What a great selection of food to eat. The culinary scene in Shreveport Common was as diverse as the people who lived there.  Shreveport-born blues musician Napoleon ‘Chico’ Chism sang the virtues of the food he enjoyed growing up on Texas Avenue. The song “Hot Tamales and Barbecue” was released in 1957. He had several places to choose from growing up.

But the business of food goes back even further in history. Farms were the first in the area. But as Shreveport grew out of the established downtown, grocers and restaurants started to move in to the Texas Avenue area. According to historian and author Eric Brooks, two breweries were located on Texas Avenue in 1875. They were Fidel Bercher’s ‘City Brewery’ and H. Linman’s Brewery. There’s a picture from 1910 of Charles Stoer’s Ice Cream Shop. A real delicacy since it was made to order. A piece of 1915 still exists today. It’s in the kitchen of the Scottish Rite Cathedral – the biggest icebox in Shreveport with the exterior decorated with a mahogany cover.

The 1927 City Directory of Shreveport lists dozens of grocers, dry good stores, and restaurants along Texas Avenue and Louisiana Avenue. In fact, in one block of Louisiana Avenue you can find 7 places to eat any buy groceries, fish and produce. Plus, there were 5 more restaurants further south on Louisiana. You can walk down the street and enjoy a sandwich from Cohen’s Delicatessen or G&G Sandwich Shop or chow down in City Café or the Eagle Café or shop at Shreveport Grocery Store. Texas Avenue was also the place to find good eats. Samuel Toys Soft Drink Parlor stood right at 800 Texas Avenue. A Piggly Wiggly sat at 856 Texas. Someone could stroll down Texas Avenue with a drink from the JT Brooks store and popcorn from Metoyer Vilcour’s establishment. Inside the McAdoo at the end of Shreveport Common was the McAdoo Café and across the street was the Penny Rock Café inside the Calanthean.

In addition to the Penny Rock Café, the Calanthean Temple was known for having great entertainment on the Roof Garden. Music wasn’t the only thing making patrons happy. One advertisement for a dance promised free hot dogs and beer.

Lifespans for restaurants and groceries in the 20s and 30s were not long. Many places only lasted a few years. Joseph Miller’s grocery store at 812 Texas existed in 1927 but changed to Southern Grocery by 1929. By the early 30s, many eateries along Louisiana Avenue had closed up. In contrast, a few culinary stores made it and stayed around. According to the city directory, 2 grocery stores started in 1936 and 1937 lasted until the 1980s. Bodron Grocery opened its doors around 1936 at 850 Texas Avenue. Half a block down at 902 Texas Micicotto’s Deli and Grocery opened within around a year later. Oddly enough, both closed about a year or 2 from each other. Bodron’s around 1981 and Micicotto’s closed in 1982. Another long serving food service establishment in the Shreveport Common area was Pavloff’s Bakery, Deli, and Grill. It opened in 1932 at 828 Louisiana Avenue and closed around 1956. But there is only 1 place that has stood the test of time.  The Korner Lounge at the corner of Louisiana Avenue and Cotton Street still serves refreshing drinks today. It opened in 1933. It’s the oldest continuing running bar in Shreveport and 2nd oldest in Louisiana and contains one of 5 working Brevard drink coolers in the United States. Cheers to their longevity!

The 1930s and 40s were the time Chico Chism grew up in Shreveport. Although it cannot be confirmed, the barbecue he sings about could be in reference to Harry’s Barbecue at 802 Texas Avenue. It was preceded by the Triangle Buffet and lasted from 1937-1940 when it was replaced by Johnnie’s Café. Other businesses along Texas and Louisiana Avenues in 1937 included Geo Khury’s candy manufacturer, Cook’s Domino Parlor and Bar, and the Louisiana Coffee Shop. The forties saw a number of liquor stores pop up along the historic 800 block of Texas Avenue. Cuban Liquor is listed in the city directory being at 824 Texas and at 854 Texas sat Galloway’s just to name a few. Restaurants and grocers were closing up since a lot of the local residents had begun moving out to the Shreveport suburbs. They were replaced by automotive and furniture stores.

The decline of the culinary scene continued from the 50s to the start of the 21st century. Some notable exceptions included a special dinner club. The Ogilvie-Weiner mansion was repurposed to become the Florentine Supper Club. Celebrities that performed at the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium, the Calanthean, and other clubs in the area stopped by to eat and drink. Another place to enjoy coffee in the Common was at the Town House Coffee Shoppe. It opened around 1957 in the Town Home Apartments (now the Fairfield Apartments) where it stayed until 1983. The Korner Lounge had some competition in 1960 when the Gay 90’s Club opened a block north in the Arlington Hotel. But the Korner Lounge survived when the Gay 90’s Club closed in 1978. Very few bars, restaurants, or grocers have opened since the 60s. Shreveport Common was viewed as a blighted area. But the hunger for new and exciting opportunities for the food scene have seen a renaissance in the past few years.

The Aseana Festival hosts 2 events each year. Part of the festivities include several vendors selling delicious street food from Asia and in particular to what nation is being celebrated. Food trucks come out in force to the Texas Avenue Makers Fair. You can chow down on good Cajun, Tex-Mex, German, and more unique fun food while enjoying the music, arts, and crafts.

When the Central Fire Station morphed into the Central Arts Station in 2013, a new era began for the Common which could bring back the food scene of the 1920s and 1930s.

In June 2014, SRAC brought a pair of San Francisco chefs to the Municipal Auditorium to showcase farm-to-table cuisine as part of the Unscene Series. Several Shreveport eateries participated in a night dedicated to the culinary arts. When Caddo Common Park is completed, there will be a section specifically for food trucks to serve everyone. Plus, when new construction begins on the Grand development project, let’s hope some grocers, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants move in. When development finishes, the Louisiana/Cotton Exchange area would be a good place to grab a bite to eat and still get a drink at the Korner Lounge.

Foodies have hope! Shreveport Common might be the place again to enjoy some hot tamales and barbecue soon.