Inside each 59 Diner location, friendly chatter ripples from booth to booth and white-capped servers scurry around dishing out retro classics. Recognized by the Houston Press as among the city's best in 2009, 59 Diner's made-from-scratch milk shakes and malts slide across tables in old-fashioned glasses before coating tongues in such flavors as mocha, fudge, and Oreo. Sweet sips offset savory burgers, patty melts, and all-day breakfast specials, which can also be ordered in pint-size portions for younger patrons. Meals transport tongues to the past, and jukeboxes release vintage tunes into the air, inspiring guests to try to catch their favorite notes inside empty glasses.
John and Herb McEwen initially named their eatery McEwen's Fried Chicken when they opened in 1949, but the name didn't stick. According to the San Antonio Express-News, they wanted people to know their soda shop sold food, everyone in the neighborhood still called the spot "the malt house." Voted best neighborhood restaurant by Express-News readers, the restaurant continues to serve the creamy malts that became its namesake. The menu abounds with all-American favorites such as burgers, juicy fried chicken, and fried fish served with coffee cups of tartar sauce for dipping or for playing a prank on unwitting coworkers. Chefs prepare flour tortillas in-house to add a more authentic flavor to Mexican dishes such as the Machacado plate, a medley of sun-dried meat, serrano peppers, onions, and tomato.
When Norma’s Cafe opened in 1956, it was the kind of homey breakfast spot where the food was as comforting as the waitresses were welcoming—they greeted their customers by name. One of those customers was Ed Murph, who later purchased Norma’s with the goal of keeping the down-home tradition alive. And according to the Dallas Observer, he succeeded. The paper voted Norma’s The Best Home Style Restaurant in 2010, claiming that “the recipes taste as though they haven’t much changed.” It’s those recipes that have made generations of diners—and even food critics—eager to wake up in the morning. Pillowy biscuits blanketed in gravy, chicken fried steaks, and omelets made with farm-fresh eggs are partially responsible for the countless amounts of press and awards Norma’s has earned. But credit the atmosphere for a good portion of the popularity. Norma’s continues to evoke feelings of a friendlier, simpler time, when the pies were made from scratch, the waitresses knew your name, and the jukeboxes didn’t heckle you for your poor music choices.
Cuisine Type: American Comfort Food
Reservations: Not offered
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 25?50
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Top Chop't Steak
Alcohol: Full bar
Delivery / Take-out Available: Takeout Only
Outdoor Seating: No
Pro Tip: Pie makes everything better.
What is one of your most popular offerings? How is it prepared?
Our famous Frisco burger is an Angus patty with american cheese, our sweet-and-tangy special relish, Frisco thousand-island dressing, and shredded lettuce on a toasted bun.
Do you adhere to any sustainable or eco-friendly practices?
All of our to-go packaging is made of recyclable, reusable, or compostable materials. The restaurant recycles paper, glass, aluminum, and cooking oil. We are family owned and have been in business for over 60 years. We strive to leave a clean environment for many generations to come.
In your own words, how would you describe your menu?
We are a Texas diner. There is something for everyone. We have burgers, cut steaks, chicken-fried steaks, pork chops, and meatloaf. We serve grilled salmon, wahoo, and cod. We have daily lunch specials: smothered steak, chicken and dumplings, corned beef and cabbage, beef tips over rice, catfish, roast beef, and fried chicken. We make our own ice-box pies, and our coconut pie is award-winning. We bake fresh fruit pies every day.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
Come on in and become part of the family.
Instead of a crystal chandelier, Cowtown Diner's owners opted to install a light fixture fashioned from antlers to reflect their restaurant's rustic atmosphere. Inside the dining area brown leather booths line the exposed brick walls bedecked with colorful artwork and the occasional cowboy hat. The outdoor patio features umbrella topped tables where patrons dig into chicken fried steak, Belgian waffles, and scrambled eggs.
When describing The Magic Pan Restaurant's cuisine to Ventanas Magazine, owner Annette Lawrence, an El Paso native, described it as "gourmet with a Southwestern flair." Homemade sauces and dressings in flavors such as honey Tabasco and creamy cilantro lime add kick to fresh salads served with sides such as pecan cornbread, while parmesan cream laced with peppery chipotle spices up a classic bowl of fettuccini alfredo. Smoked and roasted meats fill the majority of the restaurant's sandwiches, which are held together by focaccia, brioche, ciabatta, or the telekinetic powers of the kitchen's chef, and meaty entrees such as prime angus ribeye with smoked sea salt, cognac, and fresh herb compound butter reveal the kitchen's talent for updating culinary classics.
According to Ventanas Magazine, The Magic Pan's interior also combines flavors from around the globe in a design scheme orchestrated by Lawrence and her daughter Vanessa. At The Pan Restaurant on Cincinnati Street, work from local furniture makers is showcased alongside pieces imported from Bali, while guests to the original restaurant on Doniphan Drive enjoy their vibrant fare while surrounded by colorful, original artwork or patio planters filled with exotic flowers.:m]]