Oldest Steakhouse in Houston
In this ever-changing city, you have to search hard to find iconic, family owned restaurants that have been around for generations. Brenner's is one of them.
Herman & Lorene Brenner started attracting loyal customers to "Brenner's Cafe" in 1936. It's clear that the restaurant still has a large following. What's not clear, is how long this building has been around.
Don and I arrived and valet parked for lunch in mid December. As we headed on the walkway towards the entrance, I tried to figure out the building. The flagstone and wood shingled exterior looked a little mid-century modern.
But once inside, I studied an old photo. The hostess said the original building pictured, had been located down the road a bit. When they began construction of the Katy Freeway, the Brenners had the building moved to this location.
She pointed to the two windows in the old photo and showed me where we had just passed them outside
That's odd, because all the internet write-ups say the old building was torn down.Maybe just a portion of the old building was saved. I'm confused.
When we moved into the main dining room, it felt very 1960's to me. The vaulted ceiling, picture windows, wood paneling and flagstone fireplace took me back to my childhood. It even had that smokey, comfy aroma... not as in cigarettes.
White Cloth Lunch
The white tablecloths and men dressed in jackets for lunch, also gave the place a retro feel. But mostly my eyes were drawn past all that, through the wall of glass to the garden beyond. I'm a big fan of a table with a view and pretty much all tables had one.
Surely this light fixture was not from 1936. I imagine it was a pretty grand feature when they added it. The clock hiding behind, also made an impressive decorative statement!
Champagne at Lunch
Don and I don't usually have champagne at lunch, but we were celebrating. It was December 13th and I had just completed my final radiation treatment an hour earlier.
We were toasting the end of a long 7 months, which included surgery, chemo and radiation. But actually, the bread in the basket was enough to make me offer a toast! It was fabulous!
Neither Don nor I are big prime rib people, especially at lunch. But it was PRIMETIME TUESDAY, with 3 courses that ended with Lorene's warm apple strudel! Why not?
Don was a good sport and paused a moment to let me snap a shot.
Someone had to order steak, since we were at Houston's oldest steakhouse. I let Don order the prime rib, since I knew we'd end up sharing.
I ordered the Texas Fried Chicken with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and smoked bacon gravy. It felt as decadent as dessert and I loved every bite. It was about as healthy as dessert, too.
Through the Bar
The cozy bar was actually packed with lunching customers by the time we finished eating. We took a walk through it, to take a closer peek at the garden we'd been enjoying from our table.
There was a sort of corny "stage set" feel to the buildings, which created a wall around the garden. The Brenners supposedly created the garden to remind Lorene of the gardens she remembered from her childhood in Germany.
There were a few tables beside the koi pond and waterfall. The water sounds helped mask the noise of the nearby Katy Freeway. The wall of cottage images masked the view of the freeway and some not so lovely buildings.
Walking the Path
We wandered the path over the pond and checked out the well and waterwheel. The garden was just the place to ponder the news we had just learned about the restaurant's new ownership. Landry's owner, Tilman Fertitta now owns Brenner's! Don and I rolled our eyes at that news. He seems to be taking over all of Texas and beyond. But Mrs. Brenner needed to retire a few years ago.
It was nice to learn that Fertitta had more of a connection to Brenner's than money. He evidently has fond memories of coming as a child, with his family. He was able to work with Mrs. Brenner (who shared family recipes) to help preserve the history and character. In this day and age of tear-downs, I'm sure this oddly located landmark would have disappeared had Fertitta not jumped in. So I guess I'll toast to that!
I've driven by this curious boat-shaped restaurant on Highway 6, since we moved to Texas 18 years ago.
Don and I decided to take on the adventure the other day!
Facing Highway 6
The boat shape of this crazy looking place, is hidden behind lots of wood and metal. I'm not sure when they added the outdoor deck, but it hides the image that I remember. Now the "fishy" words have the job of luring guests to this place, that looks like an old Florida seafood joint.
There were no cars in the lot when we arrived yesterday, but we heard music playing and the neon was lit. We parked and took some time studying the cluttered image. The bow of the original boat-building was behind the green speed boat. The green boat held a picnic table and opened up to the bar deck.
From the Back
From the back, the boat shape was a little more visible. The tall palm tree added a tropical touch to the upper bow deck. Don was having a good time recalling this place, since he ate here in the early 80's when visiting Houston on a business trip.
In the Boat
Amanda greeted us from behind the bar and welcomed us to sit anywhere. We seemed to be the only early diners, although she assured us they were coming.
I was pretty intrigued by the boat decor and the curious windows. The line-up of windows in the front looked out on the patio and Highway 6. A back room had a porthole with a view of the parking lot and the levee. No ocean, but there might have been a little water out there somewhere.
Amanda told us to feel free to take a peek at the upper level, even though it wasn't "set up". We walked by the strange monkey statue and headed up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs we found a curious display of boat motors. Inside the "party room" we found some scattered tables and a lovely mannequin. I would have had Don pose with her, but there was a sign reminding us not to touch. We didn't venture out on the bow deck. It looked a little weary and worn in broad daylight.
Amanda told us the restaurant opened in 1979, but the place actually looks a lot older. I could find little on the internet.
Don studied an autographed photo of musician, Stevie Ray Vaughan on the wall. We wondered later if he could have had a beer or two in this place.
The rounded walls and well worn floors did make us feel like we were on some kind of ship. When we asked Amanda if any of this really was part of an old boat, she just laughed. Evidently the owner always answers, "Of course." to that question.
Time to Eat
My shrimp, fries and hushpuppies were very decent. Don had his shrimp with fried oysters and slaw. He was pleased with the oysters expecially.
I forget how you can sometimes judge a place by the customers. I wonder if we would have liked the place more or less, if we'd been surrounded by others?
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.