Here’s why a train is attached to Houston’s Goode Co. Seafood

These days, when camera clicks start in restaurant parking lots, it’s often because they’re in particular structures, for example, a used shipping container. But in the 1980s, long before Instagram or TikTok, it was a novel idea.

For iconic Houston restaurateur Jim Goode, housing Goode Co. Seafood in a railroad car was an integral part of his vision. “When my dad started conceptualizing the restaurant, he thought of creating something in the era of a 1940s and 1950s coastal restaurant,” said Levi Goode, president of Goode Co. restaurants and son of the late Jim. Goode. “He thought the elegance of a passenger carriage would make for a fine dinner.”

Goode Co. Seafood’s unique railroad car has served as a unique backdrop for photos for over 35 years.

Goode Co.

Originally from Clute, Texas, Jim grew up fishing saltwater on the upper Texas coast. His journey to opening his own seafood restaurant was fueled by the lack of options at that time, despite the state’s proximity to abundant waters. “He noticed the only options were people serving pre-frozen breaded seafood in the Sysco truck when the coast was right down the street,” Levi said.

Jim’s long career as one of the city’s legendary restaurateurs began in 1977 when he opened Goode Co. Barbecue on Kirby Drive. A few years later, plans were put in place to expand the company’s footprint. “We had the opportunity to purchase vacant land on Westpark, which was seized following the oil crisis of the 1980s,” Levi said. “It would eventually be two new restaurants with parking.”

Goode Co. Taqueria opened in 1981, but it was building Goode Co. Seafood, which opened five years later in 1986, that proved to be a more extensive process.

“My dad was very resourceful, before the World Wide Web and Google,” Levi said. “He would visit Bookstop, which is now Trader Joe, and read magazines of different trades.” Trains were one of his interests and he began to explore ways of getting a passenger rail car. A search through the classifieds of one of these magazines led him to a man from the Northeast who was selling such a thing.

“He thought the wagon would be an interesting addition to his coastal restaurant idea,” Levi said. “He figured it all out, bought the train and rode it on tracks to Houston.”

At the time, the tracks were only about 500 feet from the property, but it still required thoughtful planning to bring the substantial structure to its final resting place. Resourceful as he was, Jim sought out a friend in the crane business to help him lift it and place it at 2621 Westpark Drive, where it currently sits today.

The passenger car was gutted and rebuilt to accommodate Goode Co. Seafood.

The passenger car was gutted and rebuilt to accommodate Goode Co. Seafood.

Goode Co.

Much had to be done to get the railway carriage in working order before it could open as a restaurant, in addition to the necessary building permits. Levi says they cut the back to build a kitchen, then gutted it and rebuilt it. The result was a unique and interesting space, which turned out to be a great coastal dining package, just as Jim predicted. At the time, Goode Co. Seafood was the first full-service restaurant in the group’s portfolio, and Levi recalls it was “a great starting point” for the company.

More than 35 years later, the restaurant housed in a former passenger carriage still retains its charm. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, it gets plenty of traffic for Goode Co.’s grilled mesquite meals, simple fried seafood platters and photo ops galore, with a few menu shakes in store. road course. The soft-shell crabs are a big hit when in season, and the campechana is always the restaurant’s best seller. “The recipes are all the same today as they were when we opened,” Levi said. “We try not to fix anything that isn’t broken.”

Goode Co. Seafood's famous campechana de mariscos.

Goode Co. Seafood’s famous campechana de mariscos.

Greg Morago

Likewise, minor cosmetic changes were made to the space itself, including the addition of new tiles and light fixtures inside the car. “We shine the train regularly and make sure it has its appeal,” Levi said. “The restaurant is visited by a lot of tourists and people from outside, so we have quite a few photos in front of it.”

What was a personal passion project for Jim gave fond memories of the burgeoning customer base that Goode Co. had in the 80s. What the roaring 2020s will bring is for everyone to say, but it It’s safe to assume that photos outside the attractive coastal restaurant on Westpark Drive will keep coming.

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