Yesterday afternoon, a friend picked me up from work and we headed over to Jefferson to grab some burgers and soul food from Adrian's Local Cafe. Sadly, we found out once we arrived that Adrian's -- home to one of Robb Walsh's favorite Houston dishes and one of the largest hamburgers in town -- closed down two months ago. The Communication Workers of America building at 1730 Jefferson is now the campaign headquarters of Sheila Jackson Lee. She is not in the business of burgers, obviously, and we were chased off by annoyed campaign workers.
Chagrined and still craving soul food, we decided to head over to the Third Ward and check out This Is It's new digs on 2712 Blodgett, just down the street from Texas Southern University.
One of my earliest memories of eating at This Is It in its second location on West Gray (the first was just north of West Gray at 1003 Andrews) is heading over there after church with my mother and father. My dad would buy to-go boxes filled with food and give them out to anyone who was hanging around the restaurant, looking hungry. Which, 15 years ago, was quite a few people.
In that location since 1982, This Is It survived the destruction and rebuilding of what is now Midtown but what was known for generations as the Fourth Ward. But as the face of the neighborhood changed, it seemed there was no longer a place for oxtails and sweet potatoes served from a steam table. Midtown residents were busily populating restaurants like Cyclone Anaya's and brunching at Farrago.
And so, in July, This Is It picked up and moved for a third time, to Blodgett, back into a predominately black neighborhood, as Midtown once had been.
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The restaurant's new location is spacious and well laid out inside, with a cute patio out front for watching cars stream slowly by. Parking is still an issue here, despite the less crowded streets. The tiny lot fills up very quickly at lunch, but you can always park on Blodgett itself. The fishtank is still inside, of course, as is the steam table. And the food is just as good as ever.
The ladies dishing up that food were in good spirits yesterday. The move seems to have suited the restaurant well and hasn't decreased the popularity of the place one bit. The same mixture of locals and business-suited downtown workers was present at lunch as ever, but the dining room handles the crowds better and the steam table line runs quickly and efficiently.
I ordered a plate of porkchops with macaroni and cheese, cabbage and okra, while my friend got a plate piled high with oxtails, more cabbage, mashed potatoes and green beans. He seemed to be considering the oxtails very carefully as he sucked the tender, fatty meat off the bones. This is a man who grew up on oxtails, knows them as intimately as his own hands. Finally, he spoke: "You know, the oxtails at Reggae Hut have better seasoning. But no one cooks their oxtails as good as This Is It. They just know what they're doing here."
And although we were sad that Adrian's is no more, it's comforting to know that even as Houston continues to morph and change and gentrify -- as some things get pushed to the very edges and just as there seems to be no room for them anymore -- things will find a way to thrive. I'm thankful that This Is It, which has been a Houston institution since 1959, is one of those survivors.