When we shared with you “Where to Find the 5 Best Burgers in Downtown Houston,” we mentioned that Miller's Cafe was family-owned and operated, and that there would be more on that later. Well, it's later and here's the more. Bob Miller was selling Cadillacs in San Diego when he met his soon to be wife and business partner, Rajean. Not long after, in 1980, he packed the car and they, along with his daughters Sarah and Martha, moved to Texas for a new career venture, selling hamburgers. His oldest daughter, Ginger, came out to join the team the following year. Bob had it in his head and often said, "People won’t always need Cadillacs but they will always need to eat, and anyone can afford to buy a hamburger."
The family settled into Houston, and the very first Miller's Cafe was opened at Gessner and Westpark in 1980. The burgers were made all the way with fresh ingredients on the famous poppy seed buns, as they still are today, and drew quite large crowds from around the Houston area. Miller's Cafe began to flourish, and building additional locations seemed quite ideal.
Business was good and the family was doing well. Bob Miller was quietly building a legacy. The customer base was so loyal that they were able to see the Miller girls as they grew up. His oldest granddaughter, Jessica Beer, recalls, "He was hard on us and raised us tough, but he was caring and giving." Bob would often say to them, "You girls better be actin' right!" Jessica also recalls, “He was always trying to fix everything. We couldn't keep him off his ladder, and you never saw him without his duct tape and long lists of stuff to take care of.” Bob maintained a strong sense of pride in being the only man in a family filled with girls. As they ran the business, the family grew and so did the need to accommodate more customers.
In 1986 Miller’s Cafe opened its second location at Beechnut and Wilcrest, followed by another down the street on Westheimer and Wilcrest, which opened in 1988. Both had full-service bars that did really well. “Either my grandpa or his daughters were always the ones who built the restaurants. He was a very hard worker when he had to be,” says Jessica. One of his sayings was "I'm working hard at not having to work!” Also in 1986, they opened The Medical Center location on Fannin, and it was eventually moved to its current location, inside the Scurlock Tower of Houston Methodist Hospital. The North Shepherd location was built in 1991, and the location in the downtown tunnels was opened in 2004.
In 1995, while out on his boat in the Jamaica Beach canals, Bob Miller suffered a severe heart attack. Luckily, his best friend was on board and able to think quick to get the attention of neighbors nearby. Bob was flown out via Life Flight and has had many surgeries since to repair his heart. With health concerns and a growing number of girls in the family, Bob decided to shut down the bars to live a healthier, more family-oriented lifestyle. His daughters moved to Clear Lake and they opened the Bay Area & Space Center location in 1996.
Bob passed away August 9, 2016, from heart failure. He is greatly missed by all his girls as well as more family, old customers and friends whose lives he has touched. Rajean and his three generations of 13 girls — four daughters, seven granddaughters and two great granddaughters — maintain his legacy. Together, Ginger Miller and her daughter Jessica run the North Shepherd location while also sharing the manager role at the downtown tunnels location. Sarah and Martha run the Clear Lake location, and the teenage granddaughters all pull together to help run the lunches as a family there every Sunday. Rajean still comes in and works at The Medical Center location a few times a week.
Today, Miller's Cafe is the "Home of the Almost Famous Burger." The Miller Girls maintain relationships with the customers who watched them grow up, and they’re building new relationships with others. This family will be putting together those fresh ingredients for good old-fashioned burgers for a long time to come.
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