Down the Texas Independence Trail (610 South), up Telephone Road, past the Little Toy Club, Smile Lounge, and the Blue Cat, lies the Tel-Wink Grill.
A sign out front used to read "Best Breakfast in Texas," and had they merely added the word "Cheap", it wouldn't have been a boast. Where else can you get two eggs, to your exact specifications, thick bacon at the nexus of chewy and crisp, a mound of Helen Corbitt-worthy hash browns, and two fist-size biscuits for $4.75?
I didn't know what to expect the first time we went, four years ago. The parking lot was packed with a curious mix of pickups, Mercedes, police cars, 18-wheelers, and Escalades. Inside is a cross-section of Houston fueling up for a hard day of work - truck drivers, utility workers, necktie men striking a deal for a new business - as well as young families, veterans and wealthy retirees.
There's a holy trinity of great breakfast joints, which is excellent food, decent coffee and interesting people-watching, and the Tel-Wink has all three. It's so popular, the queue was snaking through the grill, and a waitress chased out the men lingering over coffee and a newspaper with, "This ain't a library!"
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On our recent visit, my dining companion took note, "Your food looks exactly the same as the last time we were here." That seems to be the draw -- consistency. It's the same buttermilk pancakes, rib-eye and two eggs, grits, ranchero omelette, biscuits and gravy, or Belgian waffle the cooks have made for decades, perfected as much as a McDonald's breakfast, but twice as good for a similar price.
After realizing that the John Wayne découpage and the "Texan Spoken Here" sign weren't old-timey, but rather just old, I asked the cashier how long the Tel-Wink Grill had been around. "Nobody really knows, oh, like forever." We won't wait forever to go back.