Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year in Review - 2012

I hope I can find more information so I can do "time warp" articles, but here goes. Links to appropriate IA&ABV links are provided, as well as a few others.

In February, a flood happened, seemingly as penance after the terrible 2011 drought. Notably, the YMCA floods (just after a renovation, too) and the former Fajita Rita's/Las Lomas building burns down.

In April, Friday afternoon shoppers were shocked and frightened as a gunshot was heard in the College Station Walmart. While such a thing is relatively common in big-city Wal-Marts (after all, in Austin, a drunk man in a Walmart had killed an officer with a semi-automatic weapon earlier that month).
The MSC also re-opened, welcoming students back to the Flag Room and a real bookstore, plus all-new eating options (which were promptly ruined when the outsourcing happened in the next two months).

In late May, thousands of people from all over the city came and watched as the area's tallest building, the Plaza Hotel was imploded. This alone would've been the one of the biggest stories of the year, until August 13, 2012, when Constable Brian Bachmann was shot and killed by Thomas Caffall in the West Park subdivision. Before Caffall was shot by police, Caffall killed another College Station resident and seriously injured another.

Afterwards, A&M went on to clean house in the SEC thanks to a combination of a good coach and good players (just think of us in the Big 12! We could've won even more).

Other highlights and lowlights:
• Northgate received a significant makeover, closing off College Main to vehicular traffic (and rebuilding the rest), adding medians, a wall between the University Drive bars and the street, plus taking an abandoned bank to a large under construction apartment.
• University Square started to undergo a transformation to Legacy Point: it started by taking out the long-abandoned Albertsons, but displacing a number of businesses, including Fat Burger and Hebert's Cajun Food. That summer, another cajun restaurant was lost when Crazy Cajuns' closed after changing hands another time (it was located in the parking lot).
• On August 21st, 2012, College Station received a Panera Bread for the first time. Earlier that summer, people packed the new Freddy's Frozen Custard in Bryan, proof positive there's not enough things to do in this town.
• High schools were in the news: A&M Consolidated High School did an interior remodel and College Station High School opened on Victoria Avenue.
College Station Conference Center was condemned (it played a small role in the eventual creation of this blog).
Bisbee passes away.
The Cottages of College Station opens, along with University Heights, plus the expansion of the Barracks. While we have yet to see that wakeboard park they promised, Holleman Drive South traffic has increased.
• Sonic closes at the mall, just after its renovation. Flip & Peel Burgers & Fries opened afterwards, which was more expensive than Sonic, lacked the large menu, "Happy Hour", and cherry limeades, but it's better food overall.
• George Bush Presidential Library and Museum became 15 years old with no fanfare.
• A bomb threat forced evacuation of the A&M campus the day before the LSU game. While this did not garner a post on this blog, I did post something on it at my "main" blog, Carbonizer. Ultimately, it resulted in two arrests (one of whom was not the person), lost time for students and faculty, and a huge boost in any businesses immediately outside of campus. Any bar or restaurant that was open at noon must have had more than enough business to make up for any slow day that week.
• Spring brought a bunch of new restaurants. In Bryan, Chicken Express opens in the spring at the old Burger King location. This was the Burger King at the old bus station. Other restaurants open during that time included Daily Ruckus (a fried food place on Northgate) and the opening of Fowl Digits, kicking off "Chicken Strip Row". Something was "fowl" with their business plan, so they eventually revamped the restaurant and renamed it as Sully's Sports Bar & Grill, which is doing markedly better. Lupe Tortilla opened in the old Red Lobster. Haiku Sushi renamed to "Kobe Steak & Sushi". The Sodolak's on University closed but was replaced with "Rooster's Country Dinner House" by year end. Wolfies opened near the mall. Lanna Thai opened in Bryan. The Tower Point area received many new eateries that spring as well, including a new location of McDonald's, Taco Bell, and a Chick-fil-A. Tony Roma's and The Original Fried Pie Shop (renamed Nana's Fried Pies) both closed.
• Guitar Center opened in the old University Drive Circuit City.
• Seafood Mama's burned down in early summer. The building, which once held Oxford Street, is never renovated post-fire and was unceremoniously razed a few months later.
• In December, Johnny "Johnny Football" Manziel wins the Heisman trophy, with the biggest coverage on the newspaper since September 11th.

No doubt this year was full of events!

Please feel free to post anything related that happened this year, and come back in 2013, where we will have many more articles to post!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Manor East Mall

725 (East) Villa Maria Road

I never did get any Manor East Mall pictures before year end, so went ahead and override what I had planned and released what we have today. I regret that I gave a lot of what I discovered--including the discovery of Britts as the first anchor--to Mall Hall of Fame, as well as an early name of the complex (pre-building): the "Manor Village Shopping Center", but here it is at last.

Manor East Mall has long has been a favorite subject of mine, dating back to this little summary I wrote for DeadMalls.com a few year back with an outdated Internet moniker, which was clever but ultimately stupid. (If you know me in real life--the answer should be pretty clear in a few seconds).

I first went to Manor East Mall over twelve years ago, my first and last time, and discovered (by then) it was a mostly empty corridor with a pet store and boarded up storefronts. I seem to remember it was blue, and it had benches. Although originally a "cross", you only went in, and turned right.

