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 final 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.

The Clover drive-in, first in the chain, opened on East Rosedale in 1955.

clover-driftwood-ad

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

Their first restaurant was the Clover Grill dining room at Main and 6th streets downtown. It operated 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 cashier’s check and a side of fries.”

rocky sunny burgerThis building on 3217 North Main Street still serves food as “Sunny Burger.” Ah, but the building yoostabe Rockyfeller no. 11. (2021 update: This building has been demolished.)

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 Fishers of Men Outreach Center.

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!

Still hungry? Dig in:
Cruisin’ Carlson’s: When Happiness Was Fuzzy Dice and a Bakon Burger
The Italian Inn (Part 1): When Heresy Became Heritage
Here’s a (Texas) Toast to the Onion Ring and the Girl in the Swing

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

  1. Jimmy Ray Pitts says:

    Thanks for a great nostalgia trip through good ol’ days. Worked at several of the Griddles in the ’50s during high school, including the one in Poly on Vaughn.

  2. jim holt says:

    To Ron Thorne’s question;
    That may have bee Sutter’s Bar-B-Que.
    They had a great 1/2 Chicken Basket special
    on Wednesdays. $.99 What a deal!

    • hometown says:

      I agree. The family of classmate Nancy Sutter had a drive-in on Mitchell not far south of the Clover.

  3. Larry C Brown says:

    Jimmie’s BBQ started in 1952 when it was called Jimmie’s BBQ and Grocery Store located 500 Missouri (on the corner of Missouri and Tucker). They was another business at 500a Missouri until 1959. When the renter moved out, Jimmie took it over for his residence. I found evidence the business was still operating during the early 70s.

  4. 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.

    • Dick McLamore says:

      Her grandfather owned the grocery which was Reeder’s.

    • Ron Thorn says:

      Kenny was the Kicker for our Poly High football team. I was his paper boy when he lived somewhere near Annglen Drive. He taught me how to block and tackle.

      Does anyone remember the name of the Drive-In Burger joint on Mitchell Blvd?

  5. Larry Brown says:

    I have collected over 5000 articles and photos on my FB page: Closed and Forgotten Cowtown Eateries. https://www.facebook.com/groups/708629775871810/. Even Star-Telegraph food guy,Bud Kennedy, monitors the group page ever now and then. You are welcome to join.

  6. Leo Palitti says:

    WOW! This is great Mike! That looks like me standing at the window at Famous Hamburgers. Nick was a hoot to talk to. I can’t remember the Hispanic guys name, Emillio? The two of them we always a joy. If you wanted anything more than mustaed and onions on your burger, you needed to bring it with you. Napkins? Bring those too! Loved those burgers though! Wish you could dig up some info on Jimmy’s BBQ/Ribateria that was on Missouri and Tucker. I hear his grand son has a BBQ place some where around town. To this day I swear Jimmy had the best BBQ in the world. Thank you for another great piece of Ft Worth history.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Leo. One of my earliest memories of downtown is that place, probably being rewarded with a Coney Island hot dog after being dragged by my mother to shop at Leonard’s, Everybody’s, Monnig’s, Stripling’s.

  7. Dan Washmon says:

    Weldon and James Bodiford were in fact brothers….Jim operated a garage on Maddox, west of Mitchell Blvd….Another brother (don’t remember his name) lived next door to my baby sitter on Avenue B….I don’t know what he did for a living, but he kept chickens in his back yard and had a wood-burning stove in his living room….

    • hometown says:

      Dan, I remember the Maddox garage but not the earlier one on Vaughn. That was a big family from Hillsboro. Seven brothers. It appears that Weldon was father unto Sandy Bodiford, Poly 1955, who was wife unto Kenneth Copeland, also Poly 1955. There was a Marion J. Bodiford on Avenue B who was a sheet metal worker for GMAC.

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