Five months after the freeze, popular local restaurant reopens with new recipes

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 2:51 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Waco’s popular downtown Olive Branch has reopened, nearly five months to the day after it was forced to close following the historic February freeze that caused pipes to burst, flooding the restaurant and causing massive damage.

“It’s been so great seeing our customers this week and getting to hug necks and say ‘hi’ to everybody,” said owner Leah Stewart, who opened the restaurant in 2003.

“We’d love to see everybody come out.”

“We want to show off this beautiful new space and we’re so excited to be back open,” she said.

Leah and her business partner, Michael Carney, took advantage of the unexpected break to figure out how to expand the restaurant’s operating hours, which now include dinner and Sunday brunch with wine, beer, and mimosas.

“Michael and our other chef Ray Silva took time while we were closed to write new recipes and create new appetizer and menu items,” she said.

The restaurant, next to Spice Village and Ninfa’s restaurant, closed on Feb. 14 as the icy winter storm began to tighten its grip on Central Texas.

Three days later, on Feb. 17, Leah went to check on the restaurant and found it in ruins.

She recorded her reaction on her cellphone as she surveyed the damage.

“We have water pouring out of the ceiling,” she said, as she walked in shock through standing water.

“The water has been turned off. It’s still pouring.”

Stewart says the fire suppression system pipes on the third floor above her restaurant burst leaving nothing untouched including tables, equipment, floors, and walls.

“We walked in on Wednesday morning to four inches of standing water. All of our sheetrock was wet, it was buckling. All of our wooden floors were soaked through, and we had complete devastation,” she said.

Since that time Leah and Michael have worked around the clock to get the restaurant back to standards.

Leah said with a lot of hard work from employees, a supportive building owner, insurance company and good construction crews the restaurant is back and better than ever.

Spice Village, the popular shopping spot just above the Olive Branch, was also heavily damaged by water from burst pipes.

The store was moved to a temporary space at 924 Austin Ave. where it will remain while remodeling is underway.

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