“I love great food, great old buildings and people.”
Perhaps no truer words were spoken. A visit to Irene Alvarez’s restaurant in Montalba, Irene’s Cocina, will quickly verify every word of that statement. Exterior A rustic masterpiece. Alvarez has gone to great lengths to maintain the look and integrity of the iconic old fodder shop at the corner of Hwy 19 and FM 321. The interior is immaculate and decorated with Texan flair, and visitors are warmly welcomed and some of the best Mexican food in Texas.
Now you plan to double what you do best.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Alvarez had purchased a popular Palestinian landmark: The Hamburger Bar.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Alvarez said. “I’ve heard so many stories about people’s memories of the Hamburger Bar and about its history. It means so much to so many people.”
A fixture on the corner of Tennessee and W. Dippard Streets since 1942, this hamburger bar has served generations of locals and visitors alike. Its menu offers classic dinner fare, which includes homemade breakfast, classic burgers, chicken fried steak and business, and was frequented by a Texan dignitary. However, like many other businesses in Texas, the Hamburger Bar had to close due to the COVID lockdown and never opened.
Since the announcement of Alvarez’s purchase, speculation has been rife about whether the beloved diner will feature Irene’s Cocina’s already successful menu. Alvarez is quick to shake it off.
“I can’t see it being anything but a hamburger bar,” Alvarez said.
While Alvarez wasn’t looking for another restaurant, the charm and history of the hamburger bar made it impossible to miss.
“I saw him on the runway and called to see him,” Alvarez said. “I just fell in love with it and bought it the same day.”
Alvarez also earned high praise for her real estate agent, Bo Sharp of Combined Associates Real Estate.
“Beau has always been a great realtor to work with,” Alvarez said. “He was very helpful in helping us make this purchase.”
There is no set time frame for the grand reopening as there is a lot that needs to be done for the building to be up to Alvarez’s high standards of safety and cleanliness.
“It will take some time,” Alvarez said. “We have to get in there and do a lot of cleaning and make repairs. But that’s what we do. We are not afraid to work hard and we love serving good food.”
Anticipation is already high for the return of the iconic dinner. Sharp’s Facebook post about the purchase generated over 200 shares and countless comments in just four days. Generations of East Texans can’t wait to grab a burger, some onion rings, and relive countless memories with their parents, grandparents, co-workers and friends.
“There is something special about walking into an old place,” Alvarez said. “History and memories come alive.”
After 80 years in Palestine, Hamburger Bar seems ready to do more.