Photo Caption: The Purple Wolf Family: Jesslene Ames, Andy Grabeal, Heather Hively, Chris Monday, Pascal Monday and Dani Baker (front) holding Mabel Monday.
Amid children's laughter and birdsong, Chris Monday serves up breakfast at Purple Wolf, a Sunday brunch-only restaurant that occupies the same space as Rickshaw Thai in Eclipse Company Town, about four miles from Athens in The Plains.
The idea for the restaurant came about when Monday shared some ideas with a friend who was won over by dishes including the "Veggie Mountain," piled high with ingredients like black-eyed peas, collard greens and onions; breakfast pierogies; sausage and plantains; and lavender scones. Much of the food at Purple Wolf is organic and local.
It's also colorful, and introduced to patrons via a hand-lettered, illustrated menu that changes weekly. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the chef, in the kitchen flipping sweet-potato pancakes with walnuts, is an artist.
Creator of dozens of comics, including the popular "Drink More Water," and editor of the anthology "My Stupid Raygun," Monday doesn't remember when he started making art. He has always drawn. He studied creative writing in college, then went into printmaking, but didn't start in his true medium until he was in his late twenties. "It wasn't until I was done with school, when I read Alan Moore's "Watchmen." I was blown away, and I knew I needed to bring writing and art together… I immediately started making comics and have not stopped."
The experience of becoming a father inspired Monday to create comics of family stories, among them "Mabel Writes Her Name." Drawing his experiences with fatherhood was a way to remember them. Funny, self-deprecating, true-to-life, his comics feel real.
He also believes there's something inherently special about holding a comic book in your hands. Monday published webcomics (comic strips posted online) for a while, but kept returning to the printed book. "You're alone with it," he said. "The Internet, everybody's looking at it… But there's something about a book…I can really lose myself. When I think back on a comic book, I can see it moving, and hear the voices."
He created a publishing company, Flying Weevil Productions, with his partner Heather, and they will be printing the work of other artists. In addition to drawing and cooking, he works at the new West End Ciderhouse.
All of these jobs are on top of his primary responsibility: dad.
Monday has no illusions about who comes first in his life: his children. "My kids deserve all the love I can give them," he said, and Purple Wolf prides itself on being family-friendly. On a recent Sunday, his 18-month-old son ran around the lawn with a patron's toddler. Monday's daughter waitressed for a while, her small frame swimming in an oversized apron, then she played beneath the hostess stand. Some of the restaurant-goers wore bike shorts, fresh from the nearby trail. Others came straight from mushroom-hunting, or church. Under the shade of dogwoods at tables set up on the grass, or in the cool, airy space of the restaurant, people drank coffee and ate ham and macadamia nut salad.
Monday believes Eclipse Company Town is a special place. "Any kind of restaurant fantasy that I've had has always been set out there," he said. The kitchen where Monday cooks has a legacy. Previous to Rickshaw and Purple Wolf, it had housed several other restaurants and a bakery.
That history matters to Monday, but he also looks ahead with new ideas. He plans to launch the next installment of his popular comic "Drink More Water" on June 15 at the Purple Wolf. Future plans include taking his illustrated menus to the next level with a comic short story, a serial that will continue weekly (patrons are particularly interested in the story of the restaurant's name). He would like to have more art at the restaurant, and maybe even music.
These plans continue the creative path Monday has set for himself. "I [first] wanted to be a cartoonist when I saw 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit,'" he said. "I immediately knew that, [but] as most of us do when we grow, we lose track of our true things… Some people are lucky enough to get back."
Purple Wolf serves brunch on Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at Eclipse Company Town. Reservations accepted: (740) 707-0797.