula’s 21c is named after Paula Miller, who created this lovely library,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s tender rotisserie chicken, mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, and bacon-garlic aioli. Because she’s so sweet and soft-spoken, but she’s got this little kick to her ... we had to create a very specific sauce for this sandwich. And that fits her personality really well.”

When portraying and speaking about her favorite women, Rosenbaum chooses to focus on uplifting stories. Instead of talking about a woman struggling in a male-dominated career field, she’ll talk about what made that woman amazing even despite the difficulties she faced.

Eleanor Roosevelt had six kids, for crying out loud!” Rosenbaum said. “I don’t know how she did it

By changing the way women’s stories are told at the cafe, Rosenbaum hopes to bring a new perspective to feminism. She doesn’t just want HIStory to be told, she wants HERstory to be told.

“It is so fun to be a girl, and to be a feminist,” she said. “Every other culture has a masculine and feminine word for everything. I think it would be cool if we could have ‘history’ and ‘herstory.’ If, when we start talking about women, we could say, ‘Look at this herstorical piece of information,’ and it just rolls off your tongue.”


Her Story Café is open  from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Friday and Saturday.


Her Story Café

Library 21c of Pikes Peak Library District  

1175 Chapel Hills Road, Colorado Springs

HerStoryCafe.com