The venue, now a restaurant for the community, is owned by Paul and Jessica Prior, the third generation to run the beloved spot.
Jessica said when Paul’s grandparents bought the spot in 1937, the sale also included the Washateria behind it. They turned it into a mom-and-pop store where people could cash their checks, buy groceries and do their laundry.
Lankford was later passed onto Paul’s parents, and then to them when his father passed away last year. She said she wants to keep the legacy going.
“Family is very important to me,” Jessica said. “It’s just something about this old building and the customers in the neighborhood.”
By the 1990s, the spot was officially a full-time restaurant. Lankford has since been modernized to fit in with the 21st century.
Although once strictly cash-only, when the pandemic hit, Jessica said they had to switch things up. Now they take all sorts of payment, work with online ordering services and do their own online orders.
One thing the Priors make sure to keep the same is the way the food is cooked. Nathan Wolfshohl, the general manager and cook, said if he makes something slightly different, the customers will know and tell him. Despite this, he said he likes to try to add new things to the menu.
Jessica said the staples, such as the Grim burger—a cheeseburger made with bacon, enchiladas and chicken fried steak—are still the most popular. One thing they feel makes them stand out from everything else is that the food is mostly all homemade, even their fries.
“All of our specials are made from scratch,” Wolfshohl said. “Everything is made from scratch, for the most part.”
The neighborhood spot is not just popular among Houstonians. Lankford has also been recognized twice by Guy Fieri’s TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
As for the future of Lankford, Jessica said she hopes to expand it beyond Houston and keep it in the family for generations to come. But for right now, they are focused on obtaining a liquor license, creating a burger of the month and implementing longer operating hours.
“I love this place; it’s a big part of me,” Jessica said. “It’s very special. It feels like family, and the other restaurants don’t feel that way. That’s the kind of customers we want here, and that we love and that love us.”
88 Dennis St., Houston
Hours: Sun.-Wed. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.,
Thu.-Fri. 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-8 p.m.