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It's a Living

Passion for cooking leads to successful second career


I recently discovered Aurora Bistro, a hidden gem located between the post office and the wine and spirits store in Buckingham Green Shopping Center on York Road. And its delightful proprietor.

My youngest daughter is a Francophile and she suggested we meet for lunch at this intimate little cafe. We grabbed a window seat and enjoyed looking out at Holicong Park while we ate. Dawn McDonald came over and introduced herself. Like so many others I’ve met working on this column, she switched career tracks in midlife.

Dawn grew up in South Philadelphia surrounded by local butchers, fresh produce, and the finest bakeries. She learned to cook at her Italian grandmother’s knee, homemade pasta, and other classic Italian dishes. Later, when her grandmother was ill and unable to cook for herself, Dawn began cooking for her and making the traditional dishes she had been taught. She realized she had a real passion for cooking, but it would still be two decades before she would make it her primary livelihood.

For 20 years, Dawn enjoyed a successful career in sales and management. She started getting into professional cooking when she was 46 and a friend asked her to cook family meals. Then other people started asking her to cook for them as well.

For two years, on a part-time basis while she raised a family, she made meals for families. Then she started catering and rented space from a licensed commercial kitchen for the next 12 years. She catered mostly on weekends, events such as graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Once her youngest was in high school, she decided to start her own business.

When Aurora Bistro opened May 5, 2023, the menu was European, mostly Italian, French, and Portuguese, but patrons seemed to order mostly French entrees like Croissant Egg Sandwich and Croque Monsieur.

The menu now is predominantly French, but don’t pass up the paninis. Try my favorite, the Applewood Bacon Panini. (I know. I know. Bacon, so I’ll die five minutes sooner.) Follow up with a cup of sustainable coffee or organic tea. All the entrees are prepared with whole food ingredients.

One of the things I like best about Aurora Bistro is the ease of parking and getting in and out. There’s never any lack of parking spaces and it’s entirely doable to stop on your way to work, grab something, and be out in 10 minutes or less.

The other thing I like is that it’s across the parking lot from Good Stuff Thrift Store, so I can have lunch there and then go see what goodies have arrived next door. The combination makes for a very pleasant afternoon.

I ask how she came up with the name of her restaurant. “Because my catering name is Delightful Dinners by Dawn, I wanted to keep the names similar. ‘Aurora’ means ‘dawn,’ and ‘bistro’ means ‘small restaurant.’”

The bistro is very supportive of community affairs. Last December, it hosted New Hope-Solebury High School Carolers. In January, it sponsored a coat drive and gave away free coffee for every donation. Earlier this month, the Central Bucks East Patriot Players performed singing selections from “Les Miserables.”

Some events held there are seasonal, like Breakfast with Santa or the Easter Bunny, and last Halloween the bistro had local speaker and ghost hunter, Phyllis Breard.

This year, Aurora Bistro invites everyone to join in the weekend of May 4 and 5 to celebrate its one-year anniversary.

There will be a special brunch offered for Mothers’ Day on Thursday, May 9 through Sunday, May 12.

Aurora Bistro is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

In addition, Dawn offers a full catering service.

Definitely worth a visit even if you just order a chocolate croissant. As Ernestine Ulmer pointed out, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

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