One of Orange County’s most popular restaurants, now long gone, started as a way for a woman to support her family during the Great Depression.
The Wayside Inn on East Roundbunch Road became famous for serving platters of fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, biscuits, and salads. All were made from scratch, even in the days when frozen foods were available.
By the late 1940s, cars would line up down the road on Sundays as people waited to find a parking space for an after-church chicken dinner.
A story in the Orange County News in 1992, included information from people who knew the restaurant’s founder, Edna Hollander. The newspaper quoted Edna Lou Johannson saying the Wayside Inn was not named when Edna began frying chicken to sell. Johannson said Edna’s husband had a stroke in 1932 and couldn’t work at his job in the Gulf refinery machine shop.
In those days, there wasn’t a Bridge City. The community was called Prairie View and neither of the town’s famous bridges had been constructed.
Hollander’s chicken was so good she eventually opened a restaurant in a house. As the restaurant’s reputation grew, additions were made. The Wayside Inn built-on banquet rooms.
Johannson said her father at worked at Gulf machine shop with Mr. Hollander. The workers often ate at the restaurant and it grew. Johannson recalled eating at the Wayside Inn when she was a little girl and served a variety of foods. Holiday meals were served to those with reservations.
By the time Alice Williams was born, the Wayside Inn was a sprawling business. She learned all about the restaurant because Edna Hollander was her aunt.
She said her father, Edwin Daniel kept building on additions. Williams mother helped bake the famous pies. Williams herself helped out at a young age. In the 1992 newspaper interview, she said she had a scar on her hand from peeling potatoes at the age of 5.
Through the years, it became the site of hundreds of club banquets for youth, high school students, and adults. Couples also had wedding rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, and anniversary parties there.
The Orange Leader in 1954 reported the Bridge City Little League team had their banquet at the Wayside Inn with “Mrs. Edna Hollander, owner and operator,” as the hostess. “She furnished the chicken dinners free of charge.” The local team was fortunate. Not everyone got free chicken.
By the 1950s, Hollander had whittled down the menu to fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, and biscuits. On Sundays, Hollander baked yeast rolls instead of biscuits. A salad with homemade dressing was also served. Fried shrimp were eventually added so diners could have a meatless Friday.
Most customers recall the Wayside Inn as ‘all you can eat.’ But Williams said the servings had only six pieces of chicken per adult. That much chicken, along with the platter-size piles of sides, was more than many people could eat, leading to the legend of ‘all you can eat.’
Mr. Hollander eventually died, and his widow married and became Mrs. Young. A matchbook advertising the Wayside Inn in the 1960s says it was owned by Mr. and Mrs. A.R. Young.
Williams said her aunt never made much money on the restaurant because she would not scrimp on quality.
Charles Henry Johnson and his wife, Pat, bought the Wayside Inn in 1974 and operated it until 1984.
The restaurant has been closed for decades, but it left many memories.
Written by Margaret Toal