If you are like me, you might have grown up with going to smallish churches and having the Sunday pot-lucks when all the little old ladies at the church brought in dishes to serve the congregation. In the present day of tele-evangelists, mega-churches, and overall swell of population, you might not have had the opportunity to get some of that down home cookin’. If you find a pang in your heart for this type of food, be sure to go check out the 4th Street Cafe.
Owned and operated by the First Baptist Church of San Antonio, the staff comprised of all volunteer servers dishes out comfort food from 11:00AM – 2:00PM Tuesday through Friday. Often, they will have a blue plate lunch special, but expect to spend right around $7.00 for lunch. All the proceeds go to support their ministry and the website states that the tips go to support the San Antonio Food Bank Community Kitchen at Haven for Hope, Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM), and Haven Chaplaincy Ministry.
Being a chicken fried steak fan, I couldn’t resist the daily lunch special of chicken fried steak, two sides, cornbread, and a side salad; I ordered mashed potatoes and fried okra as my sides.
I knew I was in for a treat when I first got my side salad and tasted the ranch dressing that came with it. The dressing was incredibly creamy and rich with little pieces of bacon added in it; later, I confirmed my hypothesis that the ranch dressing was homemade while talking with the lady at the register. In fact, she told me that EVERYTHING is homemade all the way down to the dressings. This was a nice touch that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a cafe run by a church.
The main course was really good; the gravy made the mashed potatoes and you could tell that it didn’t come from a package. The fried okra was piping hot and the cornbread was dense and sweet (some people don’t like sweet cornbread, but I really do). While the chicken fried steak was not near as big as Lulu’s (then again what is?!), it wasn’t far off the mark of the taste.
I have to admit, I was skeptical about the chicken fried steak going in. Any sort of “church” chicken fried steak always seems to have that breading that is greasy and not all that good. 4th Street Cafe really delivered on the goods here, the chicken fried steak had that flaky, crispy breading that I love.
Finally, I have to mention the service. Everyone is extremely nice and it is a very welcoming atmosphere. Because of the fact that everyone is a volunteer who is serving the meals, you get people who are truly happy to be there and who are truly happy to have you there eating their food. Remember to tip well as the proceeds go to helping out some of San Antonio’s homeless community.
The 4th Street Cafe is so good that it will cause you to dance with joy; in this case, I don’t think the Baptists would even mind that kind of dancing.
Value: 9/10 (maybe a little on the higher end for a lunch, but the money does support different ministries in town that help those in need)
Atmosphere: 9.5/10 (down home feel in the middle of downtown)
Service: 10/10 (volunteer servers are happy to be there and happy to have you there; and don’t worry, they are not the least bit “preachy” either)
Taste: 9.5/10 (great meal that will fill you up for the day; the salad dressings are amazing)