In this week's cafe review, we take a look at how Lankford Grocery has managed to remain relevant and curiously current despite nearly 75 years of dealing in the dual arts of burgers and nostalgia. But what's equally interesting to me is gathering stories of Lankford Grocery's patrons over the years.
I turned to Facebook to ask my friends, family and colleagues what their favorite memories of Lankford were and was inundated with responses. Although I was only able to share a few in the review itself, I wanted to share the rest here. Because the story of our shared experiences at an old favorite restaurant can also be read as a story of Houston.
"There were no Perry Homes and not many signs of close neighbors as you looked out the open doors when I was introduced to Lankford. I loved the burger, found it addictive, and became a weekly regular when my office was downtown. Sitting with our hands full of juicy burgers, my friends and I watched as development stripped away all the trees and shrubs across the street to put in town houses. I miss Lankford burgers, the open spaces, and my downtown office, in that order." - Sue Wittie
"I just remember our first time there our table was so wonky from the sloping floor, Gary ended up with a few glasses of water in his lap! He did save his burger from being soaked though....had to be at least 20 years ago!" - Maureen Hall
"The 1st time I went there, I was in awe of the cheeseburger. So juicy that I was covered in the delicious mess!!" - David LaRock
"I remember frequenting Emo's quite a bit when it was on Albany and one day my friend asked if I had ever eaten at Lankford around the corner? I remember thinking, There's a restaurant in *this* neighborhood? Back in the day, no one that currently lives in the area would probably have even set foot in the neighborhood as it was a bit scary. There were no townhomes or shoddily constructed condos or renovated warehouses turned apartments. I remember my first burger eaten there was on a Saturday and the place was packed to the gills. I remember the floor being creaky and wondering if was going to hold a group of guys all eating these massive homestyle burgers. It did. I loved going to Lankford that day and being introduced to this little gem." - Groovehouse
"The first time I ate at Lankford was with the two owners of the PR firm where I had a summer internship while in college. The majority of their clients were restaurants and other hospitality-based businesses and I got to go to a lot of nice lunches and dinners with them. So imagine my surprise when we pulled up at Lankford. Ha! We went in, slid into one of the horseshoe-shaped booths that was covered with a plastic Fourth of July-themed tablecloth and had a vase of red, white and blue faux flowers and ordered burgers, fries and Diet Cokes all around. Damn, that was a good burger! I loved that internship just a little bit more after that lunch. In fact, I am still here...my one and only job!" - Paula Murphy
"My favorite memory was the last time I was there BEFORE the huge Guy Fieri poster showed up on the wall." - Crystal Jackson
"My favorite memory was my husband, Ryan -- then my boyfriend -- eating the Firehouse burger against the advice of the waiter. Ryan was insisting that he could handle it, as he liked spicy food, and the waiter insisted that 'No, it's REALLY spicy.' This was a challenge to my husband and he defiantly ordered it. After the first bite, he was sweating. The second, tears were streaming down his face (at this point the waiter brought a glass of milk). Third and fourth bites were full-on 'steam-from-the-ears' spice attacks. It was epic!" - Sarah Gabbart
"While we're sitting on the patio waiting for food, some lady with a video camera comes up to us and asks if she can film us saying some scripted one-liner. I think the idea was that we were playing clueless tourists who were clearly out of place. Anyway, it turned out she worked for the Chronicle and we ended up on some local color video blog piece on the Chron's website. Kinda silly looking back, but my friend and I sure felt like minor celebrities that day." - Chris Frankel
"I guess I've only been eating there for the last 11-12 years. My favorite memory? The first time I was there and decided that I needed to order one of everything on the menu. So. Full." - Emily Schwenke Ybarra
To read more memories from Lankford Grocery, head over to this week's review. Or to add memories of your own, chime in below.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.