Who remembers the San Jacinto Inn?

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by Fatty FatBastard, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. Fatty FatBastard

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    So I was watching this Eyes of Texas-style show on Saturday, and it talked about this restaurant and how it was an icon for about 80 years in Houston. I brought it up to my folks and they talked on and on about it for a half hour. Apparently I went a few times as a child, but I don't remember the place.

    It was this place right around the monument that apparently had these waiters bringing tons of seafood, fried chicken etc. to everyone, gaucho-style. And the restaurant was built pre-A/C so it was very open and airy in there. It was apparently cheap also (mentioned it was $1 in the 20's) Everyone went into this huge buffet room, and everyone got the same menu. My mom said that my brother and I would fill up on the Chicken and biscuits before the seafood guys even arrived. Sounds like a cool place, and I'm sorry a Houston institution like that closed down.

    Anyone else remember this place?


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  2. DonnyMost

    DonnyMost Contributing Member

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    I don't know about that place. But I eat at the Monument Inn about twice a year as a family thing.
     
  3. DaDakota

    DaDakota Contributing Member

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    Heck yes I remember it, at one point there were 2 buildings one in front of the other....right next to the battleship Texas.

    One time a good friend of mine and I went there for fun and we had a 6 course seafood meal it was AWESOME !!

    I miss it.

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    DD
     
    #3 DaDakota, Jun 22, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2009
  4. pgabriel

    pgabriel Contributing Member

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    I do, went there once as a kid, i was introduced to horseradish, I thought it was something else, took a whole mouth full and spit it out, which my family thought was hilarious.
     
  5. DaDakota

    DaDakota Contributing Member

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    A great 2 part article from the Baytown Sun about The San Jac Inn.

    Part one link

    Part two link

    San Jacinto Inn, a restaurant once located near the Battleship Texas, went out of business 22 years ago but people still talk about the quality and quantity of the food.

    There was no variation in the menu, consisting of seafood, fried chicken, biscuits and jam, and you could eat all you wanted. The waiters – and this restaurant did have one of the best wait staffs in the history of Texas – would bring on the multiple helpings, just for the asking.

    By the way, if you want the recipe for the popular biscuits, it’s on the Internet.

    The history of San Jacinto Inn goes back to 1918 when Jack and Bertha Sanders opened a seafood stand with only five tables in Lynchburg. Sanders did the fishing and his wife, the cooking. After that little restaurant burned, a new location was found in 1919 on the south side of the channel in the vicinity of the San Jacinto Battleground. This was long before the construction of the San Jacinto Monument and the permanent docking of the Battleship Texas.

    Another fire destroyed the restaurant in 1927, and the new two-story building that rose from the ashes was the one that most of us remember.

    In reading about its history, I learned that the San Jacinto Inn did its part in building the San Jacinto Monument -- with food, of course. When the base of the monument required 57 hours of continuous concrete pour, the San Jacinto Inn served workers sandwiches and coffee every four hours.

    Gene Harrison wasn’t born yet when construction started on the monument, but he has some great memories of working at the San Jacinto Inn when he was a teen-ager living in Highlands.

    “Chester, Richard, and Mrs. Plant were the heart and soul of the Inn when I was a mere busboy there in the late 1950s,” Gene said. “ They were as good people as you could ever hope to work for as an 18-year-old kid just out of school.

    “Behind the Inn to the north was an old bunkhouse that was constructed some years back for employees that needed overnight lodging. We worked mornings and evenings. Mornings were for clean-up and preparation for the evenings customers.

    “A lot of our time was spent cleaning shrimp for cocktails. We had special tables set up for us to clean shrimp. No one was ever served a shrimp unless the vein was removed. The shrimp and crab preparation was done in an area below the main restaurant floor.

    “Busboys always had to wear a nice starched jacket. Each jacket had a removable button that became a source of pride. When your jacket became a bit grimy, we were supposed to get a fresh one for appearance on the dining room floor. No jeans allowed. Dress pants only. Pay was meager, but we looked good. And we did our job well.

    “The kitchen was mostly off limits to the busboys, but we did manage to evade the kitchen police at times. The famous biscuits were hand-made by an elderly woman that we knew as Granny. She would allow us some of her treats at times. She must have made thousands of those wonderful biscuits.

    “I don’t remember who made the tartar sauce or the red sauce, but I do know they were made in that kitchen. That was, and still is, the best tartar sauce I have ever tasted. I have spent years. trying to duplicate that sauce. I have finally come very close with my latest efforts.”

    To be continued ...

    (Second in two-part series)

    While writing about the legendary San Jacinto Inn, I asked Gene Harrison what it was like working there as a busboy in the late 1950s.

    “Most of our busboys were from Highlands, Crosby, Lynchburg, La Porte and Deer Park,” Gene said. “We all worked together very well.

    “Some of the La Porte guys stayed in the old bunkhouse for a while because of lack of transportation. One of those guys was quite a character– a teen, as most of us were. He would stay in bed mornings until a sun spot reached a certain place on the wall and then he knew it was time to get ready for work.”

    Gene said in those days no one was known as a chef.

    “All of the kitchen workers were just known as cooks. One of those cooks was a big, burly, rough and tough guy. He had a penchant for cigars, but was not allowed to smoke in the kitchen area. He would move away from the main kitchen area from time to time and light up. He would take a few puffs and then place his cigar on top of a fire extinguisher to await his next return.

