T.J. Robinson, who opened T.J.’s Gingerbread House on 7th Street in Oakland in 1974, died June 12 in Las Vegas at age 76, as the Tribune is reporting. At the Gingerbread House, which shuttered a couple of years ago after keeping some odd hours, you always got a little more than just a Cajun restaurant. There was, of course, the gift and sweet shop attached, but we’re more referring to stuffed the animals and tchotchkes; the kooky, dollhouse-y decor that felt like you were in your grandmother’s living room; and the erratic waitress Noelle who talked more to herself than to you and referred to T.J. as her mother.
But T.J., the matriarch, was a much beloved figure in the neighborhood, having opened her sweet shop in 1974 and later expanded it to a small, full-service restaurant with eight tables. Her excellent gumbo and chicken and dumplings became favorites of Oakland politicians and many residents, but as T.J.’s health failed in recent years, the restaurant fell into disrepair and the quality of the food went way downhill.
We’re sure we speak for a number of Bay Area residents who knew the place and its quirky charms in better days when we say we’ll miss it. R.I.P. T.J.