Manna Bagels Cafe continues the family feeling of Cozy Brick Kitchen
BRICK, NJ — For years, the Cozy Kitchen was a space that drew families not only for the food, but also for the warmth of the community it brought together.
When it closed in October 2021 after more than 40 years in business, there was sadness as dozens of shared memories of time spent at the restaurant on Herbertsville Road.
A year later, the beloved place has a new look and a new name, but creates that same sense of family and community that made its predecessor so beloved.
“I’m very, very grateful to have had this opportunity,” said Ramona Ricart, owner of Manna Bagels Cafe with her husband, Juan Santamaria. “The presence there is really fantastic.”
Juan and Ramona have been part of the community for a while, Ramona Ricart said. The couple operate other businesses in the area, but ventured into the restaurant business after beginning to import coffee beans from Costa Rica, where Juan Santamaria was born and raised.
“He still owns the farm there,” Ramona said. She had tasted the coffee on a trip to the family farm and suggested they import it. “The coffee is amazing.”
It wasn’t long after Cozy closed kitchen that someone approached Juan and suggested that he buy the property as a place to sell the coffee. After some discussion, Ramona said, they decided to move on.
The shop sells New York-style bagels, and in addition to Costa Rican coffee, offers a menu with a Costa Rican touch on top of the standard breakfast and lunch fare.
“We have bagels to go, but we also have a place where you can sit down and enjoy a meal, Ramona said.
In Costa Rica, the day starts at 4 or 5 in the morning, so they have a hearty breakfast that starts with rice and black beans. Manna Bagels offers the Tico Breakfast in honor of this; it includes rice and beans, a side of meat, eggs, sweet breads, sour cream, and a tortilla.
“A lot of the families who come are surfers or seasonal (visitors) who love surfing, and we’ve met a lot of people who have surfed in Costa Rica,” Ramona Ricart said. “We’re happy to bring it to our community. It’s something different to try.”
After the renovations, they had a smooth opening in early June and haven’t slowed down since, she said.
“We got a lot of support from the community,” Ramona said. “On the second day, we made 1,200 bagels and we sold out at 10:30”
Plus, they got to meet Lori Stone’s family, who’s owned Cozy Kitchen all these years. Stone had died in 2019 and her longtime partner Christopher Koch ran it for two years before the family decided to sell.
“I met Lori’s mom and sisters; they have so much history and memories in this place,” Ramona said. And upon finding out about the family, Ramona realized how similar their lives were. “I was in shock at how much we had in common,” until Lori and Ramona had sons named Alex.
Juan and Ramona encouraged the family to return.
“You still have memories that you can build with your grandchildren and keep those memories alive,” she told them. Like Stone and Koch, whose children worked at the Cozy Kitchen, the Ricarts’ children help out in the shop. Juan takes care of business while Ramona says she is the face of the company.
Four months after the soft opening, Juan and Ramona are working on plans for a grand opening and are grateful for the welcome they have received.
“It makes me really happy that it’s a familiar place with the locals,” Ramona said. “We want to express our gratitude for all the support.”
Note: This article has been updated to correct Juan Santamaria’s last name. Patch regrets the mistake.