Eat Anytime: Dot’s Coffee Shop by Iris M. Hinojosa

7006 Gulf Fwy
Houston, Texas
713-644-7769

January 2004–If you watch a bunch of movies you may notice that many conversations take place in a diner. You know, one of those vintage classic diners that serve food so fresh out of the oven it makes your mouth water. Well, almost everyone I know loves those little diners that they see in films. They have a certain authenticity and vibe that is more appealing than that of a chain restaurant. This kind of environment is brought to life at Dot’s Coffee Shop on I-45 and Woodridge in the southeast part of Houston.

I first discovered Dot’s Coffee Shop when by dad took me for a bite to eat one day. If it weren’t for him I would have no knowledge of this diner. So, if you were going down I-45 South in the day you probably wouldn’t even know it was right there, but at night it comes alive with a red neon light that reads, “Steaks, Shakes and Pancakes”. I found this light to be one of the only things that can catch a person’s eye from the road, which at first I thought wasn’t enough to speak for the restaurant. Upon entering Dot’s your eyes will almost certainly be drawn to the homemade pies that are displayed in a clear refrigerator by the cash register. Let me tell you if you’re hungry those pies will put a sparkle in your eye. Then just before you think about seriously asking for a slice, a kind waitress with a warm, motherly smile greets you. She takes you to be seated in either the smoking or non-smoking side of the restaurant, which ever you choose. I prefer to sit on the non-smoking side myself, due to the fact that it’s a much larger side.

You are then seated at a table or booth where the silverware is already laid out and you are given a menu to select your beverage and meal. By this time you may think, “Yeah, the service is good, but there isn’t anything here that really amazes me.” But take into consideration the little aspects that make Dot’s so unique.

For instance, if you pay attention to the silverware you’ll notice that they have the shiniest spoons you’ll probably ever see. I’m not trying to say that the rest of the silverware isn’t fine quality, but the spoons are the most charming.

Anyway, the waitress takes your orders for drinks and then returns for your meal orders. One good thing about Dot’s is that the menu is full of great homemade dishes. There is even a special everyday of the week for the more cost efficient people. But let’s say perhaps that perhaps the special comes with a baked potato, which is against your Atkins diet. That’s all right because they will be more than happy to substitute your potato with a fresh crisp salad. I must say that-+ whether you get breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, burger, steak, chicken fried steak, or my favorite Dot Club Sandwich you will not be disappointed. The burgers are huge, desserts are sinfully sweet, steaks are hearty, and pancakes are so fluffy they bounce.

As you wait for your food, you have time to let the setting sink in. The walls are painted a light shade of pistachio green, but some parts are bricked up with stone. Since there aren’t lots of tables, booths are used as a supplement to furnish sitting room. But the majority of the décor is based around earth tone colors, which adds to the homey affect.

When I mentioned that diner feeling I didn’t mean that when you step into Dot’s you feel like you went back in time to the 50’s, like 59 Diner off of Shepard. Although it does have a sense of classic style, it doesn’t go out of the way to make that one of its main attractions. What I meant was that just like many diners it draws in all kinds of people.

For instance, one time I went there to have dinner with my dad, again, and there were four older ladies sitting in the booth across from us. In turns out that my dad knew one of the women and she came over to say hello. She also said that she was just there with a few of her girlfriends to have a little chitchat, and after that she returned to her group of friends. I then thought to myself about how when you get old and retired there really isn’t too much to do in your life. So it must be a great thing to be able to come to a nice place and enjoy a conversation with some old friends over some coffee and pie.

On the other hand, many young people go there to unwind after a long night or on a first date. Almost every time I go to Dot’s it seems that someone is always having a first date there, and it’s so easy to spot the couple out too. They are always the ones who seem uncomfortably quiet when ordering their drinks, and are laughing up a storm by the end of their meals. It almost seems as if they become more at ease once they start enjoying their meal. I’ve also recently gone and saw a couple of young kids sporting black clothes, piercing, and multicolored hair waiting to be seated at a table. They all seemed to have that sort of teenage angst vibe all around them, which is pretty normal nowadays and is something we’ve all been through. Anyway there was an old elderly lady standing right in front of them. I noticed how some people looked at the kids as if they had kidnapped that nice old woman, but I stood back and observed. It turned out that those kids were that woman’s grandchildren and they had just wanted to take their grandmother out to eat. This just goes to show you not to judge a book by its cover.

I later started to wonder if this place has always been a hangout for the young of the night. So I decided to ask one man, who dines at Dot’s on a regular basis how long had he been enjoying Dot’s. He said that he had been going to there since he was a teenager, and used to work at a local movie theatre. Since he didn’t have a driver’s license, much less a car, this meant that he didn’t always have a ride home. So he and his friends would walk to Dot’s and hangout until they could get a ride home.

And as always this is also a place where a family no matter what size can go and eat after church or just go out to eat. Between my aunts, uncles, cousins there are about forty people in my family and Dot’s is able to accommodate us all when we go eat. Many a times have I seen people chewing down their bountiful meals after church lunch wearing their Sunday best. People know that when it comes to filling their soul with prayer they go to church. But when it comes to filling their stomachs with food they go to Dot’s.

Another great aspect that many Houstonians enjoy is the televisions that are always on showing all kinds of sporting games. This is a great gimmick to get that die-hard Astros/Rockets/Texans fan off of the recliner for a family night out. Believe me I have an Uncle, or three, who love to watch sports, and one of the only places they’ll agree on dining at is Dot’s. But not to worry, the televisions don’t make a Dot’s a loud and noisy place to dine. Dot’s is only filled with noises of laughter and contented voices.

What makes this coffee shop so much easier to access is that it is open twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year. If you look at the door there are no locks on it whatsoever to assure you of this. So no matter what time you’re hungry or just feel like getting out you’re always welcome at Dot’s.

Now that you know more about this little diner joint on 45 maybe you’ll give it a try, and see the homely pizzazz this place has to offer. Even if it gets moderately loud you’ll come alive, and when it’s quiet you’ll be at peace. Now don’t be afraid invite one and all because Dot’s is there to serve. As for those of you who live in the suburbs, you don’t have to just go to IHOP or Denny’s any longer. You can have the excellent taste of real food with a friendly staff that outshines any major chain restaurant.

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