Cafeteria’s Name Defies Location

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Jeff Snoyer reopened the doors of Highland Park Cafeteria as its new owner in 2007, going back to the original name. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

“What’s that doing there?” It’s a question many drivers may ask themselves on their way to White Rock Lake when they see Highland Park Cafeteria sitting in a Casa Linda shopping center.

The answer dates all the way back to 1925, when Carolyn Goodman first opened the original Highland Park Cafeteria on Knox Street, just across the street from the equally historic Highland Park Pharmacy.

“There would be a line around the block,” modern-day owner Jeff Snoyer said of the original location.

The cafeteria eventually grew to eight locations, including Casa Linda. But after the bank failures of the late 1980s, only the original location and Casa Linda were left.

By the mid-1990s, Goodman had died and the family was no longer involved in the business, so the cafeteria changed hands. Unfortunately, the new owner could not keep the business afloat long.

“It was a sad day when it closed,” Goodman’s grandson David Yates said.

Manager Travis Moody serves a plate.

After that closure, still-newer owners tried to operate under the name Casa Linda Cafeteria at the synonymous location. That is, until December 2006, when the restaurant closed abruptly, with essentially no warning.

That’s when Snoyer, who had been a loyal customer with his wife, decided to take matters into his own hands. The real-estate pro reopened the eatery under the original name in 2007, and has worked to rebuild that hometown feel ever since.

Today, customers range from the anticipated, older audience to lake-lovers, church-goers, and lunch-hour workers. But one thing rings true with many.

“They remember the old days,” manager Chris Ingram said.

In the “old days,” Highland Park Cafeteria built its reputation on remarkable food. And that’s still what the cafeteria aims for today, from the tortilla soup and the zucchini muffins, to the fried catfish and rhubarb pie.

“I could spend all day talking about the pies,” Snoyer said.

Snoyer has worked to retain many original elements of the cafeteria, such as the photos of presidents covering the wall as patrons line up to get their trays. The first ladies follow just around the corner.

He also aims for quality in his foods and fairness in his pay, keeping customers and employees happy. There’s also a hot plate for any Dallas police officer that walks in the door.

It’s these small touches that add some continuity despite company changes over the years.

“The cafeteria has been a blessing to me,” said cook Earnest Bowens, who was first hired in 1956. “I come and work with folks that love each other and care about each other.”

For Goodman’s grandchildren, the cafeteria is still worth a trek for its smells, tastes, and memories.

“My wife, Patty, and I are still regular, loyal customers and always enjoy seeing the family pictures on the wall,” Mark Lovvorn said. “All four of our kids still love the food and original recipes. With five grandchildren of our own, I’m sure the HPC tradition will continue.”

He even remembers a photo from the original Knox location running in The Dallas Morning News on Thanksgiving Day in 1957.

“I’m the 3-year-old with the knife and fork in the air,” he said. “The photo’s been called a true Norman Rockwell scene of Dallas during the 1950s.”

Like Lovvorn, Yates is glad that new generations are getting to experience the down-home goodness of what his grandmother started.

The Dallas Morning News ran this photo of the family in 1957.

“You try to explain what a good cafeteria was, and kids are thinking the school cafeteria,” Yates said. “They’re not really understanding what it was — the kind of community. There weren’t that many places you could come by yourself and sit down and be comfortable.”

But does Snoyer ever foresee growing that community like in the 1980s?

“We’re one location,” he said. “We’re not going to expand.”

And for many customers, that’s just the way it should be.


Originally posted at: Cafeteria’s Name Defies Location | Park Cities People

Enjoy a Little Music With Your Meal

HPC piano musicWhen you join us for a meal, you get a little extra acoustic spice, courtesy of the finest pianists in Dallas. We provide live music for your listening pleasure, every day, seven days a week, during dinner and lunch.

We began our current music program about five years, ago, when our owner, Jeff  Snoyer, decided to restore the historic ambiance of Highland Park Cafeteria. Jeff recognized that there were certain elements that had made the cafeteria special throughout the years: the home-style comfort food, the pictures of presidents, and the piano music that played during meals. He brought back the original HPC recipes (and some of the cooks!), re-hung the presidential photos (adding the first ladies this time), and revived the cafeteria’s tradition of live music.