With that said, here are some bits about it, including some where you will find nowhere else. Remember, on some of these, you heard it here first!

A lot of false and misleading information is floating around about Manor East Mall, specifically two objects: its initial line-up including a J.C. Penney (which is partially true) and opening in 1972 (which may or may not be true). These facts were derived from a Brazos Valley history book, and I don't know where they sourced that from. This is the REAL scoop. Its initial anchors did include a 68,000 square foot Montgomery Ward (built before the mall, in 1966) and Britts as majors, but not much else about the mall line-up beyond the initial line-up. It included "The Fair", a Houston-based junior department store for a while, a Karmelkorn, a radio station, and some of the initial tenants shown on this 1972 ad from The Eagle (appearing on the Internet for the first time, exclusive to this blog). Some other tenants are listed on MyBCS.com. Kroger also was a charter tenant, though disconnected from the mall. Here's an early, easily-available picture of the Montgomery Ward and Kroger, before the mall was built.


Given that the original anchor, Britts, had its arches on the inside, I'm guessing the Britt's building was built a bit before the mall, which must have opened in 1971 (not 1970). Check out these Britts opening ads and other advertisements from The Eagle. These are exclusive to this blog, folks--never before seen on the Internet.






The Manor East III Theaters opened in November 1974. It was the first multiplex in town.

Kroger moved out in 1977, and the space had been taken by Hastings by the early 1990s (although it's quite possible that Hastings was around in the late 1970s--there was a Hastings at Culpepper Plaza).

When Britt's left in the late 1970s or early 1980s, it was briefly filled with a JCPenney (from downtown) before moving to Post Oak Mall. A unique feature of this JCPenney during this time was a rare but not unheard of coffeeshop inside the store, which was almost certainly originally the coffeeshop at Britts.

Hey, it's Pelican's Wharf!


By the late 1980s, it was occupied by a "Food 4 Less" grocery store. During that time, in 1982, Manor East Mall got a third anchor: the world's first mall-based Wal-Mart (which is yet to be disproved). It had two entrances (one exterior, one interior) and was a "brown" Wal-Mart as was standard in those days.

Post Oak Mall was a vacuum that ended up killing the last of the major downtown stores and Bryan retail (including the downtown Bealls, Woolworth, the Townshire Sears, and the Manor East JCP). It even added Dillard's and Foley's.

Wal-Mart was ultimately short-lived, and moved out circa 1994 for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter on the bypass. The mall had a fast exodus of tenants during that time, losing most of its national tenants.

In 1991, Food 4 Less closed (within weeks of the H-E-B Pantry's opening to the north) and it was split between Jo-Ann Fabrics and the 50 Off Store.

In mid-1997 the 'Magination Station, a local playhouse group, moved into the old movie theater and started renovations. But Montgomery Ward closed its only and last store in the area in early 1999, as part of the last round of store closures before bankruptcy.

While the 'Magnination Station (known as The Theatre Company within the next few years) and Bealls still active, the mall soldiered on until circa 2003, when the last of the in-line tenants closed and it was razed by the son of the developer that originally built it. A few of the corridors were converted to in-line space, but it was largely lost.

A few of the stores by the late 1990s had exterior exits. Family Dollar did (though that was a result of being added in the 1990s as a last-chance addition), and Bealls did too. I think these were behind the barriers of the north wall, though. Eckerd, which moved out circa '99 for a stand-alone store, also had one (if you visit Mall Hall of Fame, the map is wrong in its placement of Eckerd...wrong side of the mall, it faced Villa Maria--but correct in other places).

Also during this time, Shivers set up a snow-cone shack near Wayside and Villa Maria Road. This didn't last long, but Shivers survived, jumping to Culpepper Plaza II, and eventually Woodstone--I think it closed circa 2008).

The strip mall next to Hastings largely survived the transition. There was a Payless ShoeSource (moved) and a store called "Lease Town Rent to Own", which later became "Rent City" after the transition much to my bemusement. It later closed.

Gold's Gym was also in the old mall, I seem to remember it was behind the Hastings area. (Actually incorrect in an email. There wasn't enough space back there anyway!)

Here's an overview from 2003, showing where things were.
The "A" is where Family Dollar and Bealls had exterior access (Family Dollar opened circa 1997, it seems). There's also the Theatre Company visible. To put it in the present day context, the interior hallway north toward the old Britts has been demolished and replaced with an alley, the east-west corridor is now in-line space (Project: Yogurt, the ink store, etc.), and everything south of it is gone for H-E-B.

Note that in the present day, Hastings has expanded slightly, too. The building to the south had Carter's Burger if I recall correctly but I don't know what else.

Further information on its next incarnation, the Tejas Center, another time.

Thanks to The Mall Hall of Fame (though I supplied a lot of information to it to begin with), The HAIF, MyBCS, and The Eagle.

You'll notice there's a curious lack of interior photos...I couldn't find any, and emailing Stalworth Development (the company that both built it and redeveloped it) was at first promising but ultimately turned up nothing. There's an exterior photo floating around (see Mall Hall of Fame) that is the same view of Kroger and Montgomery Ward taken years later.


