Houston is known as a culinary city with a revolving door of restaurants. Restaurants are congratulated for staying around past the five-year mark, and making it to a decade anniversary is something to really celebrate.
However, there are a few that are true Houston institutions, and Treebeards is one of them. Houstonians have been feasting on Treebeards’ Southern-style food for 40 years.
Dan Tidwell and Jamie Mize opened Treebeards in 1978 on Preston Street in downtown Houston. They served up classic southern and Gulf Coast food with a Louisiana twist and were soon a lunch destination. Although Downtown was a very humble area at that time, the restaurant outgrew it’s first location in just two years and has gone on to open five locations, all in the downtown area.
Tidwell and Mize wanted to cater to the weekday lunch crowd, so the restaurant hours were—and remain today—Monday through Friday from 11:00am to 2:30pm. The partners knew that lunch-goers didn’t have time to linger so, instead of sit-down service, they decided on cafeteria-style. Before they know it, workers are enjoying a hot made-from-scratch meal before heading back to the office grind.
“Downtown Houston has truly evolved since the late 1970’s. At the time, Market Square was completely neglected. There were very few places to grab quality food, and I saw a unique opportunity to open a restaurant,” Tidwell explained. “I had faith that the area would eventually develop into what it is today.” In 2010, longtime Treebeards’ manager Jolie Stinneford and her husband Charles, along with another longtime manager, Matt Rowden, purchased the company from Tidwell and Mize.
I recently visited the Market Square location and although I arrived at 11:30, fairly early for a Friday lunch, I was surprised at how full the restaurant was already.
Treebeards is well known for so many different dishes it was hard to choose, but I decided to try their chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and vegetables with a side of cornbread plus carrot cake for dessert. I know, sounds like a lot of food and it was – the portions at Treebeards are very generous.
The chicken fried chicken was well breaded and—to my delight—the breading stayed on the chicken when I cut in. We’ve all cut into chicken fried chicken or steak only to find a tiny piece of meat surrounded by a lot of breading. Not here, friends! I must confess that my favorite part of the whole meal was the dessert. The carrot cake might just be the best I have ever tasted. It was perfectly moist, covered with cream cheese frosting and had both carrots and raisins inside. It was truly delicious.
Treebeards is a Houston institution that is worthy of every bit of praise it receives. Any restaurant that has withstood the test of time in a foodie city like Houston knows how to please its guests. A menu full of classic favorites that are made fresh daily – what else could anyone ask for? The only thing I can think of is an extra piece of carrot cake!
Cover | Treebeards’ chile and cornbread | Courtesy photo
Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family.