|2002 Manor Rd.
Austin TX, 78722
I first met Hoover Alexander 32 years ago when I was doing my first and brief series of reviews for KTTV (now KXAN). He was helming a lovely little Cajun joint on 6th street. I remember being impressed not only by his obvious talent but also by his charm and easy-going demeanor.
His restaurant closed (through no fault of his), and my reviewing gig at Channel 36 came to an end after a management change (not unusual in the broadcast world).
So some years passed, and we lost touch. But there he was again doing what he does best at Good Eats on Barton Springs (now home to Uncle Billy’s). And I had resumed my reviewing career on KLBJ-AM radio and on FOX-7 TV. I stopped in for breakfast one Saturday, and he blew me away with his Blueberry Bran Muffins and some stellar Migas. So we shot a TV review, and it was like time had stood still. The guy could make anything! And unlike many chefs, he was without attitude or hubris. And then alas, Good Eats closed, again through no fault of Hoover’s.
He called a few months later and came by my office. He was thinking of doing a restaurant on Manor and asked for some advice. We chatted for several hours and the rough framework for Hoover’s Cooking was laid out. He was going to do a Southern style comfort food restaurant: mac and cheese (with a nod to one of my grandmother’s recipes), killer chicken fried steak, Elgin sausage, good old-fashioned fried Catfish (blackened came later), a gigantic Muffaletta, collard greens, and just about anything else Southern that his customers asked for. How about the amazing Hoe Cakes for breakfast (taken from the name that pre Civil War slaves gave to the ground corn pancakes they made while working in the fields cooking the cakes on their hoes). To this day, I’ve never tasted anything so damned good. The place was an immediate hit, and he opened two more: one in San Antonio and another on Research (at the former home of Ray’s Steakhouse).
Again, Hoover was bedeviled by the astonishingly ridiculous red tape that the city of Austin seems to specialize in with regard to the hospitality industry. He lost both restaurants and I remember thinking that the guy had the patience of Job. No rancor or bad blood though. He just rolled up his sleeves and redoubled his efforts. Hoover’s Cooking still stands on Manor and he’s added a trailer. You want authentic Southern soul food? Then Hoover’s Cooking is the spot.
He is a man of great kindness, and I’ve never known him to turn from anyone in need. When long-time manager Skip needed back surgery, Hoover was on the front lines raising money. He gave no thought to his two lost restaurants, only to his old friend and employee. Because that’s the way this beautiful, bald black man rolls.
So when you come to his joint, and he greets you and gives you a handshake or a hug, there can be no question that he means it. He exudes kindness and humbleness: you get the feeling that once he’s your friend, it’s a lifetime kind of thing, kind of like my enormous affinity for his Grilled or Fried Pork Chops with genuine mashed potatoes, cream gravy, and broccoli. There is only one Hoover, and I hope he stays around for a long, long time!