By Megan Rule | Opinion Editor
“Fixer Upper” fans can now have their cake and eat it too, as the famous Waco couple begin to put the finishing touches on their restaurant, Magnolia Table, formerly known as the Elite Cafe.
“While growing up in Waco, the Elite Cafe was always talked about,” said Lorena junior Cody George. “I think it was just one of those restaurants and was known to be in Waco and was definitely a landmark.”
The Elite Cafe closed in 2016 after previous owner Creed Ford III said competition forced him to close the landmark.
The contents of The Elite were auctioned off once bought by the Gaineses. The auction profit of $51,000 was donated to Mission Waco.
According to the Magnolia Blog, “…Chip is rocking and rolling on the construction side of things. Of course there have been a few setbacks along the way (as there are with every construction project), but we’re on the home stretch! We are setting our sights on opening at the end of this year. Fingers crossed, everyone.”
The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and brunch food all hand-picked by the Gaineses. No final menu has been released, but the blog did say that some staff favorites will be included, such as the farm eggs benedict, the Gaines Brothers Burger and homemade pies.
“It had been closed for a long time and reopened 1986,” said Matthew Brammer, former waiter at the Elite Cafe. “It was fun, it was a ride and it was a great place to eat. The food was fabulous and the atmosphere was a fun, busy place.”
The Elite Cafe has been an icon of Waco for almost 100 years and was officially recognized as a historic landmark nearly 20 years ago. Originally located on Austin Avenue, this local favorite held the first air conditioner in the city in 1935 and grew to be a favorite among travelers between Austin and Dallas. The cafe expanded to the larger location on the traffic circle, where it has been since 1941.
After going through economic tribulation following a 1953 tornado that devastated the city, the cafe was repurchased and revamped in 1986 to carry on the 1950s-esque tradition, including the addition of the baby blue Chevrolet in front. Before closing in 1999 for more renovations, the cafe received the Texas Historical Commission Official Historic Medallion in 1996, commemorating the restaurant’s impact on the city. It re-opened in 2003 as the Elite Circle Grille, and closed again in 2016.
“Do I want it to be a continuing tradition in Waco history?” Brammer said. “Absolutely. It’s where the elite meet to eat, it’s a part of Waco tradition, it’s a huge part of not only history but it’s a foundational restaurant. It really is a gathering place and I think those kinds of things are very important.”
Although no official date has been given, the Gaineses hope is to open at the end of this year. The building will stay true to its original, historic features such as the Spanish-style columns and the rich history represented by pictures on the wall, while also implementing modern design elements and finishing touches. However, the name change hasn’t received positive feedback from everyone.
“I’m angry and disappointed that the name is changing,” Brammer said. “There’s so many other names from a marketing standpoint that could work, like the Elite Cafe by Magnolia or Magnolia’s Elite Cafe. That’s great but it’s still the Elite Cafe, but when you take that away from it, you lose part of the history and the nostalgia that Waco is so full of. I do want to be very clear that I admire Chip and Joanna for everything they’ve done. I just think they may not have thought this through well enough.”
Locals like George have also expressed concern in changing the name of a landmark.
“I have mixed feelings about the name change,” George said. “I definitely feel as though they could give it a fresh “makeover” or get the word out across the nation. But I also feel as though people have gotten tired of the popularity that Magnolia has gotten in the past few years and how it’s spreading all over Waco. But I’m glad for them and hope they do well.”