Delicious: Frozen in time at Norma’s Cafe

Peanut butter chocolate pie. Photo by kathy tran
Peanut butter chocolate pie. Photo by Kathy Tran

Norma’s Café has served classic comfort food for six decades

Norma’s Café owner Ed Murph has overseen the comfort food haven for half of its 60-year existence in Dallas. For the first three decades, he just was a regular customer.

Murph spent his childhood in Oak Cliff, where a restaurant called Bob McGhee’s Davis Café found its first home along West Davis Street. Murph’s family frequented the diner, and its inviting, community-oriented atmosphere is something he is dedicated to preserving.

“It was a neighborhood place,” he says. “That’s where everybody went. It was and it still is. It’s a place where people in the community come, meet, eat and socialize.”

Now called Norma’s Café, the business has added three locations since its inception in 1956, and its most recent venture is located right outside our neighborhood at Caruth Plaza on North Central Expressway. In all likelihood, this isn’t news to you, especially since Norma’s staff is quick to point out the restaurant’s phones rang off the hook until it opened in July. Marketing manager Katy Anderson says she had a woman ask when it would open so frequently that she personally called to tell the woman its opening date.

“We’re a smaller company, but everybody knows us around here,” says Bill Ziegler, director of operations.

Norma’s chicken fried steak and made-from-scratch mile-high pies are the menu items that make Murph the most proud, but he says his favorites fluctuate based on his mood. Even after three decades, the menu has enough variety that it hasn’t become old hat to him.

“I was raised on about 90 percent of the food,” he says.

A sign on the wall encourages patrons to eat dessert first, and it’s not surprising given their pies’ popularity. Bakers arrive at the café at 5 a.m. every day to make each flavor’s filling and topping, Murph says. The rolls and cornbread, used in their chicken and dressing, also are always homemade.

“The secret to good comfort food is it being prepared with that secret ingredient — that’s your momma’s and grandma’s love when she cooked it,” Murph says.

The restaurant’s appeal doesn’t solely revolve around its menu, and that’s something Murph and Ziegler emphasize. Its longevity, in part, is thanks to the multi-generational families who have become regulars and the café’s staff, Murph says.

“The success of this place is directly in proportion to the people who work here. A lot have their own personality that shines through. It makes it neat.”

Norma’s Café
Ambiance: casual, family-friendly diner
Price range: $7-$15
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m.;
Friday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.;
Sunday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
9100 North Central Expressway, suite 151, 214.361.8646
normascafe.com

Did you know: Norma’s Café sells so many Thanksgiving dinners every year, they begin preparing for the holiday a week in advance.

Norma’s Café. Photo by kathy Tran
Norma’s Café. Photo by Kathy Tran

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