Back in the day when Uptown Cafe was open on Friday nights, this was the hot spot for the Italy teenagers to go and “hang out.” If you visit the Uptown, you will see the walls covered with pictures of teenagers in their youth playing football, cheering at the games, kids showing their FFA animals and winning awards. A small town cafe loaded with memories.
Doris Mitchell’s restaurant business started out as a hamburger joint 25 years ago in the old barn that housed the Handy grocery store on Highway 35. She was at that location for about a year and a half. Then as luck would have it, Sammy Wolaver’s mother had a small cafe in town and she was going out of business. Sammy told Doris that she should move her restaurant there to be in town. “I moved up town and that is why I named it the Uptown Cafe. It was just a little old hole in the wall but I went over there and got started. I stayed open from daylight to past dark for seven days a week,” explained Mitchell.
Doris then moved her restaurant to the building she is in today after Bill and Rae Burton went out of business and asked Doris if she wanted their location. “I knew I wasn’t big enough to handle the whole town’s business so I came to the big building I am in now and have done pretty good here,” said Mitchell.
“I got in the cafe business because I worked for Oma’s hamburger for one year in Waxahachie. We had so much fun I wanted to do this all the time. So I started my burger business and it was fun. I had never done anything like this before. I didn’t care about going to cafes for coffee or anything like that. But now it is my life. I feel like I will be here until I cannot anymore.”
The Uptown Cafe is a family owned and operated business. Sandy Eubank, her daughter has worked for Doris for 15 years as a waitress and granddaughter Amber Hudson does all the cooking and has been working there since she was 12 years old. Her other granddaughter Ashley Patton works here too. Her sister Mary helped her for a long time and her other sister Nancy Krusen worked for Doris a long time ago but never at this location.
I asked Doris where she came up with all the dishes on her menu considering she just started out serving hamburgers. “My customers wanted more than just hamburgers. So we decided to cook a variety of dishes. Many of our recipes came from our customers. They would come in and give me a recipe so we would try it. If they were good we would add them to our menu.” So, I would say there is a little bit of Italy in every bite.
“We have some faithful customers, they are here everyday and we love them,” Doris went on to say. “They are just great people, they are local people, farmers and old people who love to come here and chitchat and eat. These are just good old fashion people, no airs, just good ole country folk come to eat and harass Sandy.”
Doris’s litte Uptown Cafe is going to be in the Texas Monthly for her famous chicken fried steak. Small cafes in Texas will be featured in Texas Monthly’s November issue. Rachel Stevens (longtime customer and friend) was talking to someone in a restaurant about chicken fried steaks and told them the Uptown Cafe in Italy, Texas had the best chicken fried steaks ever. The next thing Doris knew two people from the Texas Monthly came in and ordered a hamburger and french fries and the other one ordered a chicken fried steak. The consensus was they really liked the chicken fried steak.
Doris really loves what she does. “I love it when kids come back all grown up, come into town, stop in my cafe, find me in the kitchen to say hello and give me a hug.”