VIDEO: Reporter Jeff Ehling at the scene
The Houston Fire Department says that the fire is believed to have started at the back of the building and worked its way all the way to the front before they could get it under control.
VIDEO: HFD Chief Bob Schlieter with fire update
The alarm went off around midnight and the owner, who lives right down the street, pulled up the close circuit cameras on his cell phone and could immediately see smoke had filled the place.
He called the fire department and firefighters told the owner that the fire was spreading through the ceiling of the restaurant.
PHOTOS: Fire destroys historic Houston restaurant
The ceiling has collapsed into the cafeteria and the walls will have to be torn down.
There is a lot of heavy fire and smoke damage all through the restaurant but the owner says the biggest loss are the paintings inside drawn by his father.
VIDEO: Cleburne Cafeteria owner reacts to damage to paintings
"I'm heartbroken. You know, my dad painted every painting on the wall of the cafeteria and that's all I got left of my father and that is kind of our family legacy, obviously serving good food. It's our 75th year in business and it's devastating," said Owner, George Mickelis.
This Houston cafeteria, which is located at 3606 Bissonnet Street, has been in business at that location since 1969. The original Cleburne's cafeteria was opened in 1941 at Cleburne at Fannin. The current restaurant was started by Nick Mickelis, who came from Greece with just $2.50 in his pocket.
This isn't the first time the family's restaurant has caught fire. In 1990, a fire started in the kitchen and consumed the building. Nick Mickelis' beloved paintings survived the fire and survived today's fire as well.
VIDEO: SkyEye video of damage to Cleburne's Cafeteria
"We are a family owned and operated cafeteria, nothing really has changed since 1941. My mom and I still work here every day. My mom is 93 years old. My dad worked here until the day he died. He died young at 68, like I said, the paintings of the cafeteria are a family legacy. My father was a self-taught artist," said Mickelis.
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