Wednesday, November 30, 2022

K-Bob's Steakhouse

This is an ad from K-Bob's Steakhouse back from 1989. Yes, this restaurant building DID start as a chain.
Paolo's Italian Kitchen, which has been here since September 2014 and August 2022, is officially dead*, and thus I figure it would be a good time to cover the story of 809 University Drive East. 809 University Drive East consists of one restaurant in the front (with a silver roof) and office suites behind it (copper roof), and while I can't get a good picture of Paolo's (it is, of course, sunken into the ground) you can catch a picture of Paolo's from our Abuelo's entry here.

The last time I ate at this restaurant was back sometime around the early/mid-2000s when it was T-Bone Jones. It was a good steakhouse while it lasted and it was a pick of my parents for date night. It closed in 2005 for a few reasons, the first reason was that when University Drive East was rebuilt in the late 1990s (six lanes out to the freeway), the construction required a retaining wall to be built, and as a result the restaurant was almost a full floor below the road level with limited visibility and access. The second reason was that with the early 2000s came a new slew of restaurants in the same corridor, with Cheddar's Casual Cafe, Rockfish Grill, Texas Roadhouse, and later the new location of Wings 'N More taking up residence, all with much better visibility and access. Lastly, and probably not an immediate factor of its decline (but compounded problems), but as the restaurant lost popularity, the dining room looked big and empty. There's a reason why restaurants, especially chain ones, try to separate out dining areas...

While 809 University Drive consists of a number of smaller office suites, the building in the front (and the only one with a silver-colored roof as opposed to copper) has been restaurants (suite 100A, though not always used). The most recent one is Paolo's Italian Kitchen, as previously mentioned. Previous tenants of the restaurant portion) included Rooster's Country Dinner House (2012-2013, failed in less than six months), Sodolak's Beefmasters (2010-2012, see our previous post that does briefly mention their attempt here), T-Bone Jones (1994-2005), Armando's Border Grill (1992-1993), Santa Fe Steakhouse (1990-1992), and K-Bob's Steakhouse (1986-1990).

You'll notice there is a gap after T-Bone Jones, it did sit empty for a few years.

I'm not going to list the tenants in the office complex, it's boring and that's probably not what you're here for. Still, it's worth mentioning for the number of other tenants that have used the 809 University Drive East address over the years.

* This made a lot more sense when I wrote this back in early September.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Barry Pool Company

Advertisement from 1999 phone book

As the weather gets chilly, I think of trips I've taken in the past for Christmas and Thanksgiving, which usually involved going down south from Texas Avenue (starting at Wal-Mart) and jumping down toward Highway 6, then off to 105. A good part of Carbon-izer is built around those memories. I've covered Veronica's here and there's one more defunct gas station that I'm still trying to collect information on, alluded to in that post over a year ago but I have yet to get around to it.

But first, Barry Pool Company. The address, 3114 Texas Avenue South, has been operational since 1986. They sold out around 2008 to what is now known as Brazos Valley Pool & Spas, but one of what made Barry's memorable was its sign, featuring a backlit slightly stylized drawing of a woman in a bikini (you can barely see it here but you can't really see it all that well). Nothing obscene but it was still interesting and memorable enough, especially back in the time when I was rarely going down this stretch of road with my family. After all, what was beyond Wal-Mart? Not much. No grocery stores (not until Kroger opening in 2000), very few gas stations, and beyond Rock Prairie Road, no hotels or restaurants. As you can see on Carbon-izer that's not the case anymore and hasn't been for a while.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Chicken Oil Company

Chicken Oil Company is a ramshackle-looking business, this is the back view from the parking lot. The front view from College Avenue is harder to get. (Picture from author, 8/22).

Once again, we're on College Avenue, which unlike FM 1179 doesn't have a corresponding page where everything is covered so neatly, covering Chicken Oil Company, which is closed, at least temporarily, following a fire in April 2022. I could've done what Columbia Closings does, put together some pictures of the business, give a few words if he remembers it or not (and if the former, with fondness or not), but I wanted to try to give an overview of the property as I usually do.

