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Defunct Historic Houston Restaurants


groovehouse

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I don't post a lot, but this is one of my favorite forums. Having a dad for a city councilman for 30 years, I got to hit a lot of Houston's best (not necessarily expensive) restaurants with him and my family, and I always love it when we get to recall some of the great places to eat in Houston:

Kaphan's(one of the first restaurants to integrate, according to my father). Pete Tomac and George(the host, Greek gentleman, if I remember right) always greeted us on Sunday's, and had the best, old school waiters and waitresses, not to mention, some of dad's(and others) sports memorabilia in the front.

Chesterfield's-this was(is?) in the basement of the Bank One(?), and was run by Gus Kanakis, I believe, and had excellent lamb shanks-does anyone remember it?

Hickory Stick-on Winkler near Gulfgate. Another after-church stop.

Guy's Meat Market-always went with dad to get meat & bbq-is it still around?

Uncle John's Pancake House-was on OST, I think.

Rudy's-owned by Rudy and Joe Lucia, and it was across the street from the original Tony's on Post Oak, and had better Lobster Bisque than Tony's, imo.

Joe Matranga's-on Irvington. Best southern Italian in town. Joe is still kicking at St. Dominic's. He used to give away jars of his homemade pasta sauce at Christmas.

Polynesian- Albert Gee's place if I remember right, and perhaps the first Asian food of any kind for me, 5-6 yrs old.

Bobo's-another Chinese restaurant owned by on of dad's friends, Bobo Lang. It was out Westheimer, maybe around Gessner?

I don't think we ever looked at a menu here-he would just start bringing stuff out.

Tokyo Gardens-Is this place still there? I went to many a prom/homecoming/high school dinner here( 1977).

Monterrey House-probably pretty crappy when compared to today's Tex-Mex, but at least it got me hooked on Tex-Mex. I still have not seen the brown sugar candy that was at the bottom of the chip basket anywhere as good. I think they evolved into Monterrey's for a while, but, hopefully, they are gone for good.

Wyatt's Cafeteria-breaded veal cutlet w/brown gravy. No salad, thanks. (Remember those cool conveyor belts that took away the dirty dishes?)

I'm sure I've got more, but that's all for now!

Frank

I think Chesterfields is still there, under the 1100 Lamar building. Tokyo Gardens has been torn down.

Several people have mentioned the brown sugar candy from Monterrey House.

Does anyone remember the name of the "upscale" Chinese place on Post Oak north of Westheimer (not Hunan). Uncle Tai's maybe?

Hunan had another restaurant, cheaper but same menu, on Westheimer at Voss. That place would be packed.

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Napoleon Square had its Grand Opening in the early 1960's to a huge fanfare. Highly touted as the place to be, the Farb's had a glitzy open to all party, outside in freezing winter weather. Why did we go and shiver? The main attraction was Al Hirt and he was terrific. The crowd was extremely large, hard to imagine it was all to simply to get occupants for apartments.

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Does anyone remember the name of the "upscale" Chinese place on Post Oak north of Westheimer (not Hunan). Uncle Tai's maybe?

I suspect you're thinking of a different restaurant, but this made me think of Ta Hua, which used to be in the strip center on the east side of Post Oak just north of Westheimer (the one anchored by Container Store on one end and Oshman's superstore on the other). Ta Hua wasn't exactly upscale, but they had dependably good Americanized Chinese food, and I have many fond memories of it as my wife and I used to be semi-frequent diners there when we were first dating. They moved to a much larger location way out on Memorial a few years ago. We went there once, but it was simply too far to drive when there are plenty of other Chinese restaurants that are much closer, and the new location didn't have the funky charm of the old one, which always seemed to be fairly dark and a bit cramped inside.

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Does anyone remember Ari's Grenouille and Los Troncos on Westheimer, West of Montrose?

They were good places to go to in the 60's.......I believe Ari's survived for quite awhile, but Los Troncos burned down at some point.

Los Troncos - where Westheimer and California meet, where Da Marco is now:

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Ari's was in this old residence @ Westheimer @ Mandell:

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I lived just down the street in the early 70s and ate at Ari's many times; I learned to love escargot but never tried the frog legs. I read somewhere that Ari's owner had run a French restaurant at HemisFair 68 in San Antonio, wanted to stay in the US so moved to Houston and opened the restaurant ca. 1969. It was sometimes said to have been Houston's first sidewalk cafe (there were umbrella covered tables and chairs practically out to the curb) but I doubt that was a valid claim. I never ate at Los Troncos. Both were still there when I moved out of the neighborhood ca. 1974.

