Annie Bulloch is a freelance writer who has lived in Houston most of her life. Her main obsessions are food--both cooking and eating--and pop culture, especially comics, movies and TV.
feed the beast
Houston’s Enduring Eats: 92 Years of Diner Food at Yale Street Grill
In our Enduring Eats series, Annie Bulloch explores Houston-area restaurants that have been in business for 30 years or more.
When Yale Street Grill opened in 1923, it was known as Yale Pharmacy. A husband-and-wife pharmacist team, Abel and Mildred Dupuis, owned the combination pharmacy and soda fountain. The pharmacy business was sold off in 1997, and that section of the space is now an antique store. But the restaurant remains. Once again, most of the other patrons in the restaurant were over 50, which is always a promising sign in my book.
Yale Street Grill doesn’t have a lot of frills. I’ve seen other restored soda fountains that played up the nostalgia angle, but not here. The lunch counter is there, but it’s not really a soda fountain anymore. In fact, there are no fountain drinks. Sodas come in cans, although they are served with a cup filled with ice. I ordered a cherry Coke and watched the server pour a can of Coke into a glass of ice, add a little cherry-flavored syrup, and three maraschino cherries. It was tasty, but utilitarian.
The menu features ice cream and milkshakes that sounded good, but they weren’t serving them on the day I visited. There are several signs on the wall for Blue Bell ice cream, so I believe the Yale Street shakes are simply temporary victims of the Great Blue Bell Drought of 2015.
Breakfast is served all day, or at least until 4:30p.m., when Yale Street Grill closes. The breakfast menu includes more than a dozen options for omelets, along with migas, waffles (including a chicken tender waffle plate), pancakes, chicken fried steak, pork chops, and steak and eggs. There’s even a tempting Monte Cristo sandwich, which isn’t easy to find these days.
They also serve that diner classic, fruit and cottage cheese. Not enough restaurants will serve you a big bowl of cottage cheese these days.
My dining companion ordered the chicken fajita omelette. It came with an order of toast and hash browns, because you can never have too much starch at one meal. The kitchen was out of freshly shredded hash browns, but the patties were fine. The generous portion of chicken was nicely seasoned and covered in cheese.
We did not realize how substantial that omelette was going to be, so we also ordered an appetizer sampler. Fried foods with dipping sauces — my favorite! The chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks were fine, but the onion rings were perfect. They were crisp and tasty. The breading doesn’t crumble off when you bite into one, nor does the onion slide out of the breading. I need more of those onion rings soon.
The lunch menu is full of diner standards: burgers, sandwiches, homemade soups, and salads. I feel certain that the buffalo, turkey, black bean and garden burgers are relatively recent but welcome additions to the menu.
The sandwiches include pimento cheese, tuna salad, chicken salad, and egg salad. I love a good egg salad, but I also was intrigued by the tuna melt, an item I don’t see offered very often. (There’s a patty melt too.) The tuna salad recipe goes heavy on the mayo and celery. The sandwich is grilled quickly enough that the celery stays crunchy, but the cheese melts nicely (important in a tuna melt), and the bread is buttery and toasted to an ideal level.
I skipped dessert on this trip because we were already full of fried foods, eggs, and mayonnaise. (That sounds kind of terrible, but it wasn’t.) There are cakes, pies and cobblers, and in a few weeks, you probably can get those a la mode again! Yale Street Grill survived the Great Depression, so presumably they’ll make it through the Blue
Bell crisis unscathed.
If you’re in the mood to get some solid diner food and shop for antiques in one convenient Heights location, head to the corner of Yale Street and 21st Street.
Yale Street Grill
2100 Yale Street
Houston, Texas 77008
Open Monday-Sunday 7:00 AM-4:30 PM