Tookies in Seabrook set to reopen in July
The "Squealer" is making a comeback.
The specialty burger made of ground beef and bacon will join the "No. 99," "Bean Burger" and other classic menu items when Seabrook eatery, Tookies, reopens at the end of July.
Barry Terrell bought the restaurant, 1202 Bayport Blvd., from original owner and founder Jim Spears.
"Timing is everything," said Terrell, who also owns The Tomato Group LLC and Kemah-based T-Bone Tom's Steakhouse, 707 Highway 146.
After the storm
He and friend Ali Velasco had been passing the empty restaurant site regularly since damage from Hurricane Ike forced it to close in September 2008.
"He [Velasco] said, we need to open that place and make a go of it," Terrell said.
That conversation took place nearly a year ago. Since then, Seabrook City Council agreed to provide sales tax rebates to the Tomato Group with the understanding that partners Terrell and Velasco revive Tookies and its original menu.
From there, Spears agreed to the sale, and the deal moved forward.
"All of the stars aligned," said Terrell.
The League City resident said he understands the devotion Bay Area diners feel for Tookies, which first opened on July 4, 1975.
"I ate at Tookies all the time," Terrell said. "They had great hamburgers.
"When you grow up eating at a place you tend to have strong feelings about it. And back in those days [when Tookies first opened], there weren't many places to go around here."
Terrell said he and Velasco wouldn't think of tampering with the Tookies menu, especially its beloved "Squealer."
"The bacon makes it real juicy. I probably had 100 Squealers in my lifetime."
Other fans were loyal to the "Bean Burger" — which is topped with refried beans - or the wine-soaked beef in "the 99." All of them will be there when the restaurant reopens.
"I just got the recipes," Terrell said. "I can't divulge the secrets."
Fan loyalty wasn't limited to Tookies' burgers. Diners also loved the onion rings.
"I call them tractor tires," Terrell said. "That's how thick they are. This is big onion flavor."
Returning as manager is League City resident Jeff Sauerwein, who started working at Tookies in 1991.
"We did have a really good thing going there for a long time," Sauerwein said. "Jim was a great owner.
"There were just burgers you could get there you couldn't get anywhere else."
But food only was part of the experience. Terrell and Velasco have been working to restore the restaurant's 1970s atmosphere too - from the vintage commercial signs, knick-knacks and leaded glass pieces to the old Victrola and soda machine.
"You'd walk in and look around and always see something different," Sauerwein said.
The partners are adding some touches of their own, though, including enhanced lighting and new tables and chairs.
"It just needed some updating," Terrell said.
Sauerwein said he can't wait for the restaurant to re-open. He enjoyed working with Spears, the staff and customers during his first stint there.
"It was a really fun job. It was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding," he said.
"Once Barry called and gave me the opportunity to work at this one, I jumped at it."
It already has been fun, Sauerwein added, seeing others get excited about the re-opening.
"There are a lot of followers on our Facebook page already," he said. "I've got people asking about it all of the time."
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