Today, that music is an integral part of the dining experience at HPC. A revolving “menu” of nine professional pianists play each day during lunch and dinner, tickling the ivories of our gorgeous Kawai grand piano. It’s a popular perk for diners: Some customers even plan their meals around their favorite musicians.

Though their schedules change, several of the pianists have fairly regular gigs:

  • Al Cope usually plays on Friday evenings
  • Robbie Kraemer on Saturday evenings
  • Larry Petty on Wednesdays at lunch
  • Andrea Perry on Tuesday evenings (and several more dinners and lunches during the week)

Like Andrea, many of our other pianists perform at various times (you can call us to find out when they’re playing or see the calendar). These talented musicians include:

  • Brad Hanson
  • Peggy Rhea
  • Shirley Robinson
  • Jerry Stephens
  • Larry Willis

We’re very proud of all of our pianists, and are excited to highlight some of them in upcoming posts. If you can’t wait (we know we can’t), here’s a teaser:

  • One of our pianists played in a master class with world-renowned flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal.
  • One has several Grammy nominations under his belt.
  • Another began piano lessons as a child on advice from a family physician, who wanted her to strengthen motor skills in her hands and fingers.

Tune in to this post in the coming weeks to learn who the mystery pianists are, and to learn more about some of your favorite HPC musicians. In the meantime, come on down to the cafeteria, where you can listen to some of the best  performers in Dallas and have a little Beethoven with your beef stew, every day, during dinner and lunch.

The Ultimate High-Low Dining Guide

Highland Park Cafeteria best chicken fried steak Zagat 2014

Chicken-Fried Steak

The High: Sissy’s Southern Kitchen ($20)
Why it’s Worth it: For the chicken frying of a flat-iron cut, the retro-bespoke vibe and design of the Henderson Avenue restaurant and all the Southern-inspired cocktails you can enjoy alongside it.

The LowHighland Park Cafeteria (pictured; $6.99)
Perks/Trade-offs: The self-service approach at the East Dallas stalwart may not be for everyone, but the down-home cooking and classic fare usually are.

From Zagat’s Ultimate High-Low Dining Guide, February 2014

Where to eat in Dallas right now: 10 favorite neighborhood restaurants

Highland Park Cafeteria in Casa Linda. HP Cafeteria comes with a nearly century-old history that included a move from the actual Highland Park to Casa Linda, where it was welcomed as one of its own. That ardency is something to mull as you decide between Waldorf salad, baked tilapia, broccoli casserole, mac and cheese, and pies — beautiful pies.

From CultureMap Dallas. Read original article by Teresa Gubbins here.

An Ode to Iced Tea

Illustration by Mary Woodin

[excerpt from D Magazine, September 2013]

The old Highland Park Cafeteria on Knox Street served the best iced tea in Dallas. This magazine made it official several times. It wasn’t served in bathtubs, but in clear Collins-type glasses with that little bulge near the top. I hear they’ve improved the original product over at HP’s descendant in Casa Linda, and now you can get mint leaves in your tea. But it’s my firm opinion that you couldn’t improve on the original. Just the sight of that sweat-beaded glass, filled with ice and strong creek-brown tea, was as refreshing as you needed it to be. Refills were free.

Read the full article here.

Party Like It’s July 4th at Highland Park Cafeteria

Highland Park Cafeteria at dusk

Looking for an air conditioned place to party and grub on Independence Day? Highland Park Cafeteria in Casa Linda Plaza has your back July 4 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“Fried chicken, barbecued brisket, hot dogs, whole kernel corn, zucchini muffins, apple and cherry pies are all on the menu,” the press release tells us. Plus, diners will enjoy the sounds of “live patriotic piano.”

If you are not in a dining-in, piano-music sort of mood, pick up “deviled eggs, potato salad, fried chicken, barbequed brisket, squash casserole, pinto beans, macaroni and cheese and dozens of freshly baked pies, rolls, cakes and cookies … for a no-fuss holiday picnic. Offerings are available a la carte or can be ordered as individual box lunches. Honoring the occasion, HPC is making and selling 6” fresh baked cherry pies and red, white and blue iced star cookies.”

From Advocate Magazine. Read the article online here.