By the late 70s, Ari's had moved out on Memorial near Dairy Ashford. I ate there just once, ca. 1980. It had little of the charm of the original and I had lost interest in French cuisine and never went back.

A Houston Post clipping:

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The 4 Bill Williams: S. Main @ Holcombe, OST @ MacGregor, just north of Richmond on 59, and .......?

Does anyone remember the name of the "upscale" Chinese place on Post Oak north of Westheimer (not Hunan). Uncle Tai's maybe?

The name rings a faint bell. I do think it had 'uncle' in the name. Szechuan as I remember it. Only went once, ca. 1979, on the company dollar.

Edited by brucesw
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The name rings a faint bell. I do think it had 'uncle' in the name. Szechuan as I remember it. Only went once, ca. 1979, on the company dollar.

Szechuan was the Hunan-related place I was trying to think of on Westheimer at Voss. mkultra, it wasn't Ta Hua I was thinking of, but I do remember that place. Your description of "Americanized Chinese food" was right on the money - nothing great, but dependable.

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The 4 Bill Williams: S. Main @ Holcombe, OST @ MacGregor, just north of Richmond on 59, and .......?

Actually, the S. Main Bill Williams was on the NE corner of S. Main and Dryden... just south of the University Blvd intersection with S. Main. Ernie Coker's Ye Olde College Inn was Bill Williams' neighbor on the north side of Bill's place. Bill also had a coffee shop downtown on Milam or Travis and several blocks south of Foley's.

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mkultra, it wasn't Ta Hua I was thinking of, but I do remember that place. Your description of "Americanized Chinese food" was right on the money - nothing great, but dependable.

They had an item on the menu which we used to always order that I've never seen anywhere else - Green Onion Pancake. It wasn't a pancake in the Western sense, more like a cross between a crepe and a thick tortilla, with chopped scallions cooked into it. It was much better than I'm probably making it sound.

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They had an item on the menu which we used to always order that I've never seen anywhere else - Green Onion Pancake. It wasn't a pancake in the Western sense, more like a cross between a crepe and a thick tortilla, with chopped scallions cooked into it. It was much better than I'm probably making it sound.

I've had that in other places, although I can't remember if I had it there. It is served with a plum sauce.

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I've had that in other places, although I can't remember if I had it there. It is served with a plum sauce.

Sounds like my great grandmas potato patties. She made these with leftover mashed potatoes mixed with egg and green onions and flattened it out like a pancake and fried it in bacon grease. I feel my arteries hardening at the thought.

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I don't remember the C&W days, but in the Disco Era it was The Barbary Coast. It was two stories and you could lean on the rail and look down on the dance floor.

joe

Yes, that's it - The Barbary Coast! It was a beautiful club.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Anyone rememebr a pie place that was just outside of the heights? I think it was across 45N from the Heights...on the east side...it was right on the freeway. The sign could be seen from the freeway...it was an image of a man dressed in a little babie's clothing (it mightve been 3 men) and they were holding a big pie. The actual big sign is still up...at least it was 6 months ago when i was in houston...but it's painted over with something else.

????

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  • 1 month later...

I love this thread. I was fortunate enough to have parents who loved to dine out and took me with them, so I tried many of these great places before I was old enough to really appreciate them.

Someone mentioned the Velvet Turtle; wasn't that off 59 just outside of Hillcroft? I remember going there with my parents, probably late 70's or early 80's.

Another place I've not seen mentioned was La Pavillion; IIRC it was just inside the Loop over near Post Oak. First place I ever had bearnaise sauce.

The photo of Los Troncos was amazing. Anyone have one of Albert Gee's Poly Asian? We were regulars there; the mynah bird up front was an old friend of mine. LOL.

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Speaking of La Pavillion ... is Tony's still around? Remember it was somewhere on 'the Boulevard' too? I never ate there (always heard how expensive it was/is).

Anyhow, another place that comes to mind not for their restaurant really, but for the building that is no longer there. Does anyone remember the Astro Lodge ...? I think that is the name. It was off Main, but on the east side of the bayou. It was a big hotel/motel complex right on the border of the bayou and I may have the name wrong.

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Does anyone remember The Happy Buddha on lower Westheimer? They did the chop everything up at the table thing like Benihana. There was a courtyard that had a fake thunderstorm (complete with water, thunder, and lightning) about every thirty minutes? The place burned numerous times in the early to mid 80's. When I was little, I wanted to have my 16th birthday party there. It wasn't really a place for kids, though.

