Seabrook Classic Cafe: Former El Lago mayor spends 34 years serving community

The Jalapeno Burger ($9.50), also known as the Benson Burger, includes jalapeños, horseradish, cheese and mayonnaise. (Photos by Alex Grant/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Jalapeno Burger ($9.50), also known as the Benson Burger, includes jalapeños, horseradish, cheese and mayonnaise. (Photos by Alex Grant/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Jalapeno Burger ($9.50), also known as the Benson Burger, includes jalapeños, horseradish, cheese and mayonnaise. (Photos by Alex Grant/Community Impact Newspaper)

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The Heart Salad ($11) includes Arcadian spring salad mix with a walnut oil vinaigrette dressing, topped with walnuts and sun dried cranberries, with a choice of goat, gorgonzola or feta cheese and chicken, shrimp or fish.
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The Fried Shrimp Platter ($16.50), the most popular item, includes nine fried shrimp served with fries and coleslaw.
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Brad Emel opened Seabrook Classic Cafe in 1985.
For locals, Seabrook Classic Cafe has been a fixture in the Bay Area for over 30 years. Brad Emel, owner and founder of the restaurant, estimates that over 6,000 regular customers visit the restaurant at least once every month. He believes the key to his success is consistency.

The restaurant, primarily serving American-style food and comfort food, opened in September 1985. Though the menu has undergone changes to follow trends over the years, customers can order the same quality dishes they have the past three decades, Emel said.

“Whatever you eat today, you can come back in three weeks, and it’ll be exactly the same,” he said.

Popular items served include the jalapeno burger, chicken-fried steak and the fried shrimp platter. The platter is the restaurant’s most popular dish and is successful because of its preparation, Emel said. Instead of breading the shrimp in bulk and storing it in a freezer like many restaurants do, the shrimp at Seabrook Classic Cafe is breaded fresh for each order, he said.

Emel got his start working in the restaurant industry after leaving his studies at Oklahoma University in the late 1960s to work at a restaurant two months prior to its opening in Dallas.


He learned about various aspects of starting a restaurant, from the construction to the managerial work. During that time, Emel gained invaluable knowledge that later benefited him greatly in his career, he said.

“I dropped out of college and worked at a restaurant where I got the education of a lifetime,” Emel said.

Two years later, Emel opened up his first restaurant. He eventually sold his share and moved to Houston. After a few years of working as a restaurant manager and opening an eatery in League City that was later sold, Emel opened Seabrook Classic Cafe.

Emel, who also served as mayor of El Lago from 2001-14, is proud to be part of local history, but he hopes to connect with the upcoming generation by launching a trendy menu featuring poke bowls and banh mi. Emel also plans to turn the building neighboring the restaurant into a coffee shop.

“You gotta go with the trends,” Emel said. “We started off grassroots, and we’re going back.”
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