For Sarah Garza, walking into Beef and Bun Barbecue for lunch recently was like stepping back in time.
“Everything was the same — pictures on the wall, the tables, the large space and the rustic-looking counter where you place your order,’’ said Garza, who once was a regular customer but hadn’t been to the restaurant for years.
Once she got her order and took a bite, all her memories of eating there in the early 1990s came flooding back.
Beef and Bun Barbecue, located at 4418 W. Fuqua St. in the 5 Corners Improvement District, has been owned by the same family — the Zaharatos family — since the early 1970s.
Garza, originally from Brownsville, first visited the restaurant when she was a first-year student at the University of Houston. Her older brother, who lived here, would bring her to the barbecue restaurant.
“I remember going to the place my brother really liked and enjoying the feast before us — the two of us together,” Garza said.
She said they always ordered the baked potato with brisket and, at the time, Garza said she thought it was just the largest potato she had ever seen.
This time, upon the suggestion of a regular in line, Garza ordered the Po-Boy Basket, a large brisket sandwich with fries on the side and extra barbecue sauce.
Another frequent customer waiting at the counter just before lunchtime on a recent Tuesday said his favorite was the Rib Basket — a massive serving of pork ribs with fries and barbecue sauce for $9.60. We took his suggestion and found the ribs cooked to perfection. They were meaty and had a really nice smokey flavor.
An employee behind the counter said she had been there for a year but the people coming in, first a trickle and then a steady stream after noon, likely have been coming regularly for much longer.
On Yelp.com, diners often share their personal stories of the Houston restaurant.
“I’ve been going since I was a kid. It’s good to see it’s still here and still good,” said Kim H. “The baked potatoes are unmatched. Love the sliced beef sandwiches with extra sauce on the side. No one else has the same bbq sauce. Reminds me of my childhood.”
Not everything has stayed exactly the same through the years.
Garza noticed they are serving the brisket for the baked potatoes in sauce and on the side now, rather than just chopped and sprinkled on the potato as she remembers. A reviewer on Yelp also said he thinks the sauce has changed from a more vinegar-based sauce to more of a sweet tomato-based sauce in the years he has been coming.
But, he said, the baked potatoes are still huge, and “the sandwiches are tasty and the Delaware Punch is still flowing!”
The punch is, in fact, still flowing and, after tasting it, we found out it’s essentially a sweet fruit punch. Why is it called Delaware Punch? No one knew at the counter but an online search showed that Delaware Punch was created in 1913. The brand is owned by The Coca-Cola Company but has been discontinued.
The beverage is difficult to find, according to Wikipedia, but is still served in some restaurants in Houston, like James Coney Island, where it is called “Coney Punch.”
You can buy an unopened can of the Delaware Punch brand soda on Poshmark.com for $20, or you can just head over to Bun and Barbecue and get a cup of essentially the same thing for a couple of bucks. (By the way, Delaware Punch is named for the grape from which the flavor is derived. The grape was first grown in Delaware County, OH.)
While the ambiance inside Beef and Bun may bring back memories, too, a drive-through window provides a convenient way to pick up your order if you’re short on time.
Garza, who ordered a second Po-Boy sandwich to take to her husband at work, said she plans to return soon.
“I’d love to go back with my brother for sure and order that huge baked potato,” she said.
In the meantime, she took a video of the interior of the restaurant and sent it to him in Brownsville.
He responded: “Woooo!” And then: “Still the same.”
Beef and Bun Barbecue
4418 W Fuqua St.
Houston, TX 77045
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig