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Houston’s James Coney Island 96 years strong

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Whether you know it as James Coney Island or its newer moniker, JCI Grill, the Houston hot dog chain is celebrating 96 years, at its 17 locations.

That makes it the Bayou City’s fourth oldest running restaurant to stand the test of time.

Back in downtown Houston in 1923, two Greek immigrant brothers, Tom and James Papadakis, who had come to town from New York, started the business with just $75 in his pocket.

Thanks to a coin toss, James’ name fronted the nod to Coney Island, New York giving birth to a Bayou City weenie empire.

Opening its doors in 1923, the first James Coney Island location was on the ground floor of the Beatty-West Building on Walker and Main in downtown Houston.

According to the James Coney Island website, the first location sold a variety of sandwiches including a “goose liver and Roquefort combination,” bowls of “secret-recipe” chili for only 15 cents and hot dogs for just a nickel.

The restaurant proved so popular, small, old wooden school desks were brought in to take care of the overflowing crowds.

Tom and James were slow to make changes, but eventually a second location opened after 40 years near Town And country Mall in 1968.

James passed in 1968 at age 75, and Tom in 1974 at age 76.

The two sons of Tom, Jimmy and Peter, plus brother-in-law Louis Servos, who all had just become actively involved int he business before the founders’ deaths, were tasked with keeping the business going.

And as any Houstonian knows, the local chain keeps growing over the years and even changing up the menu with new offerings.

Read more of Dave Ward’s Houston stories.

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