Eats Beat

Seven heart attacks can’t slow this busy restaurateur

“Miss Barbie’s” heart is big, but it’s also weak.

A seventh heart attack last month had her close to death’s door, but she’s back to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a north Fort Worth cafe she renamed Heaven’s Gate.

Barbie Stanislawski has seen that gate already, in a vision. The mother of 10 said she has been on life support and was given a less than a 1 percent chance of survival.

So she added the new name, Bible verses, crosses and the Ten Commandments to the walls of the 40-year-old cafe at 3820 N. Main St.

“I have faith that this restaurant is going to be great for families to enjoy,” said Stanislawski, 60, of Flower Mound. She took it over 15 years ago, but abruptly changed the name last year from Colonial House.

“It’s just the way I saw it in a dream,” she said.

“Anything inspired by God is good.”

She expects to serve a buffet breakfast and turkey-and-dressing lunch for 300 diners Thursday. She brought in extra help to line the restaurant with Christmas decorations.

“We know Thanksgiving is so important for so many folks,” she said.

On a day when some Dallas-Fort Worth luxury hotel buffets charge as much as $95 $65 at one hotel in downtown Fort Worth — Stanislawski charges $14.99 at Heaven’s Gate.

“Families need something they can afford,” she said.

She should know.

“As soon as I was big enough to pull a stool up to the stove, that’s when I started cooking,” said Stanislawski, who grew up in a family of 12.

She has lived 20 years with pancreatitis and longer with juvenile-onset diabetes.

In 1999, Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders asked readers to help Stanislawski and her extended family. That was before she took over the restaurant, and she had been in intensive care six times that year.

In 2011, WFAA/Channel 8 interviewed her during a hospital stay for heat-related heart problems.

The Heaven’s Gate address on North Main Steet near Meacham Airport has been home to a restaurant for nearly 70 years. Originally, it was Bessie’s Cafe.

It’s a mile and a half from the Stockyards, so tourists generally find it only through websites or smartphone apps.

A Yelp.com commenter from Los Angeles wrote: “I’m not used to seeing crosses on my menu … but it tastes delicious.”

A commenter from Waco joked about the name matching that of a 1990s California cult: “I feel a little cultish about how much I enjoyed the food. The homestyle cooking on the buffet was perfection.”

(Stanislawski is proud of her candied fresh yams, but she’s gaining a reputation for her pineapple-strawberry cake.)

A San Francisco diner wrote: “Just like Sunday morning at Mom’s house.”

With one very thankful mom.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy.

Heaven’s Gate Restaurant

Thanksgiving: Breakfast buffet 8-11 a.m., $10.99; lunch buffet 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (but booked until 3 p.m.) $14.99.

Daily hours: 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Lunch buffet daily $11.99, dinner buffet Thursday-Saturday $11.99, breakfast buffet Friday-Sunday $9.99.

Details: 3820 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 817-624-1262; tinyurl.com/gate3820

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