Editor's Picks

Houston's Half-Century Club: The Best of the Old Guard

Celebrating those stalwart spots still going strong after half a century

By Katharine Shilcutt June 1, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Fried shrimp and onion rings at Christie's Seafood & Steaks

In a city where “history” is a tab on your Internet browser, it takes a lot for a restaurant to make it past the 50-year mark. Here, we celebrate those stalwart spots still going strong after half a century.

Avalon Diner

Though none of this beloved diner’s three locations across the city are the original Avalon Drug Co. & Diner that first opened at 2518 Kirby in 1938, all still serve its famous all-day breakfast, daily blue-plate specials (get the chicken-fried steak, served every day at lunch) and old-fashioned malts and milkshakes so thick you’ll need a spoon.

Barbecue Inn

The rotary phone hanging on the wood-paneled wall at this Independence Heights institution is a clear indication that the family-run restaurant has been serving up its nationally renowned plates of fried chicken since 1946.

Christie’s Seafood & Steaks

Founded in 1917, this is the city’s oldest family-run restaurant, and a favorite of both George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker. The fried shrimp with homemade remoulade and onion rings is rightfully famous, but for a healthier option, get the equally popular chargrilled Greek snapper basted with lemon, olive oil and herbs.

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It's not Donnelly's without Christmas lights and Coca-Cola signs on the walls.

Donnelly’s Restaurant

Long before anyone had christened Houston as Mutt City, this veteran Baytown eatery was stocking its menu with a motley but lovable mix of fried catfish, tamales, hamburgers and chicken-and-dumplings. While it was originally opened by the Pace family in 1939, Clara Mae Donnelly bought the place in 1972, adding the iconic Coca-Cola memorabilia that now lines its walls.

Doyle’s Restaurant

This Oak Forest stalwart has been serving hearty plates of lasagna and meatball subs since Leo Doyle opened the place with his sister Cloe more than 60 years ago. Beware: It’s closed on the weekends, so be sure to get your fill during the week.

Guy’s Meat Market

The Dickens family lived over the original incarnation of this market on Almeda, first opened by patriarch Brad C. “Guy” Dickens in 1938. Today the restaurant, now on OST, finds Guy’s son Brad behind the counter instead of above it, serving the same barbecue and house-ground hamburgers that made the place famous.

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There's never been a day since JCI opened that it hasn't had a line at lunch.

JCI Grill

Known as James Coney Island from its 1923 founding by Greek immigrants and brothers Tom and James Papadakis until its 2013 rebranding, this is Houston’s home for hot dogs—whatever you want to call it. Though gourmet sausages and salads now dot the menu, the Classic Plate is still our favorite: an original Coney with mustard and onions, plus a Frito pie topped with sweet JCI chili.

Lankford Grocery

This little spot in Montrose has been serving some of Houston’s greatest hamburgers since they became a menu item in the late 1970s, but the Lankford family actually opened the place as a fruit stand in 1938. Today, the menu also features daily breakfast specials such as migas and French toast. The now-legendary enchilada plate appears only on Wednesdays.

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The iconic Three Brothers sign outside the Braeswood location

Molina’s Cantina

“A Houston tradition since 1941,” reads the menu at this Tex-Mex favorite, which now has three locations and is owned by the third generation of the Molina family. The classic Mexico City combo is still served on three big plates filled with enchiladas, tacos, a tamale and more (so much more).

Three Brothers Bakery

Over the course of 67 years and five generations of the Jucker family, this Braeswood-born-and-raised bakery still makes the same gingerbread, challah loaves, rye bread and bagels that made it famous. Today there’s three locations, and they’re baking up beautifully decorated cakes, cookies, pastries and pies, too.


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