A rare interior picture, courtesy John Ellisor


Here's more stuff added as of June 2013 (I haven't actually gotten the pictures yet, except for one):

An ad from 1973. I find this hilarious since they seem to indicate everyone's father looked like that goofy guy from up there. Also, note that "Bell Bros." and "Beall Bros." are pronounced exactly the same.


Although I was sloppy in getting this from the microfilms (cutting off some), this 1973 ad has Animal World featured, which was one of the last in-line stores to leave, and one of the oldest. It was where we got some stuff immediately after getting our cat in 2000 from the animal shelter. Sadly, she's no longer with us.


Crafts Etc. ad from 1994. The theater had closed by this time.


If I got anything wrong, or you'd like to add something, leave a comment! Or send an email!

In later years (1990s), the mall still held a variety of local tenants even though the best days had long left it. Here are a few gathered from local publications. A beer and liquor memorabilia store? That's cool, I guess.


Here's a list of the mall stores about the time Post Oak Mall opened:
Animal World
Bealls
Bell Bros. Shoes
B&F Shoes
Cloth World
Courts
Eckerd
El Chico [may have been located outside the mall]
Eve's
Fifth Avenue Bookstore
Gallenkamps
Graves
Great Western Credit [ATM machine?]
House of Jeans
Karmelkorn
Keyboard Center
Margos' La Mode
Mean Machine
Milady
Montgomery Ward
Mor Rea's
Musicland
J.C. Penney
Orange Julius
Powder Room
Lindsey's
Singer Sewing Center
Starship Hallmark
The Fair [out of Houston, not the Chicago Houston]
Turquoise Shop
Village Casuals
Wicks N Sticks
Your Optical Shoppe
Zales


One can't forget the McDonald's there, either. The first McDonald's in Bryan and the second McDonald's in the area opened in the Manor East Mall parking lot, this McDonald's opened in 1977. Here's a great picture from the 1970s not too long after it opened (from the Facebook Pooh's Park picture collection). In the early 2000s it was torn down and rebuilt, the first McDonald's in town to undergo the process (this was not connected with the Tejas Center re-do). At least it still has that classic mansard roof, though the original McDonald's looks like it had some sort of Tudor-theme going on (are those red SHINGLES?), and was actually designed to have white stucco to match the mall.

The rebuild featured a much thinner red part under the Golden Arches.


Despite the McDonald's in the background, those are Whataburger cups there.

Last updated 9/21/14 with a new picture by John Ellisor and another small change. Did you notice it?

Monday, December 17, 2012

[Side Stories] All Hail the Late, Great Madden's Street Cuisine

The sad fate of the food truck, now a second Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro


Madden's Street Cuisine, which stopped delivering deliciousness around town early last summer is covered here. I ate there and got a repeat customer card (completely useless now) and a menu, both of which are pictured here for your infotainment.

The menu actually was printed on old scratch paper: the other side has some sort of multiple-course "Civil Engineering Staff Appreciation Lunch" with classy things such as "Tomato Bisque garnished with fresh mozzarella, saffron whipped cream and fresh basil chiffonade", but I didn't scan it since it's in poor shape (and only half of the page), and you could order stuff from the actual Madden's restaurant which is very much alive.




[Side Stories] Houston Street

This was the remnant of something called "Road Profiles", which...is explained below. Originally "Road Profiles: Houston Street". It is currently under construction once more.

Welcome to Roads Profiles! This is the result of a brainstorming session I had, this takes a look at the individual roads of the area, returning some of the focus back to the original site name. Links to other articles at this site are in bold. This is subject to be edited, too, as I get more information.

I plan to make (or to retrofit) more of these to showcase smaller things and link to other articles. Don't worry, "real" articles are most certainly not dead.


Houston Street

There have been proposals to route Welsh down to Houston, but ultimately has fallen through due to neighborhood opposition. This was finally more or less confirmed in the late 2000s when the narrow section of Welsh north of Holleman was torn up and replaced with a narrow concrete road.


Houston Street's rerouting has changed several times. I could look it up at "Historic Aggieland", but it was down during the holidays, so I'll have to get caught up later. The earliest known route is in 1919 where it follows pretty much the same route as today, though with the missing parts filled in, a bit straighter near where Lechner is, and terminating at the south end of modern-day Koldus. Later on, it went through a slightly different route, curving into Fairview, before finally terminating at the intersection of Jersey (later George Bush) as it does today. By the time this happened, however, the MSC had expanded and the road was no longer in one segment.

Anyway, I always knew it as being in three parts: the south, the central, and the north. The south section is a concrete two lane road with bike lanes, with a stoplight at George Bush installed in 1995.

The expansion of the Memorial Student Center and the building of Rudder Tower in the early 1970s sealed off the connection between the center portion and the southern part of Houston Street. On the other side of Houston (which Lamar Street curves into), it's northbound only, and the striping is completely screwed up. Here's what I mean: in places, like, say Jones Street, it was once a narrow two-way road, but was modified into one way with bike lanes heading each direction. But on Houston Street, that's not the case: it's much narrower heading the opposite direction (with the yellow stripe) and a bit wider on the bike lane, and a wide single lane. The result is that buses often stop on the right to pick up and drop off, which means certain risk if you happen to be biking that way. The sensible thing would be is that since there are sidewalks, eliminate biking on the streets altogether, and change the lane closest to the east (with the stops) as a double-white-line buses-only lane and the other for vehicular traffic.

