3919 Scott Street
Houston, TX 77004
April 2004–On Scott street, in front of the Texas Southern University entrance, is a place often overlooked because of its appearance. It’s a small building with a billboard reading “Today’s Special: 5 wings, medium drink with fries or dirty rice. $4.89 plus tax,” and in green and white lettering reads, Frenchy’s. When I first heard about Frenchy’s, I thought it was an Italian restaurant, since the base word is French, but it’s not. The actually name “Frenchy’s” refers to the French influence in New Orleans (New Orleans was founded by France in 1718 and currently has strong French influences). Under the name Frenchy‘s Creole Fried Chicken, Frenchy’s opened in 1969. Creole is a mixture of seasonings and mild spices trendy in New Orleans.
Frenchy’s doesn’t look like a New Orleans eatery but more of an abandoned building. The type you pay no attention to while driving since there aren’t any bright lights or cute trademark characters. However, the aroma is an attention getter. It smells of different seasonings, with a little more pepper than salt. This is a marketing tactic. A church is located behind Frenchy’s, and they know church folk are hungry after the benediction. And smelling a hypnotic fragrance only urges gluttony. How convenient is that? It would be interesting if Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and Frenchy’s did a business merger project. Well, hey they might as well.
After Sunday church, I run over to Frenchy’s for the today’s special; and I always skip out on breakfast so I can build up an appetite. As soon as the church says it’s last “amen,” I pick up my blue and green Teen Study Bible and rush towards the front entrance. It’s not that I don’t want to be there but I want to beat the hungry “church folk rush.” If the crowd moves in the aisles before me, it will be an eternity before I see the door.
I swiftly walk over, approaching the back side of the powered blue building, hoping not to dirty my brand new boots from New York Transit; and no I am not bragging. The drive through is already full with 11:00am church goers. Since the business is so small, it looks funny with all the cars surrounding it. The cars linked together resembles a big snake, engulfing its prey.
I arrive to the side metal screen door and step inside, or actually outside. The eating area is covered with a hard see-through plastic material, but it’s still outside from the service area. No one utilizes the eating area since they have metal picnic tables, which doesn’t feel too good on a hot summer day; and to top it off there is no air condition. Most customers prefer eating in their cars than in Frenchy’s. I don’t like eating inside either. With people constantly going in and out of the small place, I feel claustrophobic. The eating area is only an arm length from the side entrances. This is the one grievance I have with Frenchy’s: the lack of family dining. In fact, no where along the 5 mile stretch of Scott street between Interstate 45, is there a restaurant where a family can sit down, order from a menu and enjoy a meal.
As always, the lines are long. So long that the business has copies of Houston Press near by. I guess time passes when you read. Beside the newspaper stand, is the cashier sliding-glass window. It’s only open when taking an order, receiving money, and giving the food. Third Ward is a crime filled area; and the thin piece of glass is the only thing protecting the Frenchy’s employees from armed robbery. Customers range in age, race, and nationality, although, the majority of the staff is black. Chatter and the sound of frying fills the air. I can’t help but to listen to the conversations, especially from the church members: you never know what gossip you may hear.
“Kentucky Fried Chicken has nothing on Frenchy’s,” one customer protests.
“Damn that chicken smells good!” another customer exclaims.
Not once does anyone complain about waiting in line so long. The only comments I hear are about how satisfied they are with the food. I never knew someone could hold a ten minute yet interesting conversation on the quality of the food at Frenchy’s. All the meals I’ve tried, have been exceptionally prepared and made to order. My favorite dish is the fried chicken, collard greens, yams, and corn bread. The fried chicken has the best seasoning I’ve ever tasted. Even better than my grandmother’s. I considered working at Frenchy’s to steal, I mean, borrow the recipe. Frenchy’s chicken is tender and crunchy at the same time. Even the white meat is salivary. What is it that makes the chicken so good? The owner, Percy Creuzot, states the recipe “It’s a little of this and a little of that.”
Frenchy’s cuisines reminds me of my family and the Sunday soul food dinners we would have. I remember how everyone would help out in the kitchen, contributing their talents. For some reason my family didn’t want me to cook anything (I think this stems from the time I overcooked the macaroni and cheese). Therefore my job was to just set the table and wash the dishes. My family seemed to grow closer every Sunday as we sit together around the table, saying our grace, and pigging out.
Soul food has always been a term associated with the African American culture. Many have asked, “What foods are considered to be soul food?” Fried chicken, yams, black eyed peas, yes, but that is not quite accurate. The term soul food evolved from and refers to the sorrow and suffering of slaves on southern plantations. Not necessarily the food itself. During slavery, cooking and eating was a way to escape the realities of bondage. Cooking was the only thing blacks were allowed to do, actually. Cooking was more of a fellowship and even a rejoicing at times. Soul food brought slaves together and gave hope, to their souls. It was during the meal where family and friends visited, oral history was re-told, and prohibited religious rituals were held. My grandma told stories of how while eating, slaves talked and sang about their hopes in the return of Jesus Christ. I believe this is where the actual term soul food originated from. It’s just amazing how something like food can link hearts and even souls.
“Welcome to Frenchy’s how may I help?”
“Uh yes. Can I get the special with dirty rice and iced-tea?”
The major lesson I learned is to preserve tradition. It’s custom now that I go to Frenchy’s after Sunday church. Soul food has a far greater meaning than the superficial aspects of it. It’s about culture, love, embracing, appreciation, and connection. The soul food experience shouldn’t only be embraced by just the African American culture, but by everyone. Frenchy’s is helping me keep this perspective since I am not familiar with Houston and Frenchy’s is down the street from the University of Houston. I don’t have access to home cook meals on campus. Food choices appear to be limited to burgers and pizza. What if there wasn’t a Frenchy’s? Then where would I go?
Even though Frenchy’s is not a high scale eatery, I am proud to call it my home away from home.