The latest development here, rumors of a new restaurant there, and closures every other week — such is the typical fodder for business-news talk. But what about those oft-forgotten institutions — the ones that do not beckon with novelty or glamour but, rather, persist quietly, like a patient grandparent, waiting for us to visit? When we do, we are reminded why they endure: because they are genuine, loyal, sturdy and loved. They are a constant in a perpetually changing environment. Periodically, pay a visit to our neighborhood’s oldies. It will make you feel warm and a tad nostalgic. (Oh, and you should probably visit your grandparents, too.)
Melios Brothers Char Bar
Where: 2026 Greenville at Prospect • Type of food: American • Price: $3-$8 (cash only)
Melios Brothers Char Bar is one of those Lowest Greenville establishments that neighbors have become so accustomed to seeing that we almost forget it’s there. Almost. Who could forget the candy-blue building across from Trader Joe’s that vaguely resembles a retro ski lodge from the Swiss Alps? It’s hard to miss and even looks a little out of place among all the new restaurants, bars and retail options that have arrived on Lowest Greenville within the last year or two.
But Gus Melios, one of four Melios brothers who own and operate the restaurant, isn’t concerned about all the competition flocking to the avenue these days.
“I cook the best breakfast in Dallas,” he insists.
The inside of the restaurant has a throwback mom-and-pop diner feel. It’s the kind of place where you can expect to eat a hearty plate of bacon, eggs and pancakes that stick to your bones until dinner. They don’t make places like Char Bar anymore.
The Melios brothers opened Char Bar in the 1970s when they were just young men fresh from Greece. The story goes, according to Gus, that the brothers began traveling the globe while working on cargo ships as teenagers. After doing that for several years, they soon scattered across the United States — Gus and Alex in New York, Tom in Houston and Mike in Philadelphia.
Mike and Tom moved to Dallas and began working at Seven Seas Fish House next to the Lakewood Theater. When the location where Char Bar sits today became available, Alex and Gus also moved to Dallas, and together the four of them snatched it up and opened Char Bar.
The brothers set down roots in Lakewood, sending their children through the Woodrow feeder schools and on to various colleges around the country.
The restaurant has had its ups and downs over the decades, Gus admits, but the brothers have managed to survive the evolution of the avenue. The aesthetic aspects of the restaurant haven’t changed a bit over the years, and the brothers still don’t accept credit cards.
These days the diner opens for breakfast 6-11:30 a.m. and closes after dinner around 9 or 9:30 p.m. Char Bar offers a different special every day, although it’s best known for its breakfast.
Oh, and Char Bar also is known for the friendly conversations you’re bound to fall into with one of the four Melios brothers.
Pietro’s Italian Restaurant
Where: 5722 Richmond at Greenville • Type of food: Italian • Price: $8-$22 (cards accepted with min. of $25)
You could drive by it a dozen times and never notice it’s there, hidden away from the constant flow of traffic on Greenville Avenue by a tall row of corn.
Pietro’s Italian Restaurant has been serving the East Dallas community for more than 50 years. Pietro Eustachio and his parents, Salvatore and Rosalia, originally established it as a pizzeria along Lowest Greenville.
In 1972, Pietro and his wife, Grace, moved the restaurant to Richmond and expanded the concept to an Italian restaurant. Pietro bought the property, tore down the existing duplexes and built the restaurant from the ground up. He also built an apartment above it, where he and his wife raised their children. (So when he says his kids “were raised in the restaurant,” he means it quite literally.)
Pietro has watched neighborhood families grow up. Children who used to visit the restaurant now visit with their children.
“I’ve got people who come from all over Dallas,” he says.
That diehard fan base — the kind that will drive for miles and miles for a plate of chicken Parmesan — plays a big part in the success of the restaurant. It’s the freshly made Italian food, which hasn’t changed a lick in 50 years, that keeps patrons coming back.
Pietro’s family is from Sicily. His brothers moved to Dallas as young men, and soon the rest of Pietro’s family joined them, although Pietro still has extended family overseas.
The 1980s were Pietro’s Italian Restaurant’s most popular decade. Lines out the door would keep the restaurant hopping until 11 p.m. These days the restaurant closes at 9 p.m. Pietro says he hopes to keep the restaurant open as long as possible.
“My customers love me,” Pietro says. “I’ll have a little kid and it’ll be his birthday, and they’ll ask, ‘Where do you want to go?’ He’ll say, ‘I want to see Pietro.’ That’s why I can’t get out of business. I love my customers.”
Where: 1916 Greenville at Oram • Type of food: Lobster, seafood • Price: $14-$69
If you wander into Daddy Jack’s New England Lobster and Chowder House one evening, you’ll likely find it bustling with activity.
The dining area is cozy in a way that forces patrons to share elbow space with strangers, which is actually kind of charming. Not to mention, it’s sometimes the source of unlikely friendships, says owner Cary Ray.
“Sometimes people come in here, first-timers, and they’re sitting right next to someone else,” Ray says, “and then before the night is over, they’re friends. It’s a completely different experience than you get at most places.”
Ray opened Daddy Jack’s in the heart of Lower Greenville in 1993. “The late ’90s was the last heyday on Greenville, in terms of good businesses,” Ray says. Like all businesses that made it through the recent years, Daddy Jack’s had to weather the changes on Lowest Greenville brought on by spiking crime rates in the late 2000s.
Today Ray is enjoying the revitalization of Lowest Greenville, which he believes was spurred in part by Trader Joe’s opening in summer 2013.
The interior of the restaurant, which was styled after a typical New England chowder house, has a casual neighborhood feel. Although Daddy Jack’s offers a variety of seafood — tilapia, shrimp, calamari, king crab — it’s best known for its lobster.
“What makes it work is the really high-quality cuisine,” Ray says. “It really comes down to the ingredients, buying the best, freshest meat and ingredients. It’s for people who don’t want to dress up but still want great seafood.”
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