Nestled along historic Elm Avenue in East Waco, sits a unique restaurant with wooden tables set for lunch and dinner. Revival Eastside Eatery is a local spot bringing an environment valuing generosity, simplicity, and joy.
As locals from years past and newly situated Wacoans alike travel into this popular venue, Revival manager and owner, Danielle Young, says their mission is simple: “We bring people together for a healthy, casual meal while offering a space for conversation that will be valued for years to come.”
Revival’s story begins long ago and far away. Danielle and her husband, Travis, met in Africa. As undergraduates from different parts of the country, they converged for a Young Life service project in Uganda. One year later they were married, and in 2011 they moved to Waco where Danielle began her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Baylor.
During her internship in Austin in 2015, she and her husband luxuriated in the many healthy food options in the capital city. Returning to Waco in 2016, they searched for the same kind of eating experiences they had in Austin. When they realized these were hard to find, Danielle asked Travis, “How hard could it be to start a restaurant?”
When we met with her two weeks ago, she answered that question with a laugh: “It is the hardest thing I have ever done.”
Restaurant culture today often focuses on monotonous routine, not on fresh, vibrant experiences that engender community. By focusing on community, Danielle sees Revival’s history guiding the mission of the restaurant towards creating a space where there is joy in simplicity.
Housed in the previous home of the Waco Community Baptist Church, they wanted to conserve the building’s history and simple beauty. She says, “we named it Revival to play off the history of it being a well-known church in the community, and the opportunity to revive it into something new.”
Menu items allude to the building’s spiritual past. Where else can a person order an arugula salad called “The Spurgeon”? Where else can a hungry college student get a sriracha aioli and jalapeno-laden burger called “The Elijah”? Or “The Prodigal Son,” a steak sandwich with chimichurri?
Some might consider the building’s decor as plain and stark. Exposed brick, open rafters, and original ceiling tiles adorn the main dining atrium. Part of the original structure is literally embedded in each table. “When renovating, we really wanted to incorporate the simplicity of the building into each space, so each table has at least a few pieces of original wood from the beams molded into its surface,” says Danielle. “Some say there needs to be more art or decor within the main space, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of what we are: simple,” she says.
That kind of simplicity is often lost in the current climate of full schedules and endless meetings. Art or extra decor is not needed because the mission is not centered on the look, but rather on a place to create memories. By reviving an old church into a space where community is fostered, the restaurant takes a symbolic approach toward families and friends sharing meals. “We have families of regulars that come weekly,” Young says, “and it is great to see that we are trusted to be a part of their lives in creating memories with each other.”
Danielle also cares about what kind of food brings families and friends together. While she likes that they are a “local salad, sandwich, and burger shop,” their focus is on health as well as hospitality.
Revival gets many of their ingredients from local farms and ranches. All the burgers come from 44 Farms in Cameron. “What you eat reflects who you are. Do you care about animals and how they are raised?” she wonders. “I like knowing what I put into my body, and I think others should, too.”
For this reason, she enjoys taking care of customers’ specific dietary needs: “We like to accommodate food allergies. We ask our customers if there are things we should be mindful of in the kitchen. We care about [our] customers as people.” Young emphasizes that “it is not a challenge, but rather a blessing to be able to say that we have gluten-free and allergy-accommodating options on our menu.”
In this vein, hospitality is also a major focus at Revival. “You don’t need a fancy environment to get to know people. We love our regulars. We know their orders. I think we should all try to know people. This sounds like a simple statement, but we should ask people how they are.”
Under Danielle’s vision, Revival seeks to revitalize what it means to sit down and have a meal with those you love. It is a reflection back in time to an era with fewer distractions and without cell phones. Revival strives to be a place for genuine connection. As she states, “ultimately, I want this to be a place where people can gather—whether catching up with an old friend or building memories with families. We are creating a niche for that.”