Sunday, October 30, 2016

Veronica's Country Corner


This is so obscure only the blurry 2005 Google Earth image shows it.

I lived in Houston for a little while and because I still had connections in College Station, I drove back and forth from College Station to Houston, and that included a lot of Highway 6 South between Navasota and College Station. That little section of highway used to be notoriously dangerous, as it was a four lane highway with no medians (just a double yellow stripe), and enough hills and little driveways to make it a significant hazard. But for me it was before I was driving and thus nostalgia. Usually the only time we drove on that section was to go to Baton Rouge (ultimately) though Houston too.

I do not lament the passing of the original roadway, though I still can "see" in the minds eye where the exit to FM 159 was, and that was back in 2005 (this is a reference to another one of my old blog posts, though I'm not linking to it). Now, with every thing that goes away, some fond things go away with it. I know that the post up there says "Veronica's", and I promise I'll get to that, but first, an ode to a defunct roadside park.

Despite there being a similar roadside park between Hempstead and Navasota, I do remember vaguely the roadside park in Brazos County. I don't remember much of it, it was literally a little driveway loop off of the southbound side of the road, just south of FM 159. Most of the pavement is actually still there.

Anyway, last week I went to the State Fair and I noticed south of Waxahachie a relatively recent closure of one such roadside park (new barricades, and a construction vehicle parked ominously near the southbound rest area), fresh enough that even Google Earth still had it open. The thing is, as much as there is nostalgia for these things, and I can definitely say that while they were an iconic part of traveling down highways when I was younger just like roadside hotels and restaurants, they are functionally obsolete and to an extent dangerous.

One such park closure in recent years was in Sealy, Texas, with a large road side park in the inner median of Interstate 10 (though the two "halves" did not serve as turnaround lanes). It's not just the fact that people would prefer modern travel centers, restaurants, and gas stations, it's the fact that usually they just breed trouble, with illicit activities and illegal dumping. As for the dangerous part (besides the chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time) the short ramps make acceleration and deceleration a pain, you would not want to pull out of a parking space for someone to be barreling down the strip at 45 mph or higher. That would suck.

The other thing that disappeared during construction was the only gas station between the Exxon at William D. Fitch (still the furthest south gas station on the freeway) and the gas stations at Washington Avenue. I'm not sure when it was built (after 1995) but if it was before the opening of the Exxon/McDonald's, then the "last gas in Brazos County" would be what was a Texaco at Barron and Highway 6.

Veronica's Country Corner, as health inspection records state (at 26000 State Highway 6 South), was demolished around early 2006, and I remember it being extant at least as of 2001 (I would appreciate more information...) and I want to say that the gas canopy was fairly large (the aerials make it a bit hard to tell). Sadly, because I lack photos, ads, or a lot of meaningful memories of it (I never even stopped there), I can't say much about it, and only want to bring it up to make sure it isn't forgotten. If this topic seems vaguely familiar to you, I did "sort of" cover it on the blog a long time ago, in this post, which is now declared non-canon. And speaking of non-canon posts, I'm going to remove the whole "Removed Posts" list because Dropbox has decided not to render HTML pages as HTML pages anymore and your browser will instead attempt to download it. If you really want to know why a page was removed, email me. Yes, the email still works, and almost everyone who has emailed me with historical questions have had them answered. Be the next one, start a trend!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Goodbye to 711 University, So Long to the BB&T...

Since I didn't get a picture of the bank before it became a big hole in the ground, we'll have to do with this.


I love punny titles, and what better way to do that would be to mention the demolition of the old University Bank Building?

This was (going past tense here) a rather large and rather old bank that was a Citibank until very recently when it changed to BB&T. Brazos CAD says it was built in 1961 and from what I confirm that is absolutely true. Besides the many transactions at the bank itself, here are the major transactions in terms of name changes and all.

1962: College Station Bank relocates to this building from a previous location.
1963: The name is changed to University National Bank.
1990: After a long run as University National Bank, it is acquired by Don Adam to become First American Bank (officially acquired that year)
2005: Citigroup acquires the bank chain, rebranded to Citibank
2014: BB&T purchases 41 Citibank branches including this one and rebrands them.
2016: BB&T relocates to The Rise at Northgate; building torn down, thus beginning and ending its life with relocation.

That being said, there are two more things I want to hit:

OFFICE SPACE!
The bank property also included an adjacent space, which was 707 University, BCAD link here which was a two-story office building with a small footprint. My records show this was used for non-bank space as early as 1974 (with the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co.) and my 1989 phone book mentions "The Personal Computer Store" (with the ad mentioning it was "since 1984"). This became MicroAge by 1993, and starting in 1999 moved out to their current home (now known as Avinext) on East University Drive. I don't think anything has occupied the space since.

FOOD TRUCKS!
711 University was also where food trucks congregated (or near the now-defunct Notes-N-Quotes next door). Since I graduated a few years ago, I can't list all the more recent food trucks and trailers there, though here are a few I remember:

Wafology - Seen spring 2014 and maybe late 2013, this was a waffle food truck which had chicken and waffles and a few others. The waffles weren't great, they were more of the standard "using pancake batter in a waffle iron" that I've seen everywhere except for home cooking. I think it returned for fall 2014. It is now known as MESS Waffles.

