Editorial: Hoover’s Cooking

A cup of chicken and sausage gumbo. One of the many dishes that can be ordered at Hoovers Cooking. Photo by James Graham.

A cup of chicken and sausage gumbo. One of the many dishes that can be ordered at Hoover’s Cooking. Photo by James Graham.

James Graham, Staffer

At the intersection of Dean Keeton and Manor Road in a small strip mall is an unassuming little restaurant called Hoover’s Cooking. As someone with a lot of family from the South, I love having some nice fried chicken or shrimp gumbo every now and then, and I decided to visit Hoover’s, which prominently advertises its “famous fried chicken”. The restaurant is in a convenient location nearby the University of Texas campus and relatively close to LASA. 

When I entered, I was immediately greeted by the warm smell of freshly baked bread. The wood-paneled walls and paintings of countryside scenes gave the establishment an old-fashioned feel, like a little window into what Austin was like 50 years ago.  My family was shown to a booth in the back corner of the restaurant. The restaurant was surprisingly empty, with about half of the tables being vacant, but it made sense because it was a Sunday night. 

We were given our menus by our waitress, and contemplated what to order. It’s a Southern restaurant, so of course I asked for a tall glass of sweet tea, alongside a plate of fried chicken, mac and cheese, and coleslaw. Gumbo is a popular dish in my family, as my grandparents are from Louisiana and my mother loves to make gumbo for my dad, brother, and me. It’s sort of a tradition for my family to see who can make the best gumbo. So, after the rest of my family had placed their orders, we impulsively decided to order a small cup of Hoover’s chicken and sausage gumbo, just to see how it compared to what we would make. 

While we waited for our food, we watched a football game on a small TV in the opposite corner of the restaurant. I was honestly surprised that they only had one television, but in the end it was a good thing because it forced my family to socialize more rather than staring at a screen, which is what eating out is for. I expected the fried chicken to be the best part of the meal by far, but when the gumbo arrived I was completely blown away. The dark roux gave the stew a rich, smooth flavor which was complemented by the mixed-in okra, celery, and green onions, and the chicken, sausage, and rice made the gumbo feel filling and hearty. Needless to say, when my actual meal arrived shortly after, it was quite underwhelming. The chicken was okay, but underseasoned, the consistency of the mac and cheese was too thick and it lacked a strong cheese flavor. For dessert, I ordered a slice of piping hot blackberry cobbler and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, which were both delicious.

Overall, I have to say the food was decent – I would give it a six out of 10. Although I didn’t love the fried chicken, the gumbo was amazing and it has become my go to meal here. However, the atmosphere is really what sets Hoover’s apart. The way the restaurant is set up and the friendly, conversational nature of the staff make you feel like they truly care about you and are there to help you have a good experience. I would definitely recommend Hoover’s to anyone looking for some Southern comfort food and a cozy and warm atmosphere.