The YMCA Building I have yet to write anything on, but you can at least see some pictures here. Other buildings include the Richard Coke Building and the Beutel Health Center.

At All Faiths Chapel, the road curves into Jones and continues back south, but circa 2005, however, the connection to north campus finally reopened between the center and north portion after years of being for pedestrian use, but it was buses only (even on nights and weekends).

Near this bus connection, is Lechner Hall, one of the last on-campus dorms before the Northside Residence Hall was built (way back in 1986--no new dorms on campus were built for well over two decades--and no, the University Apartments don't count)

The entrance to the Underground and Einstein Bros. are off of Houston, too. Lot 32 is also here, it used to connect to the Special Services Building, and itself used to have the original "Aggieland Inn" from 1925 to 1966. Unrelated to the former Ramada, it was essentially a hotel for others to stay on campus without actually living there. It was doomed by the MSC (a much nicer on-campus hotel) and later the first Ramada Inn. It was torn down shortly after the Ramada opened off-campus. Recently, though, I noticed that Lot 32 has been torn up, probably for conversion into a concrete road (and/or access to the new dorm).

Originally, Houston split into two concrete shady separate lanes (but without bike lanes) and up to the stoplight at College Main and University, but in mid-2012, as part of a rehabbing of University Drive, the northbound lane past Sbisa was cut off and the southbound lane of Houston could only be accessed from University. The remainder was turned into bikes only.

YMCA Building - Renovated many, many times in the last century.
Sbisa Dining Hall - Sbisa's address is actually Houston, even though it faces Ross. The entrance to Einstein Bros. Bagels and the Underground face Houston.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bryan's Kroger (Family Center)

This page is under construction

Sadly the only half-decent picture I could find, see source below


2104 Texas Avenue South

Back when I discussed Parkway Square, home of the original College Station Kroger before its closure in 2016, I had some speculation (on at least the older version of the page) if there was a true "Kroger Family Center" at the spot, if it was ever there. the early attempt for Kroger to make a true "supercenter" with a full line of products including apparel and sporting goods. Well, while the College Station one was not a Family Center, the Bryan one was. While Kroger had swept off the general merchandise from most stores, the Bryan one was not.

In a move from the Manor East store, the Kroger Family Center in Bryan opened in 1977 with a wider selection of merchandise.

Well, as it turned out, it actually was a real Family Center until sometime in the mid-1980s when it remodeled into a Food & Drug retrofitted "Greenhouse" style store, with a facade resembling the classic facade. I'm not sure when it renovated, in October 1985 it was still selling the full line (like ammunition), long after Kroger had pulled the plug on many other stores that weren't in its market areas (like Victoria, TX).

A mezzanine level sold clothing, too.

The strangest fact is that there appears to be a significant gap between the closure of this store and the opening of the next. Usually when a store moves, either both remain open (briefly), it can open next day, or a total closure for two weeks. But from the way it looks, it looks like it was closed for about three months.

The new Kroger opened in April 2006 but no mention was of the older store, because when the news came when the short-lived Bryan Albertsons closed, it was mentioned that the Kroger had closed in late 2005. Combined with the fact that the new Kroger isn't meant to really appeal to the same crowd as the Kroger it replaced, it suggests that the Kroger was a loser store but Kroger still wanted to stay in the area.

A few years after the store closed, it was renovated into "Bryan Square Shopping Center". The "fake greenhouse" was retained for the 99 Cents Only Store but the rest of the facade was remodeled. Other stores added in front of the store were Citi Trends and the Dollar Floor Store. There were also stores to the south side of the store, these were not renovated and allow you to see the original facade.

Formerly known as "Kroger: All In the Family Center" before I changed it in May 2013. Updated four years later.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sbisa Dining Hall

Sbisa, in modern times but prior to the renovation of the plaza (Aggiemap.tamu.edu)


233 Houston Street

This post was one of the last posts to receive a big update (October 2014) so a lot of this information is current and I didn't need to do much when I did some minor updates in May 2015. Note that as I'm no longer a student, this information will go out of date, so I'll need your help (comments) to update this.

This post is on Sbisa Dining Hall (and if we go by the pronunciation of Sbisa's name, it's "spee-za", not "sa-beeza" as is commonly used.

After the fire at the Mess Hall, at some point long before any current attending Aggie or faculty was born, a decision was made to not rebuild on the site and build an entirely new dining hall a block away.

Sbisa in years past. The Corps crowd is replaced by the Northside dorm crowd, which is completely different.


