Cafe offers more than coffee to community

World Cup Cafe was ranked No. 2 restaurant in Waco by the Waco Tribune-Herald last year. The cafe’s mission is to serve its community by providing a place for people of all backgrounds to congregate.
Courtesy Photo
World Cup Cafe was ranked No. 2 restaurant in Waco by the Waco Tribune-Herald last year. The cafe’s mission is to serve its community by providing a place for people of all backgrounds to congregate.  Courtesy Photo
World Cup Cafe was ranked No. 2 restaurant in Waco by the Waco Tribune-Herald last year. The cafe’s mission is to serve its community by providing a place for people of all backgrounds to congregate.
Courtesy Photo

By Emily Neyland

Ordinarily, a waitress does not receive $1,137 in tips in one day. That’s one reason World Cup Café waitress Latrice Caulfield stood bewildered and baffled by the size of the extraordinary tip customers left her on Christmas Eve.

On the same night, out of town customers gave her $130 in tips. Caulfield thought she couldn’t have done that well. The same afternoon, Caulfield confused an order and insisted on correcting it. But when the customer assured her it was fine, Caulfield made sure to continually check on them. They left a $1,000 tip.

“I thought the customer put the period on his check in the wrong spot,” Caulfield said. “I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t because I had just cried when I got the $137 tip at the table before.”

She ran out of the café and after the man who had given her the tip. Today, the customer remains a mystery.

“Other waiters say, ‘You make more tips than me,’” Caulfield said. “That’s because I just talk to people. I ask them how their day is going.”

This is just one example of the many acts of kindness that take place in a restaurant where two different worlds collide often.

From the outside, it would be hard to see the cheer and community that radiates from within the bright red walls of World Cup Café. It quietly sits away from Baylor at the corner of Colcord Avenue and North 15th Street. Surrounding World Cup are the Jubilee Theatre, West Avenue Elementary School and D’s Mediterranean Grill. Here, families eat pancakes together on a Saturday morning. Here, construction workers grab a burger in the middle of a hot day. Here, college students drink coffee together before class.

“World Cup is about more than just profit,” said Houston sophomore Rachel Craft. “They give back to the community. That gives me a much better motive to sit down and have a cup of coffee.”       

World Cup Café’s mission statement states that it exists “to serve the community with good food, quality service, and economic development.” According to its mission statement, it exists as a place of comfort where lower, middle and upper class people can congregate. “It’s not just a café, it’s family,” Caulfield said.

Last year, Waco Tribune Herald ranked World Cup as the No. 2 restaurant in Waco, right behind George’s, said Jimmy Dorrell, director of Mission Waco.

In the past, however, World Cup was not as well known. According to Dorrell, the neighborhood that the café sits in today was historically rich. It contained the Texas Theater and a nice shopping center. The poor, mostly African-Americans, lived on the other side of the Brazos River.

“The history is really fascinating,” Dorrell said. “The 85-year-olds come in and talk about the theater they went to, which cost nine cents.”

According to Dorrell, however, housing got older, suburbanism grew and African-Americans began to move into the neighborhood. In the 1960s, white flight occurred. The neighborhood became poor and filled with mostly blacks, Dorrell said.

“As it got worse, crack dealers and prostitutes came here,” Dorrell said. “This was the worst neighborhood. People wouldn’t drive over here. People avoided the whole neighborhood, especially the middle class.”

The Texas Theater became The Capri, a pornography theater. The shopping center became a row of bars. In 1988, the city of Waco condemned the property. In 1994, Dorrell bought one of the bars. Then he bought The Capri, which was sitting in water. Slowly, Mission Waco began to reform the condemned area.

“We began to work, raise money, and get volunteers,” Dorrell said. “We knew volunteers would come. But middle class Waco was still on the other side of town. We knew we had to bring some kind of reason for people to come over here.”

With that, the idea of a restaurant was born. According to Dorrell, 70 percent of restaurants fail and knowing that, the café was a big risk.

“Our board of directors was wise enough to know we should treat the café as a way to get people in the door and introduce them to Mission Waco,” Dorrell said.

Originally, the café was a children’s center. It was just a couple of board games and couches that were used as a children’s camp. Then it became a coffee shop. Today, it’s a restaurant.

“My greatest joy is seeing the neighborhood change and people come with their families and business associates and knowing the stories of the neighborhood,” said Shannon Williams, Fair Trade manager.

Attached to the café is the Fair Trade Market. This room houses jewelry, food, clothes and trinkets such as finger puppets from across the globe. A separate shop in and of itself, this area often hosts meetings and parties.

“As Fair Trade grew and got its own niche, it became symbiotic with the café,” volunteer Kathy Allison said. “People come here to buy and then go eat, or people would eat and then come here to buy.”

The wide variety of food completes the experience at World Cup. For breakfast, the café serves omelets, pancakes and oatmeal along with other breakfast staples until 11 a.m. For lunch, some customer favorites are the World Cup burger and chicken salad, Sauter said. Prices are around $7 per entrée. They also serve drinks, such as smoothies, tea and coffee into the afternoon.

“It’s easy to grab a cup of coffee in Waco,” Craft said. “But at Word Cup, I get the feel that I’m really in Waco and not just another chain restaurant.” Caufield said regular customers are key to the community built at World Cup.

“We get some amazing people that come here daily and become family,” Caulfield said. “Some people come in here pregnant, and a year later their baby’s walking.”

Customers also come from outside of Waco. Because of reviews online or by word of mouth, people from across the country and world have ended up at World Cup, Dorrell said. People have come from Nevada, Missouri and India, to name a few.

“The crazy thing is, I’ll come to the café and there will be people from another state,” Dorrell said. Dorrell said what’s even crazier is the fact that people on the other side of town don’t know where the café is.

The quiet atmosphere during the afternoon along with free Wi-Fi and good drinks draw some Baylor students.

“I benefit from getting outside the Baylor bubble,” Craft said. “I can only study at the library at Baylor for so long, and World Cup is one of the best off-campus options.”

In the future, Dorrell wants to increase the business at World Cup by possibly adding dinner hours. His dream is to eventually own the building that houses the liquor store across the street from the café. But for now, World Cup will continue making Waco happy, one person at a time.

“I like to see people smile and put smiles on peoples’ faces,” Caulfield said. “You don’t have to give me anything but a smile in return. My goal is to surround myself with happy people and be happy.”