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Fire Devastates Houston's Cleburne Cafeteria Just Before Its 75th Anniversary

It’s the second fire in the restaurant's storied history

Amy McCarthy is a staff writer at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

Updated with statement from Cleburne Cafeteria's owner

This morning, Houston is mourning one of its longest-standing restaurants. Last night, a fire ripped through Cleburne Cafeteria, just one day after the restaurant announced that it would celebrate its 75th year.

ABC News 13 reports that officials believe the fire started at the back of Cleburne Cafeteria around 12 a.m. this morning, making its way to the front of the restaurant before firefighters could get the blaze under control. The building has since been declared a total loss, as the ceiling collapsed and walls show extensive smoke damage.

According to owner George Mickelis, the most devastating loss is original paintings by his father that adorned the walls. As the Houston Press notes, this is the second time Cleburne Cafeteria has burned down – the restaurant was rebuilt after a fire in 1990. The paintings "miraculously" survived the 1990 fire, and were restored for display in the new restaurant, opened later that year.

Cleburne Cafeteria first opened in Houston in 1941. It was later purchased by Mickelis’ father Nick, a Greek immigrant, in 1952. Originally located on its namesake Cleburne Street, the restaurant relocated to its home on Bissonnet twenty-eight years later.

In a statement released to media, Mickelis has vowed to rebuild:

"Obviously, my family and I are devastated over the loss of our restaurant, Cleburne Cafeteria. We have proudly served our amazing and loyal clientele for 75 years. Even though the fire last night completely destroyed Cleburne's, including the beautiful paintings created by my father, Nick Mickelis, we will rebuild and will continue to serve the Houston Community for years to come. On behalf of my mother, Pat, and all of our dedicated employees, I would like to thank everyone for the prayers and well wishes. We look forward to seeing you in the future, once we reopen."

In the meantime, pour one out for one of Houston’s most beloved dining establishments.