When Robert Ramirez decided to add a banquet hall to his restaurant, he didn’t do it so the restaurant would draw more business. He did it for people who need room to host up to 200 people at a party, meeting or reception.

Now, Robert’s Banquet Hall is part of Robert’s Meat Market and Steakhouse at 3720 W. Park Ave. in Pinehurst. Orange Savings Bank “christened” the room with its staff party earlier this month. “We provide whatever they want,” Ramirez said. “Either we can decorate, or they can decorate. They can buy our food, or they can get their own caterer or make their own.” Other large places in Orange County for receptions usually require that the people using the hall buy the services from the hall. But Ramirez doesn’t mind if aunts, uncles and cousins bring food to a wedding at his hall.

 “Weddings are expensive enough,” he said. “Some people want to do their own and save money.” The banquet hall has tile floor of off-white with designs in some sections, and room for dancing. New chairs and tables are ready for tablecloths. Two outside entrances offer access to the expanded, paved parking lot behind the hall. Ramirez said the parking lot is well lit and has security cameras. Through the past few years, Ramirez’s business has taken off in a way he couldn’t imagine. He came to Texas from California to work as a meat cutter with the Weingarten’s grocery chain. He came to Orange to work at Weingarten’s with the intent to go to a new a Gerland’s store. While at Weingarten’s, he met Danny Brack of Orange; so he ended up staying and working with Brack for three years.

Now, he’s lived in Orange for 27 years. “It’s a nice place to raise a family,” he said. He and his wife have three daughters and are now grandparents. Ramirez opened Robert’s Meat Market on Simmons Drive in the early 1980s. The building was so small he had to build a meat locker behind the building and cut the meat in the locker. The store eventually also sold boudain, hamburgers, cracklin’s and barbecue sandwiches. In the 1990s, Ramirez expanded to the Park Avenue location with a meat market and grocery store. By that time, the word of his take-out food had spread and become popular. The market grew. Finally, four years ago, he decided to add a restaurant to the meat market. “We made a lot of a lot of mistakes,” he said. He didn’t have enough time to train all the employees and the business boomed.

Now, the restaurant serves a variety of seafood, Mexican food, salads, sandwiches, gumbo, and, of course, steaks. He has about 50 employees working for him, with most of them in the restaurant. Recently, Robert’s acquired a license to sell liquor by the drink. Pinehurst first had to have a local option election to allow restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages. The restaurant has beer and wine, along with margaritas and daiquiris. He plans to add a full-service bar soon, though he stresses it’s to serve beverages to restaurant customers.

The Simmons Drive store has been closed for the past few years, but Ramirez is opening it up sometime, he hopes, in January. Though the store won’t have a meat counter, it will be serving his famous burgers and will have a steam table for lunches. He said the shipbuilding business near Simmons and the Sabine River is growing.