In Houston’s restaurant scene, high value is often placed on innovation, novelty and newness -on the trendiest restaurant, the most unique dining experience or the latest foodie fad. It is no wonder, then, that so many of the city’s oldest eateries have disappeared.
Fortunately, not all of the area’s old eateries are a thing of the past. Several Houston-area stalwarts have managed to keep their doors open for decades.
Listed chronologically by opening date, here’s a look at the longstanding Houston-area restaurants, cafes, bars and bakeries still going strong after over a half-century in business. Note that the first three establishments listed here are more than a century old and belong in an elite league of their own.
Founded by San Giacinto Gaido in 1911, the Galveston institution has offered generations of beach goers ocean views and fresh local seafood. Fourth-generation Gaidos own and run the seafood restaurant to this day. The restaurant is located at 3828 Seawall Boulevard.
Located on the corner of 14th St. and Market St. in Galveston’s Historic District, The Original Mexican Cafe is the longest continually operating restaurant on Galveston Island still at its original location.
Theodore Christie first opened Christie’s restaurant in Galveston in 1917 as a fried fish po’ boy shop. Soon after, he moved his restaurant to Houston, where he opened five additional locations. In 1967, James Priovolos -- Theodore’s adoptive son-- and his cousin Steve bought the restaurant from Theodore. As Theodore had no children of his own, James and Steve changed their family names so that the Christie name would live on. Theodore passed away in 1968. James passed away in 2013. His children own and operate the only Christie’s restaurant location still operating. Situated at 6029 Westheimer Road, the location has been open since 1965.
Brothers Tom and James Papadakis opened their first restaurant in 1923 on the ground floor of the Beatty-West Building on Walker and Main in downtown Houston. A flip of the coin decided which brother’s name would grace the sign. Obviously, James won. Following the success of its original location, several additional locations followed. There are currently 17 locations operating in and around Houston.
A beloved area institution since 1928, West Alabama Ice House is located at 1919 West Alabama Street in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. The institution opened as an ice house peddling blocks of ice. Over the years, as its functions as an ice house grew ever more obsolete, the business evolved into a local watering hole and now functions as an outdoor patio bar.
Brothers Gus and Raymond Moeller started the small bakery on Almeda Road back in 1930.
Houston’s oldest family-owned bakery has changed locations twice over the course of 90 years and is currently located on the south side of Bellaire Boulevard, west of Wesleyan Street. Despite nearly a century in business, the Houston institution has stuck firmly to its roots -- The bakery still uses the same oven that it used in 1942 and bakes its desserts following the recipes Gus crafted back in 1930.
Doug Prince opened his first burger joint in Dallas in 1929. Soon after, he relocated to Houston to build his burger empire. He opened his first Houston restaurant in a former Weber’s Root Beer stand on Main Street and went on to open an additional 20-something drive-ins and restaurants. Though the chain expanded to other cities like San Antonio and Beaumont, the bulk of the restaurants remained concentrated in the Houston area. Prince’s Hamburgers closed its last Houston location at 3425 Ella Blvd. at the beginning of 2018 due to issues resulting from Hurricane Harvey. In October 2020, current owner John Broussard revived the iconic restaurant at a new location inside the clubhouse at the Sharpstown Park Golf Course.
Texas barbecue legend John Davis and his wife Leila opened the historic Houston restaurant in 1935 as Shepherd Drive Bar-B-Q. After the couple passed away, longtime customer Jerry Pizzitola bought the business, renamed it and got to work restoring it to its former glory. Upon his retirement in 2019, Pizzitola sold the barbecue joint to veteran restaurateur Willie Madden. The barbecue joint continues to smoke its meat on the brick pits John used back in the day.
Young newlyweds Herman and Lorene Brenner opened the original Brenner’s in 1936 under the name Brenner’s Cafe. The restaurant served light fare including breakfast food, sandwiches, fried chicken and some steaks, which were rarely sold because few people could afford them. In the early 1950′s, the Brenner’s began serving prime beef filets and the restaurant’s evolution into a renowned Houston steakhouse began. Herman passed away in 1976 at the age of 67. His wife continued to operate the business for many years thereafter but ultimately closed the restaurant in 2002. In an effort to preserve Houston’s history, Landry’s Inc. purchased the restaurant, revitalized the concept and opened an additional location.
Soon after Avalon Drug Store opened at the corner of Westheimer and Kirby in 1938, an informal restaurant of sorts began operating in the back dining room. The makeshift eatery ultimately evolved into a full-blown restaurant concept and now boasts four locations.
Lankford’s Grocery & Market opened in 1939 and continues to operate out of its original location, located at 88 Dennis St., near Houston’s Midtown neighborhood.
Dimitri and Peggy Bokos opened Tel-Wing Grill in 1940 and relocated the restaurant to its present location on Telephone Road in 1962.
Anabelle Collins and Martha Kavanaugh opened Cleburne’s Cafeteria on Fannin Street in 1941. In 1952, newlyweds Nick and Pat Mickelis bought it from the pair and in 1969 relocated the restaurant to its current location on Bissonnet Street. Throughout its history, the restaurant has burned down and been rebuilt twice.Today, Nick and Pat’s son, George Mickelis, runs the restaurant.
