Beef House is open all day and everyday, which means that you’re welcome, even if you didn’t know it, to hunker down at Beef House at 3 a.m. on a random Sunday. On a first visit to Garland’s Beef House, an aging eatery in the middle of a concrete jungle of irrigation equipment and one nearby used-car dealership known wonderfully as “Karz,” it’s as quiet as a mouse in the dining room. Even the Treasure Island-themed faux slot machine under the flat screen is muted.
On our visit, it's all-you-can-eat spaghetti and garlic toast Tuesday. Inside a single room clustered with booth seating, many booths have their upholstery torn down the center like someone caught it with a switchblade. It’s a telltale sign: Beef House is a diner that simply doesn’t give a damn. The wallpaper has nearly vanished with age; the once western shapes have dissolved into ancient hieroglyphs. The “Lite Items” on the menu include a tomato stuffed with tuna salad. There's a box of Honey Buns on the ledge above the kitchen.
A couple of customers amble out of their booths nearby. “Y’all be good,” a server rasps with the voice of a lifelong smoker. “Take care of each other.” She calls to the kitchen: They are done with biscuits for the day.
Another server — she’s got a wonderfully miniature version of a beehive hairdo — takes my bacon cheeseburger order, drops the ticket on the counter for the cook and sits down in a booth. A customer walks in with urgency, plops some cash down in front of her and apologizes for missing her birthday.
The restaurant is fading in more ways than one. The cheeseburger is half-wrapped in wax paper, a grilled patty that is far too round to be sourced from anywhere other than a freezer. The tater tots are also the frozen kind, but, really, are they any better fresh? The sesame-seed bun was smashed hard into the fire grill, leaving a thick, near-burnt char. The patty is flavorless, save for the taste of flames, with lines of char. Bacon is thin and crunchy. It’s less than $6, the kind of burger you could have quickly ordered seven decades ago when Beef House first opened its doors. In the booth behind me, a customer drops down.
“How are you?” he asks.
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“You don’t want to know,” his server replies in diner parlance.
So, yeah, Beef House may be fading as a physical space, but it’s full of things to remember: A refrigerator full of pies, sardonic quips from your beehive-hairdo’d server and a flagrant dismissal of menu buzzwords, marketing hashtags or food photos. I’m refilled on sweet tea in minutes. What has Beef House been doing for six decades and change? Not focusing on menu updates, trends or innovations in seating.
Still, on my way out, every employee at the Beef House, in rapid succession, belted a “thank you” — and asked that I enjoy my day.
Beef House, 3110 Saturn Road, Garland