Also, does anyone remember how many Hamburgers by Gourmet there were in Houston? They were amazing. The #10 and some onion rings really hit the spot. I think they had locations in Austin, too. The last one was on Alabama next to The University of St Thomas. They tore it down to build a chapel. I'd rather still have HBG.

I loved the Happy Buddah. It made me very....Happy. Does anyone remember The Bacchanal? I think it was across the street from Michaelangelos on lower Westheimer. They had really rich greek food and belly dancers. They would take everybodys shoes and hoist them up in a net to the ceiling and you had to dance before you could have your shoes back. And yes, they would even break dishes.

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Armando's just reopened where River Oaks Grill was. I'm a foodie so all of the above restaurants will be missed.

Here are my additions, hey right on with the Quilted Toque:

Centanni's (Shepherd Plaza)

Strawberry Patch (I10)

Jalapenos (best gourmet tex mex in Houston at Kirby and Westheimer)

River Cafe (Montrose)

Maxim's (Greenway where Tony's is now)

Baroque (Sunset by Rice Univ.)

Dolce & Freddo (Kirby location and San Felipe)

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Yes, there was a Hamburgers by Gourmet on Kirby. I'm thinking it was between Westheimer and Richmond, but it could have been farther south. My favorite burger there was the bacon bleu cheese burger.

There was also a competitor, Rolando's Burger Factory. He actually predated HBG in his original location on Richmond Avenue, not far from Dunlavy. He later opened a number of locations, on Kirby just off West Alabama and farther up West Alabama I think, up closer to Univ of St. Thomas. I worked for Rolando for a while when I was in college -- He only used very lean meat and when I first started working for him he was proud of his fresh cut fries but success eventually pushed him to frozen, as the locations were too small to devote the resources to storing, cleaning, cutting fries day in/day out.

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I haven't lived in Houston for quite a while, but the place I miss is an old Mexican Restaurant that used to be on Shepherd Drive, Leo's ...

Old Leo supposedly used to ride with Pancho Villa and he'd work the register. It was supposedly a favorite hangout of ZZ Top. It had a funky atmosphere and a fairly generic array of standard Tex-Mex but it was real comfort food too and it was always good. I think it eventually burned down ... I was shocked when I came to town and saw only an awning ... no building anymore.

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I haven't lived in Houston for quite a while, but the place I miss is an old Mexican Restaurant that used to be on Shepherd Drive, Leo's ...

Old Leo supposedly used to ride with Pancho Villa and he'd work the register. It was supposedly a favorite hangout of ZZ Top. It had a funky atmosphere and a fairly generic array of standard Tex-Mex but it was real comfort food too and it was always good. I think it eventually burned down ... I was shocked when I came to town and saw only an awning ... no building anymore.

I think you got the right restaurant but got mixed up on the location.

Leo's was just off washington a couple of blocks east of heights blvd.

It's where the "new" Heights Star Pizza location is.

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I think you got the right restaurant but got mixed up on the location.

Leo's was just off washington a couple of blocks east of heights blvd.

It's where the "new" Heights Star Pizza location is.

No, he's right. The original Leo's was on Shepherd between Welch and Fairview. The awning, as mentioned, that used to lead to the front door is still there. Leo's moved to Washington Ave after years and years of being on Shepherd. Now there is a car wash or a car detailing place there. I think the only thing they brought to the Washington location was the sign.

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No, he's right. The original Leo's was on Shepherd between Welch and Fairview. The awning, as mentioned, that used to lead to the front door is still there. Leo's moved to Washington Ave after years and years of being on Shepherd. Now there is a car wash or a car detailing place there. I think the only thing they brought to the Washington location was the sign.

oops. i did not know that. cool.

any idea when they moved to washington?

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I think you got the right restaurant but got mixed up on the location.

Leo's was just off washington a couple of blocks east of heights blvd.

It's where the "new" Heights Star Pizza location is.

gnu knew the "new" heights Star Pizza location was the old Leo's, not the car wash!!

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We used to go to Leo's, and I remember the story of his riding with Villa. We also went to Old Mexico on Gray, Santa Anita downtown, and Felix on Westheimer. But, our favorite place was Del Rio on Shepherd near W. 26th. There is an electronics place there now.

