Friday, June 22, 2012

Northgate: University Drive

Flickr photo from "treyerice", showing Northgate as it was. Regrettably, they took out on-street parking a few years back.

This has always been one of the posts I originally wanted to make for a long while, cobbling together various pieces and trying to decide what I wanted to do. At one time, I considered "Northgate: Urban Core or Student Wasteland", and a SEPARATE one for College Main. I also wanted to call a post "Requiem for a Loupot's", too, and the Loupot's building stayed on the page before it got its own page as one of the "post script" posts. Eventually it ballooned into a full fledged post on almost everything that was bounded by Wellborn, University, College Avenue, and the Bryan city limits, but it got too unruly and I eventually started to re-focus it to the University stretch. Even that got out of hand, so check out the new directory page. The result will be just a shell to be able to make comments on the page, though I will likely write full posts for those that have more information than little more than a picture (so, something like one of the bars with constantly change, likely, Chipotle, likely not). Please note that because of this change, there are a number of items here that are out of date. You can write comments saying that things like Notes-n-Quotes, Schotzi's, or Basil Whippet's are gone...I am aware of this.

One of the items I found after this post was originally published, was a copy of "Northgate Historical Resources", which cleared up some misunderstandings on where everything was.

This post goes west to east on University Drive from Wellborn Road to College Avenue and begins at the underpass. Most of us can't remember life without it. It was the first (to my knowledge, and do correct me if I'm wrong) railroad bypass project of the county, but it wasn't always that way. Originally it was "Sulphur Springs Road" (not to be confused to the one in Bryan), and had a railroad spur paralleling it. The overpass was added in the 1960s, after the abandonment of I-GN Railroad (that's why the railroad is dead-on to you when approaching from the south). I wanted to add a photo from Project HOLD of the overpass when it was being built, and there is one elsewhere on this blog which I'll add at a later date.

For me, a trip down University Drive usually involved zipping down the long Yield lane down toward University (which is no longer, even more so since they wrecked Dulie Bell, passing the Deluxe Diner, which often included its menu in the quasi-dining guide I got from the George Bush Library (you can see a recreation of it below), passing by the large building that later had Schotzi's (plus "Skybar", which is owned by Schotzi's) and Zapatos Cantina. Years ago it once had a large DoubleDave's advertisement but DoubleDave's has moved on. Although there are no longer DoubleDave's off campus easily accessible (best you could try for is Texas Avenue Crossing way over at the golf course end), there are DoubleDave's in Texas and beyond.

The first building on this stretch to still exist is Chimy's Cerveceria at 203 University Drive, which was formerly the aforementioned Deluxe, as covered by our new (1/16) post. The numbering starts at 203, since what would be 201, "Boyett Distr. Co." was demolished for what would be the overpass. Looking at a site like Historic Aggieland shows what appears to be a gas station, and apparently it was indeed a Magnolia Oil gas station, which was the origin of the "Pegasus" logo of Mobil.

The "Onion Ring"

Next to the Deluxe Diner is a building with metal siding, 205 University. While it was an eatery called M&M Grill (not to be confused with A&M Grill of the distant past) in the mid-1990s, it was later the flagship location of DoubleDave's PizzaWorks, until it moved off of Northgate for good in 2006. Today, the old DoubleDave's sign can still be visible under the new Schotzi's bar name, with the "Sky Bar" above. You can see in pictures on Yelp, it used to be Skyybar. Schotzi's has live music, which it usually advertises.

Directly next to Schotzi's was The Ranch (209 University), which actually filed in the New Development as "Aquarium Bar", but that never came to past. This used to be Aggieland Flowers & Gifts until around the mid-2000s.

Next to that was Zapatos Cantina at 211 University. Zapatos closed in spring 2013 after Chimy's opened (probably because it was better overall for a similar menu/theme) but one thing that many people don't know is Zapatos Cantina was in fact the original DoubleDave's PizzaWorks location on Northgate (but not the original-original, that is the modern day Coco Loco). Like Bill's next to it, this was once "Don's Barber Shop" in the early 1970s.

