A Taste of Texas: Iconic Memorial Eatery Celebrates 40 years of Service
by Minnie Payne

Nina and Edd Hendee, owners of Houston’s award-winning Certified Angus Beef steak restaurant Taste of Texas, in the Memorial area have been so busy since opening in 1977, that they each haven’t had time to complete the one semester needed to graduate from college.

“I grew up in Dallas, graduating from Bryan Adams High School and attending SMU,” says Nina. “Edd grew up in Houston, graduating from Bellaire High School, attending the University of Houston.”
Nina was a broadcast major, and Edd was a business major.

Nina and Edd HendeeNina, 62, and Edd, 65, were working for Norman Brinker’s Steak and Ale in Richardson, Texas and were transferred from Dallas to Houston in 1976. They met while working at Steak and Ale.
Because neither finished college, they place great emphasis on their young Taste of Texas employees’ education, offering four annual fully-paid tuition scholarships, plus bonuses for A and B grades.
“We encourage them [employees] in their education. Thus far, we’ve had about 17,000 young people work at the restaurant, many of whom graduated,” Nina shares.
At age 13, Edd began working at Dugan’s Drugstore soda fountain in Bellaire, Texas; Nina began working at age 13 at the Rexall Drugstore soda fountain in Dallas.

Forty years, three children, and eight grandchildren ago, Taste of Texas opened its doors on the back side of Houston’s Town and Country Village where for about 13 years, they served a varied menu with their specialty being country fried steak. In 1984, Taste of Texas became the first restaurant in Texas to serve Certified Angus Beef, and in 1985, eight years after opening, country fried steak was buried and they streamlined the menu in an effort to please all people. “We decided to focus on top grade beef with excellence in one area,” Nina explains. “We have been in our present location 26 years.”

Taste of Texas got its name because Nina loves Texas history and once you visit, you’ll know that she truly does.
“I love Texas history, and the name “Taste of Texas” was a great fit for our Texas restaurant,” she says. “We started collecting Texas history documents, artifacts, and guns to start our museum.”

For over 32 years, Nina has conducted history tours almost every day for fourth graders. Parents are welcome and no one under eight years of age can attend – no toddlers or infants. There is no charge for the tour and the chicken tenders, french fries, and Sprite lunch. The public is invited for Saturday morning history talks.
The restaurant’s ambience is western and Christian music is played. To truly appreciate the quality and mouth-watering description of Taste of Texas’ steaks, it’s best to go to www.tasteoftexas.com/restaurant. All Certified Angus Beef is shipped fresh from the Midwestern United States.

“Everything – beef, vegetables, and fruit – is always fresh, except when we ship and freeze to ensure quality,” Nina says.

Many people make a meal off the daily prepared fresh salad bar. “We bake all our bread, even croutons, and have more than 30 fresh items on the salad bar. Salad dressings and all desserts are made in-house,” she says.
In the kitchen, Le Cordon-Bleu Culinary-trained daughter/executive chef Lisa Blackard oversees an about 85-employee kitchen staff. Daughter Kristin Blackford and husband Corbin handle public relations and business administration, with Corbin focusing on management. Kristin holds a MBA degree in business administration from the University of Virginia.

Taste of Texas TripAdvisor gives a 2017 rating of No. 4 out of 7,151 Houston restaurants.
As an aside, for 15 years, Edd was a talk show host on KSEV (700 AM) from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
It has taken 40 years of hard/dedicated work to succeed, but things were not all rosy financially in the beginning. In a 2016 interview with CBN News, Nina told of borrowing $10,000 to open and at the end of eight years, they were a quarter of a million dollars in debt.

Another blow came in 2010 when their 33-year-old son Edd K. Hendee died in a skiing accident in Vermont’s Stratton Mountain Resort. Nina and Edd’s minister, The Rev. Ed Young, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church told the Houston Chronicle at that time that he was spending much time with Nina and Edd because they were consumed with grief.

The cornerstone on the Taste of Texas building comes from Ephesians 3:20 – “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine to God be the glory!”

Nina adds that the Taste of Texas tagline is the Heart of Texas and that they have hosted countless celebrations in the 40 years since opening.

“It’s really an honor to be in the hospitality industry for 40 years. We are writing our 40th anniversary cook book featuring the Taste of Texas for the last 40 years.”