From the outside, the Hugs Café in downtown McKinney, Texas looks like any other restaurant, but those who step inside know they've stumbled into a very special place.


Hugs Café was founded by Ruth Thompson who had been teaching cooking classes for adults living with special needs for years. When she was faced with retirement, she came up with a much better idea. She opened the Hugs Café in 2013, with a menu of soups, salads, and hearty burritos, and a mission to help train, support, and employ adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Now, Hugs Café is a fully-fledged non-profit with an advisory team and board of directors and a staff of every ability. The restaurant helps their special needs staff to earn their food service certification, which is not only a requirement for everyone who works in the kitchen, but will help them get a job outside of Hugs Café. "Once we have trained them, they can go down the street and get a job somewhere else and we can take another teammate into our fold and train them," explained Thompson in a video for Upworthy.

While the restaurant's mission is noble, people wouldn't continue to eat there if the food wasn't any good. Hugs serves up a lunchtime classics like chicken salad, new twists like a turkey sandwich with homemade peach chutney, and Southern favorites like a scoop of pimiento cheese on a salad, which we all know is the only way to eat lettuce.

If Hugs Café sounds familiar, it's because the restaurant was recently featured on NBC Nightly News who helped the spread word about their worthy mission. If you want to try their food, though, you're going to have to swing by the shop the next time you're in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for service with a smile, and if you're very lucky, a hug.