A long time ago. I dare say the pizza rolls were better than they are now (Project HOLD)

There was also a barber, "Bill's Style Shop" at 215 University but eventually Bill retired and the space was absorbed into Zapatos Cantina, which eventually became Wobbly Monkey. The original Zapatos section (DoubleDave's) was not part of the deal, but Wobbly Monkey never lasted more than two semesters because the owner sold out. It is now Northgate Juice Joint, which will use part of the outdoor space for an urban garden. Interesting.

Before Bill's, in the early 1970s, this was "Andre's Bicycle Shop".

No alcohol served here, then or now.

At the corner of Boyett and University, where a new stoplight is being built to be the "main entrance" of Northgate, it's a pretty trashy intersection as it stands now. As of this writing, Boulevard 217, the latest in a revolving door of trashy dance halls, and besides, that nasty wood siding replaced the finest (and only) example of Art Deco this city ever had. Read more there for the history of that building.

The other side of Boyett holds a Citgo, which used to be an E-Z Mart. Read more about that here.

One of the cool things about the core of Northgate is that it resembled a bit of an "Old Western" town. Unfortunately, since it was built in the 20th century as mentioned before, FM 60 was not a land of horses, shootouts, and the occasional hanging back in the old days, but as a kid growing up in College Station, it gave it some semblance of something different. Unfortunately, in 2012, the city slapped up a cheap-looking pedestrian barrier, making the area less appealing to the eye.

Information on the current "The Backyard" restaurant and the former Fitzwilly's can be found here, the 303 University tenant.

305 University
Next to The Backyard is a Northgate staple, the Dry Bean Saloon. Like its name suggests, the front resembles something from a different time: a time of horses, shootouts, and the occasional hanging. The ugly pedestrian barrier brings down the appearance of the whole area (as if Northgate wasn't already a bit unsightly).

A shot bar that doesn't allow anyone under 21 in, the building wasn't Dry Bean Saloon until the early 1990s, as prior to it was Sticky Chin's, an ice cream parlor which opened sometime in the late 1980s (and was still open in 1990). At one time, this was a hobby store ("Hobby World of Texas", '72)

307-309 University
"The Chicken" has been a Northgate fixture since 1974. Prior to that was the ""Aggie Den", a pool hall, where (supposedly, since we only have a forum thread mentioning this) you could buy and sell pornographic magazines (they covered the walls, after all), watch porn, or smoke (the last one being a bit of a no-brainer, of course, everyone smoked inside back in the day). It was bought, cleaned up, renamed and played country by Don Ganter. It soon served alcohol, and the rest is history. There was a bar next door (Miranda's, a fern bar), the only major remnant of being it was a painting not covered up by wood (near the snake cage). This was added in 1982 where Dixie Chicken started serving hamburgers. Prior to this expansion, the Chicken only served cheese and summer sausage. Miranda's was at 309 University and the older of the two buildings.

The Aggie Den was not just a nickname for the Adult Arcade, an adult-oriented establishment in the upper level of the Loupot's building, which was raided (illegally, as it turned out later) by the DA. This I remember reading about in a newspaper archive, but the Adult Arcade was a much sleazier place (as in, almost exclusively X-rated films). It was indeed in that place since the late 1960s or early 1970s (as confirmed by a phone book), but did serve some sort of food, possibly summer sausage and cheese like Dixie Chicken did.

Between Dry Bean and Dixie Chicken is "Bottlecap Alley", a small area strewn with thousands of bottlecaps, many of which have rusted into dust due to rain (and urine).


311 University
Home to Duddley's Draw, owned by the same company as Dixie Chicken. It replaced a beer-and-pizza place called Ralph's Pizza back in the 1970s, and is known to be less of a "redneck" place than the Chicken is. This used to have the address of 313 University.

315-317 University
A bit more complicated. In the late 1980s, the space of 317 was Cow Hop (owned by Gideon's, see below), which had by then expanded to the adjacent (tiny) space of 315 University. However, it closed and moved out to University Square, leaving the combined space to a large bar called The Bullseye, which by 1995 closed and became two bars: "The Alley" (315) and "King of the Roadhouse" (317). Soon after, The Alley would become a bar called Coupe de Ville with the Cow Hop returning to its original space (by 1999). Both closed soon enough: Coupe De Ville was crushed by a lawsuit filed in the early 2000s when a young man who turned 21 died from alcohol poisoning. As it turns out, Coupe De Ville's drinks were extremely potent: all of them had names that bragged about how high they were in alcohol: names like "Bad Mother****er, Liquid Cocaine and DWI" (as says the Houston Press--and no, in the real bar, there were no blanking out obscenities). The Flaming Frog's Ass was mostly Everclear (190 proof), and a few contained 151-proof rum (three shots each). By the time police found him that morning, the man's blood alcohol level was .48.

