Ritual is an East Texas luncheonette that offers more than a sandwich in a hurry. In fact, they hope you'll slow down your pace and enjoy the surroundings for a while as you enjoy your meal with them.
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Whitney Graham Carter is the proprietor of Ritual in downtown Jacksonville, along with her husband Foster. Upon meeting her, you notice her calm demeanor and friendly manner of speaking. The saying, "You're home now," which she has had painted on the front door of the establishment, tips you off; this place is no fast food joint. Texas Monthly agrees, and featured the restaurant in their "Hidden Texas" roundup in February.
"RITUAL is a slowing down, a turning within, a rebooting of the mind, body and soul. Let us return to all the rituals that keep us healthy, sane and enjoying life to the fullest," she read off a menu inside the two-story building that houses not only the luncheonette, but also a wellness and yoga studio.
"This is what our mission is. We want to help people step out of the rat race. We aim to have a peaceful and lovely experience for our customers."
Carter says her menu is friendly for both men and women, and children, too, of course. She said her philosophy is that every person should, "take care of yourself, so you can then take care of everyone else," a saying that speaks to mothers, but holds true for anyone who interacts with others from day to day.
For both comfort and aesthetics, Carter has used soft velvet and cushioned leather to cover the chairs and banquettes, and they're pulled up to white marble-topped tables. She has installed a glass bakery case at the front near the full-service espresso bar, and has filled it with handmade desserts, like pralines, coconut macaroons, tiger butter candy and meringue pouf cookies.
Other favorite desserts are a creamy chocolate mousse topped with homemade whipped cream, as well as a crème brûlée she says she worked to perfect.
"I wanted the perfect amount of creaminess, they way they make it in France. I didn't want it to be grainy or heavy, just light and perfect," she said.
Her crème brûlée comes to the table with the classic amber-colored caramelized top that is so enjoyable to break through with one's spoon, and two plump blackberries perched prettily on top, as well.
If that were not enough, there is a Texas sheet cake with Blue Bell ice cream, as well, for traditionalists. They also feature Cloud Top yogurt for those who are looking for a healthy frozen treat.
As for savory food, there is a good variety of Southern classics with a twist. They range from the entree of the day, which some days is homemade chicken and dumplings, to gazpacho and tomato soup, both made with Jacksonville tomatoes.
Carter says she plans to expand the space to make even more room for tables, and with that larger kitchen space, she also plans to expand the menu, continuing her mission to prepare delicious food made with as many local and organic ingredients as possible available to residents and visitors to Jacksonville.
"You should eat a rainbow a day," she said, speaking of the health guideline that suggests eating produce in a wide variety of colors will give you great nutrition.
"You can entrust us with your health when you eat with us."
If you're not too full, wander upstairs to the yoga and wellness studio, where you can admire a beautiful old hardwood floor that Carter and her team restored. There is a vintage chandelier presiding over the room like something from Beauty and the Beast. The chandelier was a gift from Kara Hancock, who purchased the Summers A. Norman home in Jacksonville, and saw the 1950s-era fixture.
"Kara said she thought it should be on display somewhere in the city where more people could enjoy it, so we hung it in here; it so beautiful," Carter said.
There are yoga classes offered several times a week. Some of those are taught by Roberta Colkin, who says she has studied yoga since 1986, from India to Europe to East Texas, where she works at Rusk Hospital.
Notably, there is a labyrinth painted on the hardwood floor, and both Carter and Colkin said that, in a nutshell, walking a labyrinth helps calm the mind and helps both sides of the brain work together, which releases stress. Carter welcomes anyone who would like to try it to come visit. She says her employees come to work and head to the labyrinth to calm down the rushed mindset they walk in with before they begin their shift.
All in all, Carter says she has faced some challenges, but she works to keep her price comparable to what one would pay for a meal at Whataburger, and it seems to be working, as even men are now sitting alongside women in the booths, ordering a bowl of chicken and dumplings, Frito chili pie, and a decadent dessert
“I had the naysayers, saying 'you can’t do this in Jacksonville.' I almost put it [the building] for sale, but after some soul-searching, I just knew people needed a place to slow down."
You can visit Ritual at 214 S. Main Street in Jacksonville. Their number is 903-284-6880. Visit their Facebook page by clicking here.
Hours are 10 a.m- 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Related: Carter also owns Super-Sno, a gourmet snow cone truck that she says enabled her to stay home with her daughter.
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