Dining from the heart
New San Antonio cafe serves up comfort food for a good cause
"It was actually a surprise for us,” says Teri Lopez about the May 17 debut of San Antonio’s new Comfort Cafe. “We weren’t thinking about opening a cafe here.”
An offhand comment from a customer in Smithville, where Comfort Cafe has been serving guests on a donation basis for almost a decade, would soon take her and co-founder and wife Rosie Lopez on a rapid path to expanding their work in helping Texans maintain sobriety.
“[A customer said], ‘If you guys are doing so well in Smithville, imagine what you can do in San Antonio,” says Lopez. A quick online search led them to the former home of Oky Doky Restaurant at 5616 Bandera Rd. in Leon Valley.
The area made sense because many of those served by Comfort Cafe’s parent nonprofit Serenity Star live in the neighborhood. And the color scheme and eclectic feel of the space was reminiscent of the original location felt like a sign it was meant to be.
Like the Smithville restaurant, the San Antonio Comfort Cafe is entirely staffed by people in recovery. Donations are suggested at $10 for a full meal or $5 for a specialty drink, but the staff does not turn away any customers.
The menu is the same, spanning everything from breakfast fare like sweet cream pancakes and scrambles to sandwiches, salads, and burgers. There is also a full coffee menu with a wide variety of espresso drinks.
“We figured it's worked,” says Lopez, noting that some Smithville customers have already made the drive to the new spot to try out their favorites.
Those same loyal guests and grads of the Serenity Star program are also helping the program are also helping to find transitional housing in the area. Lopez says San Antonio has organically become a "step two" in the recovery program. Smithville has morphed into serving those new in recovery, while San Antonio is now staffed by those with more time under their belts.
And though Lopez admits they got an offer to bring Comfort Cafe to Phoenix, for now the two locations are more than keeping the team busy — and providing much needed aid to an underserved community, one omelette at a time.