Thursday, October 31, 2019

Former Kona Ranch Steakhouse

October 2019 picture by author.

The current occupant of 520 Harvey Road is Ozona Grill & Bar, a branch location of a single Dallas-area location, that based on reviews, appears to be nothing to write home about. It opened in early 2003 (February/March) according to what I could dig up online on the Eagle archives (it doesn't seem to want to cooperate with archiving links), but what's a bit more interesting is what it originally started out, Kona Ranch Steakhouse, built around 1999/2000, much like the Sonic next door. Not to be confused with Kona Grill, which is alive and well as of this writing.

Kona Ranch has somewhat of a murky history, originating out of Brinker International, spun off as Kona Restaurant Group, then getting bought as part of Fired Up, Inc., which also purchased Johnny Carino's off of Brinker.

The best description I could find of Kona Ranch was it was somewhat of a theme restaurant (like many chains), "[emphasizing] a Hawaiian cattle ranch theme with grilled and smoked meats, and specialties such as coconut shrimp tempura". Digging up some more information mentions a San Antonio location, but I doubt that it expanded much beyond the Texas area (except for Oklahoma). I can't even find anything where they opened a Houston location (it's technically possible, but I could find nothing) and from what I could tell by 2006 the restaurant had totally disappeared so Fired Up could focus on Johnny Carino's, later named Carino's Italian Grill (but I think the name reverted back).

This one was in Oklahoma City (from Loopnet).

The Kona Ranch location in Oklahoma City that was open even as far back as 1996 and was probably the first one ever opened, at least the only Kona Ranch when Fired Up acquired it. You can also see what the Oklahoma City store looked like courtesy of Loopnet, in pictures here and here. The Oklahoma City store is even listed on Zomato, giving us a look at the menu of the defunct restaurant.

Johnny Carino's next to Ozona continues to operate as usual, but it might not be for long. The restaurant chain has been in a spot of trouble lately...similar to the situation of Fazoli's, it's down to 16 restaurants in Texas as of this writing.

It was also tough digging up a "normal" logo of the dead chain, with only this ad from the Houston Chronicle as part of a group taking the restaurants to Kuwait. Chili's and Carino's continue to operate, but Kona Ranch does not (if it ever did).

The College Station Kona Ranch closed in December 2002.

UPDATE 04-06-2021: New research has given us more info on Kona Ranch. It opened the College Station location in or around June 1999 (not 2000, and thus, the [2000s] label is now [1990s]) and was one of three locations in Texas. Texarkana had theirs open in spring 1998 but closed in summer 1999, around the time the College Station location opened. That location, at 5118 Summerhill Road, was later Shogun Steakhouse & Sushi, and is "The One Buffet" today. A Round Rock location opened at 2850 North Interstate 35 in summer 1998 and closed in December 2002 as well.

The Round Rock location has been through several restaurants, currently Salt Traders Coastal Cooking (since 2016), and previously Mesa Rosa (the previous decade).

The closure of the Round Rock and College Station locations represented an exit of the chain from Texas.
UPDATE 06-16-2023: KBTX has reported Ozona Grill & Bar has closed permanently (new tags added).

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Harvey Road Sonic

The upscale color scheme once suggested how College Station was becoming something different than it used to be, with Harvey Road on a growth spurt. (Picture by author, October 2019)

Opening in May 1999, the Harvey Road Sonic at 512 Harvey Road is mostly notable for its unusual color scheme of tan and green rather than the typical blue and yellow of the regular Sonic logo, it's still at the end of the day an ordinary Sonic restaurant. 

I've been told that the city originally wanted a McDonald's restaurant in the spot but there was some sort of disagreement that resulted in the restaurant pulling out. I'm not sure on the details there, but it sounds intriguing...      

It may have received some upgrades since 2000, but they weren't listed on Brazos CAD.

UPDATE 09-24-2020: Changed store opening date (and as a result, the tag) of the store as per a source that worked there. Also removed Editor's Note.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Rudy's Barbecue on Harvey Road

Always a popular choice, even on Sunday morning. (Picture by author, October 2019)

Rudy's Barbecue has long been a favorite restaurant of many, from the fatty brisket to its long picnic-style tables with red and white tablecloths and rolls of paper towels. While it has been here a good part of my childhood and all of my adult life, it was not always here. The restaurant at 504 Harvey wasn't even always Rudy's, nor was it even in the same building, it did replace a previous building on the site.

Demolished buildings are often difficult to find information for but in 1982 a plat was filed for "The Christmas Store". Apparently, the full name of the store was called "Cashion Cane: The Christmas Store" but "Christmas Store" is what shows up in my listings. There was talk on TexAgs that the store moved to University Drive sometime later, and indeed, there was "Cashion-Cane" at 404 University Drive East in 1989.

The lettering glows red at night. (Picture by author, October 2019)

Seems that the Christmas Store was originally on a smaller lot until a few years later when it expanded to the west, taking over an adjacent lot that had "Spin 'N Grocery". By 1989, however, 504 Harvey was the home of Sneakers, a bar and nightclub with a sand volleyball court.

By 1998, Sneakers was closed and planning for a new restaurant began. Opening in 2000, Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q replaced the Sneakers building and parking lot. Due to its origins, it often has a small convenience store section and I seem to remember there being a small counter to that effect inside the restaurant, but I could be wrong (even if it existed, it was very small). In the case of College Station's location, Country Store was never even on the signage, as unlike other Rudy's, it lacked a gas station.

