Sate your palate and your spirits with some of the best soul food west of the Mississippi at Viola & Agnes’ Neo Soul Café, located southeast of Houston in Clear Lake. 

For something off the beaten path in Clear Lake, particularly before or after spending time at NASA or on the bay, check out this super-casual, funky little BYOB spot for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch.

Hidden within a non-descript strip center off Nasa Road 1, the café is where former offshore chef Aaron Davis decided to make his restaurant dreams come true.

With a name that combines a salute to his grandmothers along with inspiration from a love of old school soul music, and soul with a modern twist (as in neo-soul), it’s the perfect analogy for Davis’ cuisine, which gives a strong nod to his Louisiana roots, but definitely with his own spin.

Counter Service Casual

You’ll find counter service and a simple but sweet dining room. The emphasis is squarely on the food, which is definitely southern soul food, but with a lighter, fresher touch.

For example, the side dishes are typically vegetarian. They don’t use pork in their greens or beans (my own grandmother would say don’t bother making them without it) but they’re so flavorful, you don’t even miss it.

Shrimp & Grits | Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt

The Crowd

Expect to see everything from NASA engineers, college students, and the office worker set during weekday lunch.

During weekends, casual daters, couples, and families of all ages stand in line to place their orders before settling into the dining room or patio out front to wait for their order to be brought to the table.

Local Sourced Creole Flavors

The menu features soul food staples along with a few featured specials each day. The BBQ shrimp and grits uses fresh Gulf shrimp which Davis buys daily in Kemah. His take on the dish includes super-creamy grits and a luscious barbecue/butter sauce plussed with fresh peas, mushrooms and micro basil. You get the richness you want with a dish like this, but with those bright, fresh, notes alongside for balance.

Davis works diligently to source produce and proteins locally, which is a definite factor in the quality of the food served at Viola & Agnes’ Neo Soul Café.

The gumbo is right on, made with a luscious dark roux. It’s not too thick, just perfect in terms of texture and level of spice with plenty of shrimp.

Even non-catfish folks should consider the crispy fried version served by Davis, crusted in cornmeal and served with a citrus remoulade and charred poblano/basil aioli.

Regular features include homemade boudin balls, curried oxtails, po’ boys and stellar red beans and rice, served with wonderful smoked andouille sausage.

Do not under any circumstances miss the collard greens and don’t be in too much of a hurry. The food is cooked to order and takes a bit of time to come out, but it’s worth waiting for.

Gumbo | Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt

Sunday Brunch

Sunday brunch might find live music set-up in the dining room along with specials like pork hash or chicken and waffles.

Note that the restaurant is BYOB so bring your own vodka and bubbles for mimosas or Bloody Mary’s.

Viola & Agnes’ Neo Soul Café

Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt
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Jodie Eisenhardt is a marketing consultant, food writer and dog rescue advocate in Houston, Texas. Passionate about all things culinary, canine and song, she loves to travel in search of the perfect bite, followed by a performance by one of her favorite bands on tour. Find Jodie on Instagram and Twitter @foodiehouston.