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Houston Remembers


fifi
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This thread on a 30 year retrospective of Dallas restaurants started some discussion among friends and family. That brought up memories I had forgotten. :biggrin: However... My experience goes back to the 50s so I am not stopping at 30 years.

I suspect that Houston is like a lot of other cities in that the restaurant scene was very different in "the good old days". Going out to eat was a special occasion, not an everyday event. We certainly didn't have the diversity that we do today. Things we take for granted now would have been impossibly exotic back then.

I will start a list of what I remember and it won't be comprehensive so please jump in if you have anything to add. If you remember any dates of closing or have other information or memories please add those as well.

Valian's - Valian's was across from the Shamrock Hotel and is reputed to be the first place in Houston to serve pizza, or at least feature it. (60s, maybe earlier)

Bud Bigelow's - I saw a live Maine Lobster in a tank for the first time at Bud Bigelow's. (Late 50s)

Sonny Look's - A Houston institution but I only vaguely remember going there with my grandfather when I was very young. (had to be the 50s)

The Red Lion - This was just down from the Shamrock on South Main. It was about the only place in town that had "English Cuisine". The attraction for us young folks was the pub upstairs. They had this huge black lab that would great each new guest by coming to the table, quietly sitting and staring at you. If you wanted to pet him, fine. If you didn't, he would quietly slink off. That dog was a real gentleman. (60s)

Ernie Coker's Ye Olde College Inn - This was at University and Main, I think. They were famous for Angel's on Horseback and Green Goddess dressing. I will swear I can't remember exactly what those "Angels" were but the name stuck. And I don't know if they invented Green Goddess dressing or if everyone just liked their version. There was a family connection there. After hurricane Carla (62) blew away my aunt and uncle's bay house, they bought Ernie Coker's house that survived in the same neighborhood.

Felix - We discussed this Tex-Mex legend here.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Kaphan's-Great seafood restaurant near the Dome run by Pete Tomac. Closed shortly after the Dome closed. According to my dad, one of the first 'nice' restaurants to integrate.

Big Humphrey's-little pizza joint on Park Place. First time I ever saw rectangle pizza.

Houlihan's Hamburgers-seems like there might have been a couple of these around town.

Trader Vic's-located inside the Shamrock. I think this was the first place I ever got drunk. Remeber those great big drinks with 4 straws??

Strawberry Patch-one of the Pappas' early restaurants. Lots of Homecoming & prom dinners here.(also Sonny Looks!)

Rudy's-was located across the street from Tony's on Post Oak (somewhere around where Cafe Annie's is now), and every bit as good as Tony's-better lobster bisque even! The owner, Joe Lucia, just passed a couple weeks ago.

Joe Matranga's-excellent Italian place on Irvington. Joe's still kicking too!!

Tha's all I can think of at the moment!

Edited by franktex (log)

Frank in Austin

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Ah YES! Kaphan's. I remember going there as a kid. It was a favorite of my mom and dad and aunt and uncle. That was the place that I remember them teaching me the strange "etiquette" of BYOB and ordering set-ups. That was in the days that you couldn't order liquor by the drink.

When I was older, The Strawberry Patch was a favorite lunch place. My mother's office was only a few blocks away. I seem to remember that it was one of the first "fern bar" concept places here. They had some really original dishes for the day. Many of those would be ho-hum today.

Keep 'em coming.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Strwberry Patch. That's funny, my dad used to co own the place before it was the SP. I was very young but it was a pizza place with live music.

What about Primos for the best fajitas I have ever had. It was close to Damians.

Angelos on south main, its where I had my vry first oyster because I was told it would grow hair on my chest.

Nicks Ice cream for incredible Tre Sclini, a choc ice cream.

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Ain't it funny that South Main was kind of the restaurant row that Westheimer is today. OK... In a lot less volume. Then, it kinda became the... ahem... red light district around the Astrodome.

Thanks for the mention of Angelo's.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Alfred's Delicatessen- The last true deli in Houston that I recall

Loma Linda & Casa Martinez for great Tex-Mex

Victoria Station - down near the dome

Nick's Fishmarket downtown. One of the best fine dining establishments.

