When Brookwood in Georgetown moved to its 9,000-square-foot facility on Church Street in May, founder and Director Erin Kiltz said she planned on adding a quick grab-and-go cafe. But that quickly changed, she said.

Kiltz and her 40 BiG participants, also known as citizens, are now running a restaurant that is open for both breakfast and lunch six days a week.

“This was just going to be a quick grab-and-go cafe, and overnight that changed into a full-blown restaurant because people wanted to sit and enjoy their meal,” Kiltz said.

The BiG Cafe provides an additional space for adults with special needs to participate in BiG’s vocational program. The cafe is located within the BiG shop, which sells pottery, jewelry and personalized gifts created by the nonprofit’s citizens.

But Kiltz said BiG is about much more than providing the citizens with a skill.

“Part of our mission is to not only provide a beautiful, excellent vocational opportunity for adults with special needs,” Kiltz said. “But to actually change the way the world views our population group.”

The restaurant offers simple but healthy meals and locally roasted coffee. Most of the recipes are created by Jena Marcott, who has farm-to-table training and is working toward a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

The citizens work to take customers orders, serve food and greet guests. They often offer recommendations, such as the Seeds of Strength Salad, which has blueberries, chicken, and roasted sweet potato served with basil red wine vinaigrette. The salad is named after a local charity that awarded a $25,000 grant to help BiG purchase kitchen equipment.

Kiltz said the BiG citizens are learning to work in a community.

“I very much enjoy working here at BIG. We are all a makeshift family,” said Traci Johnston, who has worked at BiG for three-and-a-half years.

Kiltz said they are currently building a greenhouse that will act as a retail venue for the 47 greenhouses at Brookwood in Houston and sell aquaponic lettuce and herbs to locals.   

“We are definitely still figuring it out, I had no idea how involved a restaurant would be,” Kiltz said. “But people absolutely love it, so it’s exciting. The citizens love working here.”

BiG Works
Brookwood in Georgetown hosted its fifth annual BiG Works golf benefit Oct. 10. The fundraiser featured 36 citizens serving as captains of their teams to raise $10,000, with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to support BiG’s mission of providing vocational opportunities for adults with special needs.

Featured cafe items
Quiche with sweet potato crust ($7.95): feta, organic baby spinach or maple bacon and aged white cheddar quiche served with a side salad or fruit
BiGLT Wrap ($8.95): Boar’s Head
turkey, maple-roasted bacon, Havarti cheese, sun-dried tomato aioli, grilled onions, organic baby kale and spinach on a spinach tortilla
Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake ($4.50): gluten-free and vegan cake made with quinoa and dark chocolate