The building that now houses El Padrino No. 1 on Jefferson Boulevard was built in 1949, but it wasn’t constructed where it stands.
The building is a prefabricated “Valentine diner,” manufactured in Kansas. In a 1980 photo (at right) from the Texas Historical Commission, there is still a sign for Waldorf System hamburgers.
David Spence of Good Space did a Google search for “Waldorf System” and found this history from photographer Randy Carlisle, who says the place also might’ve been a Rockyfeller Hamburger System at one time.
There was a Rockyfeller at The Boundary — near West Jefferson and Marlbourough — and there was a Griddle System somewhere on West Davis near St. Cecilia. [Update: Oak Cliff native Jim Dolan confirms the Griddle was in the building that is now Nova.]
There’s not much information out there about Rockyfeller Hamburger System, but searches of newspaper archives indicate there were Rockyfeller stores all over the Dallas area.
The roadside diner concept was invented in Rhode Island in the late 1800s. And White Castle was the first hamburger chain in America, starting in 1921.
Arthur Valentine of Wichita, Kansas revolutionized the hamburger stand starting in 1947, when his company began manufacturing tiny prefabricated restaurant buildings that were inexpensive, easy to move and easy to clean, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. The early Valentine diners didn’t have booths; they had stools and counters surrounding the cook station. They were designed so that one person could man a store alone, running the grill, dishwasher and cash register.
Wingfield’s on Beckley, built around 1960, is another example of a Valentine diner, according to RoadArchitecture.com.