Weekend nights at Jax Grill on Shepherd throb with the infectious strains of live zydeco, drawing a packed crowd of dancers, diners and lovers of south Louisiana music in the heart of Houston.
Creole features look out from below the brims of felt cowboy hats, their bodies moving effortlessly to the beat as sets of keys jangle from men’s belts as they dance. For that one night, everyone is Creole, celebrating the rich Gulf Coast musical heritage brought over from Louisiana after the Great Flood of 1927, when the Mississippi River drowned the land and livestock of black share-croppers west of New Orleans, many of whom came to Houston to work in the rail yards.
It’s been a tradition since 1994 when the restaurant’s doors first opened, making it one of the few places in Houston where one still can hear the foot-twitching music live. By the time one of the many zydeco bands that play at Jax starts up at 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, stragglers are angling for any wedge of space to park, and the tables are full of couples, singles, extended families and wide-eyed first-time visitors who just can’t quit grinning.
Roseanne and Forrest Paddock were among the initiates one recent Friday, having passed the restaurant many a weekend and wondered what was going on inside. “This is an only-in-Houston experience,” Roseanne said in between dances with her husband. “We’ve lived all over, and you wouldn’t find this anywhere else.”