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.
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.
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:
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.
– 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
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
Northwest Mall closed the interior of the mall March 31st, 2017. It was a sad and unexpected occasion. I made a final visit to the mall to try to talk to some of the shop owners. I found that everyone was unaware of the closure, until Mid-March, and for the most part lacked concrete plans of where to go or what to do next.
Once the mall closed, the interior sat untouched for a few months. During May the exterior doors were walled off and covered. With the exception of, The entrance near The Post Oak Club, which had a wall built further back, and a door installed to accommodate entrance into the interior of the mall. The entrance near Chapa Club, the former movie theater, had a similar recessed wall built to accommodate the building’s interior emergency exit.
All stores with exterior access have remained open. The Antique Center of Texas, former JC Penny, closed their gate to the mall, and it has been walled off. Including a plastic covering to prevent dust getting into the store. Palais Royal, has not covered any of their windows or entrances.
As you can see little to nothing is going on. There are some construction dumpsters out front, which are loaded up. However only time will tell if Northwest Mall’s revitalization will actually be put into place. If interested you can find the rest of the album and higher resolution photos here.
Quick Post, to share what I found. A map of the original Micro Center location!
While not a high-res image, it should help to kick-start a few memories. This is an earlier map from the late 90’s. It includes things which were removed and closed off, such as the separate gaming store, and training rooms.
The chain, Rice Epicurean, is the result of many adaptions and “mutations” of a family owned grocery store originally named “Rice Boulevard Food Market”. You can read more about the history of the chain overall on my Rice Epicurean Store Page. This post takes a brief look at the chain as it stands today, one store, and six former properties.
Rice Epicurean #201 | 2500 Rice Boulevard
The original Rice Boulevard Food Market opened in 1937. It took on its name from the street the store was originally located on, Rice Boulevard. It was at the heart of the shopping center now known as Rice Village. However, when the grocery store was built there was only one other store in all of Rice Village. Truly a different experience to the Rice Village of today. The location was expanded, and eventually moved in 1957 to the a building which still stands.
This location managed to survived until 2003, its closure was mainly due to the small size of the building, along with the lack of parking. While it did have some dedicated, mainly older customers, the store had essentially hit its useful limit for the growing area. As it was was difficult leasing a grocery sized spot in Rice Village the building subdivided on multiple occasions as time has moved on. The building no longer resembles a Rice Epicurean location, but does fit in with the shopping center quite well.
Rice #202 | 5016 San Felipe
The next location to open is near what was at the time know as the far side of town. Located in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, this was the location that necessitated the chain’s first name change, dropping “Boulevard”. For the building’s entire life from 1957-2012 it housed Rice or other variations of the chain, upon closing this location was immediately flipped to The Fresh Market and has more recently begun transformation to Total Wine
In its life this store has had the entrances moved around a few times, but for the most par maintains the original Rice foot print. The other tenants in the shopping center are located to the right of the store, and behind the area which Rice occupied. This was the first location to be converted to the Epicurean banner by Rice. It also served a large clientele. Prior to 2014, it was the only grocery chain in the Galleria area. With the next nearest store being a Randall’s down San Felipe.
Rice #203 | 3102 Kirby Drive
The next location on the list was acquired as part of a deal with “Lucky Stores of California”, who operated a chain in Houston known as Eagle Supermarkets. Rice purchased four locations from Lucky, and this location was the only store that managed to stick around to the Epicurean days.
This store was the second location to be converted to Epicurean. It was over-sized as far as Rice Epicurean stores are concerned. The location was sold in 2001. Rice stated that this was due to the location being in close proximity with the Westhimer and Weslayan location, and not preforming as well. It has housed a Bed, Bath, and Beyond ever since.
Rice #204 | 12516 Memorial Drive
The store numbers used by the Epicurean chain don’t seem to directly correlate with anything, as seen in our next example. This store is part of the Lantern Lane shopping center, and was originally a Lewis and Croeker.
This location was the most recent acquisition in 1997. The store is largely unchanged from when Rice owned it, and as of early 2017 was still sporting the Fresh Market lablescar, with the original Rice Epicurean paint underneath. This local will also become a Total Wine Superstore, a banner advertising the transformation was hanging above the door, but blew up unto the eve as I snapped my picture.
Rice #206 | 3745 Westheimer
We’ll come back to location #205 and move on to #206 for now. This location was another acquisition, this time it was from Apple Tree Market, the locally owned spin-off of Safeway in the Houston area. When Rice took over they operated the location similarly to how Safeway had operated, electing not to remodel much. Eventually with Rice Epicurean, the store was remodeled a bit, but still had some Safeway features, especially on the outside of the building.