Sbisa Dining Hall is located at the corner of Ross and Houston, where the current building has been there for nearly a century. Named after Austrian-born chef Bernard Sbisa (the head chef of A&M), it was built in the classic European style that dominated campus in those days (regrettably most of those have been demolished). I don't have pictures of the old Sbisa Hall (though its incarnation in the 1940s can be seen in the film We've Never Been Licked), and I did manage to snap this picture in Military Walk, showing a much smaller Sbisa and a railroad spur from the Ross end, roughly where the "back entrance" (near the C-store) of the Underground is. It should be noted that Sbisa wasn't named Sbisa originally until well after Sbisa's death: he died in 1928 (shortly after the dining hall completed a physical expansion in 1925, which was known as Sbisa Annex for a long time) but it was still called the Mess Hall for a few decades afterward (or do I have my references wrong?).


Because there are so many facets of Sbisa I want to focus on, this post is broken up into multiple parts.

The Main Dining Hall (Sbisa Dining Center)

In 1954, Sbisa was renovated (and not for the last time), adding new lighting, new décor, and air conditioning for the first time. It was likely at this time that the plumbing and electrical work was overhauled (also not for the last time). At the time, meals at Sbisa were still served family-style.

A further detail is elaborated in Aggieland '74 in which it stated that the dining rooms had different purposes, for breakfast, one served a full breakfast, the other was a continental breakfast (which included doughnuts, though I'm guessing they were cake donuts). Similarly, the lunch line featured a hot lunch while the other offered soup and sandwiches. Sure, it all sounds pretty reasonable, but Sbisa and Duncan were still the "main places" to eat meals (the four "Snack Bars" and Rumours were coming in at this time). It's also possible that the "third dining room" was in the lower level, which would eventually be the Underground.

In 1975, Sbisa went through another renovation, which would be for the next two and a half decade.

The new 1975 Sbisa (completed in 1976) introduced a few innovations to Sbisa that would still carry over to modern times, including a wheelchair ramp and a conveyor belt system to send trays back in for washing. The renovation removed walls from the dining rooms, with two dining areas (one reference said three, however), one of which served fast food (pizza, soups/sandwiches, hamburgers). The ceiling level was dropped as well.

The article I derived this from (courtesy John Ellisor) has one of the first mentions of the "Peniston Cafeteria", which would be the Underground many years later. Unfortunately, mention of that is rare since punching that in on TexAgs would censor it (the Scunthorpe problem in action). Jay Peniston was the TAMU dining supervisor in the 1940s and 1950s, and oversaw the 1950s renovation of Sbisa and Duncan.

By the late 1990s, the HVAC system (some of which hadn't been changed since the 1950s system under Peniston), sewer system, and décor were out of date, and Sbisa closed in December 1999 to perform major renovations on sewer and HVAC work.

During closure, there was an option to get food, a temporary area that's gone by both "Fish Pond Outbound" and "Sbisa Hut".

When it reopened in fall 2000, it featured two "areas" to get food with seating between them. There was the "Market", which offers a few salad bars, an omelet place, and a few cafeteria style lines (usually with freshly carved meats). The other side of "new" Sbisa featured several mini-lines clustered around the seating area (which was the reincarnation of the "fast foods" portion and the creation of a new main dining room), the first known "Sargino's" on campus (did you know it's a pun on "Sergeant"?), which was later renamed "Pizza & Pasta Station", probably because the P&PS pizza was the worst pizza on campus (maybe not so much with the service provider change--everything might taste the same now. While this negatively affected the pizzerias in the Commons and Ag Cafe, Sbisa's may have benefitted). "Dessert Center" (formerly "Sweet Traditions") had things like both fruit and Blue Bell ice cream. "Fish Fountain" was the drink center but renamed later for obvious reasons. The only things that still carried their original names up before Compass performed a cheap redecoration: "Ag's Diner" (hot dogs, hamburgers) and "World Cuisine" (Mexican or Oriental). There was also a soup station, and at one time a cook-your-own station...although there was still a waffle maker, I think the CYO had long been replaced with gluten free options. Some parts were served buffet style, some parts were cafeteria style.

I've pulled up a few pictures (via Google search) that show Sbisa after renovation, but none before. Also note the tables: they're not like that anymore, by early 2012 it was mostly cafeteria-style tables, which flip-flopped in later years (the cafeteria tables disappeared again after Chartwells took over).




In September 2012, I returned to Sbisa to find it oddly changed. All signage was gone: the neon "Market" sign, all the graphics and lettering gone, the price board, even the "no taking food out" signage. The food quality was altered due to Compass (no more "TruMoo" chocolate milk, though the nickname "Sa-grease-a" was less of an issue) as well. Also removed were the long, cafeteria tables, returning to individual tables. This disappointed the dorm groups, who would sit at those tables. A few months later, the signage was back, but only generic red Helvetica lettering (as slightly different food lines). What the heck was Compass thinking?

This was a time of much anger, as the food/price quality was worst and due to a maligned meal plan, people were forced to stand in long lines at peak hours, routinely stretching outside. One planned change of having an entrance at Houston Avenue never happened.

In summer, Sbisa was totally gutted again, losing the circa 2000 layout and the joke of a redecoration put there a year or so prior.

The new layout would alter the lines. Rather than the two "areas", there was one common food dining area with several kiosks to get food. Part of the reconfiguration involved some new eateries accessible from Houston Street. These included Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, which is actually not a concept from Compass (as I was previously told, or at least led to believe), and actually has locations mostly in Florida (and a few in Chile, even) and Smashburger. Smashburger is an actual chain. More on these are described later in the post.

