Plenty has changed at Lankford Grocery & Market over its 75 years as a grocer, then burger stand, then full-service restaurant on a shady Montrose corner outfitted with cherry red picnic tables under old oak trees. Though for a long time, the mornings at Lankford still spoke of a not-so-distant time before the surrounding neighborhood gentrified, before Lankford was surrounded by three- and four-story townhomes with Audis parked out front. People in the adjacent new developments that span from the edge of Montrose into Midtown were either still asleep on Saturday mornings or at some nearby CrossFit gym when Lankford's old guard occupied most of the oilcloth-covered tables atop the sharply slanting, occasionally slippery dining room floor.
Lankford Grocery & Market
88 Dennis St.
These days, that old guard—primarily elderly men discussing the events of the prior day, a sort of urban Spit & Whittle club—is still there in the mornings, though the newer residents of the neighborhood have taken note that the little retro restaurant also serves breakfast in addition to burgers. Now, the dining room hums with two distinct sorts of discussions in the morning over plates of waffles and baskets of breakfast tacos large enough to be properly termed "burritos."
"What I like to do with the cauliflower is roast it first," a young man at the table next to me instructed his friend one recent Saturday morning. Both were in their late 20s, both sported neatly trimmed beards and expensive-looking workout gear. "And then you put it through the ricer."
"Wow," his friend replied earnestly. "I never thought of that." Their discussion of innovative vegetable preparation techniques persisted throughout most of the meal.
Meanwhile, I turned my attention to my plate of biscuits and gravy—one thing about Lankford that's changed very little. There are a handful of places left in Houston worth ordering biscuits and gravy at. My British ex-husband used to balk at the idea of Americans (or, rather, Southerners) eating pasty-colored carbohydrates drenched in pasty-colored carbohydrates mixed with fat. (I always appreciated the irony of this revulsion considering his own national cuisine.) At most places, that's the rough appeal of biscuits in gravy—which is to say, there's little to no appeal at all.
At Lankford, however, the biscuits and gravy are made the way my mother and grandmother used to serve them. The butter-drenched biscuits have the crusty exterior that tastes as if they were baked in a cast-iron skillet, while the peppery gravy has that same old-fashioned aesthetic. It doesn't taste like the curiously fluffy white gravy so often encountered these days, but rather the sort of gravy that emerges with a primordial vigor when you pour just the right amount of flour and whole milk into a skillet shimmering with a shallow layer of fresh pork grease. It tastes homemade. It tastes right.
This process is more time-consuming, of course, than making the preschool paste-like stuff often seen elsewhere, which means that Lankford only serves its biscuits and gravy on Saturday mornings between 7 a.m. and noon. The price is right—only $5 for a plate that comes with two sausage patties on the side—but be warned: the restaurant is cash only, one the few other basics at Lankford that hasn't changed in 75 years.