UPDATE 02-14-2024: Changed opening date from "sometime around 2001" to "2000".

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Notorious Harvey Road Apartments

From here, we see what was originally Tanglewood South.

I don't write about apartment complexes all that often, when I do it's usually as part of something more interesting, like Mansard House restaurant at Doux Chene Apartments. Later, during the period I ran The Houston Files, there were some quirky apartments I did cover but it's still a rarity.

Following the Harvey Road series (it's across from Fazoli's), I titled this the way I did because it's got some bad press in recent years (if we go by examples in Houston, dense, super-large apartment complexes are never a good idea) and it may not even be the Pearl Apartments in a few years from now. By the year 1984, three apartment complexes were operating along Harvey Road: Travis House (505 Hwy. 30), Tanglewood South Apartments (411 Highway 30), and Courtyard Apartments (600 University Oaks).

By 1998, Tanglewood South was now Kensington Place (401 Harvey Road, same block), with BCAD records indicate that the name had been in place since the early 1990s.

By 2002, the apartments were known as "University Place I & II", likely due to the common ownership around 2000.

Down the street, looking east. Note the Circle K in the distance.

Now, from what I could tell, as late as 2007, Courtyard Apartments (built in 1977, wasn't able to find when Tanglewood South was built) still operated independently, at least, as its own brand, with Campus View operating the rest (it had adopted the name by that time). In 2011, Vesper Campus View LLC, the holding company that owned the other two apartment complexes, bought Courtyard, and it was absorbed into Campus View.

In the last five years, the local media has shown a light on how bad Campus View really is, with hundreds of calls to the police every year, with drug issues, public drunkenness, fighting, shootings, domestic violence, along with multiple maintenance issues. At least under The Marc, the new name adopted in 2016, reviews have been horrible.

This picture illustrates all three complexes, notice the different building designs.

From reading, reviews under another name a few years later with new management, Pearl Apartments, have improved, at least in terms of better management and weeding out the worst residents. But these things can change on a dime (it doesn't help the last time I was in the area, the surrounding blocks were being swarmed with cops due to a shooting in the complex), and without living there it's difficult to judge.

Editor's Note: I wanted to mostly write about this for completionists' sake since it deals with the history of three different apartment complexes. In the next few posts, we'll talk about the restaurants along Harvey Road.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fazoli's at Harvey Road

Apologies for the lower-res than normal picture, it was taken from Connecting Point's parking lot.

From the parking lot of Connecting Point Church or OfficeMax, depending on what year it is, we come across the Fazoli's restaurant at 400 Harvey Road. Fazoli's is actually one of those chain restaurants that the Houston area doesn't have anymore (or Dallas for that matter), and the College Station location is just one of 15 restaurants as of this writing, scattered across Texas with no more than one per city (except Waco, which has two).

BCAD says that Fazoli's was built in 2001, a few years after the OfficeMax was built. It's been years since I went to Fazoli's, but from what I remember, the food really wasn't worth writing home about. The menu emphasized pasta, but for things like spaghetti and meatballs, you could make that at home fairly easily, and even things like the breadsticks (which were rather salty) have frozen-food equivalents. I don't remember there being anything that I ordered there that's rather difficult to craft at home (like, say, a steak or french fries). That's at least how I remember it, maybe it's changed since then, but this isn't a food review blog, that's what Yelp is for.

This picture and above was taken by the author, October 2019.

In the next post, we'll continue the new Harvey Road series, with a quick look across the street...

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Connecting Point Church / Former OfficeMax

Reusing the big box.

To break out of the recent hiatus, I had to think of a splashy new idea, and not just some random photo of a small commercial building (it would have been quite easy to just post a photo of the Southwest Parkway Wendy's and call it a day). I had started writing on the Westinghouse plant/The Science Park/Providence Park but I still didn't have photos for it.

Rather, I was walking around today in the Harvey Road area, and it hit me. Why don't I make a series on Harvey Road? Not on the road itself, although I've done that in the past, but rather some of the things along it. Previous posts on Harvey Road as of this writing include Former Circuit City, Post Oak Square, and the building which is now Fuddruckers.

The first building is one at 410 Harvey Road, which opened around 1997 (possibly 1998—very difficult as I only have some construction-related documents and nothing on grand openings) as an OfficeMax superstore, with all of OfficeMax's "store-within-a-store" features at the time, like FurnitureMax (office furniture) and CopyMax (print-for-pay services). The new OfficeMax also included space for a small fast food restaurant in front of it (later developed as Fazoli's), and a new access road, a stubbed-out George Bush Drive East road that ended before crossing Wolf Pen Creek.

I never went to OfficeMax all that often, probably collectively less than a half a dozen times before it closed in early 2012 and moved to a smaller location at Central Station and later closed. Within a few years, the building began hosting Connecting Point Church, which later renovated the building (not much, really) and put up permanent signage on the building.

The church's foyer area and entrance to the coffee shop.

As the church is fairly small, there are two sub-tenants inside, both of which connect to the church foyer proper, The Brew Coffeehouse, open from 7am to midnight daily (except for Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 11), and Aggieland Pregnancy Outreach.

The back corridor with the restrooms hasn't changed much since the OfficeMax days.

Editor's Note: Next post will be a short post on Fazoli's, and about six other landmarks on Harvey Road will be covered by this series before the new Post Oak Mall post, and then I'll segue into/tease the next series, which will be the new idea for posts going forward, rather than a random grab bag of what I've collected recently. All pictures in this post were taken by the author, October 2019.