Twice a year, I have a date to dine at the Taste of Texas. This, the only regular date that I have ever set in my life, is also my most anticipated – a meal with my immediate family in December to celebrate the holiday season and in July to revel in mine and my sister’s summer birthdays. My family has been visiting this West Houston restaurant for years, before I could even digest the certified Angus steak which I now salivate just thinking about, or before I could even reach the table without the aid of a booster seat. But the Taste of Texas, which opened in 1977, isn’t just a part of my family’s history—it functions as a vessel of Texas history too.
Taste of Texas
10505 Katy Fwy.
Adorning the walls of the lodge-like structure is a plethora of artifacts (many of which are reproductions, but impressive nevertheless) from historic Texas events, both past and present.
The six flags of Texas fly high over the massive fireplace in the main entrance welcoming newcomers and letting them know that their dining experience will be more than just a culinary event. Through the main doors, you're immediately greeted by a variety of stuffed animal heads that contribute to the rustic atmosphere, fittingly right next to a slew of firearms. One is even a replica of Davy Crockett’s famous rifle, Old Betsy.
An original Sam Houston signature is framed next to the waiting area where customers can snack on popcorn, nachos, and soda before being called to their table is. The "S" in the signature looks more like an "I," almost sending a grandiose message after all these years that, “I am Houston”—or rather that he was.
On the way to the main dining area, a star comprised of 275 rattlesnake “rattlers” decorates the walls. At Christmas time, a set of snowy village houses with singing and dancing components line this corridor, always with a line of excited children waiting to watch the animated entertainment.
Of course, the journey through Texas and Houston history wouldn’t be complete without a reference to the present. Or rather, the near present. Located by the restrooms—which are also full of framed artifacts and old documents—are signed Houston Astros jerseys of Bayou City greats like Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.
As a museum inside of a restaurant, the Taste of Texas gets a variety of visitors, from the President of Taiwan to Congressman John Culberson. And cumulatively, over the past 37 years, 300,000 Houston area fourth graders.
Nina Hendee, one of the restaurant’s owners, gives tours to these fourth grade classes from around the city, showcasing all of the restaurant’s historical element and the sometimes raining freezer while ending with a lunch of chicken fingers and fries—with no added charge to the schools.
Almost 12 years later, I still remember my own tour of the restaurant and realize that as much as the Taste of Texas highlights our state’s history, it has also become a part of my own.