A Magical Night at Cafe Momentum

by admin | February 22, 2024 2:46 pm

DOWNTOWN DALLAS — As part of my Beautiful Mystery Companion’s birthday celebration, which we usually manage to stretch into a week, we returned to Café Momentum, our favorite restaurant. It is our favorite not just because of the food, which is superb. Café Momentum is consistently rated one of the best restaurants in Dallas, featuring exquisite meals prepared from locally sourced ingredients. Located on Pacific Avenue across from Thanksgiving Square, what makes this place special is its mission. It is a culinary training facility for youth aged 15-19 who have been involved in the juvenile criminal justice system. As the website says, “Our primary goal is to build a sustainable model that provides justice-impacted youth with the holistic support they need to truly thrive.”

The nonprofit program provides 12-month paid internships for justice-involved youth in Dallas. The interns work in all areas of the restaurant during their year there, and also receive support in learning how to handle finances, education assistance, parenting classes and career exploration. After the internship is completed, the young people are placed with one of Café Momentum’s community partners.

Most months, the restaurant hosts a special Sunday dinner with musical entertainment. Founder Chad Houser, a chef who came up with this vision, always opens the event and inspires with his account of how Café Momentum came to be, opening in 2015. Since its opening, more than 1,200 youth have gone through the internship program in Dallas, and in newer restaurants opened in Dallas and Pittsburgh. Houser and his team hope to reach 10 markets over the next five years, with restaurants opening soon in Houston and Las Vegas.

It is a model that has proven to be successful. Last year, interns earned $429,950 in wages, 93% are making academic progress, 85% have stayed in compliance with any court orders, and 77% percent voluntarily receive counseling. These are youth who have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) in their lives, and often more. They have largely been discarded by society, branded unsalvageable, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars to incarcerate or otherwise punish them.

“There is no quick overnight solution that can course-correct decades of disinvestment, neglect, and marginalization. But we can at least attempt to create a new system of support for our kids coming out of the justice system. We can create a place for them to land” Houser wrote.


We have visited Café Momentum four times in the past few years and staunchly support their mission. It is a joy to come to Dallas for a musical event at the café. The meal is created according to the musician’s preferences. On this night, soul singer Quentin Moore performed, accompanied solely by a string quartet — a genius combination. Our meal is Caribbean-based, with an amazing coleslaw salad, spicy and filled with exotic flavors. That was followed by a jerk-infused snapper, surrounded by spicy potatoes and other vegetables. Adult servers made sure wine glasses stayed full, while the interns, all dressed in sharply pressed black shirts and pants, served us with impeccable manners and grace. One would be hard pressed to find such thoughtful servic[1]e anywhere.

Moore put on a compelling show, alternating between an electronic keyboard and electric guitar, backed up by that string quarter. The former running back at UNT learned his craft while at that university. His performance earned enthusiastic applause from the crowd, many of whom seem to know each other.

We sat next to a quiet, pleasant man who arrived a bit later than us, and across from a young woman who is a friend of his. She arrived earlier and quickly engaged us in conversation. Partway through the meal, Eric got up to visit with someone. She asked if we recognized him, and we did not. It turned out we were sitting next to Eric Nadel, the Voice of the Texas Rangers for the past 45 years — a truly legendary broadcaster in the Lone Star State, indeed in all of Major League Baseball.

I couldn’t resist engaging him in a bit of baseball talk when he returned. Besides his home stadium, I asked, which is his favorite? When he answered “Fenway Park,” my lifelong shrine, we had to exchange some Fenway stories. He politely tolerated my comments and questions, a truly kind man.

Nadel, 72, is cutting back this season, “only” broadcasting 100 games, most of them away, he said. He starts back to work in Arizona this week for the World Series champions. His World Series ring is supposed to arrive soon, he told another fellow at our table who dresses up for every Ranger game he attends.

Moore finished, and after visiting briefly with one of the café’s fundraisers, we hailed a Lyft to get back to the hotel, with plans to return soon. If you plan to visit downtown Dallas, I urge you to add Café Momentum to your list of activities. It is a unique, fulfilling experience, a mission well worth supporting.

  1. [Image]: http://garyborders.com/pages/6099-2/quentin/

Source URL: https://garyborders.com/pages/6099-2/