This week in Café: T-Bone Tom's in Kemah

During Prohibition, Kemah was a town of ill-repute, a place where Houstonians could easily find alcohol, gambling and prostitution. The Edgewater Casino was the hub of the waterfront action. In 1950, a restaurant called Jimmie Walker's Edgewater Restaurant and Supper Club opened in the casino's lower floor. The casino was eventually closed by the authorities, but the restaurant stayed open catering to fishermen and boaters.

Kemah, which means "wind in the face" in the Karankawa language, sustained high winds and punishing waves during hurricane Alicia in 1983. Jimmie Walker's was among the businesses that were damaged. The restaurant was eventually purchased by Tilman Fertitta, who had just taken over the Landry's chain.

"When he took over Jimmy Walker's in Kemah, I was shocked," said former Landry's partner Jim Gossen. "That took some big...guts." But the bet paid off. The restaurant was so successful, Fertitta ended up "taking over Kemah," as Gossen puts it.

I like T-Bone Tom's a lot more than the cookie-cutter restaurants on the Kemah Boardwalk. But whatever you think of Fertitta's restaurants, you have to admit that he has revived the storm-ravaged village. The Kemah boardwalk attracts over two million visitors a year and employs some 2,000 people. And that benefits the whole town. -- Robb Walsh


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