Through the doors of Sbisa. Note the long lines.

Taken near the entrance of Lime. The dining hall originally went well past this mark, but this is an emergency exit now. Patrons of Lime/Smashburger and Sbisa can see each other, but you can't actually go through this door.


One of the new features of Sbisa (which I actually got to eat in ultimately, and the food was decent, but sadly Compass lacked the great dessert options the original Sbisa had) was a second level accessed via a slightly curving staircase. Since the renovation only took place over the course of the summer, I'm sure they re-used a lot of the 2000 infrastructure which was still up to code, but I'm still not sure on the added second level loft. Is the century-old building really that sturdy, or did the extensive 2000 renovation make that theoretically possible?



Houston Street Side


As seen above, we have the current tenants, Einstein Brothers, Smashburger, Lime, and the underground. As mentioned before, Lime and Smashburger were created in the 2014 renovation.

Up until its closure in January 2013 (a previous version of this page reported 2012, that's wrong, I apologize, it was a typo), Bernie's Place opened at sometime in the 1990s (or even the late 1980s, or whenever the new metal roof was added). It featured pizza and pizza rolls (really good pizza rolls, apparently) in the early 2000s, but by the end of the decade, it primarily offered sandwiches and wraps, changing names over time, becoming "Bernie's Café Espress-O" after the Sbisa renovations circa '99-'00, and then eventually Bernie's Café.

One day, it was spotted on the Restaurant Report Card that Einstein Bros. Bagels was listed in Sbisa's address, which, although it would be preferable if we got a real one (i.e.: off-campus), turned out to be not going in the Underground where bbqs was, but where Bernie's was, marking the death of the former pizza emporium. Einstein Brothers opened in February 2013. Before mention of Bernie's disappeared from A&M's dining website, I grabbed a copy of the Bernie's menu.

As for Smashburger and Lime, they are accessed through a new interior corridor with a restroom and a window into Sbisa (it's emergency exit only). I was looking forward to Smashburger because the menu actually included beer, but apparently so did Lime (why can't I have a cerveza with my tacos?), and obviously neither did Smashburger. I'm not sure why it's gone, especially since as stated in the MSC article, beer was supposedly considered but removed because of the MSC's memorial status, and it's very very close to Northgate, which does have beer.

Lime Fresh Mexican Grill is good, and I was the very first customer there (got my picture taken, but it's not posted). It's not cheap but it is very good, enough for me to get my "I want Taco Bell style tacos but not actually Taco Bell" tacos.

Smashburger is alright as far as burgers go. It's got soft egg buns like Harvey Washbanger's (at least I think they're egg buns), fries are lackluster, and it will do in a "I've got a feeling for burgers" pinch.

The Underground

The Underground was opened sometime in the 1970s as a straight cafeteria that served "the same stuff as Sbisa" (that would be Peniston Cafeteria, of course--now you can see why that's not found on TexAgs), but it wasn't called the Underground at that point, however, by the late 1980s, even though it didn't have Chick-fil-A or anything at that point, it was called the "Sbisa Underground Deli", although in 1988 it was known as (get this) "Underground Railroad". Whether you think is offensive, silly, or maybe a bit of both, it was scrapped after not too long. I found this ad in a 1988 Football Program.

Betcha you didn't hear that on TexAgs, either.

The Underground opened in its current form circa 1993 or 1994 in its current phase: there were actually surveys done (back when surveys were done through students and not email spam) about what students would like to see in the Underground. It was quite an opportunity to get fast food on the meal plan, which was a huge deal at first to many students (Chick-fil-a and Whataburger on the meal plan was nothing to laugh at). One of the original tenants was a Taco Bueno (a limited-menu walk-up one--and not a Taco Bell, which some accounts have), which sadly closed in 1999, the roster since 2001 has had Whataburger, Chick-fil-A, Se Wrappé (A&M concept), Alonti Deli (apparently a chain?), and Colombo yogurt. One source as to when the "new" Underground opened is the official CFA website, which claims it first opened February 20, 1995. Another sign of when it opened was the fact that Whataburger closed after the fall 2004 semester after its lease lapsed and they didn't want to renew it.

I also captured this article from Google's cache. It was from January 2001, and recently taken offline. This may be the only chance to see it:



Texas A&M board plans expand

Published on AllBusiness.com

The number of students on meal plans this year at Texas A&M Univ. in College Station has jumped 5%-6%, says dir. Ron Beard, who expects it to rise more when a new dining center opens in the spring.

"Most of the increase is due to the huge flexibility offered through our Outbound program," he says. The program began in Jan. 1998 to offer take-out meals from board-operations. In fall 1999, it was expanded to two cash-operations "and was a smashing success overnight."

Fully rolled-out: When Sbisa, the campus' largest dining hall, closed a year ago, the program was further developed to all cash operations in order to continue providing students with a wide variety of food.

Outbound offerings vary from location to location, but in each, six to eight choices are available. These range from pasta with sauce, salad, garlic bread, medium fountain drink and a dessert such as cookies or fruit, to a breakfast croissant or sandwich with fresh fruit and a drink such as juice, milk or Starbucks coffee.

