Third Ward Eats
Even Khator has said it: UH is a part of the Third Ward. Not midtown, not downtown, and the not the Gallery. We’re in the Tre’. While media might tend to perpetuate stereotypes about this community, we at Cooglife know that, really, at the heart of the Third Ward are some good people. And what follows good people? Good food, naturally. And maybe what you haven’t heard about Third Ward is the good cooking. But we’re here to change that. Here’s our guide to getting off campus and eating some delicious, food while supporting local business owners instead of Aramark-owned restaurants.
3481 Elgin St
Two necessities seem requisite to the average college student’s diet: Ice cream and burgers. To that, we at Cooglife say, por que no los dos? Thus, time and again, we find ourselves at Cream Burger.
The little white stand might feel simple, but the order never is. How do you choose between the pineapple and strawberry shakes? Can you make a frito pie, chunky with beans and onions, complement a cheeseburger?
These are common anxieties at the burger joint, which sits on the edge of campus and harbors more than half a century’s worth of secrets about flipping patties and spinning milkshakes. Willie’s Cream Burger opened in 1961 as the only restaurant around, and now it stands as close to a fast food joint as the Third Ward might want to get–but with much higher quality, in our opinion.
Things may have changed around the area since the ‘60s—the light rail stops nearby and the glinting stands of TDECU Stadium can be seen not too far away—but Cream Burger’s prices seem the same. It costs less than $3 for a burger; half that for a hot dog.
While Cream Burger hasn’t updated their prices, it also hasn’t looked to update payment options. It’s still cash only, and murmurs around the area suggest that if you’re talking on your phone while waiting to be served, you won’t get to order at all.
Luckily, we live in a world with a plethora of ATMs. There’s one nearby at a gas station. Pop over, grab a few bucks, and go for a burger. It’s worth it.—TS
3419 Dowling St
Five years ago, if you asked Deepak Doshi what the Third Ward needed, he might have answered with something that sounds bonkers at first: a vegan bakery. Strangely, that just might be exactly right.
Since opening, Doshi House has expanded into a cafe that doubles as a center for the community to work, study and experience local artwork while learning about alternative dietary options.
Now consider your dietary options: the Mumbai Streets panini, stuffed with potato and jalapenos, chutney and cucumber; the Yachea Gogi panini, slathered in a Korean BBQ marinade with shitaki mushroom protein; and the Artisan Grill panini, a sandwich that sponsors mint, basil and roma over grilled artichoke, tomatoes and onions.
Every day at 5 p.m., Doshi House serves a different meal that ranges from creole beans and rice to Islander Stew. Be quick—Doshi House closes at 8 p.m. each day except for Sunday, when it closes at 5 pm., and they don’t serve an evening meal.
But back to what they do serve: Coffee. The good kind. Doshi House imports Greenway Coffee all the way from Upper Kirby, and they host a variety of full-leaf teas, too. There are smoothies and tonics, too, for those who, for whatever reason, might want to skip the vegan muffins and goodies.
This year, Doshi House aims to complete its second-story renovation, which will sport an art gallery for locals to display their work a la Project Row Houses just a few blocks down. But don’t worry, the paninis aren’t going anywhere.—TS
2712 Blodgett St
The name proclaims it: Never again will you search for a restaurant to serve you a delicious oxtails, banana pudding or mac’n’cheese just the way you like it.
That’s not to say you couldn’t try to find another soul food joint. But how might they stuff their cornish hen? Can you trust their marinade for chitterlings? From the boiled ham hocks to the meatloaf, This Is It is, well, it.
If the names of these dishes are new to you, don’t fret: Moving through the cafeteria-style line here is more about pointing at the heaping piles of meat that look best than actually knowing what’s in them. And of course, in the soul food style, the entree and sides are served gargantuan.
This is it Soul Food opened in 1959 in Freedman’s Town, now rebranded and whitewashed as Midtown, by Frank and Mattie Jones, who also ran a boarding house which on occasion hosted the likes of Louis Armstrong.
While it has hopped around a few locations across Houston since, the restaurant is still family-operated, and current owner Craig and Georgette Joseph hoped to maintain their family’s legacy when they facilitated the restaurant’s move to Third Ward in 2010.
Open every day of the week and also serving bountiful breakfasts and treats like peach cobbler and slices of sweet potato pie for dessert, This Is It has kept alive a necessary and often-overlooked genre of both food and culture in a city known for its diversity and cuisine.—TS
4529 Old Spanish Trail
When Ray Busch first started out in the barbecue business in 1985, he worked during the night with a food truck serving outside Houston’s hottest night clubs. But in 2011, his long-time dream of owning his own brick-and-mortar restaurant came true when he and his long-time, high school friend, Maxine Davis, opened up Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack.
Ray quit his day job at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and started working full-time to produce some of Houston and the Third Ward’s best barbecue.
Now an essential part of historic Third Ward, Ray’s BBQ pit cooks up more than just their tantalizing, hickory-smoked meats. They offer an array of burgers, soups, salads, Cajun food, po’boys, as well as fresh-baked desserts.
If barbecue is your weakness, you don’t have far to go to find Ray’s in the Third Ward—located on Old Spanish Trail, it’s sweet, hickory meats are smoked on-location daily. And don’t forget to taste-test their baby back rib specials, paired with one (or three) of the delicious sides like mac’n cheese and bacon green beans.
Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack is a testament to real Houston barbecue, and you won’t want to miss out on this piece of Third Ward food culture—or their smoked brisket.—KJ
3319 Scott Street
Founded by Louisiana native, Percy “Frenchy” Creuzot, in 1969, the beloved Creole diner has risen to fame from its humble beginnings. When Creuzot first came to Houston from New Orleans in 1965, he was set up as a traveling salesman before turning his attention to crafting the perfect fried chicken seasoning, which eventually became the feature food at what we know today as Frenchy’s Fried Chicken.
Now a long-standing establishment in the Third Ward, Frenchy’s is only a block from the UH campus, making it a student favorite for off-campus dining.
The Cajun/Creole joint has also been featured on the music videos of Houston’s beloved pop queen, Beyonce and—let’s face it—if she loves it, it has to be good.
Serving up fare such as fried catfish, wings, the “Creole Sampler” and numerous other mouth-watering plates, Frenchy’s shines as one of the Third Ward’s key food components. They even have a “Campus Special” for $6.99 that offers students a slam-bang deal on their fried chicken for cheap.
Don’t miss out on this piece of Third Ward and Houston history, and we guarantee you’ll be back, hungry for more.—KJ