Kim Oravetz was not sure where she would end up after her 23-year-old son, Justin Stidham, died in a car crash 11 years ago.
Oravetz wanted something to remember his strength and stature, so she planted a red oak in her backyard.
“We wanted something to honor him. We wanted a focal point,” she said. “Red oaks are strong, and their root systems become strong.”
Now Oravetz owns something bigger than a tree—she runs Red Oak Cafe, a breakfast and lunch restaurant in League City that carries on Stidham’s memory.
“It’s OK because he’s still touching lives today, and he does it very well,” Oravetz said.
Red Oak Cafe is known for its unusual pancakes that can have anything from Nutella to fruits to cereal mixed into the batter, but the restaurant also has a reputation for spreading love, Oravetz said.
Staffers often have drinks ready for regular customers when they walk in the door, and staff members even check in on regulars who have not shown up in a while. During Hurricane Harvey one employee went out to search for one of Red Oak Cafe’s customers, Oravetz said.
“That’s what makes Red Oak different is our culture,” she said. “We try to make people have a better day so they can go out and pay it forward.”
In both bathrooms hang hundreds of sticky notes with positive messages customers have scrawled across them.
“It feels like somebody’s heart,” Oravetz said of the hundreds of fallen sticky notes she keeps in a drawer.
Oravetz does not hide her Christian faith. Waiters pray with customers when asked. Christian music plays overhead. A cutout of a tree adorns one wall, accompanied by a Bible verse.
Reviews from customers always compliment Red Oak Cafe’s food, but many comment on the accommodating and hospitable atmosphere. While Red Oak Cafe’s dishes can stand on their own, Oravetz hopes her restaurant becomes famous for the staff that goes out of its way to show love to its guests, she said.
“Anybody can make food, but what makes Red Oak unique is our hospitality, our love, our inspiration,” Oravetz said.
Red Oak Cafe
6011 W. Main St., Ste. A-106, League City
Hours: Tue.-Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.