When husband-and-wife team Otto and Annie Sofka first founded Otto's Barbecue and Hamburgers in 1950, they never dreamed barbecue would become the meat and potatoes of the family's livelihood. The small corner grocery store specialized in canned and boxed goods—that is until Annie started cooking up hamburgers at the request of hungry regulars. As the popularity of Annie’s burgers grew, the store’s shelves were cleared out to make room for tables and chairs to accommodate the growing lines of customers. Within two years, the Sofkas were officially in the burger business. By the ’60s, they were ready to add old family barbecue recipes to the menu, and Otto’s has been a favorite pit stop for Houston barbecue lovers ever since.
Three generations have now manned the kitchen at Otto’s, satisfying customers as varied as George Bush Sr., Liberace, and George Foreman with barbecue that has been smoked in a hickory grill for 18 hours. Chefs pair seven meat choices, including beef brisket, slow-smoked pork ribs, and sausage links, with a range of homestyle sides and giant stuffed potatoes, creating full meals that showcase the flavors of the South better than an art installation built from chicken-fried steaks. The chefs at Otto’s also serve up their own line of bottled sodas, ensuring enough frothy root beer, orange soda, and cream soda to wash down the saucy eats.
Mary Had a Little Party’s charming candy cart reminds groups that while the times may be changing, a simpler era is not forgotten. Beneath a colorful awning and atop a classic white two-wheeled cart, bountiful candies such as rock candy, cotton candy, and Lemonheads perch to please partiers at any occasion. Kristen, the visionary founder of Mary Had a Little Party, created this candy cart as a way to inspire today’s children with memories of her own childhood, which she spent selling lemonade, making up games with her sister, and creating memories that can’t be bought in a store. She and her crew also please audiences with a traveling puppet theater that reenacts a princess show, or performs a fun twist on the classic nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle.
T.G.'s To Go's menu of homemade, ready-to-go meals satisfies groups of any size with homestyle casseroles, comfort foods, and side dishes. Trays of meatloaf, stuffed manicotti shells, and almond-topped chicken with wild rice vie for shopper's attention in the fresh and frozen coolers, with a small portion of any entree ($20) feeding a family of four or a touring kazoo quartet. Tubs of specialty salads such as black-eyed-pea and mandarin-orange ($3.50–$4.50/person) stand ready to act in a supporting role to any meal, and corn chowder and mushroom bisque ($10–$15/quart) warm bellies and fill soup-lover's bathtubs.
Over the course of 31 years, the smiling staffers at Express Oil Change & Service Centers have learned that customers just want their oil changed fast. Instead of selling extra parts out of an oversize trench coat, staffers work quickly and efficiently to give cars what they crave; quarts of thick, black oil in the blink of an eye without an appointment. Each procedure lasts approximately 10 minutes, during which mechanics will replace the vehicle's oil and inspect its innards for problems. The process is so quick that customers can even wait inside their own vehicles while it occurs, much like a drive-thru car wash or drive-thru dentist appointment.
Bottums Up Beverages sets up shop just about anywhere to create a full-service bar with a selection of more than 100 alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for events big and small. TABC-certified bartenders stand at your service for hours on end doling out frozen drinks from margarita machines, cocktails with guest-supplied liquor, and alcohol-free drinks for kids and dogs wearing overcoats. Not just limited to drinks, Bottoms Up Beverages also provides manpower by way of servers, security guards, and photographers included in larger-party packages.
Tell us about your business.
My business is a catering and carry-out food business. Just think of it as a place where you can not only buy lunch on the run, but if you don't want to cook dinner, come and pick out some goodies for that meal, also. [It's] family run and local [with] organic salads, entrees and a lot of different sides.
How would you classify your cuisine?
Healthy homestyle with a twist!
How would you describe the ambiance of your business?
Large, working open kitchen! You can watch us create great-tasting food while you eat one of our award-winning chicken-salad sandwiches.