Checking out a former Cici’s Pizza in the shell of an old Burger King.

First off, welcome back loyal reader(s)! I’m sure there’s gotta be at least two of you. Sorry for the delay in updates, but I’ve been extremely busy lately. During my recent hiatus I continued to take photos, and I’m only now working through the backlog.

 

One of these photo sets was taken during a visit down S. Post Oak. I’m always interested in this part of town due to the history of the canceled Bay City Freeway. One of Houston’s few canceled freeways. On this trip, I found a former Cici’s Pizza which was obviously a reused fast food restaurant.

The Cici’s lineage was especially easy to make out thanks to the lablelscar at the top of the building. While, I could tell that something had been there before, I had trouble figured out what it was, mainly due to the addition of what looks like space for an indoor playground. Generally I can tell from something like a sign, but this sign proved to further the mystery.

Although a bit difficult to make out in the photo, the interior space was obviously part of the entire dining room by the point Cici’s vacated. They likely demolished the playground, and separating wall.

The next thing I noticed, was these half covered doors. The doors had obviously been welded shut, but the hinges were left on. Making this a bit harder to remove in the future.

The Drive-thru looked like it had possibly remained in service. This wouldn’t be the first Cici’s I know of to utilize a Drive-thru window for a pickup service.

From this angle, you can finally make out what restaurant used to be here. It was very obviously a 70s a Burger King. The single Drive-thru window with a canopy, the short mansard roof with the red ring, and what would have been the side entrance.

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Houston’s vegetarian friendly restaurants from 1995

Well after an impromptu hiatus I am glad to say I’m back. The post I’m bringing you this time is not picture based, but rather text based. Sometimes when researching things, you go off on a tangent. Most of the time this leads to two half written articles. However, this list what too interesting not to post. I found the following list, heavily heavily buried, while looking for On the Border Grill and Cantina’s original locations. I have decided to repost it, to help preserve it. The list looks to have been originated on Usenet, which was a group newsgroup which predates the modern internet. The full list can be viewed here. I have made some edits and additions to the content, which are represented in bold font.

Houston
——-

Vegetarian Restaurants:

Wonderful Vegetarian Restaurant, 7549 Westheimer (at Hillcroft),977-3137
– Vegan. Chinese Buddhist. Kosher. Very highly recommended. The only vegetarian restaurant in town. Many of the dishes may be too meat-like for some.
– Under new management in Summer of 1994. Menu is supposed to be revamped with an emphasis on healthier food.
-Closed some time after 1996

Anand Bhavan, 6662 SW Frwy, 977-0150
– Indian vegan. North and South Indian foods. Open 10am-9pm.
-Renamed “Shiv Sagar” in the 2000s

Quan Yin Vegetarian Restaurant, 10804-E Bellaire Blvd, 498-7890
– Lacto-vegetarian. Vegan-friendly. Run by a religious organization, The International Supreme Master Ching Hai Meditation Association.
-Still open as of 2018, not sure about the religious connection however.

Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants:

The Hobbit Hole Cafe was originally located at 1715 S Shepherd Dr
Photo Source: Keith Christensen YouTube Video

Hobbit Hole Cafe
– Rumored to be once all-vegetarian. Many dishes are lacto-vegetarian that can be easily made vegan. Also several vegan dishes. The black bean nachos are incredible. Special bonus is the Tolkien-related decor and recipe names.
-Still open, confirmed that the first 10 years of operation were with a completely vegetarian menu.

A Moveable Feast, 3827 Dunlavy (2202 W. Alabama?), 528-3585
– Macrobiotic restaurant. Casual, upscale. Innovative cuisine. Brunch on weekends.
-Was known as more of a Health Food Store, according to this article.
-Located at 2002 W. Alabama from 1989 until company’s bankruptcy in 2001. Was located at 3287 Dunlavy (now demolished former Weingartens) prior to that.
-Another location at 9341 Katy Fwy is still open as of 2018.

