Horned Toad Cafe jumps into niche

Elizabeth Rodriguez talks to a customer by phone while Juliette, the restuarnat's mascot, rests in a chair nearby at the Horned Toad Cade in Kenedy. (Photo by Jeff Osborne)

When opening one of Karnes County’s newest restaurants a year and a half ago, Melissa Sullivan was looking to fill a niche in the local market, offering fresh, healthy foods with an emphasis on service that includes delivery.

“We opened in March 2020 and then literally three days later – COVID,” Sullivan said. “We managed to continue with curbside and delivery, and we still offer delivery. Other than pizza places, we’re the only one who delivers.

“Our philosophy is ‘everything fresh.’ Everything we make is done in house, our soups, salad dressings, everything is homemade.”

Helping to keep the business running smoothly are manager Kristan Ashley and Elizabeth Rodriguez, who runs the front counter.

“We have a lot of healthy options, that’s for sure,” Ashley said. She joined the restaurant in April and has added some of her own items to the menu, including a southern grilled cheese sandwich complete with fried green tomatoes.

In addition to the array of healthy choices, there are also fries, onion rings and desserts available.

“I pride myself on keeping things fresh and clean,” Sullivan said. “I am obsessed with cleanliness and good customer service. We have a lot of regulars that we’ve gotten to know pretty well. A lot of times Elizabeth will know what they want to drink and Kristan will know what they want on their sandwich.”

“I can see an order and a lot of times know who placed it by the ingredients they choose,” Ashley said.

Logan Schultz is the delivery person who stays busy taking orders to customers.

Beyond being open from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, the business offers catering services.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years,” Sullivan said of her experience in the food business. I started out with Olive Garden in San Antonio and worked my way up to management.”

She then was food and beverage coordinator for IHG, which operates Holiday Inn hotels.

“We moved here in January 2019 and I started looking around for a place to get a good salad, not just a side salad,” Sullivan said. “I was told there wasn’t one. I like tacos, too, but I don’t want them every day. So I decided to open a restaurant serving different things I thought people would like.

“The community has really supported us. There are times we’re pretty busy, and we appreciate the way people have welcomed us.”

Sullivan also hosts community events such as Painting with Pals and craft nights at the cafe. People can register online for the events at hornedtoadcafe.net or call 830-583-8070 for information. Updates are made on the website as well as the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“We’ve almost out of space for our Oct. 7 event, but we will have others in November and December,” she said.

The cafe also supports nonprofits by offering space and a meeting place, such as Fairy Godmother’s Closet, which allows girls to borrow dresses free of charge for prom and other formal events, and Narcotics Anonymous.

Sullivan considers the Horned Toad Cafe to be a side hobby, rather than her primary job.

She works for an organization called Aid the Silent which promotes awareness of the needs of the deaf population and is event director for the charity.

Sullivan worked as San Antonio director for the Miss America pageant, and got to know one of the contestants, who was deaf, and worked with her to help Aid the Silent.

“I stay pretty busy, so I really rely on staff (at the cafe),” she said.

There is also an emphasis on giving back to public servants.

“We have appreciation days each day of the week to honor different groups,” Sullivan said. “On certain days of the week, people in those groups get 30 percent off. On Tuesday it’s educators and city workers, Wednesday is for healthcare and first-responders, Thursday is for oil and gas workers and Friday is hospital workers.”

Sullivan said she is also looking at adding a Sunday brunch one per month, and will post those dates online.

As for their own favorite menu items?

“Definitely the Cafe Way Flatbread,” Aashley said. That sandwich has chicken, bacon, red bell peppers, mozzarella cheese and cilantro. It is topped with red pepper flakes and avocados and drizzled with chipotle ranch.

Rodriguez’ favorite is the K-Town Smoked Chicken Panini, that in addition to its title ingredient, features cheddar and mozzarella cheese, tomato, avocado and red pepper aioli.

Fewer menu items include the Burgerito, seasoned ground beef, cheese and fries wrapped in a tortilla, The Royale, which includes smoked turkey, ham, applewood smoked bacon and a choice of cheese with veggies on a toaster croissant.

Along with a half dozen salad items, cafe favorites and fresh soups of the day, there is no shortage of menu items.

“We like being able to offer something a little different, Sullivan said. “I think this is the perfect spot for a little cafe and we love being able to meet people that become like family.”



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