This location was extensively remodeled by The Fresh Market, who subdivided the building on the right side of the entrance, and removed what had been the center service desk, and replaced it with a straight through entrance. Once Walgreens moved in, the building was subdivided once again, with the farthest left side of the store, being vacant at the moment but available for leasing.
Rice #207 | 2617 West Holcombe
Rice #207 was another Apple Tree/Safeway acquisition. This store was much larger than #206 from the start. It was also hugely remodeled by The Fresh Market, who did not need as much space, and subdivided. They also did some exterior remodels including repainting, and adding plaster decor.
While retaining the distinctive Safeway columns of the time, many other distinctive pieces of Safeway architecture such as the texture rock surface have been covered or removed. The building also now has a large number of full length windows, as opposed to the half height walls Safeway was known to use. Most of these changes were done when the building was divided for new tenants.
Rice #205 | 2020 Fountainview
Finally, we tackle Rice Epicurean #205 this is the only location still in operation today. It is also the base of Rice’s grocery delivery service, and catering. The store has many features typical to other Rice Epicurean locations.
I did manage to go inside this location and take a look around, but that’s a blog post for another day!
First, I’d like to welcome you to a new feature of Houston Historic Retail, blog posts. I’m still experimenting with content styles, and want to explore this avenue. I may or may not stick with it, but for sure the content will remain. So with the possibility of this not sticking around for long, lets start by talking about a store that did not stick around for long, Food Lion.
Food Lion as mentioned elsewhere on the website Food Lion was a grocery retailer out of North Carolina, founded in 1957 they made their entry into the Houston market in 1992, with a plan to eventually open 40 stores. However due to the infamous Primetime Live Scandal Food Lion took a major hit in business. They managed to make it up to 13 stores in the Houston area, but decided to close the branch to help preserve the chain with the stores closing in 1994.
The location we’re looking at today is at the corner of Jones and West Roads in North West Houston. This location has a bit of a strange history, the plot that Food Town built on was originally owned by Safeway but was never developed. It was sold to Food Lion who finally built on it. It’s unclear if it was sold directly by Safeway or through Apple Tree, however as Safeway continued to own properties in the Houston area such as the Dairy Plant before selling it to HEB it’s possible that they held onto the property. The outside of the building still resembles a Food Lion for the most part. It has the basic rectangular shape, with little to no building adornments. The Mission Style Arch and new paint was added by Food Town.
Food Lion uses a very specific and easily identifiable entrance style. They have a single centered door which leads into the store, and a enclosed breezeway with doors on either side making a T shaped pathway from the doors. Food Lion for the most part kept the exact same entrance. The only difference I could find, was that the interior door was removed. The hardware was still bolted onto the door frame, but the doors themselves had been taken off. Based on the age of the radar motion detectors I would wager a guess that the doors broke, and were removed rather than replaced.
Inside of the store, not much has seemingly changed. I don’t ever remember going into Food Lion when they operated in Houston so my knowledge of what has changed is based on pictures of the other Houston locations, and pictures of older Food Lion locations. I’m not sure how the store layout has changed, if at all, but there is a dedicated entrance and exit, one of the stranger things I did notice is the lack of a meat department. They do some butchering at the store, and the meat is solder out of a cooler in the front near the produce. I believe that Food Lion had an “exposed” meat department based on video I’ve seen from the Prime Time Live special. I’m not sure if Food Town closed up the meat department, or if Food Lion did it in response to the controversy.
This was likely the former bakery in the Food Lion. The tiles had non-slip grips, and there were wash down drains in the center. The area is now being used to sell soda and beer, as Food Town doesn’t use on-site bakeries. This area still had an exposed cloest, and electrical panels left over from the bakery. To the left of this was the manager’s “cage” it was slightly lifted up to provide a better vantage point. I’m not sure if that was added by Food Town, but it seems likely it was as all of their stores utilize the raised manager’s office.
All in all this grocery store provides a good service to the community. It’s cheap on produce and meat and allows for a no frills shopping experience, much like Food Lion. Hopefully it will stick around and the amount of traffic they received on a Sunday afternoon when I took these pictures supports that. However all other corners of this intersection have major stores, HEB, Kroger, and Aldi. So it’s a bit of a waiting game to see if Food Town can stick around.