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Taste a Trio of Houston Eateries With Storied Pasts

By Jocelyn Kerr

TEXAS IS HOME TO STUNNING EVENT SPACES and spacious meeting venues, but if you’d really like to wow attendees, consider exploring restaurants that serve a side of history, too. From vintage bowling alleys to army barracks, we know you’ll want to give these eateries a closer look.

Scholz Garten
In an unassuming brick building on San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin’s Scholz Garten has been serving locals and visitors alike since 1866. “Over the years the building has gone from a small hall and beirgarten to the current space with Saengerrunde Halle, several event rooms and a vintage bowling alley,” says Erin Rourke, Scholz Garten events coordinator. “Bowling is a big part of German culture, so the alley was built off the beirgarten in the early 1900s. We host a lot of Big Lebowski-themed events here!”

The Scholz Garten bowling alley is notable for being only six lanes wide, and also for being one of the oldest continuously running bowling alleys in the country. It was originally built with two lanes for the Saengurrunde Bowling Club and expanded to six lanes in 1926. It has remained virtually untouched since then, other than the addition of automatic pinsetters in 1973. Despite its small stature by modern standards, the bowling alley accommodates up to 60 people at a time. “We do a lot of parties and team-building events in the bowling alley,” Rourke says.

The rest of the building is used for walk-in dining and everything from wedding receptions to political events. Scholz Garten is located just a few blocks from the Texas Capital, making it a popular destination for politicos. Private rooms seat 50 to 100 people, while Saengerrunde Halle has a capacity of 250 seated or 400 standing. The Halle features original woodwork and an iron chandelier dating back to 1908. The rooftop patio above the Halle can also be used for 75 to 100 people.

“We have a lot of flexibility with the space. We can divide the biergarten for private parties or rent out the full garten for 150 to 400 people,” Rourke says. “We have portable projectors and PA systems for indoor or outdoor presentations. We’ve even rented out the entire complex for events of 1,000 people. We have a large kitchen, so we can do pretty much anything from continental breakfast meetings to happy hours.”

The Classic Cafe at Roanoke
Further north, just 15 minutes from DFW Airport, The Classic Cafe sits on Historic Oak Street in Roanoke. In 2009 Roanoke was named “Unique Dining Capital of Texas” by the Texas Legislature in part because of the nine blocks of renovated historic buildings and restaurants along Oak Street. Austin Street Plaza on the corner of Oak and Austin Streets anchors the historic district and plays host to evening concerts and events throughout the year.

The light blue cottage with a wrap-around porch that houses The Classic Cafe might look like a regular home, but it’s actually a former Army barrack from Abilene. In 1940, barracks were moved from Abilene to Roanoke to provide housing for the growing city. After being passed down from original owner Raymond Clark to his daughter-in-law, Ann French Clark, this barrack went from residence to restaurant.

In 1993, brothers Chris and Curtis Wells opened The Classic Cafe, and over the years it has become a four-star restaurant in Denton County. Executive chef Charles Youts has been contributing his skills to the restaurant for more than 15 years. Fresh food is a passion for both the chef and the owners. They maintain a restaurant garden and Youts creates menu items based on what’s in season.

“We still prepare our food a la minute, meaning when it’s ordered, not prepped in advance,” coowner Curtis Wells says. “So it takes a little longer, but our dishes are going to be as fresh going out to a banquet as they are going into the dining room.” The restaurant seats 70 to 88 people, depending on whether it’s set up for a banquet, meeting or reception. Plus, the eatery delivers its four-star cuisine to events at off-site locations.

“Our patio is shaded by mature pecan trees, so we can set up events outside as well,” Wells says. The patio is equipped with an outdoor kitchen where Youts holds monthly cooking classes. “We’ve held private cooking classes for groups,” Wells says. Although the restaurant doesn’t have in-house audio-visual equipment, it does help coordinate rentals whenever needed.

Suga’s Deep South Cuisine & Jazz Bar
Just off the I-10 Freeway in Beaumont, Suga’s Deep South Cuisine & Jazz Bar has been renovated to include a state-of-the-art sound and video system in the upstairs event space.

The restaurant is housed in the storied Coale Building in Beaumont’s downtown district. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Coale Building’s detailed period restoration received Honorable Mention for the 2006 President’s Award for Best Building Renovation.

The Coale building was named for its first owner, former Beaumont Mayor Ray A. Coale. He purchased the building when it was built in 1914. After some time as a respectable neighborhood barbershop in the 1940s, it became a central player in the red light district and home to a notorious illegal gambling operation that was eventually shut down in 1961. Once the red light district was cleaned up, the building had a much quieter reputation as a storefront for various insurance and retail outfits. In 2005, the newly renovated building was introduced as Suga’s Deep South Cuisine & Jazz Bar.

“We’re known for our real, deep-down Southern cuisine,” says Events Coordinator Keba Randals. “We’re a historic landmark, and we’ve also got the real down south cooking like bayou catfish and fresh Gulf shrimp and grits.”

The event space accommodates 120 to 200 people depending on whether it’s a reception or seated event. “We have upstairs and downstairs covered patios that can also be used,” Randals says. “Our upstairs room has a big screen monitor with DVD access and wireless microphones, plus a dance floor, stage, DJ booth and full bar.”

The space also has a lot of restored woodwork, big windows and original details that preserve its historic charm.