Whole Foods Market, 2 locations:
2900 S. Shepherd, 520-1937
11145 Westheimer Road, 784-7776
– Natural food store with small restaurant attached. Vegan friendly. Great salads and entrees. Highly recommended.
-2900 S. Shepherd was the first Houston Whole Foods, and the first outside of Austin. It was located here from 1984-2001, when it moved to its present location of 2955 Kirby.
-11145 Westheimer was the second Houston location to open, it operated from 1991 until 2016 at 11145.
-In 2016 the store moved across Wilcrest taking over the former Randalls at 11401 Westheimer.

Baba Yega
– Kinda like the Hobbit Hole but less veg. Serves a veggie burger.
-Still operating at the same location has continuously been in business since 1975.

Hungry‘s International, 2356 Rice Blvd, 523-8652
-Opened in 1975 as Hungry’s International Sandwhich Shop, has since renamed themselves to simply “Hungry’s”.
-The first location was in the Montrose Area, with the Rice Blvd. location opening sometime before 1995.
-Another location is open at 14714 Memorial Drive

The original hallway which Souper Salad replaced at Montclair Mall
Photo Source: Briscoe Center for American History


Souper Salad, 5460 Weslayan, 660-8950
-This chain slowly left the Houston City Limits, with only 2 left in the Metro area as of 2018.
-This location closed in the early 2000s.
-It filled in a what was originally a walkway in the Weslayan Plaza/Montclair Shopping Center

Star Pizza, 2111 Norfolk, 523-0800
– Have veggie pizzas.
-Still open (and popular) at the same location!

Macrobiotic Center, 2815 Garrott, 523-0171
– Not a restaurant, but caters vegetarian food.
-No longer in business, no details available online
-Was possibly run out of an apartment?

Seekers Natural Foods and Vitamins, 4004 Bellaire, 665-2595
– Natural foods store with 90-item salad bar. Includes organic produce. Vegan options on menu. *VRG
-Seekers went bankrupt in 1999.
-Location was purchased by and still operates as a Whole Foods.

On the Border, 2 locations:
9705 Westheimer, 977-9955
4608 Westheimer, 961-4494
– Mexican. Grilled vegetable fajitas. *VRG’;
-Both locations closed in the early 90’s. The company would try Houston again in the early 2000s.
– The 4608 location operated as Sullivan’s Steakhouse for a few years, and was demolished in 2018.
-The 9705 location 

Bombay Palace, 3901 Westheimer, 960-8472
– Indian. Daily buffet has vegetarian options. [Is it vegan-friendly?]
Open daily for lunch and dinner. *VRG
-Moved in 2000 when lot was cleared for Central Market.
-Relocated right across the railroad to 4100 Westheimer.
-Eventually closing in 2005, being replaced by Kiran’s.

Empress of China, 5419 A FM 1960, 583-8021
– Chinese. Vegan-friendly. Exquisite. It doubles as a routine Chinese restaurant for lunch and at night transforms to one of Houston’s most elegant, word of mouth, high cuisine restaurants with extensive wine selection. Scott and Mae Chen provide wonderful atmosphere. Mr. Wong’s kitchen staff are versatile and it’s far, far cleaner than my compulsive pathologist wife and I can keep our kitchen at home. Call in advance and arrange business meetings or banquets. Can match the appearance of continental east meets west flavored and decorated dishes so you can take non veggie guests for a gentle introduction to veggie food in a wonderful setting. Truly culinary ART! Does exquisite vegetarian banquets on request. I’ve studied Chinese food for 20 years and I can’t begin to touch the art of preparation I’ve seen this kitchen routinely turn out for the past two years. Open Mon-Fri from lunch to 10pm, Sat dinner. Closed Sun.
– I have an inkling this place may not have been as good as the original author claimed. It was out of business prior to any modern internet listings.

Red Pepper Restaurant, 5626 Westheimer, 622-7800
– Chinese. Many unusual vegetarian (vegan?) options. Open daily. *VRG
-Still open, still serving many vegetarian options.

Asian Restaurant, 3701 Weslayan, 850-0450
– Chinese/Vietnamese. Separate vegetarian menu. Vegan options. *VRG
-Can’t find any info on this one.

