Vibe Out: Alfreda’s still cooking up ‘soul’ in Third Ward
Written by Nakia Cooper on May 31, 2021
Driving down Highway 288, you can either smell the good food cooking at Alfreda’s Soul Food, or your mind is just playing tricks on you from the delicious memories, forcing you to take a detour to stop at the small eatery on the corner of Almeda servicing the largest of appetites. Here, you can savor the homemade grits with butter (salt and pepper, or sugar left for you to debate over), in addition to eggs made fresh your way and toast prepared before your eyes in an old-school toaster reminiscent of grandma’s kitchen. Or, in true southern style, you can dine on lunches and dinners fried or smothered “every which way.” It was a true pleasure to “Vibe Out” with the Alfreda’s family who is still serving old-fashioned soul food from the heart of Third Ward.
Vibe: What do you feel is the best feature of your restaurants…the food or the atmosphere, or is it something else?
Alfreda’s: Alfreda’s Soul Food has been a staple in the mind of Houstonians for almost 60 years. Alfreda’s bridges the generational gap. The chicken and waffles served with collard greens and yams bring the Baby Boomers and Millennials to a common ground for community and conversation. Alfreda’s bridges the ethnic divide. The savory smooth smothered oxtails are the number one favorite for all ethnicities. Alfreda’s eclectic Christian playlist helps to create a place of refuge and bridges the music genre chasm. Our friends enjoy eating and nodding their heads to the hard beats of hip hop. They like swaying to the soulful sounds of RB and feeling the raw lyrics of Country Western. They appreciate clapping to the joyful notes of pop and even chilling to the silky sounds of Neo Soul. When our friends come to Alfreda’s, they know that this is as close as it gets to Grandma’s kitchen table. And there is no recipe for all of this. For these reasons, we always say, “Alfreda’s Soul Food is a family reunion every day. Come back home!”
Vibe: How have you adjusted during COVID?
Alfreda’s: As with many local restaurants, the pandemic presented some challenges. Adding to a difficult year, we also were affected by a nearby explosion for months and the Texas Winter Storms for days. Ultimately, though, we were able to adapt and find ways to keep serving good food to good people. We used our online ordering and delivery systems and created a socially distance environment that still feels like home.
Most recently, we were named one of 25 recipients in the nation – and the only Black restaurant in the state of Texas – to be awarded a grant from American Express for their “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” grant. This inaugural program supports historic small restaurants such as Alfreda’s.
Alfreda’s is a keeper of the culture and a reminder of the legacy of African Americans’ contributions to culinary creations. We are excited to use the funds and this experience to continue Alfreda’s legacy.
Vibe: What do you do to give back to the community?
Alfreda’s: Community is of the utmost importance to us at Alfreda’s because, for over 50 years, it has been the community that has made us successful. We owe it to the community to not just sell a product, but to consider their lives. That is why we have found unique ways to make our soul food healthier without compromising the taste. We offer 12 fresh vegetables each day, such as our hand cut greens and yams. We also use our very own kitchen to serve up more than just food. Alfreda’s offers second-chance employment by giving minority men and women a chance to reclaim their lives in a family-oriented environment.
Vibe: How do you feel about the renewed interest or national push of supporting Black businesses? Do you think it will be short-lived?
Alfreda’s: Regardless of trends or what is going on in the media, we have to prioritize our businesses and our communities. It is important that Black people and all people make it less of a trend and more of a tradition. Historic Black Houston was extraordinarily successful because we patronized and supported one another. Today, more people from all backgrounds see the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses.
Vibe: Any advice to entrepreneurs or small business owners fighting to stay afloat during these challenging times?
Alfreda’s: Be faith-driven to fulfill your God-given purpose. Study yourself to become the best version of yourself. Do more of what you do best. Use your God-given gifts and resources to diversify a product or service that is already the number one seller. In other words, give your customers more of what they want in different ways.
Our customers love our savory food. So, we blended all the flavors into one bottle, called it “Cuisine Seasoning,” and sold it to them. As a top priority, always seek to provide the safest possible way of serving your staff and customers. Work with your customers on new ways of getting the product or service that they have grown accustomed to getting over the years. Many of our customers are Baby Boomers, so we spend time training them on how to order their favorite dishes online. We give our customers a heart-felt, genuine experience to keep them coming back.
More information on Alfreda’s Soul Food Restaurant:
Address: 5101 Almeda Rd, Houston, TX 77004
Phone: (713) 528-0020
Alfreda’s Soul Food – It’s a Family Reunion Everyday…Come Back Home…