Cafe Momentum Serves Up Delicious Food While Inspiring Change

05.05.2015 by: Allison Turpin
Share This Post:

"Hello, my name is Jameian, and I will be your server tonight. How did you hear about Cafe Momentum?" asks Jameian as he flashes us a striking smile that oozes friendliness and enthusiasm. We liked him from the outset.

Jameian, along with the other young men working in the restaurant, is a nonviolent juvenile offender and participant of the 5-part internship program at Cafe Momentum. The internship allows those who have been released from detention at the Dallas County Juvenile Department to work in its post-release program. Interns earn a steady income as they are encouraged to learn and practice new skills while they rotate through different parts of the restaurant, from washing dishes to waiting on tables.

Cafe Momentum is a new concept that is inspiring and easy to get behind. It is a restaurant that serves more than just food. It truly changes lives.

The restaurant began as a pop up diner, selling out nearly every night. Executive Chef Chad Houser decided to lay permanent roots in Downtown Dallas in January, and the establishment has been wildly successful ever since. Jameian has been in the program since November, and he said the new location on Pacific Street "feels like home." 

Houser, the former co-executive chef of Parigi, leads the mentoring program and runs the restaurant as professionally as any other kitchen in Dallas. He employs well-known chefs to work alongside the at-risk youth and teach them their trade. Even if the men do not choose to be in the restaurant industry long-term, each of them learns the importance of working hard with integrity and has the opportunity to improve their social and leadership skills that are critical in any professional environment.

Although the purpose of Cafe Momentum is grander than the food they serve, the food is definitely worth talking about. The simple menu is broken up into four sections and offers delicious, high quality options in each course.

To begin, the Shrimp and Grit Beignets are served piping hot and crispy, resembling hush puppies, over a spicy aioli dotted with tasso (peppery version of smoked pork). A popular appetizer is the cauliflower, which is presented at your table as a whole head of cooked cauliflower dusted with salty manchego cheese powder.

Shrimp and Grit Beignets with Tasso Aioli

Smoked Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Braised Cabbage, and a Biscuit

The entree that stood out above the rest was the Smoked Fried Chicken, served cafeteria-style on a metal tray. The moist chicken was juicy on the inside and encased in a light, crispy fried coating. The mashed potatoes were luscious and buttery, and served alongside braised cabbage and a flaky biscuit. A spicy brown gravy is served in a small container to the side so that you can pour as much or as little over the chicken and potatoes that you like. It was all finger-licking good. Jameian confidently told us it was his favorite entree on the menu that night, and he did not steer us wrong.

Smoked Carrot Pappardelle

Fried Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream

The Smoked Carrot Pappardelle was a winner as well, with long, flat pasta noodles absorbing a light citronette dressing while standing up to a uniquely spiced chicken mole sausage. The smoked carrot was the best part of the dish, and we just wish there had been more of it.

As for dessert, try the Fried Apple Pie and cheddar cheese ice cream. The pie was flaky and coated in a generous layer of cinnamon sugar while the ice cream had a subtle cheese flavor that was strangely addicting.

The wine offerings at Cafe Momentum are worth mentioning as well. No wine is served by the glass, and bottles are categorized into $20, $40, $60, and $80 offerings. They have a few local beers as well.

The servers are not allowed to handle the alcohol, and you will be asked to pay at the counter up front. The interns cannot receive tips, but donations to the nonprofit establishment are encouraged and appreciated. After you have enjoyed your delicious food and spent a good amount of time learning about your server, he will hand you a comment card with your check. After the excellent service we had from Jameian, it was easy to write about our experience fondly.

Everyone should try Cafe Momentum. Not just because you will be helping someone, but also because the food is downright delicious. It is only open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so make your reservation now.

As you look across the big open space of the restaurant, you see a lot of smiles. Smiles of new interns as they master their opening lines. Smiles of patrons as they take their first bite of fried chicken. And smiles of new friends, as they shake each other's hand, connecting to one another as more than just waiter and customer. You can tangibly see the motto of Cafe Momentum being lived out at every table. "Eat. Drink. Change Lives."

Cafe Momentum Official Website

TAGS : Downtown/Arts District , Cafe Momentum