Guilin Chinese Cafe, 4005 H Bellaire, 661-1963
– Chinese. Some vegan options. Counter service. *VRG
-Can’t find much info online, other than the fact that it closed.

Thai Pepper, 2049 W. Alabama, 520-8225
– Thai. “Best Thai food in Houston.” Accommodating staff. *VRG
-Still there and highly regarded!

Paddy Thai, on Westheimer
– ‘Vegetarian’ in Thai means ‘substitute tofu for flesh’. Be sure to insist on no fish sauce or other animal products.
– Closed sometime between 2005 and 2009.

Health Food Express, Bayou Park Club, 4400 Memorial Drive, 861-2800
– Natural foods. Food delivery business supplies a week’s worth of food. Lunches at cafe itself Mon-Fri. *VRG
– So far as I can tell they changed names to Epicurean Lite and discontinued cafe service.

Natural Foods Stores:

Whole Foods Market
– An excellent chain of grocery stores. Not entirely vegetarian, but lots of good stuff veggies look for. Excellent selection of organic produce.

Seekers Natural Foods and Vitamins, 4004 Bellaire, 665-2595
– Natural foods store with 90-item salad bar. Includes organic produce. Vegan options on menu. *VRG

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Random Retail Photos

This week’s post is a bit late. However, it’s unique! It’s a collection of Random Retail Photos, I have taken over the summer. I’ll try to provide a bit of background for each photo, but there’s no overall theme. Let me know if you guys enjoyed this. I’ve always got tons of Random Retail Photos I never post.

Timmy Chan Restaurants
2606 Fannin Street | 3700 Buffalo Speedway

I snagged this photo of an old Timmy Chan’s Advertisement. Neither location is still operating. I believe the Mid-Town location is the original. These locations closed some time in the 70s or early 80s, and were definitely closed by 1984. The chain still survives, and is more infamous than famous due to the quality of their food. However, the taste is great!

The Wild Kitchen located at 8806 Stella Link Rd, Houston, TX 77025 is a very obvious former Pizza Hut.

This former Builder’s Square in San Antonio is now called “Texas Thrift”. 7500 IH 35 N #104, San Antonio, TX 78218

A former CVS which started life out as an Eckerd. I can’t find the exact location but this is near the La Porte area.

This converted Corner Store location gives an idea of what may come when Circle K remodels their Houston area stores. This one is located in San Antonio.

I also wanted to get a shot of the new design Valero is using on their gas pumps. Many of Valero’s older design features grew out of recolored Diamond Shamrock designs.

This was another location which was converted from a Corner Store. This spot also has a Subway Cafe, which still sells specialty coffee and pastries!

Finally, a long abandoned drive-thru menu. This McDonald’s on Richmond Ave. closed some years ago. It sat vacant for a while, until the mansard roof was covered. This was done by a new tenant “Chinese Cafe”. Chinese Cafe, who had a successful shop up the road near Post Oak for many years, lasted only a few years here.

 

If you enjoyed this random set of retail photos, please let me know! I’ll consider doing something like this again.

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The Incredible Shrinking A&P

Excuse the brief update. I have had quite the busy week! More content should be coming soon, including a small retrospective of pictures that don’t really fit anywhere else. For now though enjoy A&P.

 

A&P is not a well known grocer in the Houston area. They never had their own division, and were based out of Dallas. The number of stores I have seen varies somewhat. My estimation has it around 5, no more than 10. So far I have only been able to learn of one former A&P. It was at S. Post Oak, and W. Belfort. Across from the current Kroger store.

This location was recently the victim of some light demolition. The store originally opened in the early 1960s. I can’t find an exact date but know it was prior to or during 1962. The left and right sides were scaled back quite a bit.

The “wings” on the building were actually an addition. The original building plus a little bit of the left wing, which features Cue’s Burgers is all that’s left.

 

I’m not sure why the left side was demolished. The right side was to help accommodate a new gas station. However, both sides as this point feature open grass, as opposed to filled in parking lot.

With the front and sides remodeled, the building looks pretty nice. The back is mostly untouched, although things like loading docks were all filled in when A&P closed. I can’t find an exact date but I do know it was prior to the 1980s.

