Gone But Not Forgotten Houston Eateries.

Bill Williams Chicken House. We haven’t exactly forgotten the Bill Williams Chicken House that used to advertise chicken fried “savage style” with the neon image of a Native American brave (formerly Indian warrior) squatting and cooking over a campfire. In fact, I’ve mentioned the place here in the past.  Today I simply ran across an old restaurant menu that recently went to auction on Ebay. Based upon what we can see in the photo, the menu had to be from the 1940s at the latest. It advertises “BWCH” as “opposite Rice Stadium on South Main.” That means it was produced during the period in which Rice still used the old Rice Stadium on South Main as their football venue. Football moved to the “new” 70,000 seat Rice Stadium in 1950.

It’s an interesting graphic. A chicken is on trial. We must presume that the bird was charged with being plump, juicy, and delicious because the heartless chicken judge and jury have just found him guilty and “sentenced (him) to fry.” The Internet piece also notes the availability of soft drinks, coffee, and iced tea available at nickel and dime size prices. Iced tea today in most Houston restaurants probably costs more than a whole fried chicken meal for two at Bill Williams back in the day.

Of course, I always have to mention her when it comes to Bill Williams memories, I’ll never forget the fortune-teller robot woman in the glass box near the door. For a dime or so you could have your fortune read before you walked out the door after a Bill Williams chicken dinner. I should have listened to her. I think she’s was trying to tell me: “Cut back on the fried food, boy! One of these days, your pipes are going to clog!” Professional buildings surrounding the Texas Medical Center swallowed Bill Williams years ago. They didn’t even pause long enough to fry him savage style.

Weldon’s Cafeteria. Heading north from Bill Williams, we wind our way to my all-time favorite cafeteria back in the 1940s and 1950s. Weldon’s served the most delicious chicken and dumplings I ever tasted outside my mom’s own kitchen. Weldon’s was located on the site and in the same building that later housed the Massey Business College for years. I’m not sure what’s there now.

Kelly’s Steakhouse. Just up the road and barely south of downtown on South Main, we had Kelly’s Steakhouse, one of best early steakhouses I ever visited as a kid. I’m not sure how Dad swung it, but he took us there once in a blue moon on Sundays. I can’t recall what’s there now in 2010.

Bill Bennett’s Grill. Thanks to fellow St. Thomas High School Class of 1956 classmate A.J. Garney for opening the memory door on this favorite haunt. Wow! How could I have forgotten. In our trip up South Main, we turn right on Pierce and head to LaBranch. At LaBranch near St. Joseph Hospital, we turn right again and take another right at Jefferson (now St. Joseph Parkway) and there it is on the left: Bill Bennett’s Grill. As A.J. so fondly recalls, Bill Bennett’s served these great homemade all-you-can-eat biscuits and practically everything else that could be grilled or fried – and at the modest prices we could all afford as high school guys out there on the original rock-n-roll boogie trail. I’m not sure when Bill Bennett’s closed, but it came down when TXDOT acted to use that space for that section of the downtown freeway we now call the Pierce Elevator. Oh well. It was great while it lasted – as were we and the times of our youth. Thanks for the memories, AJ!

If you can think of any other places that have breezed through the sieve of my memory bank about the 1940s or 1950s, please let me know what they are and what you remember of them. As always, I’ll do what I can here to help Houston remember what we’ve lost or given up in the name of progress over time.

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26 Responses to “Gone But Not Forgotten Houston Eateries.”

  1. Micahel R. McCroskey Says:

    What was the restaurant, downtown and close to the Pierce elevated, that was owned by James Street’s father. I remember going in there in the late 60’s and seeing all kinds of University of Texas memorabilia. Don’t remember the name though, or the food. It might even still be there.

    Mike

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Mike:

    I have only vague memories of such a place in that area. I had dinner with Barbara Jordan in a place near St. Joseph in about 1972, but I cannot recall the name of the restaurant. Maybe someone else will get a bellringer from the UT motif and help us out here with a comment post.

  3. Dr. D. Says:

    What about Valian’s on Main. The best spaghetti and meatballs with melted cheese and mushrooms! And George was a real gentleman.
    And was it Ray Hey’s in your old neighborhood?
    And Rettigs(sic?) on Holcombe for the 9 high sundae!

  4. Beth Says:

    I remember when about 5 or 6 years old (about 1955) my grandparents would take my sister and me to Bill Williams. I don’t remember much about it only that it tasted good and it was a special treat to go out with them. Also very nearby was a little place where they had ponies that children could ride. Would you know anything about that?

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Beth:

      The place with the ponies was called “Kiddie Wonderland” and it was located at Main and Kirby from the 1930s through the mid 1990s. Now, like a lot of old Houston landmarks, it is gone forever – without a trace left of it ever having been there.

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  7. Jay Francis Says:

    You might get a kick out of a project I’ve decided to tackle in 2013. I am visiting and photographing as many of the small town German/Czech community fried chicken picnics this year.
    http://www.thefriedchickenblog.blogspot.com

    I, too, remember Sundays at Weldon’s downtown.

