A Wrinkle in Time


In Downtown Madisonville sits a bright seafoam green building with a swing sign bearing the name Walker’s Cafe. This historic building with timbers from 1886 houses the small-town diner known for its great deals, delicious hamburgers and friendly atmosphere.

Stepping inside, visitors are greeted by many smiling faces that make up the Walker’s staff. The dark wood floorboards are filled with mismatched tables and chairs with walls dotted with homey pictures, rustic chic signs and small-town propaganda cheering on local athletic teams.

Walker’s, as it is today, came to be when Noella Smith and Angela Culbreth visited the cafe with their kids to have breakfast before a TAKS test per their long-held tradition. After years of visiting the small-town eatery, the then-owner told them that the space was for sale, otherwise, he’d be forced to close up shop. 

“Angela talked me into buying it with her,” Noella explains. “[She said] ‘Oh, it’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be so much fun.’ We didn’t want [Walker’s to close]. A lot of other kids came in here to eat [before big tests] too.”

After the two best friends became co-owners of the historic cafe in 2008, they set out to run it to the best of their ability, while providing home-style food with a smile. The Walker’s brand was already a community staple, but over the last 16 years, it’s become the gathering place for every Madisonville resident.

“[People from here] will say ‘let’s meet up at Walker’s,’” Noella says. “‘I’ll be home this weekend let’s go!’ A lot of people come in on Saturdays for things like that.” 

Madisonville residents love Walker’s Cafe, and the owners give back to their fervent supporters every chance they get.

“We do stuff with basketball, volleyball and sometimes track,” Noella adds. “The football team comes in before every home game and eats a [team meal] together.”

Walker’s is a revolving door for interesting people visiting Madisonville, being the prime lunch destination for the town on the main stretch of State Highway 21 and a short drive off of I-45.

“We get people from Australia, Europe and Africa,” Noella says. “All kinds of people come in!”

While Noella may not be a Madisonville native, she calls the small Texas town her home and says she fell in love with the small cafe like so many others who have visited or moved to the town.

“I’ve been here since 1992, so 28 years,” Noella recounts. “It’s the longest I’ve ever been anywhere. Angela’s husband, Ted, is from [Madisonville] and he remembers coming here as a child.”

Anyone who decides to ask around town for the best place to grab lunch will hear the same answer again and again, “Walker’s, they have the best burger in town.”

“We get that a lot,” Noella says smiling. “People like our fish and shrimp. They say the same thing [about it]. We’ve had people drive from Houston for our fish. I love my salad bar. I’m happy with salad every day. But other than the salad bar, I would say that [our] chicken fried steak is the best. It is so, so yummy.”

While Walker’s may be famous for its sit-down menu featuring enchiladas, pork steaks, hamburgers, sandwiches and a special keto-friendly menu, the cafe also offers catering services for anyone hosting a large event that wants to have the comfort of home-style cooking.

“It started with [us offering] family meals during COVID,” Noella explains. “[Since lockdowns ended], I mean we’ve just been going and rolling! Last time we did catering out of the country club for the Republican primary for Trey Wharton. We do things like weddings and we’ll go anywhere because we like to travel different places. We’ve done [catering in] Montgomery, Austin, Bryan and the [whole] Brazos Valley.”

Being a restaurant owner is a tall order and the chaos that comes with it isn’t for everyone, Noelle says.

“I think the day we finally figured it out had been probably last week,” Noella jokes. “Because we haven’t figured it out yet! I mean it just changes, everything changes. It’s just different every day and that’s good for me.”

Walker’s Cafe has been a constant in Madisonville since the original Mr. Walker opened a soda shop attached to his pharmacy. In the modern world where everyone is in a rat race to move onto the next step, the calm atmosphere of Walker’s was always a welcome addition.

“When everything around us is changing, even around us in Huntsville, Houston and Bryan, everything is changing,” Noella says. “But we’re stuck and it’s a good stuck — I think it’s good for the community.”

Walker’s Cafe is located at 112 W. Main St., Madisonville, and is open Monday through Saturday, keeping their doors open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. most days, and 8 p.m. on Fridays. Follow Walker’s Cafe on Facebook at “Walkers Cafe” and Instagram @walkers_cafe_tx or call (936) 348-2672 to make a to-go order over the phone.