Where Everybody Knows Your Name 3

Old Neighborhood Grill hearkens back to the 
golden era of neighborhood restaurants.

Neighborhood restaurants have become scarce in many cities. These bygone bastions of comfort and familiarity, where a favorite table feels like a personal possession, have suffered through the whims of fickle diners and rampant competition. The manufactured kitsch and faux “hominess” of many chain restaurants also work to undermine the survival of authentic neighborhood spots. Like a breath of fresh air, then, or a quiet interlude in a busy day, exists the Old Neighborhood Grill on Park Place Avenue.

Restaurants like the Old Neighborhood Grill both contribute to and document a neighborhood’s history and daily life. The specials may change, the waitstaff may fluctuate, but the core identity of the place, like that of its neighborhood, remains immutable and familiar as an old friend. When Peter Schroder opened the Old Neighborhood Grill nearly 20 years ago, he recognized himself as the inheritor of a legacy.

“The opening of the Old Neighborhood Grill was the joining of two histories,” says Peter. “The building goes back to 1925 as a restaurant, and was a number of different operations through the years.”

The 1930s saw it as Charlie’s Nickel Inn, while the 40s and 50s welcomed the Emory Morris Egg Shoppe. Rick’s Locker Room, which occupied the space in the 70s and 80s, still inspires fond memories for many of Peter’s regulars. The second history that Peter references is the story of his own family.

“I have a family history of restaurants,” says Peter. “My mother and father had a total of 24 or 25 different operations in Texas. It’s the business I grew up in.”

Prior to the Old Neighborhood Grill, Peter operated restaurants in Fort Worth and Austin. A break from the business precipitated some soul searching in his late 40s, and the decision to return once again.

“This space became available, and it wasn’t possible to have much uncertainty,” says Peter. “It had such strong potential. The rest is an ongoing story, our own part of the building’s history.”

If the Old Neighborhood Grill’s story had a physical corollary, it would be the large chalkboard over the counter that showcases the menu. Open all day, the Old Neighborhood Grill offers traditional fare like chicken-fried steaks and burgers, with comfort food options like chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits. A smaller chalkboard hosts the daily specials, which can serve to introduce new items to the menu.

“I was recently in San Francisco, where I saw that every menu had fish and chips on it,” says Peter. “We hadn’t had it here for 12 or 14 years, but I knew we could do a good product, so we jumped on it within four days of getting back. That’s the benefit of not having a corporate to consult.”

For many patrons, the Old Neighborhood Grill is first and foremost a breakfast spot. A great breakfast can inspire an excellent day, and Old Neighborhood Grill hits home runs time after time. If your perfect day begins with a full spread of eggs, hash browns, bacon and biscuits, you’ll want to make the Old Neighborhood Grill part of your routine. The breakfast menu also features Tex-Mex-inspired items like breakfast tacos and migas, and the attentive staff will ensure that your coffee cup stays hot and full. For the Old Neighborhood Grill, excellence is not extraordinary — it’s to be expected.

“When our guests come in, they know what they want, and we strive to give it to them,” says Peter. “When people ask if I own the place, I always say to them: ‘I have the keys, but it’s the neighborhood that owns it.’”