January 1, 2020

Prince's Hamburgers

There is only one remaining Prince's Hamburgers in Houston and it is located at the Sharpstown Golf Course, just off Bellaire Blvd. and near Gessner. Prince's is a Houston institution. Originally a fleet of drive-ins around town with carhop service. Throughout the 40's and through the 60's, these were a great way to have an excellent burger with fries, shake, onion rings. But their menu was more than that. For me, the treat was the open steak sandwich with a big batch of onion rings. My parents defaulted to the fried shrimp platter.

You see, there's 14 years difference between my sister and me. So when I was just getting into my teen years, she was still a young 'un. My parents had to choose wisely where to eat because, you know, babies. So we dined on Tex Mex at El Patio on Telephone Road once a week and at Prince's at the Scott at 45 location once a week. Sometimes more, as we really loved the food. 

Those onion rings!

Here is some more history from the site. The current owner/manager/chief cook and bottle washer is John Broussard, who is keeping the Prince's legacy alive with its one location at the Sharpstown Golf Course.

"   It all started with Mr. Doug Prince back in the early 1920's when few people even knew what a hamburger was. He discovered the hamburger at the State Fair of Texas and decided to make it his life. He opened a small little "drive in" on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas. A virtual one man show. He would come out to the car, take your order, return to the kitchen, prepare the food and deliver it back out to the car.

In 1932 he took a trip to Houston and decided that it was here that he would build his empire. He purchased a small Weber's Root Beer stand on Main Street and quickly changed the Houston restaurant scene for years to come.

Mr. Prince was a real innovator. He not only produced an outstanding hamburger but his art of promotion was far ahead of it's time. He made everything from scratch, even his own Root Beer (we still do). Truly, a book could be written on all of his accomplishments.

Mr. Prince along with Fairmade Baking Company, (now known as Rainbo Baking Company) developed the round hamburger bun. His recipe for fried shrimp won him annual awards from Houston restaurant critics. Perhaps his finest achievement was having his Prince's Drive In featured in Life Magazine.

Throughout his career Mr. Prince and his family opened some 20 drive ins and restaurants. He expanded to other Texas cities including Beaumont and San Antonio, but his true love was Houston. It was here that he had 18 units, usually strategically located near a High School where the kids could "hang out".

Prince's continued to prosper and expand through the 1960's. After Doug Prince's retirement the company was guided by his two sons , Buck and Charles Prince. The two brothers formed a new company , Prince Food System Inc. (PFS).

PFS specializes in the operation of in-house dining facilities for many of Houston's largest employers. With the new direction for the company and the advent of air conditioning, the days of the drive in were coming to an end.

Elizabeth Flores, a former car hop and long time employee was given the task of operating the original, and last remaining Prince's Drive In, on Main Street. As the restaurant scene in Houston began to change, with large franchise operations moving in, the area on South Main began to deteriorate.

One of her vendors, the afore mentioned John Broussard, expressed interest in keeping Prince's alive"

The thing that impressed me so much on my recent visit was the quality of the hamburger meat. I don't know if they grind their own, but, I tell you, for a $6 burger and $4 onion rings, it is one of the best quality bargains in town. And the onion rings were as close to what I remember from my youth as could be.

John Broussard. in the kitchen. making some burgers from scratch.

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