When Doris Mitchell started working for Oma’s Jiffy Burger in Waxahachie many years ago, she had no idea that she would be grilling burgers and feeding people for 32 more years. But that is exactly what happened. Doris is the owner of the Uptown Café in downtown Italy and will serve her customers for the last time on September 12, 2015. The building she rented has sold so she is closing her doors that day.
“I am not sure how I am gonna handle retirement,” said Mitchell. “ The people that come in here are not just customers, they are family. I won’t miss the hard work and the heat in the kitchen, but I will miss everyone that I see everyday that comes in to eat. I will also miss working with Sandy and Amber, my daughter and granddaughter, and the time I spend with them every day.”
After working for Oma’s, Mitchell opened the Burger Barn off of I 35 E in Italy. She served burgers and chips only. Then she moved to downtown Italy where the Italy Community Center is currently located and expanded her menu to breakfast and lunches in addition to her famous “Doris Burgers." She moved her cafe to Waxahachie for a while then finally moved to her present location on Main Street in Italy.
“I have fed at least four generations of many of the families that come in,” she said with a smile. “It is kinda like tradition. Kids move away and come home for a visit – they come in to eat and visit with us. We have watched our Italy kids grow up and have kids of their own.”
The Uptown Café is the local hangout for many folks and is the local museum. Doris decorated the walls with Gladiator uniforms, pictures and Italy history. There are pictures of famous folks that ate there like Denver Pyle and Janie Fricke.
Several of the Gladiator teams ate at the Uptown before games. The Uptown closes at 2:00, but Mitchell would stay there to feed the football team the traditional spaghetti every Friday. She loves “her kids” and it shows. Most of the youth call her “Nana”.
The café was also the place people called to find out who died, who went to the hospital and even get phone numbers for businesses and residents. Doris said that they were the 911, 411 and 311 for Italy.
The Uptown was also a place for the men of the community to meet in the mornings for coffee. They talked about farming, current events and even shared ways to solve the world’s problems. Doris is not sure they ever really did that, but she enjoyed seeing them every morning.
The Uptown has been used for family reunions, memorials, showers, graduation parties and class reunions. The Downtown Men’s Bible Class has met at the Uptown on Sunday mornings for many years. The non-denominational group met to study the Bible and fellowship. The Italy High School Class of 1948 has been meeting and eating at the Uptown every month for many years. It is a tradition they will miss. They will find another place to meet every month but it won’t be the same without Doris and Sandy.
“We are really going to miss everyone” said Sandy Eubank, Mitchell’s daughter and the infamous waitress at the café. “I cannot imagine what it is going to be like not seeing people every week. It is going to be like losing family members.”
The Uptown was not like any other café anywhere in this area. If a regular customer could not come to eat at the café, Mitchell and her crew would deliver their meals six days each week. This enabled them to stay at home instead of going to live in a nursing home. They feel the loss of losing many of their regular customers. They say it was just like losing a family member.
One of the traditions Doris started at the Uptown was to open her doors and host a potluck meal every Thanksgiving.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone had somewhere to eat on Thanksgiving. I did not want them to be at home alone. After all, we are all family and we take care of each other.”
When the doors close on September 12th an Ellis County icon will be gone forever, but the memories made there will never be forgotten. Several of the customers say that they did not always get what they ordered but they did not complain because they said with a chuckle it would not do any good to complain to Sandy. One of their favorite customers, Marty Haight, always said it is not what you want at the Uptown, it is what you get at the Uptown. All the regulars would agree with that statement. What you got at the Uptown was good home cooking and people that truly cared about you.
There were so many things that were special at the Uptown. They served homemade pies and fried catfish on Fridays. Doris served her famous chicken and dressing, Italian burgers and southern food just like your grandmother made. Every dish she made was made with a little bit of love.
“It is hard to put into words how we feel about our long time customers and friends. They have stuck with us through good times and hard times. We know God has a plan. We are really gonna miss everyone,” said Eubank.
“We appreciate everyone’s loyalty all these years,” Mitchell added. “ I guess I will get used to retirement, but it is gonna be hard. Maybe I will learn to sleep a little later,” she said with a grin.
There will be a reception on September 12, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at the Uptown Café in downtown Italy. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend to visit with Doris and her crew to let them know how much they are appreciated and will be missed. A friend is doing a memory book for her so everyone is requested to write down a special memory of the Uptown to share.