Eventually, both became bars: there was "Bar 315" which closed in March 2012, and Mad Hatters, which remains today. Many an Aggie in the 1980s and 1990s remember getting a "Cow Pie with Fries" from Cow Hop. TABC records mention a place at 317 called "Big Pauly's Garlic Room" (Goodfellas reference?), but I don't think it ever opened (voluntarily cancelled TABC license--would've opened sometime in late 2001 or early 2002).

Sure, this is for the spin-off at Culpepper Plaza and not actually of the Northgate original, but it's a better copy overall from what I have.

In the early 1970s, 315 was "Sound Shop" and 317 was "Burger Hut".

319-327 University
Freebirds World Burrito, Wells Fargo, and Texas Aggieland Bookstore occupy the next building over. At 321 University, there was the original location of "Charlie's Grocery", the first grocery store in College Station. Also known as "Luke and Charlie's", the grocery store wouldn't impress anyone today, and by the time it disappeared in the mid-1980s, it was a joke compared to supermarkets such as the Skaggs Alpha Beta down the road. It was also becoming increasingly irrelevant as similarly-sized UtoteM convenience stores sprouted around the area. Some space was ceded to Texas Aggie Bookstore (327). At one time in the 1980s prior to Freebirds, there was a bar/restaurant called Billy Jack's (319), which also fed off of the old space from Charlie's. Freebirds World Burrito arrived in 1991. Briefly, Texas Aggie Bookstore assumed the old Charlie's space, before it became Wells Fargo. Today, Texas Aggie Bookstore is the Texas AggieLand Bookstore, forced by a name change.

In the early 1970s, they were all small tenants: 319 was Godfrey's Restaurant, 321 was still Charlie's Grocery, 323 was Varsity Barber Shop, 325 was Jeans n Things, and 327 was Texas Aggie Bookstore (much, much smaller).

329 University
Beyond that is Basil Whippet's Pub & Apothecary Lounge, a bar that opened in 2010. Basil Whippet's used to be, briefly, the rap-oriented BMO's in 2009, and before that The Library. While having a bar with a name like that is a classic pun and a convenient excuse to go out drinking, The Library closed in 2008 or 2009 due to poor sales. It also had problems when allegations of racism surfaced. That being said, The Library had a surprisingly long life for a non-"main strip" bar, opening in 2000. Before that, it was "Crooked Path", before that before THAT it was "Equinox" (early to mid 1990s, I'm told) and before that, Northgate Café. Northgate Café did have live music.

From at least 1980 up to the early 1990s, it was Farmer's Market Sandwich Shop, a limited menu version (it later became full line) of Farmer's Market Bakery and Delicatessen in Bryan. It sold sandwiches, soups, salads, and fresh baked goods before becoming Gideon's Farmer's Market (adding catered meats to the Bryan location and pasta, pastries, and beer to the Northgate location--free delivery to dorms, too), and then closing the Northgate location, which became Equinox (the Bryan location closed later). It was somewhere in the long history of being Gideon's/Farmer's Market that it absorbed 331 University, the next to last home to On the Double copying. The building has had a few exterior updates; unfortunately, I don't have pictures I can readily show you (yet).

Mid-1970s, too!

Prior to Farmer's Market, the space was a place called "The Tavern", with the upstairs split between an insurance company and brokers.

As of November 2015, coverage of the Loupot's that was on this page can be found here.

Across College Main is the Sparks Building. Information on the Sparks Building can be found here, in the post linked.

409 University
There's a building that contains a Starbucks Coffee, Potbelly Sandwich Works, and Domino's Pizza, from right to left. Up until around the mid 2000s, the entire building was the University Bookstore (ANOTHER bookstore, yes). According to MyBCS, it closed in February 2006 and was replaced with the new stores by years-end. Though apparently Starbucks had replaced a jewelry store.

