WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: I love eating out

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

I know it’s not healthy for you; and it’s expensive, but it’s so darn fun! At least to me, it is. Maybe, it comes from my childhood as eating out was rare. We only got to do so on someone’s birthday or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. In our family growing up, that’s not even once per month. So, when we did ‘eat out,’ it was special. And I guess I remember that feeling.

When I was a teen – after getting my license – I was able to go by myself if I wanted a meal away from home. It was so cool to be able to do that; not that I did it often, but it made me feel so independent and adult like that I remember.

In Sherman during the 1970s, there were many mom and pop restaurants around town. Sure, there were some brand name restaurants, but those "hole in the wall" type cafes were a holdover from decades hence. It was the stuff of home cooking and treatment like grandma used to do when you were ‘little.’ Where do you think we get all those references? It’s because there really were such places around your hometown; Sherman included.

Now, before I get e-mails, I want to say that I am not going to name all of them in Sherman’s history. I can’t even name the ones open for business during my days as a teen in Sherman! So, this is just a journey of my memory and experiences. I’ll bet you have some of your own.

Who can forget The Chefette? Not me! It was on the corner of Houston and Lincoln streets. Don’t know where that is? Lincoln is a one block street near US Highway 75. You might have heard of Piner Middle School, which Lincoln borders to the west, right? Well, The Chefette was in the southwest corner of that Piner block – right on the corner – there’s a parking lot there now. From what I remember, it was a favorite of everybody’s. I only got to eat there once. I don’t remember the interior, but it was classic ‘café’ and the cooks kept it coming!

How many of you remember Inez Paschal’s? It was in South Sherman, but I can’t remember what street. I never got to eat there, but I remember seeing Inez out front a few times – someone had pointed out who she was to me – and it was always busy. She apparently cooked for everyone in the neighborhood.

But my favorite was MMM Café on the square. It started out as MM Café (I’ll get to this in a minute); it was in the 200 block of west Houston in the 1950s. It moved in the late 1960s, but the building collapsed; and it had to move to Travis Street where Sartin Surveyors is today. How do I know all of this?

Because I asked one of the ‘M’ people…

You see, the initials stood for Malcolm (Father), Maurine (Mother) and Mitzi (Daughter), or MMM for the whole family. Mitzi is a classmate of mine (SHS Class of 1978) and we talked some about her childhood family restaurant. She was an only child and when she was old enough, she had to help in the family business, hence the additional ‘M’ in the name for about the last 10 years of its existence.

“Dad was a hard worker; he had been in food service all his life,” recalled Mitzi. “He was even an Army cook; he grew up helping his mother with meals. If you wanted something special, he’d fix it for you.”

Maurine helped in the kitchen and waited tables while Mitzi cleaned and ran the register in later years. It was truly a family affair; in fact, they had mostly the same employees the entire time the café was opened—about 20 years. Wow! It was open seven days a week from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. Amazing!

“To Dad and Mom, the customer was always right. They wouldn’t have it any other way,” smiled Mitzi. “We served all types of food: hamburgers, steaks, Tex-Mex; and oh, my Dad could make the best desserts, especially pies. It was all fresh every day. We’d have a lunch special; and a good breakfast that people just loved.”

According to Mitzi, the restaurant enjoyed a variety of customers over the years. Of course, there were the regulars, but out-of-towners came, too - every day it seemed. Then, there were the people who only came ‘into town’ once per week, but a visit to MMM Café was always on the agenda for them, too.

“Dad would help in any way he could; he’d never make you do something that he wouldn’t do himself,” said Mitzi proudly. “Some were down on their luck; he’d feed them for free. It was just the way he was raised. He even helped other restaurants when they needed extra kitchen help.”

I only ate at MMM Café a handful of times, but it was greatness. I remember one day I ordered a ‘short stack’ of three pancakes and milk. I thought I was in heaven as it was three o’clock in the afternoon. (Mitzi reported that they served breakfast all day—way before it was fashionable for the big brand- named restaurants to do so.) I thought that place was so cool; and just loved the atmosphere.

When the Bradshaws sold the restaurant in 1978, Malcolm helped out at Beattie’s (sp?) Café on Wall Street and Tatum’s Steakhouse, which is a place I’ve never heard of. Maurine worked at Poole Manufacturing. Mitzi worked for Sherman schools and now helps her husband with the farm.

“We had a good time with the café; Dad and Mom were into helping people and serving them,” said Mitzi. “It was an incredible environment to grow up in. Dad was a big-hearted guy and it showed every day.”

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.