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A Beloved Houston Cajun and Soul Food Restaurant Is Expanding

The new Esther’s Cajun Cafe will debut about a mile away from the Independence Heights original with a bigger space

a plate of fried catfish, mac and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, mustard greens and a slice of cornbread
Esther’s Cajun Café & Soulfood is expanding with a new, much larger location.
Esther’s Cajun Café & Soulfood/Facebook

A popular family-owned soul food cafe in Independence Heights is expanding with a new location on Shepherd Avenue, bringing with it a larger menu, and an all-new bar serving cocktails spiked with Southern influence.

The second outpost of Esther’s Cajun Café & Soulfood will be located at 5007 N. Shepherd Drive, about a mile away from the original at 5204 Yale Street. An opening date for the second spot has not yet been announced, but it will be more than twice the size of the original location and will include a private dining room, expanded hours, and a walk-up service window, according to a press release.

Chef Esther Lewis-Bernard founded her first restaurant in 2008 in Independence Heights, a tight-knit, historically Black community known as the first Black city in Texas. Her aim then was to share her interpretation of Southern and soul food with her community, and in the years since, her cooking has become nationally recognized, leading her to open a catering businesses as well. The Esther’s empire is now run by Lewis-Bernard and three of her six children.

The new space will allow the company to add some additional menu items that were hard to prepare in the original kitchen, including turkey necks, beef tips, lamb chops, and more. Other menu staples include oxtails, garlic-roasted baked chicken, cornbread dressing, shrimp and crawfish etouffee, tea cakes, banana pudding and more.

New to the Shepherd location will be a full-service bar featuring Louisiana and Southern-themed cocktails, including boozy Kool-Aid, New Orleans classics, and seasonal frozens.

“We’re not moving—we’re growing,” says the family behind Esther’s in a statement. “We’ll still be right here in Independence Heights. This is our home, and we love serving our community. This new location is going to allow us to serve everyone in even more ways, and we could not be more excited and grateful.”