Steve Onstad

Stepping through the Swinging Door with Steve Onstad

We’re joined by Steve Onstad, owner of Swinging Door, to talk about the almost 50 years his BBQ restaurant has been in business in Fort Bend. As a prominent member of our community, Steve has made a name for himself not only for the incredible food he makes, but for the amazing generosity he has provided for his community.

In this episode, Aimee, Emily, and Steve cover: 

  • When Steve started cooking 
  • Where the idea for the Swinging Door came from
  • Who made notable appearances in the restaurant and dance hall 
  • Why Steve feels drawn to his employees, patrons, and community
  • How Steve lends a hand in Fort Bend every month

Important highlights:

Uncovering the history of the Swinging Door 

In 1973, Steve opened the Swinging Door in a small basic building with a very limited menu. After growing up in Fort Bend and spending 2 years in college, Steve found himself hungry for a new opportunity and willing to take a chance on the cooking skills he learned from his mother. Despite the ups and downs the next 47 years would bring, the Swinging Door has since become a staple of Texas BBQ and a must-stop restaurant for Fort Bend locals. 

“We started a basic little building, with no plan on what it was going to be.”

Flipping through the highlight reel 

After almost 50 years of business, Steve has seen his fair share of changes in Fort Bend county, and the Swinging Door has adapted to all those changes along the way. From small beginnings to expansions into dance halls, movie shoots to football hang outs, the Swinging Door has seen it all and Steve spends this episode sharing the highlights (like being the setting for the film Rush) and the wild stories that came along with them. 

“It was a blessing to be a part of it and live it and have so many memories from it.”

Giving back to the Fort Bend community

A major throughline for guests on Born in the Bend is their dedication to giving back to our community. With the success he has achieved with the Swinging Door and the talents he has developed through years spent in the kitchen, Steve gives back in any way that he can to feed and nourish the community that has provided him incredible support since he moved to Fort Bend as a young child.

“This is where I grew up, this is where my employees came from and my customers came from, so it only makes sense to give back and reinvest in the community.”

Understanding his impact and his legacy 

The lasting impact of the Swinging Door has changed Fort Bend for the better and, listening to Steve’s stories, it is easy to see why his reputation within our community is as incredibly positive as it is. However, for Steve, the memories he has made are the biggest reward, beyond any success he’s experienced. From his humble personality to friendly demeanor, we’re so pleased we got to sit down in UnWined and share a piece of Fort Bend history with Steve Onstad and the Swinging Door.

“I’m not a trained chef, I am a self-taught cook…You feel your food and you know when it’s ready or not ready to serve.”   

Find out more about Steve and the Swinging Door on the Swinging Door website and Facebook

Additional resources to check out: Rush (1991), Men Who Cook Gala (Lamar Educational Awards Foundation), Fort Bend Museum, Lone Star Stomp. 

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