California couple brings West Coast dining to Denton

California couple brings West Coast dining to Denton

California couple brings West Coast dining to Denton
July 10
17:43 2017

While Texas is known for its southern food, one local café brings the West Coast experience to North Texans.

Jessica Thurman, along with her husband Billy, originally opened Upper Park Café in Aubrey, Texas four years ago before deciding to open a location in Denton last year.

Named after Upper Bidwell Park in California, the café aspires to provide a different type of dining experience to areas accustomed to home-style southern cooking.

“When we moved out here, we noticed there weren’t many breakfast places at the time,” UNT alumna Jessica Thurman said. “In California, there were so many of them and we noticed a void of lighter foods and fruits around North Texas.”

The Thurman’s use less butter-based foods and cook each order in-house, which was their goal in order to set the café apart from the typical food services in the area. Eighty percent of the menu is original recipes while the rest are variations from restaurants and diners the couple regularly ate at in Chico, California. Most famously known for its customer service and pecan products, many customers find themselves regularly returning to the café.

Familiar faces like server Emily Hamnner, 24, have made customers’ dining experience more personable.

“It all just boils down to service,” Hamnner said. “I mean we’ve got really good food, but you can get breakfast food anywhere. It’s the effort we put in with people.”

Only working at the Denton location for a year, Thurman knows how challenging it is to open and maintain a business in the area.

“Learning the trends is my biggest struggle right now,” Thurman said. “Aubrey has more ranchers and farmers and the demographic in Denton is very different. We try to listen to the vocal people here so we can get feedback.”

Thurman relies heavily on the Denton community’s large social media presence to voice concerns or issues about the café. One of the largest topics of interest is the café’s inclusion of vegetarian and vegan options.

“I can probably name on one hand how many people in Aubrey have requested any food request like that,” Thurman said. “But in Denton we’re seeing [vegan and vegetarian] requests all the time. I think it’s very much a demographic type thing, so we try to hear people out.”

The café prides itself on offering pecan coffee and pecan french toast, both of which are not normally offered at many other cafés. The pecan coffee has more caffeine than regular, according to Thurman, who said it comes as a shock to most customers who assume it’s a tamer beverage.

Kayla Carlile, the assistant manager of both locations, has seen a huge spike in coffee sales due to the growing popularity of the unique coffee option. Due to all the different coffee shops and home grown brews in the area, it’s all about coming up with something new, unique and fresh.

“When a customer asks for coffee, I ask if they want regular or pecan and they’re so surprised,” Carlile said. “They just have to try it for themselves. I’m not sure there’s many places around here that offer pecan options like us.”

The Thurman’s are currently in the process of opening Upper Park Coffee Co., a drive thru coffee building right outside of Aubrey. While the family is open to introducing a drive-thru in Denton, they have no current plans for one.

As for more café openings in the area, Thurman is content to staying local to the North Texas area to better serve the community in a more personal, involved way.

“I don’t ever want to get too big because I really like how personal smaller towns are,” Thurman said. “It’s scary to put your business in someone else’s hands, and opening more locations will be doing that. I just wouldn’t want to get too big and lose our personal touch.”

Featured Image: Upper Park Cafe had its one year anniversary on July 5th. Upper Park is located on Hickory Street right off the Denton Square. Cameron Roe

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Kayla Henson

Kayla Henson

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1 Comment

  1. Nancy
    Nancy July 13, 22:49

    Excellent article and very informative!

    Reply to this comment

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