The same sign, affixed with blue painters tape, was in multiple other places outside the restaurant. (Picture from author, 8/22).

While I've eaten Chicken Oil Company a few times, what can I say, good hamburgers and fries, the restaurant space started out in an existing gas station in the late 1970s and evolved to what it is today, dropping gas along the way and creating a cobbled-together building similar to Dixie Chicken, which had the same ownership.
The restaurant is decorated with old advertising signs, though these have not been well-maintained and have rusted away. (Picture from author, 8/22).

While the gas station dates back to an indeterminate time, a separate "party room" was part of another restaurant, the Triangle Drive-In. This link currently has a picture of the Triangle as it appeared in 1948 (if the link dies, search Project HOLD or its successors for "Triangle Drive-In; photos (Aug. 1948)" without quotes. Friend of the site "Bryan-College Station, Texas: Now and Then" explains some of the history here (archived link--Facebook not required).

From what it looks like, when the Triangle Drive-In expanded in 1957 to the Charcoal Room, the awnings to that building disappeared and another structure was built to the south. The 1940s building remained during all this time (though I'm not sure what it was later used as). By 1971, the original Triangle building was gone, as was the 1957 building. (Later, the space where the 1957 building was became the home of Tom's BBQ, and is now J. Cody's). I'm not sure what the "Charcoal Room" restaurant was used for in the interim.

Ironically, the "Charcoal Room" was not the one that burned down. I had to bump up the brightness a bit on this one. (Picture from author, 8/22).

As you might have noticed from the photo above, Chicken Oil has been closed since an afternoon fire on April 3rd, 2022. The insides of the building were photographed a few days after the fire (originally hosted on YouTube). You can see that the kitchen areas were trashed but the dining room, while suffering extensive smoke damage, looks salvageable. Despite that, five months later, the restaurant has remained shuttered with almost no work done, yet the owners have vowed to reopen.

UPDATE 02-23-2024: Still no work has been done and looks very much the same as it did in September 2022. Fixed the YouTube link to local hosting due to its removal.
UPDATE 05-10-2024: Renovation has finally begun. The plan is to demolish parts of the Old College-facing side (to conform to Bryan's ROW) as well as the destroyed kitchen. The College Avenue facade and most of the building will remain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Former Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy

This restaurant is out of service, but hopefully not for long.

Ah, it's great to be back! I've been updating Carbon-izer's city directory for the city chock full of things that will probably never see a full post, and I've been updating the Facebook page weekly with retreads and occasional new updates of posts but it's been a while since we had an all-new page here.

As outlined last November, only businesses that have turnover are covered, making it a bit more like Columbia Closings in that regard.

"Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy" opened its College Station location at 840 University Drive East in May 2006, and sometime in the early 2010s (2013-2016) became just "Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant". It shut down in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, with two others closed around this time, a location in Plano (3701 Dallas Parkway, open since 2001) and one that had been open since 2003 at Barton Creek Square (as an outlot, not in the actual mall itself). Do check out that link, it's one of the things I've been working on recently...and because I live in the Austin area now (it's true...) you'll probably see more along those lines.

Anyway, I can't say much about Abuelo's. I never did go there and the restaurant chain itself is alive and well, just not in the Austin or College Station areas anymore. I'm not sure about the Austin or Plano locations, but on University Drive East, the space is already signed for a new Italian restaurant, Casa Mangiare. Otherwise, enjoy the pictures! All of them were taken in May 2022 by the author.  
A bird flexes its wings on a sign for the curbside service. I'm not sure if these were put up shortly before its closure or pre-existed.

Despite signage up for the next restaurant, older "For Lease" and rent lockout signs still exist on the doors.

Inside, Abuelo's has been gutted, but a mural on the back still exists for now.

