Top 10 Restaurants in the Third Ward

Categories: Top 10

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Photo by Katya Horner
Cleveland Turner, the Third Ward's famous Flower Man.
All of Houston's original six wards are rich with history, but none captivate me quite as much as the Third Ward. Once home to the city's wealthiest residents, the area just southeast of downtown has gone through a tremendous amount of change since it was first established in 1836.

The Third Ward has been called "the elite neighborhood of late 19th-century Houston," home to "a silk-stocking neighborhood of Victorian-era homes" that changed drastically with the construction of Union Station -- now Minute Maid Park -- in 1911. The area quickly became less residential and more urban, and the first "flight" of residents took place as the neighborhood became saturated with hotels and other businesses catering to travelers.

Another significant flight took place in the 1950s, when neighborhoods such as Riverside Terrace underwent forced integration. The formerly Jewish neighborhood off MacGregor Way -- constructed in the 1930s at a time when Jews were forbidden by an unwritten gentleman's agreement from building or living within the WASP-y enclave of River Oaks -- saw its wealthy residents depart as blacks moved in. A second wave saw those wealthy blacks leave as Highway 288 was carved through the neighborhood in the 1960s.

Today, the Third Ward possess a dynamic mix of old and new as the area slowly undergoes a slow gentrification process: beautiful brick homes abutting wonderfully divey restaurants like Chief Cajun Snack Shack, 80-year-old meat markets turned into vegan coffee shops, non-profit arts organizations such as Project Row Houses side-by-side with still-occupied row houses. The University of Houston and Texas Southern University both call the Third Ward home, and so do a diverse mix of restaurants to suit every taste.

Note: The Third Ward is defined as southeast of Highway 288/59, southwest of Interstate 45, west of Highway 5/Calhoun and north of Wheeler/Blodgett. However, for the purposes of this post, the southern boundaries have been extended to MacGregor Way and the western boundaries have been extended to Almeda for historic reasons.

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
A half-pound cheeseburger from Chief's Cajun Snack Shack.
10. Chief's Cajun Snack Shack

Chief serves three main things at his burger shack on Southmore at Live Oak: burgers, barbecue and nachos. Although the three may seem incongruous, it's a combination that's remained a popular trio here for years. Everything comes in huge portions -- including the "small" nachos, topped with crumbled, finely-seasoned hamburger meat -- so come hungry, but be prepared to take your food to-go. There's no A/C in here and the smoke from the grill can get a little overwhelming, especially on a hot day.

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Oxtails and sides at Alfreda's.
9. Alfreda's Cafeteria

This cafeteria-style restaurant on Almeda is like a smaller version of This Is It, with all of the heart and soul intact in a comfortable, homey setting. Standouts on the steam table here are the oxtails, chicken and catfish, as well as the bacon fat-laden green beans and cabbage, all of which are served with a genuine smile. Portions are immense, so beware: You won't be walking out of here hungry, or with room for dessert. Luckily, Alfreda's packages its desserts (try the banana pudding) to go, so you can enjoy them later.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Grilled salmon burger at Concious Cafe.
8. Conscious Cafe

Perhaps the only Nation of Islam-run restaurant in town, Conscious Cafe is also the only place in town to get some bean pie, that cross between sweet potato and buttermilk pie which uses navy beans in place of sweet potatoes. Under Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad's dietary restrictions, sweet potatoes and most beans are verboten, but navy beans are kosher. Meat is also banned. Adhering to those guidelines, the cafe specializes in healthy pescatarian food like a grilled wild salmon burger and a savory eggplant hoagie. Owners Andrew Lewis, Shondra Muhammad and Nicole Hudson ensure that customer service is tops at this little neighborhood joint, which also serves as a community center of sorts for this Third Ward neighborhood; you'll feel right at home in no time, even if you don't know Farrakhan from Marrakesh.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Alfreda's Cafeteria

5101 Almeda, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Conscious Cafe

2016 Scott, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Bobbie Que's Rib Shack

3602 Scott, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Spanish Village

4720 Almeda, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

This Is It Soul Food

2712 Blodgett St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Doshi House Cafe

3419 Dowling St., Houston, TX

Category: General

Cream Burger

3481 Elgin St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Green Seed Vegan

4320 Almeda Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Frenchy's Chicken

3919 Scott St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
32 comments
christiantuck
christiantuck

That's the "Flower Man" my friend Mr. Cleveland Turner, a 3rd Ward Icon.  Why did the Vegan Cafe miss this list?  It is surely one of 3rd Ward's bestesest!!!

