On the Road Again...
Last Sunday, Don and I found ourselves once again on Highway 71 heading from Austin to Houston. We allowed ourselves the luxury of leaving the highway and driving a few extra minutes into the town of Smithville. You never know what you'll find in Smithville. There are a surprising number of lovely Victorian home and sometimes a movie star. A few well-known movies have been filmed here. We've never seen Brad Pitt or Sandra Bullock, but we have seen film crews at work in the past.
But at 1:00 on Sunday, we weren't really about exploring, we just wanted some food. The town was quiet, so we were happy to find cars parked at this cute little yellow building on First Street across from the Railroad Park.
If we had read the signs before entering, we might not have been so surprised about our little café. On the signs and banners were words like "Where Miracles Happen" and "Pay What You Can".
Yes. The little café felt very comfy when we entered. We were greeted warmly by a tall man with a number of tattoos. We headed towards one of the tables near the yellow wall, but he steered us towards the mirrored side of the room. "The air conditioner isn't working so well. You'll be more comfortable under the fan."
The Right Side of the Cafe
I borrowed this photo from an article in Co-op Magazine that oddly enough came in the mail the day after we dined here. This photo shows Rosie Lopez who opened the café with her partner a few years ago. Rosie was there (dressed exactly like this photo) the day we dined. But there were so many folks meeting and greeting and dining, I couldn't tell who was a customer and who worked there. When we opened our menus we began to understand a little more.
More Than Food
Inside the menu we found some delicious food options, along with some information about www.SerenityStar.org, the recovery program that is supported by Comfort Café. We learned that we would not be given a bill for our meal, but we were free to pay whatever we could afford. And if we had no money we were welcome to work in the kitchen for an hour. This was more than a place to eat. It was place to raise money to help people with addictions. It was a place to offer jobs and training for those who had recovered. It was a place to gather...It was not a place I expected to see in a small Texas town.
My egg salad with cilantro on rosemary bread with cream of spinach soup, was the ultimate comfort food.
I feasted and absorbed the atmosphere. There was a curious mix of older couples in church clothes and earthier folks in tie dye and work boots. There was a lot of socializing at the tables closer to the kitchen. A few children amused me as they got restless while parents lingered. One little boy began crawling on the floor, making his way underneath every table along the mirrored wall. "Well hello!" I greeted him when he bumped my leg. He looked up like a little puppy before moving on to the next table. I warned our neighbors about what was coming their way. "Just so he doesn't bite," Said the man at the next table.
I couldn't quite figure this place out. Was I dining at a church supper or a soup kitchen? This could have been a friend's house or maybe I was visiting a commune in the 1970's. When our waiter with his tattooed legs said something about putting on some music, I was curious. I could have pictured our waiter as a musician performing at Austin City Limits, but the music he chose surprised me. I was suddenly sipping my soup, listening to hymns wafting from the speakers. I guess the framed print of an angel over the fireplace and the mural reminding us that Miracles Happen, should have given me a hint.
Hymns and Bluebonnets
It's true, I'm not used to listening to hymns in cafes or being asked to pay a donation for my meal. But there is only so much pondering I do on my dining adventures. There's a time to sit back and enjoy what I've discovered, no matter how unusual the flavor or how quirky the atmosphere. Once I stopped trying to figure it all out, I sat back and grinned towards Don because I recognized a hymn I happen to adore. I didn't learn this hymn in church, but I associate it with a movie that Don and I are very fond of. Trip to Bountiful is about a dear elderly woman yearning to return to her home in a small Texas town. The film opens with a scene of a young mother and her son running through a field of bluebonnets, while this hymn is sung in the background...beautifully.
We had to step outside the café to find the restrooms and what a surprise to find this wonderful outdoor patio. There was a fountain trickling and little boys on trikes and scooters.
And as we walked towards the exit we passed this mural with the words of St. Francis.
What a curious lunch stop. We were just looking for food last Sunday, but we ended up with quite a dining memory.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.