Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon/Derelict – Parramatta, NSW

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Say it to yourself just one time: themed restaurants. Takes you back, doesn’t it? Right back to oh, say…the long, hot summer of 1993, when Australia’s first Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon opened at this very location in Parramatta. Here’s a terrible photo:

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Lone Star Steakhouse in the glory years, 1997. Image courtesy australianexplorer.com

Dirty Dicks, Xerts, Hooters, Choys, Planet Hollywood… anachronisms all, and all either relegated to the central coast or the western suburbs, or simply wiped off the face of the earth. For some reason, the concept of the themed restaurant never quite took off in Australia the way it was hoped, and I suppose that’s one more thing separating us from Americans.

And speaking of…

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Lone Star as a brand began in 1989, in North Carolina of all places. In its 26 year history, there’s never been a Lone Star outlet in Texas. I wonder how a Parramatta-themed restaurant would fare there? Texans, would you enjoy being screamed at by mental patients while trying to hold down a cold Whopper (RIP Hungry Jack’s)? Leave a comment below.

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Apparently Parramartians (c’mon, pay it!) seemed like a more receptive audience for steak and ribs slathered in sugary sauces, and I dunno, vittles, or whatever else a Lone Star would provide.

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Time for a confession: I never went there. And it seems I wasn’t the only one: in 2000, the already illusory relationship between Lone Star and Australian diners began to collapse entirely. In three years, 21 Lone Star outlets around the country were either closed or sold off, joining so many others in themed restaurant hell (where there are napkins, dress codes, and entrees instead of starters).

If you looked toward Parramatta in October 2011, you might have spotted a falling Star. It’s been sitting waiting for demolition ever since.

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The side doors yawn open at passers-by, singing a siren song to urban explorers, graffiti artists and those in need of a quiet place to shoot up.

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Around the back, metal struts sprout from the ground like steel weeds. Perhaps they were once for outdoor dining. Doubtless it still happens there.

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Message to developers Dyldam (you don’t wanna know what that autocorrected to): when your derelict site has been broken into and abused this badly, you’re taking too long.

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The Parramatta chapter of the Lone Star story may have ended, but the saga continues. Today, the brand sort of carries on under the name Lone Star Rib House. I…I don’t know how lone that star would really be. I’m no expert, but I think the steak and rib galaxies are pretty close.

Also, here’s a fun game to play: go to the Lone Star Rib House ‘About Us’ page and try to decipher the alien language used there. If you can work out what the hell they’re on about, you’ve done better than I.

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By resisting the bulldozers for so long, Australia’s first Lone Star has become an anomaly in this part of Parra, a lone star if you will (clean out your desk – ed). Soon it’ll be just another block of units, but until then it’ll remain…remarkable.

DESTRUCTIVE UPDATE: Or will it? No sooner had this post gone up did the bulldozers awaken and make short work of the Lone Star. Look everyone, a falling star…

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10 responses

  1. Last year I stayed at the Holiday Inn next door and was very intrigued by this place. Have to admit, I was very tempted to go inside and have a look. But looking at the state of the site, I didn’t wanna test my luck as to what was inside.

    1. Couldn’t have been any worse than the Holiday Inn, Ash.

      1. The Holiday Inn had buffet breakfast. While I doubt the Lone Star ever boasted that, I certainly don’t think they do now.

  2. What’s worse than a lack of American themed restaurant is the lack of American styled bars in Sydney.

    Most pubs or clubs in Australia are lifeless cookie cut outs of each other, often loud and irritatingly upbeat. Why? To hazard a guess, I’d say tradition. Since time eternal (or 200 yrs give or take), pubs are places for blokes to drink & fight, all done in front of their mates. To be seen with your mates is important, cos it’s a sign of being a good bloke which in Australia is more important than money or status itself. Cos one could be a drop-kick yet still be a good bloke who’ll be ‘looked after’.

    To have droves of people come and go is the kinda dynamic a pub’s looking for. I guess what pubs don’t want are single men drinking slow, hogging whole tables and looking like losers. Losers kill the mood and that slows the drinking and the daily takings.

    Overseas though, bars are places to meet as well as places to think or perhaps more importantly places to not have to think. Imagine me wanting to be with my own thoughts, beer in hand, perhaps reading Jonathan Franzen’s ‘How to be alone’, perhaps just staring into space: there’s just no pub in Australia where I’d feel comfortable doing that. At best you’d be called a wanker, at worst you’d get a punch in the face (sorry Frenzal Rhomb).

    Where is this pub that I can perch myself? On a stool, with my book, in front of a long bar (the one with a wooden beveled edge) in subdued lighting and barman looking after my drinks?

  3. I just checked out the Lone Star rib House “About Us” page. Good to see that Jed and Granny Clampett are still working.

  4. its funny how Parramatta’s pizza hut dine in was once just down the street from this lone star and after it closed down in 2001 also sat Derelict and broken into just like this till around 2007 when it was turned into a block of flats

  5. I quite liked Lone Star…except for the corny and random bouts of line dancing from the wait staff. I remember the floor being covered in peanut shells from the free peanuts they served…but they had to stop doing that because it made the rats feel at home.

  6. Every time I hear the name ‘Lone Star’ it reminds me of the lead character (played by Bill Pullman) in the Mel Brooks comedy ‘Spaceballs’ – but Rick Moranis was the real star of that.

    It’s funny that the wording of the ‘About Us’ page is obviously supposed to sound like the Beverley Hillbillies. Just read it out loud in a Jethro accent and it works. The problem is that the Beverley Hillbillies came from the Ozarks, which is mostly Arkansas and Missouri. Not Texas, whose residents have a different accent entirely (eg Larry Hagman, Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew McConaughey).

    Looks like Blacktown is the only Lone Star ‘Rib House’ in Sydney – never been there. I have been to the ‘Outback Steakhouse’ outside Panthers at Penrith, and ‘Outback Jack’s’ on Roberts Rd at Greenacre.

  7. In just the last week this has been demolished

  8. In Melbourne a cafes that previously operated as the Keg, which funnily enough mainly operated as Denny’s – all failed US chains, became Lone Star Steakhouses. Before failing themselves.

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