A mother-daughter team brings a healthy and homey café to the West side.
By Kaiti Evans
As the sun rises over West Lake Hills, Texas, a mother-daughter duo and their staff prepare to open their café at 8:30 a.m. Customers scramble to get to the café before all the warm, buttery biscuits are gone and to drink mimosas, even on a Tuesday morning. The sun is up and shines through the open windows of the French doors. Outside, the trees sway in the wind, the grass is green and time stops; to everyone inside, it feels a little like way back when.
Sydney Sue and her mother, Vicki Bly, opened The Wayback Cafe, along with a series of on-site cottages, in late 2018. They had the idea of a dream community for West Lake Hills, one in which anyone and everyone could enjoy nature, a nice sleep and simple, healthy food. The name Wayback comes from Bly’s desire to transport customers to a simpler time.
When it came to the café menu, Sue says she wanted it to reflect the way of life she and her family like to live.
“What matters most to us and how we eat and how we want to portray this whole Wayback lifestyle is all of our food is farm-to-table; we have seasonal menus; we source organic, biodynamic, sustainable wines [and]local beers,” Sue says. “So, we just try to wrap this whole sense of—I don’t want to say naturalistic, but—just a way of life we like to live and share it with the community.”
The menu lends itself to foodies of all ages, from classic American breakfasts to spruced-up grilled cheese. Bly hopes the menu makes every customer feel like they are at home.
“It’s comfortable,” Bly says. “It’s like sitting in your own home kitchen instead of a hard-edge restaurant. It’s a neighborhood place.”
The kitchen creates all the food in-house. Nightly specials and house-made pastas are available periodically, and Sue and Bly allow the kitchen staff free reign of the menu, as long as they keep the food simple. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are readily available, and healthy cooking techniques are implemented. The duo is also working on creating a kitchen garden. Bly describes the food as something a loving grandmother might cook, but with a twist.
Sunday brunch became The Wayback Cafe’s most visited eating time, thanks, in part, to the surrounding churches and the café’s popular biscuits. But don’t be fooled. The lunch and dinner menus stand their ground with tempting dishes like winter-squash-and-pork chili and salmon potato cakes that often sell out.
That said, for Sue and Bly, the café is about more than just the food.
“One thing we are discussing right now is how to create an experience at the café and not just coming in for the restaurant,” Bly says. “[What] people kind of [strive]for when they…go out of their own home is to get something more magical and a place they can enjoy a whole experience, even with their family. Or if you’re with your boyfriend or if you’re with your mom for the evening, you just [strive]to get a really unique experience.”
The Wayback also lends itself to private events, including weddings. For those events, the café staff encourages specialty menus.
“I think what is unique about our kitchen is that if the bride comes in and wants something special, we can source it that week from the farms and kind of make it happen, within reason,” Sue says. “We don’t have these set menus or catering menus. We say come to The Wayback and make it your experience and make it your special night.”