Personally, I prefer eating at restaurants with rich histories, restaurants that started as improbable dreams and grew into thriving businesses. Most fail within the first three years, so the fact that so many in Texas have been around for nearly (or even over) a century is truly amazing. Dining at long-standing restaurants essentially ensures you’ll get quality food, service, and an overall enjoyable experience that will make you want to go back – and these 11 are no exception.
1. Scholz Garten, 1866 (Austin)
Of course I had to start the list off with not only the oldest restaurant in Texas, but the oldest operating business altogether. It was founded by a German immigrant/Civil War veteran who wanted a place for the German community of Austin to gather, enjoy traditional food and beer, and just feel a little more at home. Although it caters to all demographics now, you can still dine on delicious German food like this soft pretzel with different dipping sauces. They do serve good old American food for all you less adventurous people out there. Oh, and there's usually live bands playing outside, so you get dinner and a show at no extra cost!
2. OST Restaurant, 1921 (Bandera)
O.S.T. stands for Old Spanish Trail, the route that used to run across the Southern U.S. to improve highway access. O.S.T. Restaurant is one of the few remaining restaurants along the route, and its unique atmosphere and delicious food draw large crowds on a daily basis. Sit in the "John Wayne Room" or pretend you're a cowboy by hopping on a saddle-topped bar stool complete with stirrups. Either way, you'll be taken back in time to the Old West as soon as you walk through the door.
3. Gaidos (Galveston)
More than just a restaurant, Gaidos is an iconic landmark. You know you're on the island when you see the big blue crab atop the roof from miles away. Since 1911, it's been serving some of the freshest, most flavorful seafood on the Gulf Coast, probably because everything is made from scratch. After withstanding two major hurricanes, I'd say Gaidos is determined to remain a permanent fixture on the seawall - you won't see me complaining about that because I've truly never had better seafood.
4. Lankford Grocery and Market, 1938 (Houston)
Lankford opened in 1938 as a grocery store before evolving into a restaurant. Houstonians rave about the quality of the burgers they serve - you can tell after the first bite that skill and passion were put into them. Their menu offers several interesting options like a mac 'n cheese burger and guacamole burger, but if traditional is more your style, you can bet your bottom dollar they have that, too.
5. Kincaid's Hamburgers, 1947 (Fort Worth)
Like Lankford, Kincaid's was also a grocery store and meat market before becoming a burger joint in 1964. The business took off almost immediately, and now there are six locations serving up mouthwatering burgers with a side of an inspiring backstory (and fries, of course).
6. Black's Barbecue, 1932 (Lockhart)
You didn't think I'd leave out the oldest BBQ restaurant in Texas, did you? Black's is still run by the very same family that started the business nearly a century ago, and it's very evident that they've had years to work together and perfect their craft. Their meats are slow-smoked, tender, juicy, and extremely flavorful, and all the sides are immaculate as well. Black's is definitely an obligatory Texas experience, y'all.
7. Blue Bonnet Cafe, 1929 (Marble Falls)
This quaint Southern diner has been serving up homecooked meals for decades. Some of the servers have been working there for 25+ years and have formed unique relationships with the regular customers. Their delicious pies are made from scratch daily and are sure to delight the taste buds of even the pickiest eaters.
8. Hut's Hamburgers, 1939 (Austin)
At Hut's, your burger comes with a side of onion rings, a malt shake, and a heaping dose of nostalgia. You'll long for childhood days of sock hops and soda fountains as you dine in the 50s atmosphere. Although still aesthetically vintage, the current owners have made plenty of changes to the menu. Since 1969, 20 additional burgers, all named after music legends, have been added. I've heard the Ritchie Valen's burger is one of the best.
9. De Wese's Tip Top Cafe, 1938 (San Antonio)
If you ever get tired of Mexican food in San Antonio and find yourself craving a good old fashioned Southern meal, Tip Top Cafe is the place to go. Tender yet crispy chicken-fried steak, roast beef that cuts like butter, and some of the best onion rings you'll ever eat are just some of the menu options. Plus, the waitstaff has the Southern hospitality characteristic of these down-home kinds of restaurants. A meal here won't be a wasted one, that's for sure.
10. Southside Market & Barbecue, 1882 (Elgin)
The iconic Elgin Sausage this restaurant dishes out is so popular because they've had 134 years to perfect it. It all started with the big dreams of a butcher, and evolved into two thriving businesses (and several more menu items). Sure, the buildings have been renovated a few times and the menu has been updated to offer more variety, but the history and legendary sausage still remain.
11. Cattlemen's Steak House, 1947 (Fort Worth)
Cattlemen's was established by a businessman who risked everything to fulfill his dream of owning a steak house. Luckily, that dream became a incredible reality - the restaurant, located in the Stockyards, has become internationally known for its prime steaks. They're juicy, bursting with flavor, and portioned for Texas-sized appetites. Don't miss an opportunity to eat here, y'all.
Have you been to any of these long-time restaurants in Texas? Which one is your favorite?