PRINCE'S DRIVE IN

This hamburger joint -- and its chocolate malted -- make a comeback

A decline in the neighborhood put the famous Prince's Drive-In on Main Street out of business in 1990, and for a while, chocolate malteds went the way of the soda jerk. So the next time you order a malted milk shake at one of the new Prince's Hamburgers locations, think about the amazing comeback story the drink represents.

When Doug Prince opened his first restaurant in Dallas in 1929, it was a humble drive-in eatery. Prince himself would run out to the car to take people's orders, then rush back inside to cook them. It wasn't an efficient system, and he eventually hit on the idea of carhops. And it didn't take him long to realize that hiring good-looking women improved business.

By the time Prince's Drive-in opened in Houston in 1934, Prince was outfitting his carhops in majorette costumes. The Prince's on Main Street was among the hottest hangouts in the city, and when Elvis Presley played a concert here in 1955, he headed to Prince's afterward.

The survival of a legacy: Owner Elizabeth Flores and the chocolate malted.
The survival of a legacy: Owner Elizabeth Flores and the chocolate malted.

One of the most popular orders at Prince's was a chocolate malted, a drink invented in 1922 by Ivar "Pop" Coulson, a soda jerk for a Walgreens store in Chicago. The recipe included three scoops of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, milk and malt powder. It was such a sensation that lines of eager customers formed outside of Walgreens locations all over the country. And competitors soon offered versions of their own.

"Burn one all the way" was what a waitress yelled to the soda jerk when someone ordered a chocolate malted made with chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. And "twist it, choke it, and make it cackle" was soda jerk slang for a malted with a raw egg added.

When the self-service retail concept changed Walgreens' marketing, the soda fountain and the chocolate malted faded away. Meanwhile, Prince Food Services lost interest in hamburger stands and began opening cafeterias.

Doug Prince's daughter Irene left the famous Prince's at 4509 South Main Street to her husband when she died more than 20 years ago. Her husband left it to an employee named Elizabeth Flores, who finally closed it in December 1990.

Flores and another employee, John Broussard, revived the Prince's Hamburger chain in the mid-'90s, opening five new locations. They decorated the operations with photos and memorabilia from the original and reprised most of the old menu.

Today, Prince's Hamburgers once again serves the best chocolate malted in the city. Have one -- it's like slurping up a piece of history.

 
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