Firing Up the Grill
"I'm back again to stay." So says Eva Lindsey, who recently retook the reins of landmark Eastside venue the Victory Grill. Lindsey managed the grill during its mid-Nineties rebirth until 2000, when she took a teaching job at Austin Business School for the health insurance. Lindsey, who grew up down the street, decided it was her mission to restore the 59-year-old nightspot founded by her father's friend Johnny Holmes in 1945 as a place for African-American soldiers to celebrate the end of World War II to its "fabulous" glory. "The magic of the Victory Grill is you can't kill it," Lindsey says. "Even in bad times, it's continued to survive." She recently attended the 18th annual Curtis Tunnel Cultural Heritage Award presentation, where the grill was designated an official Texas Treasure. (It's already in the National Registry of Historic Places.) Lindsey calls the grill "living history," and it is, having hosted and/or fed everyone from Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin to Big Joe Williams and B.B. King, whom Holmes used to promote. She figures it will take about $300,000 to restore the East 11th Street venue, and hopes to finish putting on a new roof in the next month. From there, she says, the grill will open for benefits while the restoration is done in phases, and for good in early 2005. "I invite everybody to be a part of it," says the donation-seeking Lindsey. "I'm here every day from 10am to about 4pm."