The latest renovation being undertaken at the 43,000-enrollment university is at Sbisa Dining Hall, which was built in 1911-12. "This will be the Taj Mahal of f/s in the U.S.," says Beard (see Oct. 15, 2000, FSD, p. 42).

Basement brands: Sbisa's basement foodcourt will remain virtually unchanged, although a local franchised brand will be switched to a new in-house concept: Se Wrappe, featuring wraps and "Mexican burritos as big as your arm." Also featured are Chick-fil-A, Whataburger and alonte deli. [sic]

The lower level also houses a smoothie bar and a remodeled c-store. "We cut it in half to add 50 more seats for the foodcourt," says Beard, who says he feeds 2,500 students in daily in this unit alone. "We'll offer the same variety, but will just stack foods higher and restock more often. The c-store is still pretty big (approx. 1,200 sq. ft.) so I don't expect this to hurt us at all."



(The same article mentions that A&M was eyeing a "third Chick-fil-A" during this time, which probably was the Ag Café)

I'm not sure what they mean by Outbound options: is it another name for the late Maroon Plate Special, or was it a way to export food out of Sbisa? (Either way, there are still illegitimate "exports" from Sbisa) [SEE COMMENTS ON BOTTOM - Ed.]

One of the big changes of the Underground and Einstein's above it was done in the renovations. I was surprised to find that after the Underground was built and before the renovations, the Underground had zero handicap access whatsoever (I suppose that it's possible to get around through back entrances and what have you, but that's not exactly accessible). It was after the renovation, then, that the maze of handicap ramps were added to the side of the building, one leading up to Bernie's (later Einstein's, and until the 2014 renovations, the only thing up there). The 2000 renovations would add a shelter and a patio area near Bernie's. You can read what the original roster of the Underground was, and there were six spots: Chick-fil-a, Whataburger, Taco Bueno, Colombo Yogurt (I think that's what it says), Alonti Deli, and something else (I'd like to say that it's the convenience store, but I don't think so--I think it's a coffee brand). If you can identify this mystery, please leave a comment! [UPDATE 5/28/15: It is indeed a coffee brand, see comments below]



Over time, the yogurt place added smoothies (renaming to "Ultimate Fruit Sensations") and by the end of the decade, coffee (renaming to "Degrees"), at some point Alonti Deli became Pickles Deli, and Se Wrappé was stripped out for a barbecue place (01 Old Armydillo's like the old MSC place, renamed to bbqs sometime after 2008). Sadly, the Whataburger in the Underground would depart by the end of 2004, with the eatery "temporarily" replaced by The Other Burger. Over seven years later, The Other Burger was "temporarily" still there. There's also a convenience store in the basement. Despite what the article says, it seems cramped, small, and dirty and was last branded as a Rattler's, but in August 2012, it became "Outtakes", a house brand owned by Compass. However, Rattler's soon "re-took" the convenience store, including a short but awkward time when the convenience stores didn't accept Dining Dollars. Other changes in the Underground about that time was that Degrees closed and was replaced by a Smoothie King. I never liked Smoothie King, having used a coupon at Parkway Square years ago. Still, I appreciate it in spirit, as it as another branded option. Pickles Deli was now Mondo Subs (having now turned into a plain, generic sub sandwich place), The Other Burger was now The 3rd Degree (with a substantially reduced menu and quality, not that TOB was top-notch), and Chick-fil-A is still there. bbqs was gone, however--sad, but almost makes sense: it was designed to replace 01 Old Armydillo's, but since barbecue has returned to the MSC (as "Smokin'"), it rendered bbqs obsolete. After some hectic times where none of the places (save for Smoothie King) were open after lunch hours to my dismay, in fall 2013 a few new changes shook up the Underground.

I do have some pictures of the Underground I took a few years back soon after the Compass takeover. Note that 3rd Degree still pays homage to its predecessor eatery.





One of the reasons I despised Compass was because I despised Mondo Subs. While at the Pickles Deli locations, a chicken caesar wrap was pretty good, Mondo Subs managed to screw it up in every single way. The chicken was flavorless, the lettuce was white, the tortilla was old, the caesar dressing tasted awful, and the parmesan cheese had the look and feel of toenail clippings. I should never have to describe food with the phrase "toenail clippings". For a while, the bbqs vacancy was rumored to be a Denny's Fresh Express but that never happened. The bbqs vacancy was filled with 3rd Degree while the old Whataburger location became Papa John's, which I was excited about, but instead of having boxes of pizza, they're offering 8" personal pizzas (three flavors and not even Supreme), and didn't even taste really like Papa John's, they just ran them through a conveyer-belt style cooking thing and I think the pizzas were undercooked (there was a narrow window when they were cool enough to eat but just within an hour it became inedible). The lines also became really long during the Compass mandatory meal plans days, which is why I ended up stopped going to the Underground altogether.

In fall 2014, as part of the Sbisa renovations, the Underground was renovated again. The new renovation opened it up a lot more and gave the brands larger and more attractive storefronts. There was still Smoothie King, of course, but while it did change it to pay-at-the-counter (like a traditional mall food court), which eliminated the walls, but reduced the food court's store count.

