Add Triple A Restaurant to the list of Houston restaurant icons that are no more.
The past year or so seems like a mass exodus of dining institutions, many of which have served generation after generation. Texas Cafeteria closed in 2015 after 50 years in business. 59 Diner closed with lawsuits and accusations of nonpayment hanging over the owner’s head. The original Christian’s Tailgate location closed yesterday (although four other locations sold previously to different owners remain). Mark’s American Cuisine is “suspending service” through the summer, its fate still undecided. Cleburne Cafeteria closed on April 26 because of a fire that destroyed nearly everything but the brick shell of the building, but that one, at least, is expected to reopen someday.
Eric Sandler of Culturemap Houston initially reported the closing, and Houstonia managing editor Katharine Shilcutt went by the beloved restaurant to find out what had happened. It’s one that she’s been writing about as a favorite since she was lead food writer and restaurant critic here at the Houston Press. Even after her departure, Triple A still received props and was named Houston's best "greasy spoon" last year.
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As Shilcutt reported for Houstonia , what she found were heartbroken customers and at least one tearful waitress packing up her belongings and wondering about her future. The property is owned by Canino Produce company, and according to the report, in order to renew the lease on the restaurant, the company required owner Cecil Schmidt to “make some updates to the restaurant.” Negotiations on that fell through, and the lease was not renewed.
One of the reasons for the rash of closings is that a generation of restaurant owners is simply getting older and these people are ready to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. Such was the case for Texas Cafeteria, Van Loc (which closed in 2014) and Christian's Tailgate.
With both 59 Diner and now Triple A Restaurant gone, those in search of a good, old-fashioned diner breakfast might consider seeking out Dot Coffee Shop or one of the Avalon Diner locations. Houston’s remnants of independent diner culture should be treasured and not left entirely to the IHOPs and Denny’s of the world.