Vittles - This was seen summer 2014. It was a trailer operated by Gumby's serving sno-cones, pizza rolls, and chicken legs (the latter two obviously prepared off-site).

Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro - Moved inside campus due to a contract.

Southern Comfort Road Trip - The old Village Foods food truck which in fall 2013, was the new home of Hebert's Cajun Food dishes. Their already-borderline prices had gone up, but it still felt like it was putting the universe one step closer to being back in balance.

Mr. Chinese Burger - I wanted to like it, but the burgers I had needed reheating...and they were shut down by the health department at least once. Still, I was amused by the (possibly deliberate?) broken English menu ("One Chinese Burger", "Two Chinese Burger", etc.), they sold pulled pork on chewy steamed buns.

THE FUTURE?!
The replacement is supposed to be a 16-story, 800-bed residential tower (student housing, it seems, as usual) with two retail spaces at the bottom which may or may not go unused (considering how the Rise struggled with retail the first few years, though the CVS did well).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Leaning Tower Pizza / Primo Pizza / My Daily Bread Bakery

Primo Pizza in better days, September 2013


Originally I was going to rewrite my old Eastgate page, but then I figured I could easily rewrite it into several posts, not to mention it was several years since I did anything with it.

109 Walton, from my records, seems to have been food related for most of its life. "Wing Zone" was here in the early part of the 2000s, records indicate, and during the 1990s it was home to Partners Food Delivery. My personal experiences deal with the current tenant and the two before it. First, there was Leaning Tower Pizza, which if I recall was here since the mid-2000s. It was an interesting place, with a particularly greasy pie with a unique cheese pizza. It was also pretty grimy for a College Station restaurant, but I didn't mind because that's why you have pizza...hot enough to kill any dubious bacteria. It had some garden furniture for an "eat-in" area and had "free delivery" that had a significant discount if you picked it up in store, which means it wasn't actually free at all.

Well, for whatever reason, Leaning Tower closed in spring (May) 2013. Luckily, it was said on MyBCS that Charles Stover, fresh from creating Flip & Peel at Post Oak Mall, had bought the store and recipes and would reopen with a new name and theme. Well, that didn't quite happen, and instead in late summer 2013, Primo Pizza & Rolls opened with an entirely new concept of gourmet takeout pizza, which included pesto on every slice (this opened in late summer 2013). Unfortunately, gourmet takeout pizza without an eat-in area wasn't something the market could handle (especially located in a neighborhood that was populated by college students and minorities) and Primo shut down in February 2014 due to underperformance, but the way it was worded indicated that the closure could be temporary. After all, the sign remained up. But in May 2014, new pictures revealed that the restaurant was gutted. (One more thing regarding Primo: Primo Pizza's webpage, archived in PNG form)

While an Eastgate pizza place was no more than a memory, it did have one more tenant afterwards that opened by fall. This is still open today...My Daily Bread Bakery. This was one of my favorite places in my neighborhood when I lived on Eastgate, cinnamon rolls for breakfast if I was running late for school, decent coffee and espresso, and even (though I don't know about it today), a selection of used video games (from her husband) for sale, where I bought Pikmin and I believe Metroid Prime. I haven't made much progress in either, or you would see it in Carbon-izer GAMES, my "game review" page.

Here are a few other pictures that I took in May 2014 after the restaurant was gutted.

Gutted PP, May 2014
Gutted PP, May 2014. This is where the counter and menu were. The kitchen was behind that wall. This configuration was intact for both LTP and PP&R.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Handy Burger / The Onion Ring / The Deluxe / Chimy's Cerveceria

Chimy's sign looks kind of cool at night, but no picture of that, sorry (December 2015)


This restaurant, best known to me as the Deluxe Diner, always had a bit of a special place in my heart, even if I never went there. It was the first thing I saw besides the late Dulie Bell Building if we were going down the ramp from Wellborn, plus it was always featured in a little "menu booklet" that the George Bush Library had in their early days. It started as a hamburger restaurant called the Handy Burger, which was the first place in town to have a microwave for food use. Eventually, this became a restaurant called "The Onion Ring" (which picked up a well-known nickname probably more common than the REAL name of the restaurant).

Later, the restaurant was remodeled and became "The Deluxe Burger Bar" (renamed The Deluxe Diner sometime later).

Deluxe Diner menu from better days (c. 1998), note that this is not the full menu

The shuttered Deluxe Diner, Google Street View (c. 2007)
The Deluxe Diner closed in 2006 (that I know for sure) but by that time was in a state of huge decline (food was terrible, management was even worse). Despite having some period diner pieces inside (though the exterior had been modified since the Handy Burger days), the building started to rot and mold until 2012 when most of the restaurant was demolished save for a few walls and was rebuilt into Chimy's Cerveceria, which opened in January 2013. I've never eaten there, based on reports of overpriced food and what I've seen myself (long, cafeteria-like tables). That was disappointing, as I'd been wanting some decent Tex-Mex in Northgate, not a bar. Rest assured, though, with the opening of Torchy's Tacos when I lived at Eastgate, I no longer thought of Chimy's as a wasted opportunity.

So there you go. The tale of one of College Station's oldest restaurant sites in one post. Sorry for the absence as of late...I'll be wrapping up several more of the posts here with one more for the memories.