HOUSTON—This week’s Neighborhood Eats segment focuses on Avenue Grill in Houston’s old Sixth Ward.
The restaurant is located at 1017 Houston Avenue near Washington. Stepping through the door is like stepping back in time into a 60s-style diner.
Avenue Grill is open seven days a week during breakfast and lunch only. It closes weekdays at 3 p.m. and weekends at 2 p.m.
There is always a line, but it moves quickly.
The staff at Avenue Grill includes a cast of characters. There’s Sherrie Tuck, a Texas girl from New Caney. There’s owner James Bagatelas who came to Houston from Greece in the 50s and there’s John K., the waiter, who is also from Greece.
“I love it. It’s a beautiful day,” John said constantly to customers when we were there. He knows most of them by name. He also typically remembers what diners order, even if they have only been to Avenue Grill a couple of times.
Customers do not come to the diner to count calories. They come for comfort food.
Dishes like beef tips and rice, chicken and dumplings, greens, mashed potatoes, corn, chicken-fried steak, cornbread and the best yeast rolls in town, are on the menu.
Bagatelas said he learned to cook when he was a waiter at Houston’s old Shamrock Hotel, which stood in the Texas Medical Center area and catered to the rich and famous. Bagatelas recalled serving stars like the late John Wayne.
“Big man, strong man, talks like he does in the movies,” Bagatelas said. “And he tipped me $2.”
Bagatelas has owned a string of successful businesses, but Avenue Grill is his favorite.
“I get to see all my friends. Sit down at the table and talk to them,” he said.
His son works with him, but Bagatelas does not plan to retire any time soon.
“I don’t want to stay home with the wife all day to do honey-do things,” he said laughing.