Eats Beat

New owner buys south side landmark Old Neighborhood Grill; 40-year restaurateur Schroder retires

In 2011, Old Neighborhood Grill owner Peter Schroder jokingly reserved a parking place for ESPN’s “Mike & Mike In the Morning” show.
In 2011, Old Neighborhood Grill owner Peter Schroder jokingly reserved a parking place for ESPN’s “Mike & Mike In the Morning” show.

Old Neighborhood Grill, a 20-year landmark cafe in the Park Place Village shops recognized on a Texas Monthly list of Texas’ best breakfasts, has been sold by founder Peter Schroder, he said Friday.

New owners Brenda and Wallis Lester will take over in January, Schroder said.

“Our plans are not to change anything,” said Wallis Lester, a real estate broker. “It’s been doing well for 20 years, and our goal is to keep everything the same.”

Schroder is retiring, he said. His restaurant career began in 1978 when he opened the Texas Sampler Cafe on West Berry Street in what became the original Fuzzy’s Tacos.

He went on to own two restaurants named The Beefeater, and an Austin-area cafe, the Pedernales Pan.

When he left that restaurant, he said, “I took my spatula home and hung it up, and I looked at it every day thinking that I should get back into the business.”

He opened the Old Neighborhood Grill in 1998, serving home-cooking, chicken-fried steaks and breakfasts in a familiar Park Place Village location that was formerly a bar and burger grill named Rick’s Lockerroom.

The location had been a restaurant since 1959, when it opened as Park Place Cake Shop.

In 2011, Texas Monthly wrote: “When we’re jonesing for a meat fix [this is Texas, after all], we go for either of these two Wild West favorites: a pair of thick, smoky pork chops and two eggs over medium, or scrambled eggs with a small bowl of dark and spicy Uncle Joe’s chili. Taking time to sort through the newspapers and watching to see which local politicians have stopped in for breakfast, we know there’s not a homier way to start the day.”

In a 2006 review, the Star-Telegram wrote that like the older Paris Coffee Shop on the south side, Old Neighborhood Grill is a “simple but beloved establishment, distinguished by its faithful clientele.”

The review went on: “They queue up each day, en masse, to eat fresh, handcrafted food that ranges from the comforting, such as burgers and pot roast, to a little more conscientious, such as blackened tilapia and veggie plates. I've witnessed kids and mommies, cops and hospital workers, empty-nesters and TCU kids crowded into tables, all attacking their plates with identical gusto.

“The cafe is bright, spanking clean and hung with a few pieces of artful photography, and it's hard to believe that this was once the dark, beer-drenched Rick's Lockerroom. No one would have guessed that the counter would someday be lined with cakes and pies and that the staff would be a chipper crew who ask no fewer than twice if you're enjoying your meal.”

The Lesters will take over in January without any break in service, Wallis Lester said.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @EatsBeat.