Built in 1932 the whimsical restaurant is most associated with its longest running tenant, Polar Bear Ice Cream. In fact, the space had two prior tenants.  In old city directories, U.S. Sandwich Shop shows up from 1932-1937 and Schell Grill shows up from 1938-1945.  Polar Bear opened in 1946 and closed some time in the 1980's or 1990's.  One always thinks of ice cream when looking at the igloo and glacier shaped structure but it was only luck that an ice cream eatery ended up there.  

Schell Grill as seen from the Lake Cliff Rose Garden. You can barely make out the sign to the left side. - many thanks to the City of Dallas Municilpal Archives for this photo

Aerial view of Polar Bear and Youngbloods Fried Chicken

The close proximity of the park and Hwy 80 that ran across the Houston St. Viaduct and into Oak Cliff provided a busy clientele for many restaurants in the nearby area.  Pig Stand #2, Youngbloods Chicken, Chapultepac Café, A&W Root Beer Stand, Merrit’s Freshy Orange and the Pig ‘n Whistle Restaurant were all close by.  The 1950’s saw the teenage car culture expand and the area thrived.

Pig Stand #2

Vernon Turner served at least 3 generations spanning over 25 years at the oldest Polar Bear store on Zang as well as managing their fourth store on Hampton in DeSoto. Louise Brigham, wife of Polar Bear founder J.C. Brigham, worked at the store into the 1980’s.

From the 1990’s through today, the structure has been a series of Mexican food restaurants. The structure is still occupied and in seemingly good condition. The attached patio covering however detracts from the unique facade.

A developer has purchased the building and another has an option on it. Rumor has it a restaurant brewery is looking but no word on whether the Oak Cliff landmark will be part of their plans.

Polar Bear is in the Oak Cliff Gateway - Subdistrict F, Walkable Urban Mixed Use (WMU-5), 5 stories max., 80 feet max.

Thank you to Gayla Brooks for Schell Grill menu photos!

Michael Amonett