What comes around goes around: Spindletop and the return of the revolvingrestaurant
In mid-century America, it seemed like everyone was looking toward the skies. The space craze invaded every facet of the American experience, from cartoons to motels to dining.
No, I'm not talking about freeze-dried ice cream. It was 1961 when the first Americans experienced the thrill of dining at observation-deck heights, complete with 360 degree views — the revolving restaurant. Following iterations in Germany and Honolulu, the second turntable was built with much fanfare in Seattle's new Space Needle in 1962.
With that, a phenomenon was born. San Antonio got its own rotating restaurant during the HemisFair in 1968, creating the Chart House at the Tower of the Americas. Reunion Tower gave Dallas a rotating restaurant and a unique skyline feature in 1978. And Spindletop, Houston's own nod to architectural excess, began its reign at the top of the downtown Hyatt Regency in 1972.
Somewhere along the way, the revolving restaurant went from chic to kitschy, focusing on the views instead of the food as architectural entrees became passé and food trends turned back towards earth.
But recently the revolving restaurant has reclaimed a bit of its verve. The Space Needle got a $20 million makeover in 2000, adding the award-winning SkyCity restaurant back into the tower. In Dallas, Wolfgang Puck took over the aging Antares in Reunion Tower in 2009 and transformed it into Five Sixty, named for the restaurant's elevation, with an Asian fusion menu and an energetic yet zen-like modern style — to rave reviews.
Two years after closing due to damage from Hurricane Ike, Houston's Spindletop is set to reopen on Oct. 6, with a look and a menu that bears little in common with the previous iteration.
"It's totally different," Hyatt director of food and beverage Michael Borer says. "The whole interior has been redone, updated and modernized. It's a really fabulous look."
The biggest structural change to the interiors is a new lounge area that does away with the double-tiered setup to look out on an even bigger expanse of skyline.
The menu, too, has a new look. Whereas the former Spindletop menu offered American fare from across the spectrum, this time it's more focused on seafood with a Southwestern flair, designed to complement but not compete with Hyatt's other eatery, Shula's Steakhouse.
"We're definitely seeing a lot of interest," Borer says. "People have been calling for two years straight wanting to know when we're coming back."