There was a pizza place on the West Belt, in Town & Country Village, that I cannot remember the name of but it was great.

The Lantern Inn

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The Hickory Stick-barbecue joint on Reville near Gulfgate.

Remember when Foley's/Joske's had a lunch counter? It was the only thing I looked forward to while shopping with my mom was grilled cheese at Foley's.

I read recently that Charlie Angelo's daughter was opening up an Angelo's Fisherman's Wharf somewhere.

Frank in Austin

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There was an upscale chinese place on Post Oak (I think-it was near the Galleria anyway) called Uncle........ The food was great and the place was packed all the time. Hell, it may still be there for all I know-but I think it's long gone.

What am I talking about? It's bugging me. :laugh:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Alfred's Delicatessen- The last true deli in Houston that I recall

Oh yes... When my sister was in nursing school, living in the area, we used to go to the original location in The Village. Loved those liverwurst sandwiches.

Victoria Station - down near the dome

That was the hot place to go just post high school for me. All of those railroad cars were just such fun. Funny that I can't remember the food. I think they did one of those in New Orleans when I was working at FDA in the late 70s. We were in the Customs building at the foot of Canal Street and this Victoria Station place was behind us.

Nick's Fishmarket downtown. One of the best fine dining establishments.

Oh... I remember this place. We had just concluded a big contract with Dupont and they took us out to a celebratory dinner there. They were very rude about trying to get us to leave and ended up on Dupont's black list.

Brooks... I am struggling but I think it was something like Uncle Tai's Hunan Yunan or something like that.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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There used to be a high end Japanese place off Westheimer as I remember with a pond in the middle with fish swimming. Last time I was there must have been mid to late 70s or so.

Yep I remember Alfred's well. My father used to take me there when he had jobs in Houston. Also remember some Steak place near the dome as I remember, but think that was early 70s so got me one the name :rolleyes:

Never trust a skinny chef

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It was Uncle Tai's. Exactly. Thanks,

Really good food, although really expensive.

T

Yep Uncle Tai's they just closed up the Dallas Galleria location a couple of weeks ago. Evidently they are now focusing on their South Florida locations. It was truly great Chinese before there was such a thing in Texas. That was indeed a different era. Probably part of the reason they closed, now you can get better Chinese in many areas.

Never trust a skinny chef

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Also remember some Steak place near the dome as I remember, but think that was early 70s so got me one the name :rolleyes:

That may have been Kaphan's. They served steak and seafood. But it could also have been Bud Bigelow's. They were also known for steak. (As was just about every restaurant back then.) They just also happened to have lobster in the tank as I alluded to above.

It seems like any "serious" restaurant here back in the 60s and 70s had to have good steak. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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That may have been Kaphan's. They served steak and seafood. But it could also have been Bud Bigelow's. They were also known for steak. (As was just about every restaurant back then.) They just also happened to have lobster in the tank as I alluded to above.

It seems like any "serious" restaurant here back in the 60s and 70s had to have good steak. :biggrin:

Yep quite interesting the change all over Texas. Growing up in Dallas we had the standard Steak Houses and really one Chinese place by Bachman Lake near the airport. What a difference in 30 years or so.

Never trust a skinny chef

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In Stafford there was a little place called Maison D Glasse that had the best french onion soup and great hamburgers.

Just down the street was a bbq joint that served incredible que.

What about the original Ousies? It was much different that it is now.

What about some of the old places on the ship channel? think they are all closed now.

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Does anyone remember Jamail's (Jamal's?) Restaurant? Very nice place, set on a woodsy lot. It's been so long ago -- 31 years since I was there -- that I don't even remember what we ate! But it was one of the places to go at the time for a upper-cut evening out.

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Nicks Ice cream for incredible Tre Sclini, a choc ice cream.

That would be Neal's Ice Cream, whose little shop on Kirby was the progenitor of gourmet ice cream (and cookies) in Houston. Lines out the door on any given night. Neal's love of a good time and an ill-advised, brand-diluting expansion (including supermarket retail) combined to send the business into the grave.

I am struggling but I think it was something like Uncle Tai's Hunan Yunan or something like that.