Houston’s oldest family-owned Tex-Mex restaurant got its start in 1941when Raul Molina and his wife Mary purchased the restaurant where Raul had been employed for 10 years-- the Old Monterrey Restaurant, located at 1919 West Gray. Throughout the decades, Raul and his sons opened and moved various Molina’s Cantina locations throughout Houston. Raul’s grandsons now own and operate the three locations currently operating. Many of the restaurant’s original recipes remain on the menu.
Louis and Nell Skrehot opened The Barbecue Inn in 1946. Their son Wayne and his son David now run the business, which continues to operate at its original location on West Crosstimbers Street in Houston’s Greater Heights/Garden Oaks area.
Touted as Houston’s oldest bar, Leon’s Lounge opened in Midtown at 1006 McGowen back in 1947.
The Midtown-area institution has been serving Houston since 1948. Greek immigrant Johnny Platsas and his Ecuadorian wife Patricia acquired the restaurant in the early 1960s and added to the menu several dishes that reflected their heritage. The couple’s children Gianni and Zoi now operate the restaurant.
The iconic Three Brothers Bakery has served as a cornerstone of Houston’s Jewish community for generations. In 1945, Holcoaust survivors Sigmund, Sol and Max Jucker emigrated to Houston from Poland to start a new life. A few years later, in 1949, they opened Three Brothers Bakery on Holman Street, across from Temple Beth Israel.
Opening day wasn’t as successful as the brothers had hoped it would be -- They sold just $19 worth of product. But the brothers ventured on. They learned to make American cakes and pastries but ultimately gained distinction for their Jewish and Eastern European recipes, which included challah, rye bread and Kaiser rolls. It’s said the trio was the first to bring the bagel to Houston. They survived on Holman with one parking place for five years and in May 1955, they moved the bakery to Almeda Street at Southmore. The great parking made them successful enough to move again to South Braeswood in May, 1960, a location that remains open to this day.
In 2012 and 2014, TBB opened two more locations on Kingsride Lane near Memorial City Mall and Washington Ave. off Shepherd, respectively.
Fifth-generation Juckers own and operate Three Brothers Bakery today.
Goodson’s Cafe opened in Tomball in 1950. Several years later, one of its employees, Ella “Ma” Goodson, bought the cafe, which soon after began catering to the oil field workers nearby. Over the years, the cafe gained distinction for its chicken fried steak, which has been featured in several publications and programs both locally and nationally. The restaurant is located at 27931 State Highway 249.
This unassuming bakery in southeast Houston has proved its staying power. Opened in 1956, The Original Kolache Shoppe serves up savory and sugary treats galore: Notable mentions include klobasniky, sweet kolaches and Texas-sized croissants.
La Carafe began operating out of 813 Congress St., the city’s oldest commercial building still in use, back in 1958.
In 1959, Frank and Mattie Jones opened This Is It in an A-frame house at 1003 Andrews, located in Freedmen’s Town, a predominantly African American neighborhood in Fourth Ward. The restaurant has relocated multiple times and now operates at 2712 Blodgett in Houston’s Third Ward. Frank and Mattie’s grandson Craig Joseph now owns and operates the restaurant.
Opened in 1961, Stanton’s City Bites began as a family-run grocery store. Over the years, it evolved into a burger joint, which currently operates at 1420 Edwards St.
The Tex-Mex restaurant opened in 1964 and currently operates at 6444 Westheimer Road.
Houston native Tony Vallone opened the first Tony’s restaurant in 1955. Tony’s has moved three times since it began operating and currently resides at 3755 Richmond Avenue in Greenway Plaza.
Brennan’s opened in 1967 as a sister restaurant to the world-famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.
Dot Coffee Shop was the first of many restaurants opened by the Pappas family. Since 1967, the diner has been serving up comfort food favorites like chicken fried steak, pot roast and pecan pie. The eatery still operated out of its original location, situated at 7006 I-45 South at Woodridge.
Flying Saucer Pie Company, the beloved bakery in Houston’s Independence Heights neighborhood has proved its staying power. Opened in 1967, the Houston institution has baked thousands and thousands of pies in its time.
Burger Park opened in Houston in 1968 and is currently located at 6704 Martin Luther King Blvd.
In 1969, New Orleans native and Houston transplant Percy “Frenchy” Creuzot opened Frenchy’s as a po-boy shop on Scott Street, near UH and TSU.The small establishment soon added fried chicken to its menu. Following the success of its original location, several additional locations followed and a local fried chicken empire was born.
Now a mainstay of the city’s restaurant scene, China Garden began as the Chinese Food Products imports store in 1968. After a year of serving the community’s culinary needs, owners David and Marian Jue decided to switch gears and in 1969 they opened China Garden’s doors for the first time.
Whether it was a great meal or a special moment, share the fondest memories you’ve made at one of these longstanding Houston-area spots.