Almost every day since 1953, the Dinner Bell Cafe & Bakery on Lawndale at Wayside in the Houston East End has rung for hungry people. Long before Dr. Oz and his medical minions came along to spoil “good eatin’” for us old schoolers of great taste for America’s supreme comfort foods, the Dinner Bell was there to make sure that nobody went into withdrawal.
Today, in 2011, Tuesdays and Sundays are Chicken and Dumplings Days, from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. The delicious bakery opens early and stays open from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. The whole place closes on Saturday – just to give customers a taste of separation from how much they are missing due to the absence of seven-days a week service.
The general name of the place is something of a misnomer. Unless you want to get technical about it, he Dinner Bell is actually a cafeteria – one of the last such eateries in Houston, but a far-sight superior to the Luby’s chain and in quality line with the equally wonderful Cleburne Cafeteria on Bissonnet, but cheaper.
Here’s a link to the Dinner Bell’s 2011 website:
Click over and pick a day for your own comfort food meal.
The Dinner Bell is located across the street from the Villa de Matel Convent, one of the most serenely beautiful places in Houston since 1928, and about 1.5 miles west of the Lawndale/75th intersection strip mall that once housed my now demolished Saturday afternoon Avalon Theatre. It’s also a busy catty-corner away from Idylwood, one of the most mysteriously different Houston residential neighborhoods from the early 20th century, with its sloping lawns and anciently majestic trees and curving, dipping streets along the banks of the nearby bayou. Across the bayou from Idylwood to the east is Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery.
The Dinner Bell came along when I was already a sophomore in high school, but we still went there some. Back then, Sundays were the main day for families eating out – when they did eat out. People simply did not eat out as a matter of every day course back then – and Sundays were also the days that many many moms, including my own, really enjoyed cooking their own versions of those Dinner Bell specialties from ingredient scratch in their own kitchens.
How times have changed, but the Dinner Bell still tolls for us all in Houston as a comforting reminder of how food used to taste. Take your heart pills and give it a try sometime.