Deep Ellum’s AllGood Cafe would have been gearing up for a big celebration for its 20th anniversary in August, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans.
Last week, after an employee complained of fatigue and a backache, owner Mike Snider immediately sent him to get tested for COVID-19. When the results came back positive, Snider announced that the cafe would close for 14 days and made appointments for the rest of the staff to get tested the following day. Even though everyone else tested negative, the entire staff is quarantining at home to monitor any possible symptoms.
“We’ve been doing everything that we could,” Snider says of the safety precautions the staff has been enforcing since early spring.
AllGood Cafe is a staple in the local music scene, hosting live shows on their stage several nights a week before the pandemic.
To help pay the bills while the restaurant is closed, Snider created a Facebook fundraiser. As of Monday, he had raised over $5,000 of the $20,000 goal.
Surprisingly, another hard-hit group seems to be stepping up to help the cause: musicians.
Notable donors include Texas music scene veteran Sara Hickman and Lissa Hattersley of Austin band Greezy Wheels.
“They care about us,” Snider says about why he thinks musicians are pitching in. “They know that they’ve got a place to work. If we’re not here, they won’t have a place to go to play, and to eat. We feed them!” he says, chuckling. “They might play there once, a couple times a year, but they get to eat there anytime they walk in. I treat them all the time.”
Regina Debilio and Rags O'Hooligan of local band Honey Folk also donated to the fundraiser.
“We just love Mike and AllGood Cafe; he’s always taking money out of his own pocket to put in the tip jar,” DeBilio says. “He’s always so appreciative of us and what we’re doing. We don’t have tons to give right now, but it’s just something small to say thank you and to try to support them.”
O’Hooligan says not playing gigs during the pandemic has been hard. Honey Folk was one of the bands that played at AllGood Cafe in June while the restaurant was open at 50% capacity.
“Mike let us play there about a month ago, which was a huge help to us,” he says.
Debilio says Snider takes very good care of musicians who play at AllGood Cafe, offering a hearty meal and drinks to every member of the band.
“Some places are very limiting; you can only have the cheap beers and the wells drinks, and [Mike’s] just like ‘Whatever you guys want while you’re here, I’ve got you,’” she says, adding that Snider also encourages patrons to contribute to the musicians' tip jar.
“He always makes sure we’re all ending up with a decent amount of money at the end of the night,” DeBilio says.
True to his word, Snider also feeds musicians when they come in on an off-day.
“Anytime we went in there, even when we weren’t playing, he would always make us feel really welcome and take care of us,” O’Hooligan says of Snider.
Snider has a long history of being involved in the local music community. He cites Kenny Withrow, lead guitarist for Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, as one of the original investors of AllGood Cafe. “I’m still close with Edie,” he says. “We text occasionally, back and forth.”
The restaurant has employed several members of The Polyphonic Spree over the years, including Taylor Young, whose projects also include The O’s and Taylor Young Band.
AllGood Cafe is a homebase of sorts for musicians, whether they’re playing the stage or working for a paycheck.
“They fit in; I get along with them,” Snider says. “I’m flexible, so it’s easier for them to work when I can be flexible with them.”
“It’s been the best job I’ve had so far — that’s why many of us stick around for so long,” says employee Chloe Diehl, of working at AllGood Cafe.
Diehl describes the working environment at the restaurant as familial, where staff strive to make customers feel at home.
“We always greet the customers by their names, we try to know their orders already, and I feel like we’re just kind of a homey environment in Dallas,” she says.
Over the years, AllGood Cafe has garnered a reputation beyond its own city. Some national touring acts also make a point of dining at AllGood Cafe when playing a show in Dallas. Diehl recalls Jack White coming to eat at the cafe shortly before the pandemic threw business into flux.
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Snider recently posted photos on Facebook commemorating a day about a year ago when outlaw country heavyweight Ray Wylie Hubbard stopped in after playing at The Kessler. In a comment on the post, Hubbard told Snider that AllGood Cafe is his favorite restaurant in the whole world, and that he sometimes gets the urge to drive to Dallas from his home in Austin just to eat there.
“And he really feels that, you know?” Snider says of the country star.
AllGood Cafe has remained a constant in a rapidly changing Deep Ellum, providing comfort and familiarity to a hungry community. If the Texas music scene has any say in it, AllGood Cafe will be around for a long time.
“People just love coming here. It’s just so comfortable here, you know?” Snider says. “We really need to make it stay.”