The old Chick-fil-a front became a large wall with a Chick-fil-A Express logo (and I was told that the CFA would become full line), the Papa John's now faced toward the entrance, previously, that used to be the pick-up line for the burgers (which was walled up when The Other Burger closed), a new place called "Houston St. Subs", which was a Compass/Chartwells brand.

I never ate at Houston Street Subs because I had little reason to believe it isn't a repackaged "Mondo Subs", the aforementioned "toenail clippings wrap" place mentioned before. It also lacks a fifth option, which eliminates burgers (Smashburger is above), but it lacks a fifth option, which could've been that Denny's Fresh Express discussed but never realized.

The bathrooms pre-renovation were terrible, there was a urinal, toilet with door, and sink, but this was cramped and likely not ADA compliant, so that was altered to get rid of the walls and just make it single-use.

Going around to the back, the convenience store is still the same (untouched, really, including the same old floor tiles), but it also lost the Rattler's again (though having lost and re-gained it, I wouldn't put it past Rattler's to re-take the convenience store, though as of early 2015 this has yet to happen. The Rattler's at Hullabaloo Hall and the Commons were also genericized.

Sbisa mostly serves the Northside dorms, with the once-common "'Bisa Ball" fights (mostly constructed of the napkins) among the Northside dorms, which have fierce rivalries (subcultures, gotta love 'em). I never really liked Sbisa's main dining hall anyway: mostly because of aforementioned buffet food, and I felt like what I was eating was both bad and bad for me. That and the folding chairs near the dessert area/pizza area were awful. Coupled with the rising prices and the general creepiness of the place (that's Northside for you) caused me to avoid the main Sbisa Dining Hall.

Of course, with the numerous changes to Sbisa, Old Army hates it, but that's to be expected, right?

Here's a photo from c. 2001 (official marketing shot) of the once-generic "Underground Market".


More recently (spring 2014), however, I managed to get a picture of when something on the awning changed, revealing the original brand. It did briefly go back to Rattler's again, then "The Aggie Express" or something when it lost the branding again. I hope that Rattler's can get it back, or some other convenience store brand.


Other Places

Not all of Sbisa is used for eating. There's an entrance on the southeast side (to the right of the main entrance) but I'm not so clear on the history of it (as of 2014, it's the "Global Supply Chain Laboratory", but in Spring 2012 was offices for something nuclear-related, if I recall correctly).

For more places to eat on campus, both current and former, check out Aggie Food, or see specific pages, like the MSC article or what we have on The Commons.

updated May 2015

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Texas 707 / 707 Shopping Village

Right, so avid readers may notice I put back up the Plaza Hotel article, this time showing more of the other buildings on the block. The reason, of course, being we have a -new- article that has that for context.

It's the circa 1972 "Texas 707", formerly the "707 Shopping Village". Seems during that time, it had unique specialty stores in a time when the local economy was flourishing. Today, it's mostly service tenants (like Tutor John and a few travel agencies). Even into the 1990s, there was Charli (moved to University Drive) and Hunan (an excellent Chinese buffet by all accounts).

According to commenter AggiePhil, who derived his information from the Brazos CAD database, "Originally built in 1972, 707 Texas Avenue today consists of seven buildings across three phases or sections: A (one building, nearest Texas Ave.), D (one building), and E (five smaller buildings). I can only assume that phases B and C existed but were torn down at some point. Phase B was probably Phase A's twin, torn down in 1996/1997 to make room for On The Border."

The last part has been backed up by a 1997 article that describes how On the Border and Lone Star Pavilion (the shopping center with Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, and Best Buy).

The older picture is from Project HOLD (note the Gulf station and Ramada Inn in the background). The newer picture is from Loopnet.



There are more modern pictures below, taken in May 2014 (except for that article).
Charli was in either B or C, but it appeared to have its own building.

You can see both the Charli building and the "twin" building mentioned here. And, like the article backs up, Charli was torn down for more parking while the other building (B?) was the main one that was torn down for On the Border.

I took a stroll down one of the "hallways" in the back building (E), it actually is well-maintained, and a bit of a shame it isn't better utilized. It was probably lined with interesting funky local stores at one time.

I didn't too thoroughly explore Building D.

Building E leads into the "mall" area, and of course Building A is the one that looks out toward the street. It may look slightly different than the first shot since I remember a storm ripping off one of the exterior walls.

Other tenants of Texas 707 historically include Petal Patch, which according to an early 1970s phone book was "Petal Pushers", interestingly enough. Additionally, a 1996 directory lists these other services, besides aforementioned Hunan and Charli: A R Photography [may have been "A&R"], Arthur J Roach PHD, Associated Printing & Graphics, Copy Boy, Doug Hunter's Enterprises, Hair Extraordinaire [this actually ended up moving to Culpepper Plaza II], Hunnybee, JMS Building Maintenance [no idea], Kaplan Test Prep [I'm pretty sure this is still here!], Kirby Co. [vacuum cleaners], Let's Talk, Stress Dynamics Inc., and Travel Designers [travel agencies have tended to be a historic part of 707].

OK, if there are any comments, please leave them, I always appreciate it, and see you next time!

Want to see more of the Texas Avenue stuff?