Joanna Gaines is sitting in Magnolia Table — the breakfast restaurant she and husband Chip just opened in their Waco, TX, hometown — joking that her baby belly might actually just be a belly full of biscuits.
This is how rumors start — but I’m not taking the bait. Let’s just call the biscuits her baby, pre-real baby. It did take Joanna about nine months to perfect the recipe. “I tried a lot to get them right,” she laughs.
If the Instagram feed of geo-tagged photos at Magnolia Table is any indication, Joanna got them very, very right. They’re an Insta-darling, hashtagged with deep thoughts, like #joannagainesdoesitagain and #yummmmmmmy. (They've become one of the most popular dishes from the Magnolia Table cookbook, too — another first for the interior designer-turned–amateur chef.)
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Magnolia Table — the restaurant, not the book — was Chip's dream. "He's always wanted a breakfast joint," Joanna starts, "and when we got wind that this building was for sale, Chip knew this was the place for us."
The building she's talking about used to house the Elite Cafe, a nearly 100-year-old Waco icon. In 2016, the Gaines purchased the property, clueing fans into the demolition process on their blog and through sneaky Instagram posts, then ultimately revealing it on this past, last season of Fixer Upper. "It looked like it took an hour to put that together, but that was a two-year process," Joanna jokes.
The restaurant's a direct turn off a busy roundabout, less than a 10-minute drive from the infamous Silos. And in the three- months since it opened, Magnolia Table has served as further proof that everything the Gaineses touch in Waco turns to gold. Joanna will be the first to warn visitors: The line forms early — really early, given that people show up before the restaurant even opens at 6 a.m. But don't let that deter you.
"Even when you're waiting, we want the experience to be enjoyable," Joanna says. That's why as much thought went into the spaces outside of Magnolia Table as the dining rooms indoors. There's a coffee and pastry bar on the side, where you can get a cup of the special Elite House Blend; a space for kids to play, complete with lawn games; and a takeaway market, with Magnolia swag, chicken salad, and the strawberry butter that tops Joanna's famous biscuits.
Chip dreamed of opening a breakfast spot before brunch went from just another meal to an event, but Magnolia Table plays in that space anyway. The menu is separated by breakfast plates and brunch and lunch ones, and there's a dish named after every member of the Gaines family. (Every member but baby number five, though you could just count "Jo's Buttermilk Biscuits" as his, too.)
For Chip, there's a ham-and-egg sandwich, and for Ella and Emmie, donuts and grilled cheese, respectively. "My two boys, Drake and Duke, love a good hamburger, and we knew we had to have one on the menu," Joanna says of their eponymous dish. So she created the Gaines Brothers Burger (another Magnolia Table restaurant-cookbook crossover): It's one of those how-am-I-going-to-get-my-mouth-around-this burgers — a grass-fed beef patty, Havarti, and tomatoes stacked on a toasted brioche bun. You can top the whole thing with one of two drip jams: onion or jalapeño. Joanna's take: "I have to get the burger every time — and I prefer the jalapeño."
She waits a beat, then the admission comes. "I actually order the pancake breakfast and the Gaines Brothers Burger, because I feel like I need to experience the best of both worlds." Don't doubt a pregnant lady: When we finish our interview, Joanna asks the kitchen to wrap both up for her — to with the kids, of course.
Magnolia Table has a few mantras. You'll see "the good ol' days are still to come" all over the restaurant — spelled out above the host stand, printed on the mugs. It's not a famous saying, Joanna calls it a Chip-ism, but it's what inspired the restaurant's design. "We love that there is history here, and for me, the goal was to bring that back," she continues. There are old photos of the original Elite Cafe on the wall and leather pockets meant to stash your phone and encourage face-to-face conversation.
"Where everyone has a seat at the table," is Magnolia Table's other catchphrase, plastered in giant, metal letters on the wall. People come from all over the United States — some even fly in from other countries — to experience a little bit of the Gaines magic. So Joanna pushed to include what she calls gathering tables, four or five long communal spots to mingle and eat with folks you didn't know before walking in the door, and these words hang above one of them. That connection — that was Joanna's true goal with Magnolia Table. "No one is a stranger."
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