GREEN ACRES BAPTIST CHURCH | FOOD AND COMMUNICATION
Green Acres Baptist Church senior pastor David Dykes' vision to create a space that would connect young adults as well as provide a place where church members and the public could enjoy fellowship with one another has led to the establishment of the Connections Cafe.
Eddy Espinosa, the church's culinary services director, said the cafe has "gone over very well. People have enjoyed it quite a bit. Our membership loves it and we have a few folks that come from the community and enjoy a great meal."
During the summer, the bistro cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sundays and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The cafe is downstairs from the Green Acres CrossWalk Conference Center.
It offers hand-crafted eclectic sandwiches, gourmet salads, specialty desserts and a full-service specialty bar. Side orders available are pasta salad, homemade potato chips, fresh fruit and macaroni and cheese.
Suzanne Handley, who has been to the cafe many times, said, "It's a wonderful place for lunch. The food, I think, is outstanding and reasonably priced. I love the atmosphere. It's a place (where) you can visit and talk. So many restaurants are loud."
Her husband comes to the cafe on Wednesday mornings for a time with a group of men for coffee, reading the Bible, praying together and having fellowship. She brings her mom for lunch after senior Bible study and recently brought an old friend for lunch.
Church members inviting friends for lunch is a way of connecting and exposing them to the church, Espinosa said.
Operation of the cafe is kicking off in phases. The first phase started with the cafe's opening in January, primarily offering breakfast and lunch.
In late August, the cafe will expand its hours to include the early evening. This fall, it will introduce a Sunday lunch for church members who like going out to eat after services. Currently, it only offers specialty coffees and pastries on Sunday.
Probably toward the latter part of the year, Espinosa foresees the cafe introducing an online ordering service.
When the cafe extends its hours to the early evening this fall, Espinosa anticipates it may become a place where college and university students will grab a cup of coffee, study, work on their computers and whatnot. He noted the idea of going out for coffee as a social experience is popular today among the younger generation.
The cafe already is popular among all ages.
On her first trip to the cafe, Sherry Hilliard looked around and said, "I really like the decor. I think it was very well thought out."
The cafe style is modern as conveyed by its vibrant colors, the furniture, a concrete back wall and industrial ceiling. The placement and type of furniture intentionally create a sense of community for groups, Espinosa said, noting there are lounge areas for up to 10 people as well as booths and tables.
It also has a private dining room used by all types of gatherings and meetings. It is equipped with technology for presentations and has a wall that people can write on.
"We are trying to connect people to one another. Hence, our name, Connections Cafe," Espinosa said.
The cafe will sit slightly over 100 people. It is open to everybody.
Diner Jackie Little said the cafe is "a good place to socialize" and that the food "tastes good."
Looking up from her meal, Melody Allen said the food is fresh and prepared daily. The cafe is a great place for lunch and for groups to have accessibility to the private dining room for a meal plus have a meeting, she said. In addition, Allen observed that the cafe is modern and trendy for young people.
"The specialty coffees are excellent," Carolyn Jones said. She also likes the food, the service and convenience of being able to come to the cafe before or after an event at the church.
The breakfast menu includes yogurt, fresh baked muffins and pastries.
The cafe has state-of-the-art Italian expresso machines to prepare lattes and specialty drinks, including high-caliber coffee drinks. It uses 100%Colombian beans, and for dark roast it uses Peruvian blend.
Gourmet salads on the menu include Caesar, chicken, Southwestern Santa Fe and Cobb varieties. The lunch menu has two homemade soups
WHAT: Connections Cafe
WHERE: Downstairs from Green Acres Baptist Church CrossWalk Conference Center
MENU: Hand-crafted electic sandwiches, gourmet salads, specialty coffees and pastries
HOURS: 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sundays; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays