ON THE MENU — Leslie’s Place offers family feel, comfort foods, all-day menu

Published 12:38 am Saturday, March 19, 2022

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One of Bridge City’s most popular eateries is a bit of a happy accident. Leslie Rider opened Leslie’s Place as a temporary solution.

“We started in Orange at Ten West,” she said. “I was buying it from the lady that owned it. Two days before we were supposed to do the deal, they announced to-go orders only. She asked me if I wanted to back out of it and I told her that we would make it work.”

After working through the most difficult parts of the pandemic, a natural disaster struck.

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“A hurricane came and took the roof off the place (in Orange),” Rider said. “A friend of mine owns (the Bridge City) location. We had been closed for about three months and he called and said he had an empty restaurant in Bridge City and said we could lease month to month with no down payment.”

In October 2020, Rider opened Leslie’s Place at 2198 Texas Ave. and she said the success was immediate.

“We were not ready for what happened,” she said. “It was crazy. We went from a staff of five or six of us that worked all of the time. We didn’t event know how to order food for this many people. Every time we order, we said we will order three times as much and it still wasn’t enough. It was a good problem to have.”

After some time, Rider and the staff were able to get the orders down and find a sustainable staff rotation.

Aside from the food, part of the success can be attributed to the heart of the restaurant.

“Since we have been here, we have had a hurricane and a five-day ice storm,” she said. “My manager said we can open. She said we can get to it and we have gas and batteries. I told her I didn’t want people to think I was risking my employees lives for some money. I don’t care. We put a post of Facebook telling people to come and not worry about whether or not they have money.”

After the success of Leslie’s Place, Rider was unsure if she was going to reopen Ten West. In face, she originally went there to pick up her last belongings before nostalgia kicked in.

“I was just going to lease it to someone else,” she said. “I walked in and I had worked there for 20 years. This is the whole restaurant I wanted. I walked in there and signed the lease. My people here were asking who is going to work there and I told them I don’t know. They asked what they were going to serve and I said I don’t know. We will make it work. Now, we have two.”

The family atmosphere is the biggest selling point, Rider said.

“If it is your first time here, someone on the staff is probably going to ask you,” she said. “We have toys behind the counter for kids to play with because I learned that if you win the kids, you can win the parents.”

The family feel goes beyond being nice to kids as a clever marketing strategy.

“We have a policy where anyone can always eat here for free if they need to,” she said. “They don’t have to give us a reason or story. Just tell us ‘I can’t afford it today.’ We just say okay and hope your day gets better. You have all of this food sitting here in coolers and things go to waste. At the end of the month, what does it matter if we gave $38 of food away?”

The location also has an open menu all day.

“We joke that you can get a hamburger at 6 a.m. or pancakes at 9 p.m.,” Rider said. “I grew up going to little places. I always wanted a place that would be open 24 hours. I grew up going to Beverly’s in Port Arthur. I wanted to feel like I was a grown up eating French fries with ranch and sipping coffee at 3 a.m. and I always wanted to be that place.”