Heaping help of home cooking: The Hotel Coffee Shop serves locals food for over 100 years
Oct. 6, 2010 at 5:06 a.m.
BLESSING - Helen Feldhousen can't imagine doing anything else in life.
What started out as a playful joke 33 years ago to take over the Blessing Hotel and the Hotel Coffee Shop, ended up with her calling in life - to serve people home-cooked meals.
In 1977, the woman who owned the hotel decided to get married and sell the place, she said.
"The dishwasher for the place came over to tell me that the owner was giving up the hotel," she said.
In return, she jokingly suggested she would take over.
The next day, she received a phone call asking if she wanted to buy the place.
After much discussion with her two children, she took over.
Ever since then, Feldhousen, 73, has managed both the historic hotel and cafe, nestled in the back of the 103-year-old building.
The cafe has gained national attention after CNN recently named it the "Best Danged Food Joint in Texas."
Described as a friendly atmosphere by all who walk through the doors, the unique, hometown feel is not as fast paced as modern restaurants.
Visitors can enter through the side door or through the entrance of the hotel, which has stayed the same since it opened.
Antique furniture, floor and wall fixtures decorate the walls of the hotel that lead to the coffee shop.
The cafe does not accept major credit cards or checks, only cash, but that does not stop customers from coming to the place to enjoy a meal.
Janet Walker, of Baytown, visits family in the area and always make sure to stop to eat.
"This is our stop every time," she said. "The food has the right taste. It's like mother used to cook. This is like coming home."
Everyday, a different item is on the menu.
Customers serve themselves in the buffet-style restaurant from old pots and pans on top of gas stoves that serve as tables.
The selections include sweet potato casserole, corn bread, green beans, corn and home-made biscuits.
Each morning, Feldhousen starts her day making coffee and breakfast for whoever comes through the door, no matter how early that may be, she said.
"Sometimes, they come before opening hours, but I still cook for them," she said with a smile.
The coffee shop serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, except for Christmas.
"If I had my way, the place would open that day, but my kids won't have it," she said.
The restaurant has many customers who return almost daily, she said.
She can point out those coming to eat for the first time, she said.
Norma Dollins remembers coming to eat with her family as a kid. She said the place has not changed over the years.
"This is a great place. It's the same as I remember it," she said. "But the food is what keeps me coming back."
The family-style restaurant brings people together, said Feldhousen.
"At first people don't like the idea of sitting with people they don't know," she said. "But then the conversation starts and it's a good place to be."
News of the coffee shop getting national attention brought Eric Candelas, a flight instructor from Fort Worth to visit for lunch.
"We are always looking for places to fly to and have lunch and have somewhere to visit," he said.
He read an article online about the restaurant and thought it would be a good place to visit and have lunch.
"The historical value of this place is great and was worth flying here for it," he said. "We don't find a lot of places like these."
Feldhousen said she wants people to come to the restaurant and leave with a full stomach.
"If you leave hungry, then it's your fault," she said.
As for retirement, she's not planning on it anytime soon, she said.
"I hope to be doing this for the rest of my life," she said. "The Lord knows I am too old to get another job."