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.
Ben & Jerry’s has double-handedly transformed ice cream from a dreary and dreaded after-dinner chore into a dazzling treat that can be easily stored in pants pockets. The shop offers a variety of frozen confections, from milkshakes to large ice-cream cups and cones, hot-fudge sundaes, and signature pints. Spoon the cuddly depths of Ben & Jerry’s famous original flavors, such as Cake Batter, Cherry Garcia, Imagine Whirled Peace, Triple Caramel Chunk, Peanut Brittle, Chunky Monkey, Half Baked, Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz, New York Super Fudge Chunk, and more.
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.
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.
Recently featured on KHOU-TV and in 002Houston magazine, Green Plate Kids gives harried parents a wholesome reprieve from meal preparation with a nutritious menu of kid-friendly breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. Furnish sparse lunch satchels with energy-replenishing meals such as the turkey taco kit ($4.95), or cover unsightly holes in the dinner table with a large platter of turkey meatloaf with cauliflower mashed potatoes ($23.95, feeds four).