November 29, 2023

Alfreda’s Soul Food’s new spot artfully pays homage to history

When one of the oldest soul food restaurants in Houston relocated this summer, it took its sense of history, community, African-American culture, and great oxtails and pork chops with it to Griggs Road.

Alex Arzu, left, Commissioner Rodney Ellis

What Alfreda’s Soul Food couldn’t take was the colorful mural outside the Almeda Road location.

“We had a desire to have a mural at the new location, but no funding,” said co-owner Marguerite Williams.

But then came the e-mail request from the Greater Southeast Management District for nominations for a mural contest.

“The timing of this announcement was such that it was an answer to prayer,” she explained.

Consultants UpArtStudio curated the mural project for the District, whose mission includes making the area more attractive.

“We chose Alfreda’s because it was a good fit,” said Up Art co-founder Elia Quiles. “It’s a great wall and artist Alex Arzú was the right choice to do the mural.”

“I thank the community and Up Art Studio for having me on this project,” Arzú wrote on his Facebook page. “Portraits on John Biggers, Barbara Jordan, Pastor (William) Lawson, Mae Jamison, and Judson Robinson painted on one of Houston’s oldest soul food restaurants’ new location, incredible food. Definitely check it out.”

Biggers was the renowned artist who helped found the art department at Texas Southern University; Jordan was the first Black member of the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and later a member of Congress. Lawson is pastor emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston; Former NASA astronaut Jamison was the first Black woman to travel in space and Robison, Jr. — who owned the first Black Burger King franchise — was also the first Black member of the Houston City Council.

Williams’ husband Troy said they hit it off with Arzú right away: “We got to know him and his family. I really think he captured what we were looking for in the art.”

4530 D Griggs Rd

“The mural represents the history, heritage, and hope of the African Americans,” he said.

He said people who have never been to Alfreda’s, which opened in 1964, stop to take pictures in front of the mural.

Besides bring in new diners, Marguerite Williams hopes the mural will bring old regulars to the new location.

Also, “we hope the mural encourages other people to achieve their God-given dreams,” she said. “Alfreda’s has always been a place of community, a place of family. The individuals on the mural are a part of our heritage as much as the soul food that Alfreda’s sells. We have sought to keep that heritage alive and inspire our future.”

Said Troy Williams: “I thought we owned Alfredo’s, but we are just stewards of it. It belongs to the people of the community.”

Their motto is “Alfreda’s Soul Food… It’s a Family Reunion Everyday… Come Back Home.”

— by Marene Gustin