The Swinging Door exterior

The History of The Swinging Door

Bar-b-que is a staple in Texas cuisine, and most Fort Bend residents know that there's a down home, back to basics restaurant complete with its own dance hall that serves some of the best bar-b-que that the state has to offer. They might even know the proprietor and chef behind this great food and Fort Bend institution, but what they might not know is that this GEM of Fort Bend gives, not to one organization, but to many and has for nearly 40 years.

Established in 1973 by Steve and Ward Onstad

Steve Onstad moved to then rural Richmond as a young boy with his family. The Richmond of Onstad's youth was not like the Richmond we know today. "Moving to Richmond was a big culture shock," recalled Onstad. "There were no sidewalks, no neighbors. We learned to ride horses, raise animals, and it was big time to go to Schultz's store to get a Coke and an ice cream sandwich."

The barn-shaped house that Onstad and his four siblings were raised in still stands today on FM 359 next to his restaurant, which is a Fort Bend landmark: The Swinging Door. Living in the country taught Onstad many lessons, the most important of which was to help your neighbors. "Growing up, we weren't just part of a family; we were part of a neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody, and one of the first things my dad taught me was that when somebody was sick or needed help, you helped out. It was standard issue to help your neighbors in times of trouble."

Onstad graduated from Lamar High School and left for then Southwest Texas State University. After two years of "social studies," he decided to change course. "Dad said get a job or join the service, so I went to work." In 1973, Onstad and his dad, Ward, built a small, wood frame business on FM 359 in anticipation of a 1,000 acre subdivision scheduled to be built by Friendswood Development in the area. The development project fell through, but when Pecan Grove sprang up a few years later, Onstad's business took off.