Cowtown Yoostabes, Chow-Down Edition: Coney Islands, Carhops, and DQs

Fort Worth has probably hundreds of buildings that yoostabe eateries. Here are just a few places that long ago served their last fries and pies:

yoostabe diner famousIf you haven’t lived in Fort Worth long, this building won’t mean much to you. But if you grew up here, the mere sight of the building may trigger a Pavlovian reaction, may bring back the smells of the Koutsoubos family’s Famous Hamburgers diner on the corner of Main and 1st streets.

famous 1986 nick

The Koutsouboses served “hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Coney Islands, and fish” out the windows of that building for more than sixty years. It was a small, no-frills (no phone, no air-conditioning, no water heater—just a gas burner under the sink) diner with a great location: People waiting to catch streetcars (and later buses) on Main often ate on the sidewalk while they waited for their ride. Those insisting on a more refined dining experience could go inside and sit on stools. Famous Hamburgers was just a block from the courthouse and Leonard’s Department Store. In the early days a Famous hamburger cost a nickel. Six for a quarter.

famous k family 26Famous Hamburgers began in 1921 as “G&G Hamburgers” (for co-owners George Koutsoubos and Gus Voutis). By 1926 the diner was listed as “Koutsoubos & Voutis.” In 1926 sons John and Peter Koutsoubos worked at Nick Titsa’s Coney Island Sandwich Shop on West 7th Street. Son Nick, the last owner, was born in 1921.

famous 30 nick and john censusBy 1930 sons John and Peter were boarding together on Houston Street and listed as lunch room operators—probably of Koutsoubos & Voutis.

famous name change 36By 1936 the diner had the name we remember. George had died in 1934, and the diner was operated by his widow and son John until son Nick took over.

famous sign 1986

Nick “the Greek” Koutsoubos hung up his apron in 1986, and Famous Hamburgers closed.

yoostabe diner clover driftwoodOn the East Side this derelict neon sign is the only survivor of Clover Driftwood drive-in restaurant no. 5 on East Lancaster Avenue.

boardwalkThe Clover Driftwood sign was later repurposed. “Boardwalk” refers to a lounge on that site that presented performers such as Ray Sharpe in the 1980s.

clover-driftwood-ad

yoostabe diner clover 68 cdHerman and Odell Allen owned the Clover drive-in restaurants around town.

The brothers also owned the Clover Grill dining room at Main and 6th streets downtown for more than thirty years.

yoostabe diner cloverThe sign of Clover no. 5 is similar to that of Clover no. 1 on East Rosedale. Clover no. 1 fared much better than its sibling on Lancaster. Clover no. 1 lives on as a bank.

“I’ll have a cheeseburger with a side of deposit slips.”

rocky sunny burgerThis building on 3217 North Main Street still serves food as “Sunny Burger.” Ah, but the building yoostabe Rockyfeller no. 11 (Rockyfeller and Pig Stand: Here’s a (Texas) Toast to the Onion Ring and the Girl in the Swing).

yoostabe diner griddleFort Worth had a handful of Griddle diners in 1968. This yoostabe Griddle no. 2 on Vaughn Boulevard in Poly. It became the Poly Grill, which has closed.

big top foundationNot even Google, the world’s greatest gumshoe, has found any photos of the old place, but atop this raised round concrete slab in the middle of this furniture store parking lot on East Rosedale Street yoostabe one of Fort Worth’s two Big Top drive-in restaurants. The East Side Big Top was popular in the 1960s, being located near Poly High, William James Junior High, Poly Elementary, and Texas Wesleyan College. One diner recalls the Big Top as “a hamburger joint that made the most wonderful hamburgers and fries. It was shaped like a circus tent and had carousel horses on the poles that surrounded it.”

big-top-adThe other Big Top was on Bailey Avenue at West 6th Street.

yoostabe diner weldonsThis yoostabe Weldon’s Café on Vaughn Boulevard. Built in moderne style in 1946 by Ivy Weldon and Edna Bodiford. Weldon Bodiford was a brother of James Bodiford, who in 1968 operated an auto repair shop across the street from Weldon’s. Weldon and Edna were the parents of Sandy Bodiford, Poly High class of 1955, who married Kenneth Copeland, also class of 1955. The Weldon’s Cafe building last housed Diva’s Lounge (“Restaurant Extraordinaire!” “Fort Worth’s Finest BYOB”) with karaoke and hookahs.

yoostabe vaughn dukeAlso on Vaughn Boulevard this yoostabe the café of Raymond and Juanita Duke. Daughter Dianne Duke Robinett attended D. McRae, William James, and Poly schools. She died at age thirty-nine, outliving her father by thirteen years, her mother by only two years.

yoostabe diner ichi banEven at its best, Guy’s Café on Bishop Street, owned for twenty-five years by Guy Marcel Sparks and wife Pearl, was not much to look at, just a box made of whitewashed cinder blocks. As the Google aerial shows, the building now is suited for al fresco dining only: It is just four roofless walls.

ichi-ban-adAfter Guy and Pearl sold out, the building briefly housed Ichi-Ban Japanese restaurant, which in 1965 was a novelty for the East Side. Still later the building housed Eagle Eye Liberty Immigration.

yoostabe diner drakesdrakes-adFrom 1975 until her death in 1990 Irreasa Drake operated Drake’s Cafeteria on East Rosedale Street.

italian inn gapNot much to see now. But in this empty space on East Lancaster yoostabe . . .

italian inn 1953the East Side Italian Inn.

Okay. Look at these twelve buildings:

yoostabe diner surviving dairy queen photosThese twelve buildings, with the exception of two that are food marts, currently are eateries. Ah, but they yoostabe eateries of a very popular chain. Look familiar?

yoostabe diner surviving dairy queen buildings 68You guessed it: They were all Dairy Queens. In the early days of fast food, Dairy Queen covered Cowtown like syrup on a sundae. The 1968 city directory listed seventeen Dairy Queens. I have placed the DQ logo beside those buildings that survive. Photos of the survivors are in the order of their listing in the city directory.

Bon appetit!

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7 Responses to Cowtown Yoostabes, Chow-Down Edition: Coney Islands, Carhops, and DQs

  1. earl belcher says:

    Kenneth Copeland married Cyndy Davis. Her dad owned Davis Food Store Vickery@Nashville.

    • hometown says:

      His first wife was Sandy Bodiford. Second wife was a woman named “Cynthia Ann.” Was that Davis? Third wife was Gloria Neece.

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