Folks have dined in the City of Dallas for more than 150 years, but it’s a rare restaurant that manages to stay afloat through changing times and trends for the generations necessary to be considered an institution. The city recently lost one of those institutions: Goff’s Charcoal Hamburgers, a student mainstay near Southern Methodist University serving charcoal-broiled burgers since 1950, was destroyed by a fire last month.
Though the management promises to rebuild, the restaurant’s original building, which dated back to 1924, is lost forever — a good reminder of how fast things can change in the city. Just in case, here are five more historic Dallas eateries you should get to know.
1. El Fenix
Though restauranteur Mike Martinez founded this popular Tex-Mex chain all the way back in 1918, the restaurant’s flagship in downtown Dallas dates back to 1965. There are now 22 locations around North Texas, but you just can’t beat the history at 1601 McKinney Avenue. Julia Child ate there, for cryin’ out loud. Stop by for iconic cheese enchiladas and “cowboy style” chicken-fried steak topped with chili.
This White Rock drive-in, established in 1956 and not changed much since, is straight out of a movie with Buddy Holly and Elvis all over the soundtrack. Famous for homemade root beer, cheap burgers and carhop service, it’s the closest thing to a time machine you can find in East Dallas.
3. Campisi’s Egyptian Restaurant
There isn’t much Egyptian about this Dallas Italian staple besides the name. The story goes that the restaurant opened in a space previously known as the Egyptian Lounge in 1950, and the Campisi family couldn’t afford to change the sign. The restaurant, supposedly a favorite of Jack Ruby, might be known for its founding family’s mob ties almost as much as its thin-crust pizza and pasta, and the owners probably don’t mind the publicity.
4. S&D Oyster Company
Opened in 1976, this N’awlins-style oyster bar and seafood restaurant in Uptown is known for checkered tablecloths, bow-tied waitstaff and one of the oldest buildings in the city. Built in 1891, the brick building that now houses S&D was originally a grocery and dry goods store, complete with a stable in the back for horses and delivery wagons.
5. Highland Park Soda Fountain
This former pharmacy may no longer fill prescriptions, but it still cures cravings. Opened in 1912 as a druggist, ice cream shop and lunch counter, the soda fountain serves up old favorites like phosphates and egg creams alongside breakfast and lunch plates — including a goose liver sandwich your great-granddad would probably enjoy.