UPDATE 05-13-2023: Casa Mangiare opened in May 2023, almost a year after these pictures were taken. Also, for those curious, the Barton Creek Square reopened as Polvos, and the Plano location is now Sixty Vines. (Removed [defunct] from post).

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Former Student Korner

The twilight somewhat reflects the mystery and fly-by-night nature of the tenants here. (Photo from September 2020).

Once again, this is somewhat built out of an older post that I began writing in October 2020. The building dates back to 1972, with the original main tenant being Spin-N-Market, with one location at 1802 Welch (as Welsh was called back then) and the other at 502 Harvey Road.

It was rebranded as Korner Pantry (this was store #21), a Houston-based convenience store in the early 1980s, but that convenience store disappeared by the mid-1980s (as per Houston newspapers) and instead became a generic convenience store known as Student Korner. (It may have even closed briefly, given the lack of a listing in a 1984 phone book).

It was open as of 2003 but at some point around 2005 quietly folded, even though the Student Korner sign by the road remained. In the early 2010s, it was "Determined Faith Christian Center", which gutted the space and added some curtains and carpet, but only remained a few years. In the year 2016 (closed by very early 2017), it was Cachet Liquor Store. You can see that despite lacking any formal signage, an "Open" and "ATM" signs are there, as well as what looks like reflections of fixtures inside.

In late 2020, I wanted to take a daytime photo with some interior shots but was thwarted somewhat by a new tenant there, BetaMed, focused on mobility-focused medical equipment. The store was stocked but not much had gone in the way of décor, with the flooring being bare concrete showing the scars of Student Korner's tiles and the glue from DFCC's carpet. However, as of January 2022, BetaMed already seems to have passed on from this world given how the name (it was never on the building itself, just the window) and the building seems empty.

Next to it, in the same building, Coco Loco has been operating since August 2004. I was told that the Coco Loco was some sort of hole-in-the-wall Greek restaurant prior to Coco Loco, but I can't find anything on it. However, it was "Bombay Restaurant" in the year 1994.

UPDATE 12-01-2022: As of late 2022, Brew Supply Haus has moved here from College Station Business Center.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The 700 University Drive East Club

One of the buildings here as it appeared in March 2020, showing the scars of both Blockbuster and Genghis Grill.

There's a few reasons why this site has been a bit slow to update as of late, partly it's a lack of photo availability, partly a lack of running out of places to cover, and partly it's a focus on new projects that take priority. The most recent entry, Saenz Tamales, was fairly spur-of-the-moment, and I had gotten my photos, then actually wrote up the entry. Otherwise, I have a bunch of mostly written-out descriptions that lack photos, and many of those just end up on my other website.

700 University Drive East is a bit of a complicated property, as it contains a strip mall and two stand-alone buildings, hence, the name of this post (and a play on words for a show contractually airing on Freeform, much to the executive's chagrin).

The first building here we'll take a look at is Golden Corral (store #540), which hasn't changed tenants since it opened in 1991 and...I'm ashamed to admit this, but at one time in the distant past, it was not only a favored family spot but one of my top five favorite restaurants in town. I don't know when we stopped going, probably sometime around or before 2005. The only big change that I can remember from Golden Corral growing up is the elimination of smoking inside the restaurant, so we could sit anywhere, not just the non-smoking section. In 2018 the restaurant closed for an interior renovation to a newer, more open prototype, and the exterior got an update as well.

Golden Corral as it appeared in 2014, looking east.

Across from the Golden Corral is the second building here, and a more interesting one. In 1992, Blockbuster Video, as it was known at the time, rolled into town, choosing 700B University Drive as its first location in town, located next to Golden Corral, and would continue to grow across the United States. As the company's fortunes declined in the late 2000s due to a variety of factors (streaming, recession, unable to support the massive store base that previous owner Viacom had built up), the store was rebranded as "Blockbuster Outlet Store" (whatever that meant, really) and closed around January 2010. Within months, it was announced that a location of Genghis Grill would be taking up residence in the spot, and it opened in late fall 2010, though it didn't take up all of the space, the remaining portion of Blockbuster was taken up by Tutti Frutti, a chain frozen yogurt restaurant the next year.

