On Sundays after church, Myrtle Zachary-Jackson’s family of cooks and bakers gathered to make meals for one another. Her elders rarely used recipes, so Myrtle had to study every step until she could replicate their dishes herself. Just as her grandparents and aunts imbued her with a passion for baking, she inspired her daughters, Andrea and Rosharon, to start cooking at a young age. When Myrtle decided to open Not Jus Donuts Bakery in 2000, she turned to her daughters and grandchildren for help in re-creating their family recipes, by then some five or six generations old.
Sticking to tradition, every dessert at Not Jus Donuts is made from scratch. The ladies crack every farm-fresh egg by hand before whipping up cheesecakes with Philadelphia cream cheese, cookies baked fresh daily, hand-decorated cupcakes, and exquisitely designed cake balls and cake pops. Made without preservatives, their cakes range from standard sheet cakes to 3-D creations designed to resemble bowling balls and turntables and 8-D cakes shaped like time itself.
The cooks at Fish Place fill their menu with Cajun and Creole-inspired seafood dishes, such as rich seafood gumbo and shrimp po-boy sandwiches with jalapeño mayonnaise. They also fry up oysters, redfish, and popcorn shrimp, and assemble 25-to-75-piece “Family Seafood Packs” with combinations of catfish, tilapia, chicken, hushpuppies, and fries.
Words such as “shrimp” and “gumbo” decorate the wallpaper in a handwritten pattern, just as they did in the oval office during the Jimmy Carter presidency. Furthermore, the cooks’ daily specials appear as vivid chalkboard portraits.
Visitors to the Dionsio Winery Wine Festival sample the award-winning rich reds, crisp whites, and sweet fruit wines from a selection of local wineries. Local restaurants and vendors whip up delectable dinners and food pairings, while merchants peddle memorable keepsakes and handmade jewelry. Energetic classic rock outfit Thermal Fusion fills the air with a catchy live soundtrack, as staff fill commemorative wine glasses with endless samples of Dionisio's delicious wines. With food, wine, and tunes provided by Houston-based bands and businesses, the fest is a better way to celebrate the local culture than nibbling sandwichs into the shape of the Astro's stadium.
When Louisiana native Lisa Carnley found herself in Houston after Hurricane Katrina, she decided to unpack her culture inside a storefront on Jefferson and Hutchinson. The Cajun Stop is a little taste of Lisa?s home, and most visitors will agree that it?s not lacking in spice. Plates of crawfish ?touf?e make sure of that, though for every fiery main course there?s a cool complement for dessert.
Despite all these options, the real draw on the menu has always been the 16 po?boy sandwiches that Lisa grew up rolling in her grandmother?s restaurant. Nowadays, she considers everyone who walks in the door a member of her family. Like any good host, she surrounds her guests with painted windows, colorful pictures, and sports-inspired d?cor such as a furry rug made from the jersey of a former LSU Tiger.
At Skol Casbar & Grille, flames waft aromas of sizzling steaks, fish fillets, and sandwiches to tables where patrons pore over a full menu. Grilled catfish, salmon, and pork chops can be topped with a choice of grilled onions, tomatoes, or mushrooms, and sides such as blackened green beans and garlic potatoes let patrons surprise their mouths without hiding a firecracker in their napkin. Skol Steak Mondays sate twosomes by layering plates with a duo of steaks, garlic mashed potatoes, salads, and drinks.
Skol Casbar & Grille also equips catered events and in-house parties on the restaurant's patio. A selection of barbecue, Mexican, and Italian dishes fuel conversation and can easily be consumed while celebrating birthdays or hosting model U.N. meetings.
At Café TH, Minh makes the meal. Besides owning the restaurant, Minh Nguyen acts as the head chef and host. You might expect a harried, frantic fellow sprinting about amid a clatter of broken dishes, but somehow he pulls it off. Not only that, his auteur attitude makes dining out feel more like attending a dinner party. Before he starts folding made-to-order Autumn rolls, he takes the time to learn each guest’s name and their tastes. As local food critic, Alison Cook, has pointed out, “he’s won a loyal following that ranges from tattooed young bicyclists to Asian families to grizzled cops.” Using fresh, local ingredients, Minh crafts classic banh mi sandwiches, and such entrees as Cantonese-styled fried eggs over preserved turnips or vermicelli with chargrilled chicken. He also maintains a section of the menu devoted to vegans, which landed Café TH a spot on the Houston Press ’s Top 10 Vegan Spots.