Considering most restaurants fail within their first two years, seeing eateries that have lasted decades or even a century lets you know the quality of the food is truly superb. Texas is absolutely full of such places – from big cities to small towns, we just know how to do food service in a way that keeps customers coming back for more. Visiting these restaurants is an amazing experience because they’re loaded with local history that you can feel as soon as you step across the threshold. Here are 9 old restaurants in Texas that have stood the test of time and are still going strong today.
1. Gaidos (Galveston)
San Giacinto Gaido opened his doors in 1911 with a die-hard determination to be the freshest, most popular seafood restaurant on the Gulf. I'd say he accomplished his mission, because the restaurant is still going as strong as ever after over a century of operation. Even as the times have changed and productivity has become the main focus in food service, Gaidos still peels every shrimp and fillets every fish by hand, and every sauce is made from scratch using old family recipes. Their cuisine is influenced by the melting pot of cultures on the Gulf coast: traditional deep-fried Southern cooking, Southwest open-flame grilling, and zesty Creole flavoring. Their restaurant is woven into the lives of countless families who return year after year for special events, and their food and service keep customers returning for more.
2. Scholz Garten (Austin)
Though not your typical old-timey Texas eatery, Scholz is definitely worth a mention given the fact that it's the oldest restaurant in Texas still in operation. It was founded in 1866 by August Scholz, a German immigrant and war veteran as a meeting place for Austin's German population. It has seen many historical events from the UT football team's celebration of their first undefeated season to Prohibition and its repeal. It's been slightly renovated over the years, but nothing too extreme so as to retain the rich history deeply embedded in its core.
3. Black's Barbecue (Lockheart)
Of course the oldest BBQ joint in Texas had to make the list. Black's has been serving up the best BBQ in Texas since 1932 and continues to be operated by the same family that originally opened it so many decades ago.
4. Casa Rio (San Antonio)
Casa Rio, translating to "River House" in Spanish, was the very first restaurant on the River Walk. It sits on land granted in 1777 by the King of Spain, and Spanish influence is very evident throughout the restaurant. The canoes, gondolas, and paddle boats that are so prevalent on the river today started right here at Casa Rio. Tex-Mex just tastes better when it's loaded with local history (and plenty of queso.)
5. Lankford Grocery (Houston)
Said to serve the "best burger in Houston," Lankford has had plenty of time to perfect their craft. They opened in 1938, starting as a fruit stand and quickly evolving into a Mom & Pop grocery store serving up deli sandwiches, hot plates, and mouthwatering burgers. Their mission statement is, "We have nothing small, nothing healthy, and nothing fast. We never give you a check, but that does not mean its free. You pay at the register as you leave. If you do not have 30 minutes to spend, you should try us another day. We have great food, but its not fast food. Everything is made to order just like you like it!" Their no-frills attitude is reflected in the old-fashioned hamburgers that the entire city of Houston raves about.
6. Blue Bonnet Cafe (Marble Falls)
This adorable diner has been in operation since 1929, serving up legendary pies, all-day breakfast, and down-home Southern cooking. It's won countless awards ranging from best restaurant in Texas to best service in Texas - not a surprising idea considering some of the employees have been working there for over 25 years. There are few restaurants that give you that unmistakable warm and fuzzy feeling upon entering, but this is definitely one of them.
7. Cattlemen's Steakhouse (Fort Worth)
Located in the historic Stockyards District, Cattlemen's has been around since 1947 dishing out some of the juiciest, most tender steak in the entire state of Texas. It may not be expensive, and it sure as heck isn't fancy, but we know that experience, passion, and history mean more than atmosphere when it comes to good eats.
8. Mi Tierra (San Antonio)
Easily the most iconic restaurant in San Antonio, Mi Tierra, located in the historic Mercado district, has been around since 1941. It started off as a three-table breakfast cafe for early-rising farmers and Mercado workers and is now a world-famous attraction for tourists and locals alike. The restaurant is a family business, operated today by the children and grandchildren of the original owners, Pete and Cruz Cortez. It's open 24 hours a day, so you can experience a slice of San Antonio history (and delicious authentic Mexican pastries) at all hours.
9. Keller's Drive-In (Dallas)
It might look rather unassuming, but the outside says nothing about the quality of their food. Dallas's original drive-in has been serving some of the most delicious, although simple, burgers in Texas for as long as locals can remember. It's the fast food of old and has a character and charm that can't be found anywhere else.
Have you eaten at any of these historic restaurants? What’s your favorite thing to eat at the ones you’ve been to? What other old restaurants in Texas are worth paying a visit to?