Carbon-izer Presents Uptown Houston - The Restaurants of Wirt & Chimney Rock
The Restaurants of Wirt & Chimney Rock

One of the first pages when I was researching the Katy Freeway was a page on Texas that discussed a particular section between Voss and Chimney Rock on the south side of the freeway, with a full stretch of buildings demolished including five restaurants and a motel. It was also covered here. Some of the significant changes to the stretch took place AFTER the freeway was widened. Notice that none of these four lots were very deep (164 feet).

To best explain it, let's take a look at the section as it was in 2004 before the right-of-way changed the landscape, from east (closer to Houston) to west.

7951: REI opened in 1996 on the site of a former Howard Johnson's motel and restaurant that had opened in the mid-1960s and closed and demolished in the mid-1980s (see for a postcard). It appears that the original 7951 was the restaurant while the motel was at 7953. Anyway, by 2003 REI closed and relocated to 7530 Westheimer Road, and their building, less than a decade old, was torn down. It also appears that there may have been a gas station closest to Wirt Road.

7955: 7955 Katy Freeway started out as Louis DelHomme Marine, a boat dealership, in early 1973. Around 1981 this closed and was soon operated by the recently incorporated MobiLease for a brief time before becoming Sleeper City (furniture) in 1983 (this also held "The Brass Factory", a similar business), then by 1985 went back to cars (with "Spiers Imports"). In late 1988 it became Rev/2, "The Computer Clearance Center" (which lasted for about a year), then in December 1990 became Unitel (cell phones with the late Houston Cellular. Unitel would become Direct Cellular in the early 1990s and by 1996 it became Memorial 1 Imports (also known as Memorial 1 Motorcars).

8009: In the mid-1960s 8009 Katy Freeway (then 8009 Katy Road) was a Texaco gas station ("Katy Road Texaco Service"). It changed hands and appeared to stop being a Texaco in the early 1980s, and by 1985 was a used car lot ("Ginson Associates", later "Auto World"). In 1987 it was torn down and redeveloped as a Whataburger.

8015: The 8015 address originally belonged to Presto Portable Homes which stretched toward 8145. Denny's opened here in 1973 with La Quinta next door.

8017: The two-story La Quinta Inn motel opened in 1973. Some shots of its demolition can be seen in the links above.

8135: Steak & Ale was one of the first restaurants here, opened in 1978 and closing sometime around 1997. In September 1997, Dixie's Red Hot Roadhouse opened here in September 1997. (Also, while this site is pretty dull otherwise...a personal website dating from the Web 1.0 days, it does contain a picture of the restaurant's exterior (showing a rather extensive remodel from Steak & Ale) as well as an awesome night shot of the sign. Very cool.) The restaurant allegedly changed names to Dixie's Cajun Roadhouse in 2000, though newspapers still refer to it as their old name through 2001. Around August 2001 it was replaced by El Tiempo Cantina (from August 2001) but the was building was demolished by October 2005.

8125: This address is out of order but it initially opened as Uncle John's Family Restaurant in March 1981 (click to see it full size). It was briefly another restaurant (Porterfield's) before becoming Platters Seafood Bar & Grill in late 1983 or early 1984, previously covered on The Houston Files.

In December 1992, the restaurant closed and was repainted a "more soothing blue and white" color scheme as part of reopening as Cajun restaurant "The Teché" in December 1992, but that closed in late 1994. Finally, it reopened as 59 Diner in 1995 before closing a decade later.

8145: When McDonald's first opened at 8145 Katy Freeway in 1990 it was the former lot of Presto Buildings. It would not see any changes until it was demolished c. 2005.

8155: Exxon had been here since the early 1970s though rebuilt with a "Tiger Mart" in the early 1990s on the same lot. It was spared the widening of Katy Freeway and was the only one on the block that was.

When the dust cleared, there was no retail space for much of the stretch. Now we're in the year 2012. The former lots of McDonald's, 59 Diner, and part of Steak & Ale (all vacant) were turned into National Tree & Shrub at 8147 Katy Freeway (opened c. 2011). The garden center would be short-lived. In 2013, the garden center was downsized when the former McDonald's area was taken over by the expansion of the Exxon, with the old Tiger Mart convenience store being replaced with a modern Timewise (as of 2024 this has been converted to Honey Farms, following the sale of Timewise and subsequent license deal), expanding it from 1,300 square feet to 5,000 square feet. After the 2014 season, National Tree & Shrub was closed and a new McDonald's was built. This was not exactly the same space or address, as the McDonald's was at 8147 Katy Freeway and sat on the old space of 59 Diner. The remaining space of National Tree & Shrub was redeveloped as Shipley Do-Nuts at 8135 Katy Freeway in 2017.

Where 7955 Katy and the old REI had been was redeveloped into the new 7951 Katy Freeway. A map is above (from here; note different orientation). I'm not sure when that particular list was created, but it should be noted that it was mostly empty even into 2011. Tenants as of 2016 include Memorial Wine Cellar (B, I couldn't find A, unless it absorbed it), Dolce Ave Boutique (C), Era Thai Massage (D, since at least 2015, seems to have replaced "Mobile Tan Houston" and "Retreat & Relax"), Houston Bridal Gallery (E, website says it relocated here in 2010), J. Dall Hair Salon (F), Silly Silly Girls (boutique in G, opened 2012), Houston Dental Works (Suite I--couldn't find H), The Shelton Family Cleaners (J), Encore Caregivers (K, well at least used to be, closed between 2014 and 2015), That Cigar Place (L), Solutions in Pharmacy (M) Body Mind and Soul (N, since 2013), Nourish Pet Care (Suite Q, couldn't find O or P, nor does there seem to be space for it), Paradise Nails & Spa (R), Live Well Chiropractic & Wellness (S), and Boca2 Gastro Bar & Bites (T, formerly Il Mondo Della Pizza Ristorante, looks like). As of 2022 some of these have changed: Houston Bridal Gallery bit the dust, Houston Dental Works is now "Life Works Dental", suite J is Spring Valley Dry Cleaners, K is "Bubbles in the Ruff" (dog washing), and suite T is Memorial Tacos.

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