Looking into the closed Genghis Grill, 3/20.

Around December 2012, Tutti Frutti closed (it may have lasted into January or February of the following year) but something new was Houston, Big Daddy Z's began to make the rounds of Houston's many food trucks, focusing on Cajun cuisine. This would be the start of what was to replace Tutti Frutti in the future.

Following the closure of Tutti Frutti, the next restaurant, Mickey's Sliders, opened in summer 2013. This restaurant focused on the "gourmet slider" trend, much like how Stover Bros. Cafe was doing around the same time in Bryan. Mickey's Sliders surprisingly did a decent business, but the owner retired in fall 2017 and closed the store.

During all this time, Big Daddy Z's would move to College Station and soon restructure the menu to focus on cheesesteaks, with a new name...Blake's Steaks. Blake's Steaks settled into a new permanent home in December 2017 in the former Mickey's Sliders space and for the next two years, cheesesteaks and other related sandwiches (including some sandwiches that were created by customers in a contest) were served. In February 2020, Blake's Steaks closed to focus on a new venture, Zeitman's Grocery, in downtown Bryan (due to COVID-19, Zeitman's ended up opening almost two years later). Around the same time, Genghis Grill, which had been struggling due to inconsistent service and quality, also permanently shuttered. So by the time things started to go wrong for restaurants about a month later, the building was vacant, and that's when the first set of pictures were taken.

The building has since been renovated, sub-dividing Genghis Grill into two new spaces (the three spaces are about equally-sized), suite B of which became The Toasted Yolk Cafe, which opened in September 2021. A month later, Suite C (the former Tutti Frutti/Mickey's Sliders/Blake's Steaks) opened as Naq's Halal Food. As of this writing, Suite A is still vacant.

Another thing I wanted to note is that originally, this post was supposed to go up in conjunction with something I wrote for Carbon-izer, in which I stated that I was disappointed with Genghis Grill compared to a restaurant I ate at in Austin about six years prior to Genghis' opening.

Wing Stop and Marco's Pizza (June 2020).

Next to Blockbuster, in 1996, a Little Caesars was built. It never really gained traction and closed after a few years. Wing Stop would take up residence in the space (since 2001), but that was only half of the building, with the other half becoming Marco's Pizza, open in early 2020. I can't tell or remember what was there before that, but I want to say there was a small barbershop.

The main strip center isn't very active. (June 2020)

The rest of the strip center, 700 University Drive East was built in 1984 and is a pretty sleepy center that really hasn't seen a lot of activity and I don't personally remember many interesting stores or services being here. I did assemble a partial list of some of the tenants that came and went, but few lasted for many years and were forgotten soon after. (If you want to try to take a look at them, view the source for the page). One of the bigger tenants here was University Book Store (University Book Store Inc.) in suite 100 before all locations closed in very early 2006. That space would become Fast Eddie's Billiards for almost the next decade, and is currently a similar business named Four Downs Sports Bar.

Obviously, there have been some changes to the center since I took some of the pictures here back in 2020, with Toasted Yolk and Naq's Halal open and drawing crowds. One last look is going to be the "new" Golden Corral from the opposite side, also taken in March 2020. (All the photos in this post were taken by the author).

Note the Blake's Steaks food truck. (3/20)

Even if "new" posts to this site will be light in the future, I invite you to my other ventures including Carbon-izer, which updates monthly.

UPDATE 07-14-2023: Naq's Halal Foods closed around the end of December 2022 or very early January 2023. In May 2023, Siam Iyara opened in the spot. (Also removed YouTube shilling, as I'm afraid that's on hiatus...)
UPDATE 07-21-2023: TexAgs has reported Marco's Pizza is now closed.