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A Community Cafe that only accepts donations | Finding good food in small towns | Surprising Connections.

Updated on April 9, 2013

A wonderful business concept that also supports a good cause without being over promotional

If you’re like us getting away from the chains to find good home cooked meals is always a real treat.

As we were on a recent antique shopping tour we ended up in the little town of Smithville Texas just South of Austin.

It’s a quaint little historical town full of antique shops with some big Hollywood names associated with it.

The town has hosted various films and scenes such as Hope Floats, Tree of Life, Artois the Goat, Five Time Champion, Martha, and Shady Texas.

As we usually do we asked shop owners of where might be a good place to catch lunch while we were in town. When we asked this question in Smithville the shop owner immediately said that we would have to try the Community Cafe.

As soon as she mentioned the name another shopper turned and said “Oh yes, it’s some of the best home cooking that you can find” and then in unison they both said “And they only take donations”.

Donations we asked? “Yes you just have to go check it out to see what’s it all about. It’s one of the local’s favorite cafe’ and the food is just wonderful” was the response.

Well intrigued with both a new adventure and a new taste of home cooked food we took off to find this amazing cafe and different concept in payment.

We found it located right across the street from the famous Smithville Train Station. This is the street and backdrop used when Sandra Bullock Harry Connick Jr walked down the street during a festival in the film Hope Floats.

A sign on the front reads Community Cafe pay what you can. As we looked at each other we both must of had the same facial expression of not knowing what we were about to get into.

The inside was very clean and inviting we were greeted and handed a menu with in fact, no prices. The staff were very accommodating and very professional, something that you don’t always encounter in small town restaurants.

As we inquired deeper with our waiter we found that the cafe was part of a self sustaining nonprofit foundation called Serenity Star.

Serenity Star provides community outreach and inpatient programs for those recovering from addictions.

The cafe not only serves the community outstanding food it also provides revenues to support the program as well as provides on the job training for those who are making changes in their life by also learning new skills in culinary arts as well as front line customer service.

What was most amazing to us is the model that Serenity Star has created in Smithville Texas is far different than other addiction programs that we have seen in other cities both large and small.

Here is a program that on the surface we wouldn't of ever known even existed in this small cafe if we hadn't asked. It’s a program that apparently has been widely accepted and embraced by the community when many other communities just don’t talk about such things on main street, no less highly recommend it for the food.

Probably one of the reasons it has been so widely accepted is that beyond the cafe part, Serenity Star Directors have gone out of their way to offer the community programs and classes on parenting, yoga, meditation, stress management and other natural and spiritually based programs.

What's even more amazing in this time where every non-profit is begging for money, this cafe staff and managers are not on any desperate mission to put any pressure on making donations or preaching their program or beliefs. They don't even maintain a web site, everything is by word of mouth and by brochures.

It's a very comfortable friendly home town cafe, again if we hadn't of asked we would enjoyed a great meal and made a donation.

A donation that would of likely been more than what we would of normally paid in a normal cafe just based on this very unique way of doing business.

Our thumbs up to such a wonderful experience, a great lunch and a good lesson on what can be done to be self sufficient even in a addiction recovery program.

This model could work well with many other community based and church programs.

Also our hats are off to Smithville Texas for supporting and fostering a such a needed community outreach program.

Currently Serenity Star supports 12 inpatients that pay what they can. Their dream is to grow to a program that can support up to 50 people while still providing even more wellness and outreach programs to the community.

It you’re ever close to Smithville Texas check out the Community Cafe. You really don’t need to come to Texas and visit to make a donation. Contact the Director Teri Costlow at 512-321-8336 or by e-mail at for more information.


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    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      My man actually wants to start a pay what you can gym!

      This cafe sounds pretty cool and like they have a good mission. I've never been to Texas, but I'll keep it in mind if I'm ever there!