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.”