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Adiós to Casa Olé in Stafford

While out taking pictures for an upcoming blog post, I passed the Casa Ole on Murphy Road and saw only a single car in the parking lot. I thought that maybe it was just an extremely slow day, and gave them a call to see if they were open. I didn’t get an answer, so I decided to turn back around and snap some photos.

The neon sign is now turned off, the sky wasn’t very overcast but had tall clouds which blocked out the sun and muted the colors of the building. The address of this location was 12203 Murphy Rd, Stafford, TX 77477

The sign facing Murphy Road gives notice of the closing, however the thick bundle of cable and telephone wiring block the view of the sign to Northbound motorists.

Moving back from the sign to face the corner of the building, you can see the fountain was removed at some point. I’m not sure when the last time I stopped at this location was, but the fountain was still there.

Up at the front door, signs have been taped to the door which was written by the founder of Casa Ole, Larry Forehand. It also includes a map of other locations in the Houston area.

I believe this was the To-Go entrance at one point. However, it didn’t have any signs indicating what it was.

There is a used car lot located directly to the right of the building. To help preserve some of the charm of not looking at old cars while you eat, a fence was built and this area was styled with potted plants, and mulch.

Looking into the restaurant not much has been touched. Some of the lights are still even on.

You can see the lit accent lighting on the support beam to the far left, along with the Exit sign above the emergency door.

Moving further down the right side of the building we come to an “abandoned” window which has not seen any love in a while. There’s another phony abandoned window on the opposite side of the building, in much better shape. This was never seen by customers.

The back end of the building really goes to show how great of a theme job was done with the stucco, and building additions. Notice the window on this side, which includes the original awning.

This location had an extra grass lot, which I remember parking in quite a lot. Although, it looks like it hasn’t been used much lately.

A better look at the nicer window reveals that is is just building decor, also notice the outside of the emergency exit on the right.

This side of the restaurant looks the same, like it’s ready to open back up at any minute.

I couldn’t figure out exactly where this door led, but I’m thinking this was maybe a private room from the dining room?

These tables even had table cloths on them. Someone must have stopped mid-setup.

A final look back at Fort Bend County’s sole Casa Ole made me some what nostalgic. I remember Case Ole as being quite the celebratory place. The food was delicious, and reviews show this held true up until the end. If anything this restaurant has been effected by a demographic shift in the neighborhood. The Stafford area, which has shifted from established Upper Middle and Middle Class African American families, to newer immigrant families. Many of which are from African and Indian backgrounds, and are either lower-middle class or lower class. Only time will tell what will pop up in here, but Casa Ole will be missed.

Its final day of operation was July, 21 2018.

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Two Closures in Galleria IV

Upon visiting the Galleria last week, I was surprised to learn of two recent closings. One of them I saw coming from a mile away which was of course Best Buy Mobile. The stores, which were more similar in fashion to a cell phone retailer, than a real Best Buy. I had tried shopping here a few times, and never had an exceedingly pleasantly experience. Best Buy announced the closure of all BB Mobile locations back in May of 2018. I did not see the store have a clearance or going out of business sale.

The exterior has been left untouched so far, although black covering was added to the doors and windows. It’s likely in this case, that there’s either not a tenant lined up just yet or Best Buy Mobile still has a lease which has yet to end.

The next closure in Galleria IV, came a more of a surprise. It was the former studio of KPRC-TV (Channel 2)’s “Houston Life”.  The show which is still on the air, has moved to another location, but that’s a story for Mike McGuff to tell.

I wanted to include one final shot to show where the studio was located. It was shoved under the escalators next to Nordstrom. It was directly sandwiched by the ebar.

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Visiting Almeda Mall for the first time

In light of the recent publicity of my website thanks to a Chron.com Article I decided to visit the literal twin of Northwest Mall, Almeda Mall.

