Arson investigators are on the scene Tuesday morning to determine what caused an overnight fire that destroyed the iconic Cleburne Cafeteria at 3606 Bissonnet St.
Owner George Mickelis — whose father founded the restaurant 75 years ago — called in the fire after being notified by the alarm company and witnessing smoke flowing into the restaurant on closed circuit cameras he monitored from his nearby home. He went to the scene and watched as firefighters battled for more than three hours to save the eatery.
The crews were ordered out when it became evident the roof was going to collapse.
Mickelis told ABC-13 that he was grieving the loss of the paintings of Greece done by his late father, Nick, that covered the walls.
Miraculously, those paintings had survived a 1990 fire that destroyed Cleburne. Mickelis rebuilt after that blaze. He said his 93-year-old mother, Pat, and he still work together at the restaurant.
Cleburne is known for its classic cafeteria fare made with fresh ingredients — and touches of the family’s Greek heritage.
This story was compiled partly from accounts by ABC-13.com and KHOU.com.