Mutt & Jeff’s is still the cool place to eat

The Jalapeño Ranch Burger features fried jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, pickles, an
Hostess/server Erica Brown demonstrates one of the unique perks of eating at Mut

For Vidor High School students of decades past, Mutt & Jeff’s – once located where the district is building its new AIM Center east of campus – was where the cool kids hung out, and a popular place to eat. It didn’t have a lengthy menu, and was known mostly for its Frito pies, served in their original chip bags. You couldn’t miss it. It was right next to the tree that everyone decorated with their chewing gum.

With a change in open campus lunch rules in the late 1980s and Hurricane Rita wreaking havoc on the building in 2005, the memory of the business, named after the long-popular American newspaper comic strip, quickly faded until it was rekindled more than a decade later.

In 2012, John Houseman, who is not affiliated with the original owners, decided to resurrect his favorite high school hangout in a new location at 110 S. Main St.

“John believed it would be a shame to let that tradition die,” said manager Judy Tate. “He talked to the (original owners) and offered to purchase the rights to the name … but after they heard what his vision was they said, ‘No, we just want this to continue.’”

The restaurant serves the once-famous Frito pie in the bag like the original, but customers will find much more of a variety on the new menu with $5.99 daily specials from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. including homemade sides and country-style cookin’ like grandma used to make.

Mutt & Jeff’s is closed on Saturday, but reopens Sunday for the church crowd from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., when customers can enjoy a nice after-church special of chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. Regular hours are Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m., and on Friday the restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to around 10 p.m. to cater to the high school football crowd.

Mondays, they offer hamburger steak with gravy and mashed potatoes; Tuesdays bring beef tips and rice; Wednesdays, chicken & dumplings; and Thursdays, smothered pork chops. We had a sample of the chicken & dumplings and were hard pressed to find a better word than “spectacular.”

“Our pork chops are slow-roasted for hours. The same with our beef tips,” Tate said. “Our beef tips are pure Angus beef. When our order of beef comes in, it comes in a huge 75-pound chunk, and we hand trim it ourselves.”

Friday is burger day with three great choices offered — the Mutt Burger, the Chicken-Fried Burger and the Jalapeño Ranch Burger, which was Houseman’s recipe but was perfected by Tate.

“I started playing with it and tweaking it a little bit because I wanted (the customer) to get the flavor of the jalapeños, but not necessarily all of the heat,” Tate said. “I had to get it down to just the right number of fried jalapeños.”

It has Swiss cheese, and a jalapeño ranch dressing served on jalapeño sourdough and topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles and red onion. The burger is served with french fries sprinkled with Houseman’s special seasoning.

The $2.99 chips & salsa is a customer favorite, and for good reason. This is probably one of the best salsas we’ve ever tasted, and that’s saying something with all the Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants in the area. Tate wouldn’t give away any secrets when we asked why the salsa tastes so good either.

“The only thing I can tell you is everything’s fresh,” she said. “It’s the same ingredients you would probably use at home.”

Salads and seafood are also available, as is a Lil’ Pirate Menu for kids.

The student menu offers a variety of affordable meals as well, including burgers, fish sandwiches, patty melts and more. Students can get a meal and a drink for only $5 with their high school student ID, and they don’t have to attend Vidor High School, either. All area high school IDs are accepted for the discount.

Don’t forget to try the homemade banana pudding, too.

The atmosphere at Mutt & Jeff’s is one-of-a-kind. Although the restaurant features Vidor High School Football memorabilia like you might expect, one thing you probably have never seen in a restaurant before are names written all over the walls. At Mutt & Jeff’s, customers are afforded the opportunity to immortalize themselves by leaving their mark on the walls, something that would no doubt get a student in pretty deep trouble at Vidor High.