By David McLain
Downtown Waco has expanded, adding another newcomer to its quickly developing roster of restaurants and entertainment. Legacy Café and Art Gallery, located across the street from the Waco Hippodrome Theater at 723 Austin Ave., is a multipurpose venue. The walls of the two-room restaurant and coffee shop are lined with the paintings of local artists, positioned so customers can view them without pressure or time constraints as they enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee.
“You have to have a restaurant that is a mixture of culture because society is a mixture of culture,” said James LaFayette, owner of the restaurant.
The café currently houses 14 different artists representing a variety of styles and subjects, with each available collection on exhibition for 30 days.
At the end of each month, the café hosts a private wine and cheese party recognizing the artists in appreciation for showing their work at the café. The party also offers the artists another venue to sell their work, LaFayette said.
“Not every art gallery has a down-to-earth thought process of helping out every artist that comes in,” LaFayette said. “It’s all about helping each other get to their goals. Our goal is to have everyone who wants to be here put on the wall.”
The front room serves as the hub of the restaurant, with both tables and a coffee bar.
The back room, called the “Bear Den,” is specifically designed to appeal to students who need to get away from their dorms to study, LaFayette said.
“We wanted [the students] to have space where you can put the laptops and have arm room. In most of the places you go in today there is no space and it’s noisy,” LaFayette said.
Jazz music contributes to the ambiance of the café, and every Friday night the café hosts a live jazz band or musician.
“It’s quiet, nice, relaxing and something that won’t get in the way of their studies,” said Vandy Foshe, a co-partner with LaFayette.
The cafe is open from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday-Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. and menu items include sausage, eggs, waffles, bagels, muffins and assorted pastries.
The café also offers a variety of salads, sandwiches and pizza, along with gourmet hotdogs and chicken wings.
LaFayette said the café has a simple but good menu and gives the customer a lot of food.
The vision for the café grew out of a tense job situation.
After having been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, LaFayette decided he was going to step down as a regional manager for IHOP Corp.
He had intentions of leaving the restaurant business altogether, but some friends suggested he open his own restaurant.
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do something that is abnormal,” LaFayette said.
This drive, coupled with a desire to be a beneficial part of the local Waco community, developed LaFayette’s unique blend of food, coffee and art.
LaFayette had known Foshe prior to starting this café through their involvement in the Waco Restaurant Association.
“We live here, we work here, we want to grow the community,” Foshe said.
Foshe has spent a lot of time in the restaurant business and considers the relationships he makes as important as the success of the restaurant.
“Me and Jim have something in common: our love for people,” Foshe said.
LaFayette and Foshe combine their restaurant experience and love for their customers with the greater movement to develop downtown Waco.
“The people that come here will experience the atmosphere and see what we’re trying to accomplish,” LaFayette said.