Enter Fig Tree Café and Bakery, and a sheet pan of baklava rests alongside a luxuriously frosted chocolate layer cake on an antique glass pedestal, a hint at owners Tom and Robyn Altoom’s unique culinary perspective. At the restaurant—Middle Eastern café meets Ozark grandmother’s bakery counter–the Altooms pride themselves on preparing ingredients the old-fashioned way and in offering patrons the type of food that they would want to serve their own family.
This means sourcing as many items as possible from local farmers and growers while consistently maintaining the menu items that customers know and love. In the summer, Robyn harvests tomatoes and herbs from her own garden. While she describes herself as a “black thumb,” her sister still runs the family’s farm near Ozark, Missouri, where Robyn grew up. In developing the restaurant’s seasonal specials, Robyn shops local farmers markets and relies on relationships with local suppliers whenever possible.
“The whole farm-to-table movement really caught on in Kansas City right around the time we were opening up in May 2010,” Robyn says. “In Kansas City, now there are a lot of people doing farm-to-table. We can get inspiration from them, and they can get inspiration from the things we do, too. I hope to see more of it here in Lee’s Summit.”
Robyn inherited her love and knowledge of baking from rolling out pie crusts alongside her grandmother whom she describes as an old-fashioned domestic goddess, and the tips and tricks have stuck with her. She’s also carried over the Depression-era value of not letting ingredients go to waste, which is well-aligned with her husband’s native Palestinian culture.
“We hate to waste,” Robyn says. “That’s still very much a part of his culture. His family members are the very best recyclers you’ve ever come across. They’ve given me a lot of ideas.”
One example of this successful thrift and cultural fusion is Robyn’s award-winning most popular dessert. When Robyn and Tom were dating, she began gleaning and adapting recipes from his family. She started with a recipe for Um Ali, a traditional Egyptian dessert made with puff pastry, nuts and dried fruit. Incorporating the traditional ingredients, she swapped the phyllo dough for whole-grain bread, brioche and the tops she levels off her chocolate cakes that she just can’t stand to waste. The result is a gooey, decadent, Middle-Eastern inspired fudge cake sundae—the restaurant’s triple chocolate bread pudding.
Other Fig Tree favorites include the Breakfast Bird Omelette, three La Ferme du Bonheur eggs filled with turkey, avocado, sun-dried tomato, turkey bacon and provolone cheese. For lunch, Robyn most frequently eats the hummus appetizer platter featuring house-made hummus served with grilled peppers, summer squash and pita bread. For a sweet and gluten-free treat, customers love the Sunrise bar, which features a toffee-textured whole grain crust filled with coconut, dates, pecans, almonds, cranberries and chocolate chips.
“We do everything from scratch—from sauces to salad dressings,” Robyn says. “We don’t take any shortcuts ever.”
This spring, the Fig Tree expanded its menu beyond breakfast and lunch. The restaurant is now open seven days a week and has expanded to offer dinner Thursday through Saturday, offering heartier fare such as its Mediterranean and kebab platters.