The following may come as a surprise to my readers, prior to yesterday I had never set foot in Almeda Mall. I had of course driven by many times, knew where it was, and knew its shared lineage with Northwest. Both malls opened in October of 1968, they also shared developers, and shared many tenants. There were 70 stores in each mall, with a total of 6 unique stores per mall by 1976. (This leaves out obvious exceptions such as independent barber shops, pet shops, and cinemas located at both malls.) The malls were also built around pre-existing Foley’s stores.

Approaching the mall from the Gulf Freeway, one of the first things I noticed about the mall was it’s striking similarity to Northwest. However, getting closer to the entrance I noticed that it had been updated.

The similarities to Northwest Mall were extremely noticeable. Such as this former exterior entrance to both mall’s Tex-Mex Restaurant El Chico. The locations seemed to have both closed by the mid-90s.

Entering the mall the first thing you’re greeted by is a set of claw machines. These are built into a false wall which covers the exterior of the former Piccadilly Cafeteria location which closed at Almeda in 2014.

Across from the former Piccadilly Cafeteria inside of the prior mentioned El Chico space, is 4040 Arcade. This is not an original arcade to the mall, however it is interesting that it’s still up and running.

Step 1 in spotting a dead mall, check for retail in the food court. Except, this mall isn’t really all that dead. In fact it was quite lively, and this was on a Tuesday night. I actually had trouble getting pictures without people in them.

This is the middle of the food court, facing back towards the entrance. Sesame Hut is still going strong, and not just the Almeda location. The Northwest Mall location moved out from the mall, and is still in business. The stall next to Sesame Hut, was apparently at one point a KFC/Taco Bell Express, notice the reused “Taco” sign.

As you continue forward, you’re finally greeted by the main hall, and mall entrance to Palais Royal. The differences between Northwest Mall and Almeda are very evident here. There is no raised stage, the flooding and walls have been updated. As well the lighting has updated, and “kites” have been added to the raised window.

Due to the length of this article (nearly 40 pictures!) I have added a read more tag, if you want to keep reading click below. If not, keep scrolling and you’ll find the Northwest Mall Article among others!

Read more ›

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Northwest Mall July 2018 Update

Well, we’re coming to the end of July, which means it’s finally time for another biannual trip to Northwest Mall, before you read any further not much has happened. However, everything is still there, at present there are no plans for demolition. The last stated plans were to remodel and redevelop the inside with a possible grocer taking the space of a former anchor. I have since been contacted by the group wishing to purchase and redevelop the land, my update is at the end of this post.

Nothing much has changed with Palais Royal. They are using the former mall entrance as sales floor, as opposed to keeping it open. The exterior plants and grass are all well kept.

I wanted to include a picture to show that not only are the lawns and hedges trimmed, but the edging is even nice!

The stage is still assembled, which you figure they might try to sell if they were completely serious about selling the mall.

Some of the stray items left behind at Thirsty’s former location have been removed.

This cart is the final visible cart in the mall. I’m not sure if the carts have been sold yet. Prior to closing most of the carts were moved to the former Movie Theatre hallway.

The Dryer’s signage remains attached to the building. Sticking my fingers between the glass I could tell that the A/C temperature inside the mall was either higher than Palais Royal or completely off.

Looking down towards the former JC Penny’s entrance you can see that everything in the hallways has been removed. The former movie theater hallway no longer had carts or kiosks in it when it was converted to an emergency exit.

This is the final exterior mall entrance with any access. The movie theater hallway is open to allow access to the emergency exit for the club. However you’re not able to access the rest of the building.

The former Foley’s remains untouched. Even the original F door handles remain attached. You would think that someone might attempt to make off with them, however security seems to primarily patrol this side of the mall.

The 610/290 interchange construction has died down enough that Entrance 7 could easily be reconnected with the feeder. However, it seems highly unlikely this will happen at this point. I truly believe this mall has its days numbered.

This construction lot honestly, may be one of the few things preventing redevelopment. It’s likely that this government acquired contract has some sort of lease stipulation preventing breaking of the lease without a penalty.

The Northwest Mall is open for business along with 3 of the 4 business signs have been removed. These are on the former Macy’s building. The only remaining store from this sign has bene Palais Royal for the past few years.

