By David Humphrey | Contributor
A chalkboard covers the right wall of Twila’s Cafe sporting the day’s lunch special. The menu has options ranging from breakfast sandwiches to shrimp tacos, but upon request, Twila and her staff will serve customers just about anything.
Twila’s Cafe is a homestyle cooking restaurant that was recently opened by restaurateur Twila Saulter. Saulter, the owner and namesake of the restaurant, opened the cafe in mid-July to fulfill a need for homestyle cooking that she saw in the Waco community.
“Comfort food really is a need, and there’s not much of it,” Saulter said. “There’s a lot of Spanish restaurants, but there’s not a lot of home cooking. The businesses were growing and I thought the need was there, so I decided to give it a try.”
Ryan Robertson, the eldest of Saulter’s two sons who works at the restaurant, describes Twila’s style of food as “Texican” meals.
“Stuff on our menu you can’t get anywhere else,” Robertson said. “I haven’t been to a place in Waco where you can get sweet potato fries and brisket tacos.”
Robertson has been working with his mother in the restaurant business for more than 15 years.
Robertson said cooking is a big part of his family, and many of the restaurant’s dishes are simply favorite recipes of his mother’s.
“We’ve always been a big family when it comes to eating,” Robertson said. “Any and everything we like cooking, she just brought to the restaurant.”
Beyond the quality and variety of their food, the staff of Twila’s pride themselves on the atmosphere they have been able to provide customers.
“I truly wanted this to feel like home, not just a restaurant,” Saulter said. “When you invite someone into your home, you want them to be happy in every area. It’s hard to go into restaurants nowadays and find quality food and quality service and people who actually care that you’re in the restaurant.”
Strangers come together and talk like they’ve known each other for months, Saulter said.
“It’s been like home. It feels like an extended family, and that’s been the biggest joy of it all,” Saulter said.
The smaller, more personal atmosphere of the restaurant provides more opportunities for the employees and customers to get to know each other.
“I think it’s special because when people walk through the door, they get their name, not just a ‘Hi, y’all,’” Robertson said. “You know what they want to drink before they say it. It’s cool because it’s more like you’re serving and waiting on your friends instead of just customers.”
Another aspect of the restaurant is their ability to serve individual customers food items that are not on the menu.
“If you want something special, all you gotta do is ask,” Robertson said. “You can have it pretty much any way you want here. I remember when we opened up, some guy wanted pork chops and eggs for breakfast, so my mom went to the meat store and got some pork and we cooked them up — all he had to do is ask.”
Though a bit intimidated by the prospects of opening a small cafe to compete with the large restaurant chains in the area, Saulter has been pleased with the business she has received.
“The return that we’ve had has been great,” Saulter said. “We’ve had people who came in on the very first day and have been back for breakfast and lunch every day.”
Leslie Bush is one of these regular customers. Bush heard about the restaurant “by word-of-mouth” and comes into the restaurant often for breakfast and lunch with three of his friends. Bush has faith that the restaurant will succeed.
“I know several people that come back here quite a bit,” Bush said. “Food’s good; service is good. The only downfall is she needs to already expand.”
Twila’s is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with plans to extend their hours in the future. The restaurant is located on 810 La Salle Ave.
“I’m really thankful to be here,” Saulter said. “I hope to keep it. I think that if the Lord put me here, I’m gonna be here.”