    “I had watched this routine closely. So, in a quiet moment after he had placed his cigar in its usual resting place, I gave the tip of the cigar a liberal dose of Tabasco sauce on the end that he placed in his mouth. Then, I disappeared. Shortly, there was the loudest room-clearing cursing with all sorts of threats, etc. He never found out who did the dirty deed.”

    Gene remembered the special room downstairs called The Cave.

    “It really looked like the inside of a cave. It was made for very special private parties. I was fortunate enough to be asked to work some of those parties. Some were wild and crazy, but most were after hours business meetings with food, drinks, etc.

    “I do remember some of the waiters and other employees. I never knew most of their last names, but Charlie was the head waiter. I have seen him pull out of his pocket a wad of tip money that would choke a horse. The busboys’ favorite waiter was Sanford Wilson. We all enjoyed working his tables. He was a veteran, as were most of the others.

    “Chris and Bill were the most important guys that the usual restaurant visitor knew nothing about. These were the guys that cooked the crab and shrimp. Downstairs, very near the shrimp preparation table, was a huge steamer/boiler. Those two had the cooking times down to a science. Everything came out perfect every time.

    “I don’t remember much about the crab, but when the shrimp were done, Chris and Bill would dump them out onto a very clean concrete floor for cooling. Then the busboys and any other available employees would start cleaning the shrimp for the evening festivities. The aroma of those cooked shrimp would drive you crazy. We would always keep a few small containers of cocktail sauce on the cleaning table for occasional taste tests. None of the shrimp ever failed the test.

    “Chris was a strong, quiet, broad shouldered guy that had a serious limp. We all knew to not mess with him. Bill was different. Seems that he was a bit older, but was easy to talk to. He was loaded with stories of his travels. I believe that the Inn would not have been so successful without Chris and Bill.”

    In business since World War I, the San Jacinto Inn closed in 1987.


    DD
     
  6. Harrisment

    Harrisment Contributing Member

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    Is this different than the Monument Inn? It's still there, right next to the Battleship. We go every year for Mother's Day. I know it burned down a while back, so maybe it was called San Jacinto Inn before that?

    http://www.monumentinn.com/
     
  7. Fyreball

    Fyreball Contributing Member

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    If the place was so beloved and popular, why did it close down? Next generation didn't want to take care of it anymore?
     
  8. Dubious

    Dubious Contributing Member

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    In the 60's my Dad once threw us in the car and drove us down there to eat and only to turn around an drive home .... from Longview, 200 miles away.

    I mostly remember eating rolls with strawberry jelly.

    We would also go when we were on vacation at the Jack Tarr motel on East Beach.
     
  9. Fatty FatBastard

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    No, they were two different restaurants. Does the Monument Inn do something similar as mentioned above? If so, I might have to try it out.
     
  10. DaDakota

    DaDakota Contributing Member

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    No not even close, the Monument has an all you can eat seafood deal but it is far from the dining experience you got at the San Jac Inn.

    DD
     
  11. DonnyMost

    DonnyMost Contributing Member

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    Monument Inn serves awesome cinnamon rolls in the place of normal bread or chips/salsa.
     
  12. VooDooPope

    VooDooPope Contributing Member

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    I remember the San jacinto inn from when I was a kid. I was in highschool the last time we went before it closed. They had great food.
     
  13. DieHard Rocket

    DieHard Rocket Contributing Member

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    Yes! I went there a couple times a year as a kid with my parents and grandparents, but probably haven't been since I was 12. I don't remember a lot of details about the food other than that, like if it was buffet or menu ordering.

    Never went to the San Jacinto Inn but it looks very similar to the Monument Inn building IIRC and sounds like they probably have similar food quality.
     
  14. Hicklander

    Hicklander Contributing Member

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    It burned down i believe... Monument Inn is absurdly good .. blows Papas out of the water.. Heck of a view.. I live about two miles away from this place on the opposite side of the Lynchburg Ferry... I can see the San Jacinto Monument from my house..
     
  15. Harrisment

    Harrisment Contributing Member

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    They have an all you can eat seafood deal but I've never ordered it. The food there is really solid. It's nice to check out if you feel like venturing out of the city and trying something different.
     
  16. DaDakota

    DaDakota Contributing Member

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    I used to ride my bike from Baytown over that ferry to the Battleship....I like the Monument Inn...

    DD
     
  17. Poloshirtbandit

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    Took my dad there last year for Father's Day. Good stuff.
     
  18. Mattj

    Mattj Member

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    San Jacinto Inn....

    1st Course: All you can eat raw oysters and shrimp cocktail.

    2nd Course: All you can eat fried oysters, fried chicken, fried catfish, every side you could want.

    Dessert: All you can eat Ice Cream and Sherbert.

    We went there every Easter that I can remember.
     
  19. AstroRocket

    AstroRocket Member

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    All I remember doing there was flying kites. Looks like I really missed out. :(
     
  20. Rip Van Rocket

    Rip Van Rocket Contributing Member

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    Yes, went there a number of times during the sixties and seventies. Always a popular place with the grandparents. Sorry the place is gone.

    The grandparents also liked to take us down to Gaido's in Galveston. Haven't been to Gaido's in many years, maybe i'll take a trip down there.
     
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