SAN ANGELO, Texas – San Angelo’s Concho Avenue has been a hotbed of history for as long as Fort Concho helped establish the town in 1860’s.
Today most of the buildings that line this significant street have seen the dirt roads turn into asphalt and a plethora of business come and go.
Brenda Gunter is the President of the downtown San Angelo Association and owner of Miss Hattie’s Restaurant and Cathouse Lounge. This former bank building built in 1884 isn’t where the famous bordello used to be, but there was a tunnel leading to the house of ill repute that just happened to be a few doors down.
“Famous story about the tunnel is that people would come into the bank and if you knew the bank president, he would allow you back behind the tellers and you could take the tunnel over to the bordello and spend the day,” said Gunter.” Of course, the husbands would meet up with the wives and the children later on, and he would say, ‘Honey, did you get all of your shopping and marketing done?’ and he said, she said, ‘Yes, I did, did you get all of your banking done?’ and he would say, ‘Yes, I’ve made all my deposits and withdrawals, let’s have dinner,’ and so the legend goes.”
These legends and Texas tales of San Angelo were almost lost to the west Texas wind. But in the 1970’s Brenda’s husband, Ken decided to preserve the history of East Concho Avenue by buying and restoring 12 of these buildings on the now busy street.
“Had he not done that, the deterioration would have continued to happen and we would have lost all of this history and all of these wonderful buildings down here,” Gunter said. “That was the era when many people were going outside of downtowns and going to shopping malls. You know, by then we had air conditioning and automobiles and all of these things, so people started moving away from downtown and he said no, not going to let it happen.”
Today San Angelo is proud of its prolific past, including the taboo topic of a bordello that was open all the way till 1952.
“We embrace it because it’s history, and I always believe that, my husband believed that, why would you shy away from history?” said Gunter. “It’s the truth, and it’s one thing if it’s people consider it unethical or whatnot, but you know, I look at it this way: back in the days, there were very few ways for women to make a living, and if you were not married you couldn’t teach school, you certainly couldn’t be employed as a woman in a bank or many of these other occupations. So, women had very few choices in terms of how to earn a living.”
Ken passed away in 2014 so Brenda has taken over as head madam when it comes to carrying on the lore of the Concho city.
“I can remember growing up thinking, ‘If everything works out in my life, I can be Miss Kitty sometime in my life, and I can have a bar and I can be –’ and then what happens, I end up with a bar in a saloon and really did become Miss Kitty!” Gunter said. “Your dreams can come true.”
Well my dreams are about to come true too as we get ready for a burger as fiery as the working ladies of Miss Hattie’s.
“I don’t know that anything puts a smile on someone’s face any larger than a burger does,” said Gunter.
Gabriel Chavez gets things started on the Miss Hattie’s Bordello Burger by hand-forming a half pound patty. First it hits the flat top for fast rendezvous and then it’s on the chargrill where it gets cooked to a medium.
“We bring in a lot of requests for medium, medium rare, and that kind of like, saves the juice into the meat,” said Chavez. “So, the burger always comes out real nice and juicy.”
Jalapenos and red bell peppers get thrown on the grill and topped with Cajun seasoning. The burger is flipped while a sesame seed bun gets toasted with some extra love. Chipotle aioli gets covers up the grease while lettuce tomatoes and onion finish out the bread, now back to the beef.
Pepper jack cheese gets placed on the beef, then the bacon, and finally the jalapenos and red peppers make things interesting.
The burger comes together nicely with bacon falling out of it, jalapenos dropping out, and the only question is how does it taste? Is it worth going through the tunnels for? Only one way to find out.
Once you really get into that burger and get into those jalapenos, red peppers, aioli, and everything that’s going on in there, your mouth starts to burn — but it’s a good burn, just like every burn.
It’s like the perfect elements for a burger between the flame kissing of that char grill, and then those fresh veggies, and the perfect combination of spicy-grilled goodness between the jalapenos and red peppers. It’s everything a Texan would want in a hamburger here in West Texas. Miss Hattie’s Bordello Burger, well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List. Just don’t get caught in the bordello.
“It’s going to be a legendary burger and a legendary building with a legendary story,” Gunter said.