Summer 2013.

Just past 409 University is A&M United Methodist Church (417 University), which we'll take a closer look later on (even then, not much more than photos).

Aggieland Credit Union at 501 University Drive has been there for a long time, but it used to be Pizza Hut (yes, even though Pizza Hut is still there at University and Texas). Cycles Etc. (505 University Drive) used to be a different bicycle shop (Cycle Spectrum, apparently), though Cycles Etc. has been in the same place since '98. FedEx Office (509 University) used to be FedEx Kinko's, and before that Kinko's. It also looks like part of the building was demolished and rebuilt later. Apparently it used to be a large patio for a Mexican restaurant/bar that used to be here. I do have pictures of at least some of these, but I'm choosing not to add them for now.

601 University Drive
This once was a more interesting building. As of this writing, this is now a very large Subway, but it wasn't always that way. From what I can tell, this place was built in the late 1980s. In terms of recent history, this was once the home of Rusty Taco, which used to be Papa John's until about 2009-2010. I snapped this picture in 2011 that has some sort of "Treats" listed. The Subway has always been there. Rusty Taco on the other hand, was a 24 hour taqueria, but the summer hours were severely restricted in summer 2012, turning it into a mostly lunch-based option, and it closed around the time the fall 2012 semester started.

Prior to Rusty Taco's move in

I don't have a menu of the Rusty Taco (I remember seeing it on the Internet, but can't find it).

The Rusty Taco, as mentioned above, lasted from about October 2011 to September 2012, and Yelp! is the best resource if you'd like to read more (and it pictures of the front, too!). It was a cheap taco place--cheaper than Fuego--and it showed--the tacos were $2-$3 each and were full of meat, with the flagship item being the "Rusty Taco", a taco filled with reddish-colored meat. It was a chain that had locations in the Dallas area (and has two in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, oddly enough), and put in the old Papa John's, even incorporating a garage door in the restaurant in lieu of windows, creating a hybrid open-air restaurant. The beer was cheap ($1 Pearl), and it was open 24 hours.

According to a guy who worked at the Daily Ruckus (not anymore since that also closed), Rusty Taco's pricing was such that breakfast tacos were cheaper (usually egg-based than meat-based) but the profit margins were much thinner. Not that they were grotesquely overpriced--the tortillas were small and tasted no better than what you could find in a grocery store--but for whatever reason, it didn't work out. Hours were severely cut back in the summer of 2012, and it perished shortly after school started for the 2012-2013 year.

The intriguing part is the fact that this building was once known as (on paper at least) as the University Food Court (from the New Development listings). Since two restaurants (much less one) is hardly a food court, the building once had THREE options: Baskin-Robbins, Little Caesar's, and Subway. I did recently recover a black and white photo that had all three. It should also be noted that Smoothie King took over in the late 1990s ever so briefly (also a bit funny since Papa John's and Smoothie King have Underground outlets), but that eventually disappeared. I don't remember being inside of Papa John's, did they have an eat-in area?

609 University
The Shell used to have the "old Shell" logo. It also has gas priced ten cents higher than elsewhere. The Zip'N here has been around for many years.

701 University
Notes-n-Quotes has been in its current location since 1992. It used to be an Exxon station, and that was still listed in a 1989 directory (as "Dean's Exxon"). Behind it is Jin's Asian Café and Lippman Music. It's possible that the Exxon suffered and/or closed due to a road widening.

Next we have the late BB&T site, its legacy finished after decades of bank use, the the Rise at Northgate (that's a link back to our post on it, not their website) and its CVS at the bottom of it, and across the street, a Taco Bell, which we covered here.

Behind Taco Bell lies what was University Square, a shopping center largely untouched from its groundbreaking in the early 1970s, until very recently. Texas A&M students lost the opportunity to eat at Fat Burger or Hebert's Cajun Food, an incredibly sad double blow, since both had been there since the early 1990s.

