Couple’s Dallas retro diner tour adds 5 stops from readers
Published: 19 Jun 2017
Sometimes we’re oblivious to the obvious..
That’s what happened in a quest to find every restaurant and bar that is still standing after at least four decades in a town known for dining fickleness.
Hot one day, closed the next.
Last month, I told you about Randy and Paige Flink’s goal to visit every Dallas restaurant that is in the exact location, dishing up the same fare as it was when they made their separate ways to Big D in 1977.
Randy, president of Championship Financial Advisors and list-loving sentimentalist, came up with the idea as an homage to the couple’s journey together. Paige, the CEO of The Family Place, is along for the ride.
We invited you to add to the list and got dozens of suggestions.
The first Retro Dining Tour included 36 establishments. That’s grown to 41. They plan to eat or drink at each by year’s end — without gaining too many pounds.
Good luck with that.
Several of you pointed out one glaring omission. The original Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has been on the corner of North Central Expressway and Henderson Avenue for 76 years, giving it bragging rights as the oldest local eatery in the same location. It supplants even the downtown El Fenix, which started 99 years ago on McKinney Avenue but moved across the street in 1965.
Roland Dickey Sr. was typically homespun about the unintentional slight.
“Well, I’ve been left out of things my whole life,” Dickey quips. “That’s why I got married — so somebody is legally required to remember me. As far as Dickey’s being remembered, I’m just thankful our customers know we’ve been smokin’ quality brisket since 1941.”
Randy and I spent hours culling other suggestions to find four keepers: Bobo’s China on Church Road, Circle Grill on North Buckner Boulevard, Hickory House Barbecue on South Riverfront Boulevard and Gonzales on Bruton Road.
They along with Dickey’s have been added to the Retro Diner Tour map.
We gave honorable mentions to Snuffer’s on Greenville Avenue and Tachito’s on West Illinois — even though both opened their doors in 1978 — figuring Snuffer’s cheese fries and Tachito’s queso and kick-butt hot sauce deserve asterisks.
The honorable discards — including Odom’s Bar-B-Que, Al’s Pizzeria, Adair’s, Casita Tex Mex Bar, Wingfield's Breakfast & Burgers, The Original Market Diner, Pete’s Cafe and Tolbert’s — didn’t pass muster for one or multiple reasons. Some weren't old enough, had moved, changed their names or concepts or weren’t in Dallas proper.
The original Chili’s on Greenville Avenue is long gone. Herrera’s on Maple Avenue opened in 1975, but closed in 2014 and reopened on Sylvan Avenue.
Chelsea’s Corner is at its original 1970’s McKinney location. But it’s a return engagement for the funky bar and grill.
A reader suggested Old Mill Inn in Fair Park. Turns out, the stone building with waterwheel was El Chico from 1965 to 1975, then Youngblood’s Fried Chicken before becoming Old Mill Inn in 1981.
Paige and Randy have bellied up to more than a dozen spots.
“The highlight thus far was having control over the shuffleboard table at the Inwood Tavern,” he says. “We have suppressed our urge to critique these places. We are much more interested in enjoying the ride with friends. In a way, it’s like driving on Route 66.”
Keller’s Drive-In on Northwest Highway was hopping on a recent Wednesday night — replete with a half-dozen cars with their hoods jacked up.
“We did a double take while eating our double hamburgers and tater tots,” says Randy, who figures it was a hot-rod group showing off engines or marking territory in a crowded lot.
He also notes that the outdoor menu board, features #1, #3, #5 and #8 as specials. “No telling what became of #2, #4, #6 and #7.”
Lamenting the dearly departed
Readers shared personal moments along with their lists of long-lost favorites. Among them: Prince of Hamburgers, Goff's on Lover's Lane, The Hungry Jockey, the original Arthur’s on Central and Lucas B&B.
Dallas resident Thomas Johnston has kept a diary of every place — some 2,000 establishments — that he’s patronized since his arrival in 1979. He included a 70-plus-page attachment. Too much to digest for this column.
Dallas wealth manager Robert Cooksey, who’s married to PR exec Gail Cooksey, reminisced about their first date 35 years ago at St. Martin’s Wine Bistro on Greenville. They’re going to celebrate their 33rd anniversary there later this month.
“Gail reminded me about those cinnamon rolls at Southern Kitchen, and I remembered Club Schmitz (11-napkin cheeseburger, long-necks and Patsy Cline) and the Mecca Café,” Cooksey wrote.
Sue Miller opined the loss of the Ports O' Call atop the Southland Life Building, once the tallest in town and now a Sheraton Hotel.
“It was romantic and mystical,” Miller says. “The decor was like Polynesian ports. The tables had gorgeous views of the city in all directions. Wonderful and magical place.”
There are undoubtedly overlooked haunts, but nominations are closed.
Randy and Paige have more than they can say grace over.