El Padrino, Rockyfeller Hamburger System and Valentine diners

The building that now houses El Padrino No. 1 on Jefferson Boulevard was built in 1949, but it wasn’t constructed where it stands.


Photo by Steve Wallace via the Texas Historical Commission

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.


Photo via the Kansas State Historical Society

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.

By |2016-02-03T08:47:38-05:00February 3rd, 2016|Dining, News|2 Comments

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Rachel Stone is the Oak Cliff editor. Email rstone@advocatemag.com or follow twitter.com/advocate_oc.                                     


  1. Mike September 12, 2016 at 12:31 PM

    Loved the “Rocky Sauce” on those burgers

  2. Smokey February 4, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    There were two on Jefferson within blocks of one another. One Quick System and the other Rockefeller. In addition there was a Rockefeller in Elmwood at Ferndale and Edgefield, the building is sitting empty. On S. Beckley there was another modular dinner now known as Wingfields. If not for the 5 for a dollar burgers at Rockefeller in Elmwood our single mom would of had trouble treating us 5 kids to a burger in the 50’s and 60’s. I miss dining with the Rockefeller’s but not as much as I do my Mom……

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