christiantuck
christiantuck

That's the "Flower Man" my friend Mr. Cleveland Turner, a 3rd Ward Icon.  Why did the Vegan Cafe miss this list?  It is surely one of 3rd Ward's bestesest!!!

thatre4life
thatre4life

rays bbq shack on ost is the best bbq in 3rd ward/south park. their potato salad is out of this world. glad thelma's closed.  glad bobbyques closed.  bbq sauce tasted like syrup and the meat tasted like water.  sometimes i see a bobbyques truck on almeda sitting outside of the club. doshi's red beans dish is tasty because it is kind of peppery. food at breakfast club is good.  there is always a line wrapped around the building.  food at reggae hut is not tasty.  food at green seed is good some days, some days not.  kind of inconsistent. but, it always expensive. i hear people say they go to spanish village for the margaritas, not for the food. cream burger is good, so is frenchy's but of course can't really enjoy the food because of worries about too much fat. also, i have heard about a place called lucille's around here which is supposed to be good. i got the navy beans at conscious cafe.  the dish tasted funny, kind of bitter like all the vegetables they cook in the dish had been frozen and rewarmed several times.  did not like.  have not been back.  

kevin818
kevin818

"forced" integration?  I don't think there was anything forced about it.

major_delmac
major_delmac

HEY HOW COME THE VEGAN PLACE WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO GOT THE 'LIKE US ON FACEBOOK' SIGN IN THE BG?  WHY U NO LIKE LEGACY 3RD WARD CAFES ON FACEBOOK?

jvp3
jvp3

These are all great, but I can't believe you didn't include Thelma's BBQ, which moved from EaDo to the Third Ward (corner of Scott & Southmore; technically Riverside Terrace, but since Third Ward and Riverside Terrace are right next to each other and predominantly African American, many consider the entire area "Third Ward")! New digs (and more elbow room), same old wonderfully gruff attitude, and still some of the best BBQ you've ever had. Also worth a mention -  Reggae Hut on Almeda, just a couple blocks north of Alfreda's! Superb Caribbean cuisine and atmosphere! Plus, just a nit-picky little correction - Chief's Cajun Snack Shack is not on Southmore at Live Oak; it's on Live Oak, just south of Southmore.

James Gomez
James Gomez

I wish Frenchy's wasn't so proud of their chicken. My wallet says no, but my tummy says yes.

Larry Gabriel
Larry Gabriel

that burger has to be from chiefs!!!!! i just know it.

Ian Smith
Ian Smith

had no idea there were so many "alternative" eating spots around here. Frenchy's ftw!

Noelle A. Perry
Noelle A. Perry

my brain totally interpreted this as "top 10 restaurants in the third world".

Shayan
Shayan

You guys forgot to add this cool urban grocery/wine bar in the Third Ward called Nature's Market. I'm surprised that it was not on the Top 10. It too is also apart of the Third Ward community. 

jlwm
jlwm

I passed by Bobbie Que's today and it's boarded up. Looks like it's been gone for a while.

Danny Neumann
Danny Neumann

Come for the food, stay for the heart attack.

LaLainya Brown
LaLainya Brown

Think I'll just work my way down the list... with a couple stops at Frenchy's in between for sweet potato pie!

Benjamin George Ward
Benjamin George Ward

oh okay.. I was about to write this off until I saw Frenchy's was number one. You got that right!!!

Gail Singer
Gail Singer

Wow, not one mention of Blues legends that sprung from the Third Ward?

MadMac
MadMac

LOVE Alfreda's and Chief's. This Is It is just like Thelma's--the food isn't worth the mouth and I won't be talked to like I have four legs and a tail when I'm spending my money.

Mitsy Marshall Parton
Mitsy Marshall Parton

Thanks for this. We were driving around over there a couple of weeks ago and I just KNEW there must be great stuff.

Elouise
Elouise

Spanish Village all the way!!

christiantuck
christiantuck

That's the "Flower Man" my friend Mr. Cleveland Turner, a 3rd Ward Icon.  Why did the Vegan Cafe miss this list?  It is surely one of 3rd Ward's bestesest!!!

fidelio
fidelio

@jvp3  Thelma's closed or so I heard recently.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@jlwm NOOOOOOOOOO! I am devastated. I really had no idea. Are you sure you're not thinking of the one on Jones? Either way, thanks for the heads up; will try to figure out what happened.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@Danny Noman Except at the three vegetarian places noted on the list.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@Gail Singer This is a food blog. I'm sure the guys at Rocks Off, our sister music blog, would have lively contributions in that area however.

jlwm
jlwm

@kshilcutt it's not the one on Jones. I'm talking about the one smack dab in the middle of Third Ward on Scott and Alabama.

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