One of the oldest restaurants in Arlington is the Candlelite Inn. It opened in 1957 with a simple menu — tacos, pizza, beer, and soft drinks. Early clientele likely included workers from the nearby General Motors plant, which is still a fixture of Arlington. Today, the restaurant is known for its eclectic menu and ambiance from a by-gone era.
Fun Fact: Candlelite Inn was the first restaurant in Arlington to serve pizza.
Initially located in the smaller building next to its current location, it moved to the larger building in 1964. It thrived for over 50 years until 2011. The restaurant closed its doors and went to auction. Its future uncertain at that point, the new owners decided to rebuild the restaurant. According to the Candlelite Inn’s website, “The only part of the original building that could be saved were the exterior walls.”
Builders used many of the old pieces in the new restaurant, though, and there was a deliberate effort to keep the same look and feel. After an extensive rebuild and remodel, the iconic restaurant reopened in 2014. A few old booths were saved with the etches, scratches, and markings from years past.
My wife and I recently made our first visit to the Candlelite Inn. Yes, I’m ashamed to say that we have never been. Spoiler alert: We loved it and will definitely be going back! Let’s check it out.
Candlelite Inn has an ambiance. Many Arlington couples have certainly had dates here. It would be a suitable place for Valentine’s Day or other special occasions. It’s not fine dining in tuxedos and evening gowns, though. It’s for regular people, looking for a nice meal, in a nostalgic, relaxed atmosphere.
The parking lot features several neon signs that come alive at night. One is a candle; another is a multi-functional, double-sided, directional sign with the restaurant’s name and a popular menu item on it. Other neon signs include ones for pizza, tacos, beer, Mexican food, and charcoal steaks.
Inside, part of the ambiance is the dimmed lighting and semi-private booths. Candlelight still illuminates the room, although they’re now LEDs instead of the flickering light from candles. Tables have little jukeboxes with a master jukebox wired to all of them. (Unfortunately, the jukeboxes weren’t working that night.) Red and white checkered vinyl tablecloths add the finishing touch. It certainly feels like a step back in time.
Menu and Food
The menu today still includes tacos, pizza, beer, and soft drinks. But, there are many more options. Delightfully eclectic, they serve a range of steaks, burgers, sandwiches, comfort food classics, pasta, and Tex-Mex. They have a bar serving drinks, and there is also a display case of homemade desserts near the front door.
Time to eat! They bring out chips and salsa as an appetizer. That got me leaning towards Tex-Mex, but I changed my mind at the last second.
I decided on Chicken Fried Steak because it’s been ages since I’ve had it. (If you’re unfamiliar, Wikipedia calls it a “cutlet dish consisting of a piece of beefsteak coated with seasoned flour and pan-fried.”) The Chicken Fried Steak was tender, fresh, and smothered in white gravy. The gravy was thick and creamy — so good! It was served with fluffy, homemade mashed potatoes — also topped with gravy — and green beans. The green beans had a smoky flavor from the bacon used as a seasoning. Definitely southern comfort food. Very tasty!
My wife had the Baked Manicotti. (Yes, our table had chips and salsa, Chicken Fried Steak, and Baked Manicotti on it — all at the same time.) Baked Manicotti is pasta stuffed with cheese and then baked. My wife said that ricotta was rich and creamy, while the tomato sauce was subtle and not overpowering. It nicely complemented the soft and tender pasta. It tasted fresh and homemade.
We tried a bite from each other’s plate. The Chicken Fried Steak was good — no regrets — but wow, the Baked Manicotti was delicious! I might get that next time.
Arlington in the 1950s and 1960s
I mentioned that the Candlelite Inn opened in 1957. The 50s and 60s were an essential part of Arlington’s growth. New jobs, entertainment options, and transportation improvements helped redefine the city — and give it a population boom.
In 1950, Arlington’s population was 7,692 people. But by 1970, the population had swelled to 90,643 people! The growth would only continue from there.
There aren’t many things still around in Arlington from the 1950s and 1960s. The Candlelite Inn is one of them. It’s one of the few restaurants that survived. (Al’s Hamburgers, another Arlington icon, also opened in 1957.)
Some things never change
Arlington looks a lot different now than it did when Candlelite Inn first opened. But, the Candlelite Inn looks very similar to how it did back in the day. It’s a delightful trip back in time. With a romantic ambiance and tasty food, it’s a throwback to a time when restaurants were more than places to eat. They were places to make memories.
Candlelite Inn has a special place in Arlington’s history. It’s an iconic restaurant that will hopefully be around for many more years to come.
Candlelite Inn Restaurant
1202 E. Division Street
Arlington, TX 76011
“Candlelite Inn.” Candlelite Inn official website. Accessed February 11, 2021. http://www.candleliteinnarlington.com/
Frank Heinz. (2011, May 19). Iconic Candlelite Inn Going to Auction. NBC DFW. Accessed February 11, 2021.
Tim Ciesko. (2014, April 10.) Popular, Historic Arlington Restaurant Gets Fresh Start. NBC DFW. February 11, 2021.
Photos by Jason and Jennifer Sullivan. Post by Jason S. Sullivan, 02-12-21.