Chip and Joanna Gaines invited the world to pull up a chair Monday and enjoy Housemade Tater Tots, Lemon Lavender Donut Holes and Aunt Mikey’s Turkey Sandwich, among other dishes, and guests rose with the chickens to form lines outside Magnolia Table on Waco’s traffic circle.
License plates from across the country testified to the drawing power of yet another Magnolia venture, this one a $2 million transformation of the Elite Cafe into a restaurant long on hospitality, good food and attentive service, according to visitors leaving the establishment.
“It was fabulous, a lovely experience,” said Pat Krukoft, 68, who was leaving Magnolia Table shortly before noon with her husband, John. The couple retired to Waco about six months ago from Chicago. Krukoft said they have fallen in love with Texas, and Magnolia Table reinforces their impression of the state as welcoming “and a blessing in our lives.”
Chris and Christina Wagers, both in their 30s, said they flew to Austin from Akron, Ohio, and drove to Waco for a much anticipated trip to Magnolia Market at the Silos. They overheard a conversation about Magnolia Table’s unveiling, and they made a crosstown trip to join the swarm of traffic and humanity gathering outside the Gaineses’ latest attraction.
“We got here about 10:30 in the morning and waited about 20 minutes to get a seat, which was not bad at all,” said Christina Wagers said. She described Magnolia Table as charming.
The pair ordered Farm Eggs Benedict and Pancake Breakfast with juices and Texas Pecan coffee.
“It was about $50, including tip, which we felt was reasonable,” said Chris Wagers, adding the price did not include a separate bag of specialty coffee.
Rumors of soft openings involving Magnolia Table have been circulating for days, but Magnolia spokesman Brock Murphy released a statement Monday saying the restaurant “is officially open for business,” and will serve breakfast, brunch and lunch from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“Magnolia Table seats up to 210 guests on a first-come, first-served basis and features an outdoor coffee bar — complete with freshly-baked pastry selections — and the ‘Take Away,’ which includes a market-style shop for guests to purchase gifts and grab select menu items to go,” Murphy said in an email response to questions.
Magnolia Table management is not yet answering inquiries about crowd size or employment levels, Murphy said.
He said the walls of Magnolia Table feature vintage photographs and an original menu from the historical Elite Cafe, which opened in downtown Waco about a century ago before moving to the circle.
The menu even includes a nod to the Elite Cafe’s “classic pimiento cheese” sandwich, now priced at $10 and served on griddled sourdough.
Sharing the circle with Magnolia Table is Trujillo’s Comedor, a family owned Tex-Mex restaurant that has been open 38 years, said manager Yolanda Trujillo, who joined the crowd visiting the new place on the block.
“I think this will help our business,” Trujillo said. “When spring and summer hit, people facing a two-hour wait may change their mind and go for some good Mexican food. They also will realize that Magnolia Table closes early in the afternoon, so they may choose Mexican food for dinner.”
The circle, at the confluence of LaSalle Avenue, U.S. Highway 77 and Valley Mills Drive, can prove challenging, even to experienced drivers, Trujillo said. She worries about the havoc newcomers to the neighborhood may face on their way to Magnolia Table.
“We see accidents all the time, probably one or two a week. We see people failing to yield, driving backwards, or driving around the circle time after time, trying to figure out where to go,” Trujillo said. “It’s bad, which is why I think they should consider installing blinking lights at spots.”
Waco Police Department spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said he had heard of no “criminal activity or mayhem” on the circle by mid-afternoon Monday.
“Sure, there are accidents there, fender benders, but nothing has risen to the level of people saying, ‘Oh, my God, let’s shut down the circle,’ ” Swanton said. “People don’t always drive correctly there, but we don’t typically see significant injuries because the speed limit is low.”
Magnolia Table “is certainly welcome to the neighborhood,” Swanton said. “We’re always excited about new business, and we’re here to help.”
Carla Pendergraft, marketing director for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she hopes visitors to Magnolia Table will also take the time, even spend the night, to avail themselves of other dining and entertainment opportunities.
“The shops along LaSalle Avenue are becoming very popular, and, as is the case with Magnolia Market at the Silos, you see license plates from everywhere,” Pendergraft said. “There are parking challenges on the circle, which is why our new LaSalle Shuttle is very important.”
Launched Monday, the Waco Transit shuttle moves passengers from downtown to sites along LaSalle Avenue, University Parks Drive and the Interstate 35 frontage road near the development at I-35 and Valley Mills Drive once anchored by Gander Mountain.
“It runs from 5 a.m. to about 6 p.m. and is free of charge. If it’s safe to pull over, our drivers will do so all along the route,” Waco Transit spokesman Joseph Devorsky said.