10 Restaurants We Miss In Temple
There's no shortage of great restaurants in Temple these days, but I can think of at least 10 places that have closed and left a hole in my heart and a grumble in my belly.
A few of these places could easily come back any day now, but some were irreplaceable institutions.
Also, keep in mind that I was born in 1986, so there may places you remember that I never had the opportunity to enjoy. If that's the case or you think of something I missed, let me know in the comments or on Facebook!
If you were fortunate enough to dine at the Blue Bonnet, do you remember it ever not being crowded? Of course you don't, especially if your family, like many in Temple and the surrounding area, went after church on Sunday!
To say the Blue Bonnet was a Temple institution is a drastic understatement, and if you ask most people what they miss most about it (besides the friendly service and the chatter of regulars), most people would either say the chicken fried steak or that incredible, homemade lemon pie. (OK, all the pie.)
The Blue Bonnet closed in 2009, but it still feels like yesterday. While Temple can now boast a wide array of restaurants, nothing will ever match the genuine nostalgia and family atmosphere of Temple's favorite cafe.
Even when we were just about dirt poor, my mom found a way to budget in at least two trips to Doyle Phillips a month.
It wasn't expensive though, and you got amazing food and service for your buck. Remember that vegetable soup? I know you do. And that chicken fried steak and catfish? How about that old fashioned habit of serving you a canned soda with a glass of ice? Why was that so damned charming?
But what I'll always remember most about Doyle Phillips is everyone's favorite curly-haired waitress, Peggy. Peggy, if you're out there and you're reading this, you were the best and I hope you're doing well!
There have been attempts to re-open the building as a cafe and even a Hawaii-themed diner, but c'mon. There's just no replacing Doyle Phillips. And it'll always have a special place in my heart because I took my first girlfriend there at 16. I wonder how many other people had their first date there...
The French Quarter across from Lamar Middle School, like the Blue Bonnet Cafe, was one of those places we all just assumed would always be open. However, a deal to sell it to Temple ISD was closed earlier this year, and so was a Temple icon.
The burger and fries stayed consistently good throughout the years, and of course there was the big pot o' beans.
When I was a kid, French Quarter had the best chocolate malt in town. I still haven't found one quite as good.
Mr. Lee, the owner of House of Lee, is who comes to mind first thing, right? He greeted everyone who came in the door with a familiar smile and a hello, so that even if you weren't a regular, you sure felt like one.
He was such a kind man, and well traveled too. Remember all those photos on the wall of all the places he'd been and people he'd met? You could see him shaking hands with former presidents, baseball players, and other celebrities. I still have a pouch he gave me for my 12th birthday. If you ever celebrated your birthday there as a kid, you know what I'm talking about, and chances are you peeked inside, even though he warned you that your wish might not come true.
And, of course, the food was always great. I was partial to the sweet and sour shrimp, but the buffet was never a let-down. In fact, everything on the menu tasted great, especially when Mrs. Lee happened to be cooking that day.
And speaking of Chinese food...
It was never quite as good as House of Lee in my opinion, but for fast, cheap Chinese, it was pretty great.
I remember going there after grocery shopping at the big H-E-B across the parking lot so many times as a kid. They had the best cream cheese wontons in town, and it was fun doing some people watching through those huge windows facing the shopping center.
Remember when Cactus Jack's was Market Street Cafe?
I used to love going to lunch there as a kid. Something about the quiet, classy atmosphere made me feel so grown-up and professional eating there with my mom and her work friends.
Remember that bowl of mints up front? Yeah, I used to take a whole handful too. And the aquarium! Remember that?
As a kid, I always wanted to go after hours and do karaoke, but it never happened. Fortunately, Cactus Jack's continues the karaoke tradition of its predecessor.
My favorite dishes were the lasagna and the fettuccine Alfredo.
The pizza, pasta, and salads were great, but as a kid, Mazzio's was a Mecca for one nerdy reason in particular: They were the only place in town with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, and Simpsons arcade cabinets under one roof!
That was a huge deal for any area kid in the early-to-mid 90s, and we all wanted to have our birthday party there because of it. When TMNT whooped your butt, you'd try your hand at the Simpsons, and who didn't get a good chuckle when Magneto of X-Men fame yelled "X-MEN, WELCOME TO DIE!" thanks to a translation error.
After those arcade cabinets disappeared, I was less inclined to go to Mazzio's, but the food was still pretty decent.
The old Mazzio's building is now Henderson's Family Restaurant. I haven't tried it yet, to be honest. Have you? How was it?
Ok, it's a fast food place, but c'mon! How did we lose Popeye's? At least Rice Etc. is picking up the slack with some great Asian cuisine, but hopefully this boom we're experiencing will attract Popeye's back to town. It's the shiznit!
I just found out Joe's is closed today, and I feel bad about that. I feel somewhat responsible, because I took it for granted and hadn't been there in some time.
It's a shame too, because I never had a bad experience there, their bread was great, and there was no wrong choice on the menu.
Farewell, Joe's. I, for one, will miss you deeply.
(Since this article was first published, I've replaced former #10, Piccadilly Buffet, with one I remembered like far better, Shoney's Buffet. 'Cause let's be honest: Piccadilly wasn't all that great.)
I never ate lunch or dinner at Shoney's, so I can't comment on that. But remember that massive breakfast buffet?
As a kid, it just blew my mind to have so many options. I used to load up on those French toast sticks, mountains of bacon, and all that fresh fruit. There was always so much kiwi fruit...
Anyway, after Shoney's closed, the place became Jim's or something like that. Their food was just...meh. It was also a Mongolian place for a while. Remember that?