Oh, man. Santa Anita. That was my grandmother's epitome of fine eating. I recall it as so-so, but it was pretty fancy ... at least to a kid in the 60s.

thefensk

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Even though it's only been gone a short time, I miss the original Antone's on Taft. The chain Antone's pale in comparison to the original locations. I don't even know how many 'original' stores exist.

I also miss ZuZu, which was on Shepherd near Fairview. It was Mexican fast food and I remember a salsa bar or something... it was quaint with good food.

All of these posts got me to thinking ... there used to be a dingy dirty looking Chinese Restaurant on Elgin, around Smith or Louisiana or maybe even up as far as Milam or Travis ... heading East it was on the right.

For a long time it was the Tin-Tin but later I think it was changed to Blue Star.

I still always called it Tin-tin. It looked like a greasy spoon cafe, but they had just about the absolute best Egg Foo Yung in the world.

For that matter, that was from the time when most Chinese restaurants had Chinese AND American food.

I have fond memories of another place in Bellaire called The Mayflower ... wonderful food. I worked not far from there and ate lunch there a lot and they must have had six different lunch menus, with different specials every day of both Chinese and American lunches. You could eat there every day and go quite a while without repeating yourself and if you didn't want Chinese you could get chicken fried steak or roast beef.

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I have another vague memory of a place I only went to a couple of times on Westheimer close to Montrose,

something like The Treehouse (it also had a Spanish or Italian name but always added Treehouse as a translation) ... it was built on a really strange floorplan with huge tree trunks throughout giving the impression that it really was a treehouse.

Nice place to take a date as most of the tables were set into little alcoves and were very private.

There was another short lived place on Westheimer in the same strip center with the old Budget Tapes and Records; it was a small Greek cafe called Kojak's. Their back room was set up almost like a grotto with weird stalagtite stuff hanging from the ceiling.

Killer gyros at that place ... in fact I had never seen gryros on a menu before that place. A line drawing of Telly Savalas on the cover of the menu really added to the funky charm of the place. Today the litigation police would have swooped down on them within minutes of opening.

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I have another vague memory of a place I only went to a couple of times on Westheimer close to Montrose,

something like The Treehouse (it also had a Spanish or Italian name but always added Treehouse as a translation) ... it was built on a really strange floorplan with huge tree trunks throughout giving the impression that it really was a treehouse.

Nice place to take a date as most of the tables were set into little alcoves and were very private.

Was that Los Troncos restaurant?

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There was one on Hillcroft near Robert E. Lee High School in the mid 70s also.

Wow. Not sure about HBG, but there was another fancy burger place on Hilcroft near Lee ... can't think of the name. There were phones on the tables and you "called in" your order.

On the whole HBG on Kirby thing ... the original poster had it right, there was one down toward West University, in fact it was IN West University. I remember this because a friend of mine managed it for a while and he was complaining to me that they had WEEKLY health inspections instead of monthly like in Houston. They had a full-time health inspector who didn't have enough restaurants to inspect I guess.

We both had previously worked at the kirby location of Rolando's Burger Factory, which was between Alabama and Westheimer. I was Rolando's original employee at that location and trained at his original original location on Richmond in a reformed coffee shop that was close to Woodhead between Woodhead and Dunlavy.

The Kirby location was originally a really lame Jack-in-the-Box copycat called The Pied Piper, which I remember because I helped him clean it out and got tired of the stupid Pied Piper logo on the zillions of bags and such we were throwing out. The place was filthy!

Over a period of many months Rolando took the shell of the building and rebuilt it, expanding the dining room and changing (some might say creating) the decor as he built the business.

I think this may have also been the location of a 50s era fried chicken place called The Chicken Shack. Pre-KFC, or pre-KFC restaurant I might say since originally Col Sanders was selling the KFC concept as an add-in. I remember some cafeteria downtown featured Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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Wow. Not sure about HBG, but there was another fancy burger place on Hilcroft near Lee ... can't think of the name. There were phones on the tables and you "called in" your order.

I remember going to a burger place in the late 60's or early 70's where you phoned in your order from the table. It was called "Round the Corner". Your phone rang when your order was ready to be picked up. I think it was on Hillcroft...Food was great. I went to one in Denver a few years ago and I think they are still doing good business..

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  • 2 weeks later...

Across the Street

I remember going to a burger place in the late 60's or early 70's where you phoned in your order from the table. It was called "Round the Corner". Your phone rang when your order was ready to be picked up. I think it was on Hillcroft...Food was great. I went to one in Denver a few years ago and I think they are still doing good business..
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  • The title was changed to Defunct Historic Houston Restaurants

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