The former front entrance, or “Entrance A” has been completely covered for a while now, construction dumpsters which were in the service courts have been removed.

Again, all but the Palais Royal Sign has been removed. This was on the former JC Penny’s/Antique Mall building. I wonder why they have never made any attempts to cover the non-existent stores.

Unfortunately, I really think we’ve hit the end of any kind of full mall restoration. We may see retail based redevelopment, if the idea of placing the high speed rail station there pans out. Otherwise we must play the waiting game to see what happens next. If you enjoyed this update check out my past entries on the same topic.

7/24 Update: I was contacted by Michael Moore Regional Vice President of External Affairs for Texas Central Partners (The Company which is building the bullet train between Dallas and Houston) who informed me that Northwest Mall has officially been selected as the location for the Houston Station. He also said “Texas Central has an option on the land and will close after we finish our environmental review by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)”

This will prove to be a fitting use for the old mall. As opposed to another new shopping center they have chosen a unique modern design, which matches the nearby HISD buildings. Mr. Moore also provided a video showing what the proposed station will look like. https://texascentral.sharefile.com/d-s72321f159d842aaa

Laredo Taco Company Greensburg, PA

Laredo Taco Company, is a fast food concept owned by Stripes Convenience Stores. In 2015, Stripes was acquired by Sunoco. Some experimentation was undertaken by Sunoco to help improve their convenience store operations. Outside of Stripes switching to Sunoco brand gasoline there was little change for the  Texas based Stripes customer to notice. However, outside of Texas Sunoco chose to build a new store concept, including co-located Laredo Taco Company locations. Three stores were built throughout the Nashville, TN area. Another was also built in Greensburg, PA which is outside of Pittsburgh. This is the location I was able to get photos of.

This location operates under the A-Plus banner of stores. It is owned by Sunoco, and was completely torn down and rebuilt when the Laredo Taco Company was added. There is exterior signage both permanent featured here, and temporary glass cling advertisements for LTC. There’s also outdoor seating.

The menu has some differences from the Texas version, such as the addition of both bowls, salad bowls…

… including would you believe it “Nachos Grande”!

Taking a look around the inside, the store does not resemble a conventional Stripes location. It borrows more from A-Plus styling and themes. Overall I think it looks nice. A-Plus uses a very basic interpretation of the LTC branding and styling, which looks very modern.

The order kiosk system, while not new to the chain is still in a slow roll out mode. If a store was built more than 6 or 7 years ago, chances are they don’t have kiosks.

 

Now, you may be wondering how this relates to Houston? Well during the end of 2017 Sunoco sold all their convenience store businesses to 7-Eleven who will eventually convert all stores to their own brand. This likely means either a stoppage of new LTC locations or the overall removal of the brand. That’s unfortunate for the brand because it’s solid, and it has something that most other Taquerias lack which is consistency between locations. Everything is the same, and the quality is consistent. However, it’s not necessarily the final sign of death for the stores. As some Stripes locations approximately 200 were sold to a third party who has not indicated any plans to change to 7-Eleven as of yet. So for outside of the Southwest Laredo Taco Company locations, this is probably it for now.

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A Collection of Unusual Eckerd Deisgns

While researching the history of a never opened Houston Eckerd’s Location I stumbled upon a few unsusal Eckerd’s buildings these images were mostly hosted on architectural design websites and risk eventual removal. They have been re-posted here to help preserve unique examples of a completely extinct chain. For the most part these locations all share a very general “Southwest” motif, while retaining as much of classic Eckerd’s design as possible.

This location; Broomfield, CO seems to have never opened as an Eckerd. Town planning documents mention that it was built by Eckerd, but the building has been significantly altered. All Colorado Eckerd locations were acquired by CVS, and closed. This one survives as a Walgreens. Google Streetview

This render may have been purely speculative, but it sure looks nice! I unfortunately don’t have any information on where this was built, or planned to be.

 

While obviously a real photo, I don’t have a location on this. The Developer, Hines stated that this was part of a project designing locations in Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. Based on the foliage and lack of ground cover it makes a strong case for Arizona, however it could also be Colorado.

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