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Canales Cafe helps put Tivoli on the map (video)

By JR Ortega
Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.
Updated Aug. 26, 2013 at 3:26 a.m.

Customers purchase food at the Canales Cafe in Tivoli.

Canales Cafe

The restaurant offers more than just Mexican food. It also has steaks and burgers. The restaurant is at 302 Main St. in Tivoli and is open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Mondays.

TIVOLI - The town may be blink-and-you'll-miss-it small, but that does not mean travelers don't see the iconic Canales Cafe right off state Highway 35.

The cafe is the only area restaurant in town, and it has become a staple, standing there for more than 70 years, said Joe Canales, current owner.

"This town was once a booming town because of cotton, but it ain't like that no more," the 51-year-old said.

Joe Canales is the fourth owner that he knows of. His parents owned the restaurant from 1991 until 2008. Before that, the Reyna family owned it, and before that, the Barreras were the owners.

His mother, Viola Canales, 74, worked as a waitress for the Reynas before she and her husband took over.

"I loved it. I liked to work with the Reynas," she said. "When he wanted to sell it to me, he told me he was doing it because I was a very hard worker."

Over the years, many of the customers have remained the same - the regulars, as they call them.

But the restaurant gets its share of travelers as well, she said.

The restaurant has a homey feel, with photographs and artwork of the county displayed throughout the restaurant. The ceiling is wooden and tiled. It has been that way for as long as Viola Canales can remember.

At one point, the restaurant was a dance hall, she said.

But still, the restaurant is best known for its enchiladas. They were even featured in Texas Highway magazine.

"Our enchiladas are well known," she said. "The taste hasn't changed very much. We use the same recipe."

Locally, people have been going to the cafe since they were kids and are still coming now as adults, Joe Canales said.

Shane Patterson, 40, has gone there as long as he can remember - since he was about 5 years old, he said.

Though he lives in Victoria now, he still thinks of the restaurant as part of his life.

"I've been going there all my life," he said. "I go every chance I get."

The food, the camaraderie and the friendliness of his small staff are what attracts customers, Joe Canales said.

The cafe has one morning waitress and morning cook and one afternoon waitress and afternoon cook.

The regulars who come in the morning enjoy their coffee with the cafe's popular huevos rancheros.

And then there are the travelers.

When the travelers come in for the first time, they get a taste of true Mexican cuisine, Joe Canales said. He is especially thankful for those who have never tried the restaurant but stop in to try it out.

He feels it helps put Tivoli on the map a little more.

"We get a lot of travelers that finally pull up and stop," he said. "They say they've finally found another place to stop and eat along the highway."

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