    Regards, Jay

  8. Kathy Cook Says:

    Eateries I remember:
    Sonny Look’s Sirloin House
    Houston Broiler Burger over in River Oaks area
    Allbritton’s Cafeteria

  9. Kathy Cook Says:

    Opps…I meant Britains Broiler Burger

  10. Judy Woodard Says:

    I´m doing research on the old Port City Stockyards in Houston – not the Sealy one – and I know the “Yards” opened in 1931 by the Satwelle group and some friends – and it closed in 1968. I´can´t seem to find out when the restaurant at the Stockyards opened – although I know it closed in 1968. Help!!! and Thank you.

  11. allan Says:

    seems i remember ; albert gee’s- polyasian— bud bigelow’s- hebert’s-suzanne’s cafeteria-chris-coney island-trader vics- the red lion-sand monutain- los troncos-burgerville- brittains broiler burger-on- westheimer at greenbriar- dobbs house- el chico international–pier 21-timmy chan’s–lotts grill-galli’s spaghetti house-alfred’s delicatessen- village-confedrate house- spago’s- shakey’s pizza-prince’s hamburger/ mainstreet-lee’s inn-lani- terrace- shamrock hotel-cork club-rice hotel- massa’s oyster house-hmm- im hungry now, bye!

    • Mike A Says:

      WOW what a great set of walks down memory lane- so many others too like Kaphan’s, Kelley’s Steakhouse, the oyster bar across from The Rice, what was the chinese place on W. Gray in R Oaks Shopping center, the Cathay House in the Med Center, previous comments about Valian’s delicious Italian

      • Jazz Paz Says:

        Was there an ice cream parlor, in the late 50s, early 60s with a name that sounded to a little girl (who was quite hard of hearing) like “2K’s”?

        I’m sure I remember our gramma taking my sister and I there, but my sister who is 18 months younger thinks I must’ve dreamt it.

      • Mike A Says:

        Two ice cream places I recall one with various locations- RETTIGS and yep, 2Ks was in the Sakowitz shopping center at Post Oak.

  12. John Says:

    One of the “Savages” that sat a top Bill Williams Chicken House is now in Somerville Tx, Google (Somerville, Indian) and you’ll see it

  13. Frankie Scalise Says:

    Joe Matranga’s Ding A Ling Italian Rest.On Fulton st..Christies downtown for Seafood.De Paul’s Italian Restarante on Shepherd.Pig Stand On North Main & Shepherd dr.Rice Hotel On Texas Ave.Shamrock Hlton.Many Weddings.Majestic Theatre on Main.james Coney Island on Texas Ave.

  14. lisab602 Says:

    The best pizza ever! Only once have I tasted a pizza that could compare to Valian’s, and, by accident I made it!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Lisa, A lot of us are hoping you recorded the recipe for your “accidental” Valians-like pizza. If you did, please post it here. If not, at least, tell us the ingredients you used, especially the cheeses.

  15. Jazz Paz Says:

    Does anyone recall the piKniKchiK item on Weldon’s menu is the late 1950s/1960s? What was with the three capital Ks?

    • Asa Weldon Says:

      Howdy, I’m John Asa Weldon. I know both my Mother and Father worked choosing the name; why K’s, maybe to avoid others who might’ve had C’s. Allyn ( Robert ‘Bob’ ) Advertizing were creative forces and with my Father’s suggestion ( and my cousin George Ernest Weldon ) selected stylish 50’s fat chickens and warm farm like yellow – brown colors. My Father was especially pleased ( mid 1960’s ) he told Mother, ” Alma, I saw empty Pik Nik Chik box in Domeskeller at the Astrodome ! “. What a blast. My folks were sharp bidness people. Thank you very much ! Asa Weldon facebook.

  16. George Formaro Says:

    Does anyone have details about the Savage fried chicken? Was it batter or breaded ? Is there any place around that is like it?

  17. Charlie R. Says:

    I worked as an elevator operator at the Houston National Bank. There was a tunnel that connected Houston Natural Gas building and across the street was James Coney Island. I ate there every weekend and would have a ham and cheese on rye with chips. VERY cheap lunch. But I would get 5 hot dogs for $1.00 and have a feast on days I was really hungry or would share with my brother who also worked at Houston National Bank in the maintenance department. James’ had small school desks in the store for those that wanted to eat in. There was a guy there with only one hand but was amazing to watch work. Was in high school at the time and worked overtime in HNG bldg on occasion and it was really difficult looking out the glass doors at James.

  18. mutinyinthetumbrel Says:

    Hat’s off to you for this stroll down memory’s hall.Curious to find out whatever became of “Eric’s” on Clear Lake ,”Prufrock’s” where many of us had our first imported beer, Lillianne’s Maison D’Crepe”,the Dobbs’ House on Sage@Woodway w/the great juke box and cool Japanese nautical engineering student as the “chef”.And last ,but in no way least -“Jamies” the most decadent burger($5) in Houston at the time,1968.

    • Jazz Says:

      Weren’t there several Dobb’s Houses in town back then? Were they coffee shops?

      Remember Prince’s Drive In? With the carhops on skates? Long time ago!

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