SAN ANGELO, TX – Betty Zentner teared up sitting in the booth near the front door of the legendary restaurant on Knickerbocker Rd. as she told me she was closing the iconic San Angelo fixture at the end of the year.
There has been a Zentner running a steak house for almost 100 years in the San Angelo area and Dec. 31 will mark the end of an era.
Betty Zentner opened the restaurant in 1974 at 1901 Knickerbocker Rd. after her father agreed to make sure the Zentner legend would continue. John Zentner was there to make sure the same great steaks and hospitality were there for patrons.
Betty Zentner's eyes lit up while she talked about her father and the many restaurants he started including the Lowake Inn in 1946. Betty said John moved his family several times to open new restaurants in Lowake, Rowena, Del Rio, Buffalo Gap and Midkiff.
Betty Zentner said she was in college at Angelo State University when George Alexander, who owns the Stadium Park Shopping Center where Zentner's Daughter is located, asked her to open a restaurant. She said her father was against it at first until he actually walked into the building. "He fell in love with the coolers and the fixtures." Zentner said. John Zentner was in his 70s at the time and became a fixture in the restaurant where he would set by the front door and hand out apples.
Betty Zentner told a story about one of her customers. "I'll never forget. I had the restaurant in Abilene at the time and dad was setting there in San Angelo. He handed an apple to the customer who said he was going to Abilene in the morning. John Zentner told the customer he would be at the restaurant in Abilene and hand him a banana so he could make a fruit salad." She laughed. The customer actually went to the Abilene location and asked Betty where her dad was.
The Zentners had John Zentner's Steak House on Sherwood Way where the Boat restaurant was until it closed recently.
In 1999 a fire heavily damaged the restaurant. "The fire was 20 years ago yesterday (Tuesday)." Zentner said.
Zentner's Daughter Steak House will close it's doors for good on Dec. 31, 2019.
Betty Zentner said the location will reopen after it is remodeled under new ownership. "I wanted to retire the name (Zentner) with me. That was my decision." Zentner said.
Zentner said it was hard to say good bye to her customers, many of whom became friends. Several local civic organizations have historically held meetings there including the Kiwanas Club, the Lions Clubs, the Tom Green County Bar Association and the San Angelo Pachyderm club.
The new owners will be announced at a later date.