Uncle Tai's Hunan Yuan ("garden"). The owners run Star Laser Video on Bellaire in the Welcome Food Market center. I believe Tai is usually there on Monday evenings if you feel the urge to reminisce.

There used to be a high end Japanese place off Westheimer as I remember with a pond in the middle with fish swimming.

Tokyo Gardens.

Renu's The restaurant that begat Thai in Houston.

Hamburgers By Gourmet Sadly missed swatch of urban fabric on Alabama just off Montrose.

Gyro Gyros Never that great, but more soul and funk missing from an increasingly sanitized Lower Westheimer.

Poor Man's Country Club Don't even get me started on what's happened to the Rice Village.

San Jacinto Inn Hard to define "legendary" without using this one as a reference, especially in a city as amnesiac as Houston.

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Two more come to mind: Cinco Robles on Feagan was a great little mexican joint that was somehow talked into opening a restaurant on the second floor of what is now a Men's Warehouse on W Gray. The place they opened was decorated on an art deco motiffe and signaled the quick end of the restaurant.

That mexican deli place on w alabama that served the best migas and chili rellenos in town. What was the name of that place?

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How could I forget The San Jacinto Inn? That place was a culinary icon for many years. When I would visit the plants in Deer Park, we would always adjourn for lunch there. What a tradition. The food was good, not great, but the history and tradition prevailed.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Sonny Look's - A Houston institution but I only vaguely remember going there with my grandfather when I was very young. (had to be the 50s)

Wow - do I ever remember Sonny Look's place, Sir Loin. Sonny was one of my father's customers, and Sir Loin's was the only place my parents took us kids when it came time for a fancy meal. I have vivid memories of the real, live Knight in Armour on horseback, complete with lance, riding in front of the restaurant, which I recall was on Westheimer. I seem to recall one year the horse was hit by a car (could be a bad dream, however). Look at this - that must be Sonny's wife Carol standing in front circa 1960-something.

Sir-Loin.jpg

A Charlotte, NC restaurant called Bayou Kitchen had an old menu from Sir Look on its wall for years - I always mean to ask someone how the owner got it.

Another family favorite was Pino's Italian Restaurant, though it appears they are actually still in business! I loved the ravioli there - and the bread sticks. Back then, there were the requisite chianti bottles and fake grapevine hanging from the ceiling.

Prom night, most kids from my high school (Memorial) went to Vargo's - also still in business. Do they still line their fence with miles of white twinkle lights at Christmas?

What about the Magic Pan?

Edited by hazardnc (log)
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I had forgotten all about Sir Loin... And the horse... :laugh:

Pino's is now closed. I have some good friends that are friends with one of the daughters. I think the story is that they had an offer they couldn't refuse for that corner on Westheimer. But I also remember that they had another piece of property and were going to reopen. I will search the paper and see if I can find out what the deal is. I am sure it made the news. It was Marvin Zindler's favorite.

Vargo's is still rockin' and they do have the lights for the holidays. There is a personal connection there. Many years ago when we first went there, my sister (older than me) exclaimed... "This is old xxxxx's sand pit for chrisakes." My grandfather owned a construction company and a long time supplier and friend owned the place and the lake is what was his sand pit.

Magic Pan is ringing a bell but I can't place it. Anyone remember what they served? Why the pan was magic?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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No wonder no one remembers Jamail's (Jamal's)! That was a grocery store in Houston, family owned, cool place, still delivered for you in the early to mid-70s.

I was thinking of Vargo's. :blush: Thanks, fifi, your reference to the sandpit knocked that loose wire connection back in place. :laugh: Said it was a long time ago -- I still don't remember what we ate, just that we enjoyed it. :wink:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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My fondest memory of Vargo's was almost 30 years ago. We were there for a family dinner for some occasion. We were sitting in the bar. The chairs had these legs that kind of swept out and the room was crowded. The cocktail waitress tripped and upended a tray of drinks down my ex's back... twice. :laugh: She was in tears. We reassured her. They gave him the money for the cleaners and loaned him a dry jacket. We had a nice dinner.

It was a sad day when Jamail's closed.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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