Julian Gill, Houston Chronicle | December 2, 2018
Photo credit: Minnie Stamos Photography
George H.W. Bush may have amassed a lengthy resume in Washington, but at home in Houston, he ate his favorite food among the people.
He was a regular at a number of Houston mainstays, including Christie’s Seafood on Westheimer, where he routinely ate oyster stew at his preferred table in the bar area.
After Bush passed away Friday at 94, the more than 100-year-old restaurant paid tribute to the former Navy carrier pilot on its marquee.
It was an emotional moment for general manager Maria Christie, whose late father owned the restaurant. She described Bush as a positive and engaging spirit, never bothered by greetings from other patrons. His visits were always a joyous occasion, she said.
“For me and my family it was extremely special, because my father is an immigrant that came to this country,” she said. “This country afforded him so many opportunities. For a president to come eat at my dad’s restaurant, my dad was beaming whenever President Bush would come here.”
Christie and her siblings carried on their father’s dining traditions since he passed in 2013. She said Bush’s love for their food has touched them all.
Once, after a stay in the hospital, he immediately asked for his preferred dish from the restaurant. “He had told his doctors he wants his favorite oyster stew,” she said.
Bush was often accompanied by his friend, former Secretary of State James Baker, and his wife Barbara, who passed away in April. He once brought along former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, she said.
The last time Christie could recall Bush eating at the restaurants was earlier this month, during early voting for the midterm elections. She said he and Baker were eating lunch and talking about going to vote. Bush asked what he would need, and someone advised that he should take his ID. “He really doesn’t need to take anything,” Christie recalled Baker saying, jokingly. “They’ll know who he is.”
His positive spirit in the restaurant was hard to put into words, Christie said, but it colored her memories of his visits.
“We all loved him so much because look at what he did, with the Berlin Wall, with so many things,” she said. “He was extremely special.”
Julian Gill is a digital reporter in Houston. Read him on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and on our subscriber site, houstonchronicle.com.
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