There's a McDonald's, which includes a studying area part of the restaurant (well, DESIGNED for studying anyway--it's basically a different dining room) and built on the site of the first McDonald's in the area, and a Chipotle, the last building in the block not owned by University Square/Legacy Point. The Chipotle (815 University Drive) used to be a Mobil gas station until its demolition in the late 1990s/early 2000s for a Chipotle. I always thought it was cool back circa 2003 how McDonald's owned both the McDonald's chain and the Chipotle chain (they later spun it off). This we do not have a picture for.

This is worth noting because Chipotle and Freebirds started out very similarly, except it was Chipotle who had the angel investor (McDonald's) that turned into a national brand. One wonders if it was Freebirds, not Chipotle, that McDonald's bought.

There's even a Chipotle on University Drive East, near the bypass, but they're the only two in town.

And that's it. Sure, a good other portion of Northgate isn't covered, including Church Avenue, but we did cover Boyett. College Main businesses I have put back up (and it was expanded), and Church Avenue is covered elsewhere (that did have originally-cut material).

v53 (9/20/16): Removed the entry for what was the BB&T due to another article outsource.
v52 (1/22/16): Rebuilt intro paragraph to outsource Chimy's and some other things.
v51 (11/1/15): Removed Loupot's as it received its own post.
v50 (9/20/15): Removed 609 University (the Shell) to be on the new directories page, announced further cuts.

For the rest of the updates that used to be listed here, please visit this link.


Anonymous said...

Aggieland Credit Union was, when I arrived here in 1983 (and lived in the Northgate student slums), a Pizza Hut or Pizza Inn - one of the 2. It had a greatly different look with sort of fake mansard roof. Aggieland CU gave it the 2-story brick look and painted the whole thing. You'd never know it was a pizza joint now.
Yes, Starbucks was a jewelry store and something else that I can't remember.
Traditions replaced a Lutheran church, I believe, that took up almost the entire block - lovely live oaks surrounding it on the north side. I lived on Louise in one of the brick duplexes for a while, and in a 2-room half/house on Cherry that was definitely slum-level housing!

Adeck said...

You have Logan's and Rebel Draft House mixed up. Rebel's used to the drink, martini street, ect. Also, the small building next to the parking garage has been Cedar Lane bar since around 2009. The Ranch on Northgate opened a new rooftop bar between Schotzi's and Zapatos in May 2012, they also have a 6th st. Location in Austin.

Pseudo3D said...

I corrected Play's current tenant, but yeah, Rebel's was Luckie's, then The Drink, then before that "Martini Street", then before that the subway sandwich place?

Logan's was just Texadelphia before, right?

John said...

Awesome post! One of the best you've done! I always wanted to know what the northgate area used to be like.

Pseudo3D said...

I confirmed it was a Pizza Hut. More details soon!

Anonymous said...

The 1947-1948 City Directory shows the following Sulphur Springs entries:
1210 Varner (CW) Jewlery
1212 A & M Photo Shop
1214 A & M Alteration Shop
1216 A & M Grill
1218 Waldrop (AM) & Company
1220 College Book Store
1222 Aggieland Barber Shop
1224 Aggieland Pharmacy

Emmy's Poppa said...

"Luke and Charlie's Grocery" was owned & operated by my good friend's parents Mr. And Mrs. Robbins. Their son Billy & I would go in there in the late 60s and get Cokes gratis. And the jewelry store on the far corner (now a Starbucks)was bought and operated by another high school friend of ours Alan Cowart. Agree this is a GREAT article!!! Jim in Houston

Anonymous said...

The best part I remember about Kyoto Sushi was the "air conditioning". It was nothing but a window AC unit placed on a table in the middle of the restaurant. It would blow cold air out one side and hot air out the other with net effect of making the entire restaurant hotter. Complaints were not well received, the staff seemed to know it was stupid but claimed the owner insisted on having it.

Anonymous said...

Dudley's Draw used to sell a pitcher of Shiner Bock for $1.75 before 4:00 and $2.00 after. The bottle caps at the Dixie Chicken used to be collected by fish for their spurs that they had to wear. I remember the Cow Hop had one table with a vinyl table cloth. We would go there on Friday's, wear ties with out T shirts, bring a candle and have elegant dining at the Cow Hop. We were asked if we were from the physics department, no we were chemists.