Brigid Read remembers the day she went to municipal court regarding her son’s moving-violation ticket.
It was there she stumbled upon an empty room in the courthouse’s basement, one that would become Claudia’s Kitchen, 411 Jules St.
Read has an extensive cooking background. Her mother being from New Orleans and her father of Cuban descent, she was exposed to a variety of dishes as a child. She would go on to work with the St. Joseph School District’s nutrition department before starting her own food-vendor business and even going door to door selling tamales.
“And I came to this building to the municipal court, and as we passed this empty room, I said, ‘Hey, look here!’” Read said. “And I kind of feel like the Lord was sending me here, so I’ve been here ever since.”
That was around five years ago, and while customers need to go through security in order to get to Claudia’s Kitchen (named for Read’s daughter), Read said a lot of her guests don’t mind the process.
“I think in the beginning, it was like, ‘What? It’s in a courthouse?’ But for one, my prices are very reasonable and it’s all homemade — nothing comes in here frozen,” she said.
Read also said that many of her customers already work in the courthouse, and with her rotating menu that focuses on soups, sandwiches, tenderloins, pies and a host of other staples, she receives plenty of positive feedback.
“We have these real nice deli sandwiches, and we don’t get any pressed meat or anything like that. Everything I hand-pick myself. I go out shopping in Kansas City, I support some of our local farmers here and I also go to some of the ma-and-pa markets that they have here,” Read said.
And while the business has seen much luck catering, Read said her unique location usually results in some customers who may be a bit down on their luck.
“I have had people come in here who have maybe gotten in a bit of trouble with the law, and they’ll say, ‘Well, I’d better eat a real good meal, because it may be a little while before I have another one,” Read said. “I do meet people in all different kinds of moods. And I’m always hoping my food cheers them up, and it usually does.
“The way I was brought up, some meals are made with love, and that’s what I try to offer with all of my food.”
Claudia’s Kitchen is open from 7:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.