Cosmic Café owner serving up scratch-made food on Philly's historic Boathouse Row

Chef Peg Botto says the cafe serves breakfast and lunch and is committed to serving up healthy, "good food."

Tamala Edwards Image
Thursday, June 29, 2023
Café serving up scratch-made food on Philly's historic Boathouse Row
Peg Botto from Cosmic Cafe has been serving up good food along with good vibes for over a decade at Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In 2011, Chef Peg Botto moved from the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market to serving up farm-fresh food at the Cosmic Café, nestled between Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River.

Botto says she serves breakfast and lunch and is committed to serving up healthy, "good food." She offers items like sandwiches and wraps, along with sides.

She also caters and added a ciderhouse bar on site three years ago. Botto licenses the satellite location from Frecon Farms, an orchard in Boyertown, PA.

Sustainability is a big part of her mission, working with local farms and purchasing organic.

"We belong to Lancaster Farm Fresh. It's a co-op," says Botto.

Real plates are used at the café and biodegradable items are provided for takeout.

"It's just part of who we are," she says.

In addition to taking care of the planet, Botto also takes care of people, especially her employees.

"We have about 35 and 20 of them are special," she says of her employees.

Before getting into the food business, Botto worked in human services and lived in group homes.

"That was where my passion started with the special needs people," she says.

In 2019, Botto founded a nonprofit called The Cosmic Foundation to nurture skills for life.

"Our goal is to teach them the café - all different parts," she says.

Once Botto sees what tasks each person is good at doing, she says she progresses their skills, giving them more to do at the café.

Most have found their niche, like Tyheed, who makes a lot of the Cosmic Café juices. He describes the organic juices as "colorful, healthy and tasty."

Botto bakes many items from scratch, like her apple crumb cake, and does a lot of the cooking.

She says there are a lot of things her employees do at the café and some have been with her so long, she says she "couldn't have the cafe without some of them."

Tyheed has been there seven years.

"Before I started working here, I was a bit of a shut in," says Tyheed.

Now, he regularly interacts with other employees at work and talks to customers. He credits Botto for being a positive influence on his life.

"She's taught me to adapt, react and overcome," he says.

Darlene Martin, the Cosmic Café office manager, has worked with Botto for about a decade.

"Peg fosters a really great atmosphere," says Martin. "She takes care of all of her employees like they're family."

Botto says "everybody has their own thing" that they're good at doing, but she would like more for each of her employees.

"I would like to move them on," she says.

And she has had a few success stories, with some employees moving on to other jobs. She says by working at the café first, it enabled that next step to happen for many of them.

"So that's exciting," she says.

For more information:

The Cosmic Cafe

The Ciderhouse

The Cosmic Foundation

The Cosmic Cafe and Ciderhouse

1 Boathouse Row

Philadelphia, Pa. 19130