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.
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.
As an international jazz club, Cafe 4212 Jazz Bar & Grill treats guests to a rotating lineup of blues singers as well as a seasonal menu of eclectic and classic dishes. Cafe 4212’s chefs use fresh and locally grown ingredients when available to crafts hors d'oeuvres such as fruit kebabs and Jamaican-style meat patties as well as entrees of praline-pecan ham and Cajun shrimp. Diners can also sip international wines, imported and microbrewed beers, specialty cocktails, and martinis.
Jazz performances on weekend nights and during Sunday brunch send patrons heading for Cafe 4212’s dance floor. Walls ornamented with red and gold hues pop against the restaurant’s ivory-clothed tables and tan leather couches, and a large outdoor patio supplies a romantic setting for couples to take in some fresh air or scream at passing airplanes.