The fire broke out at the La Michoacana meat market and restaurant on Shepherd at West 14th Street.
The column of smoke rose with the sun and it was visible for miles.
"We knew we had a working fire before we got here," said Captain Raymond Flannelly with the Houston Fire Department.
By 7am, the kitchen at the meat market is usually bustling, preparing for customers. But today, employees scrambled to escape the flames.
"I come here to get coffee, sometimes get breakfast, lunch sometimes and I know most of the employees here," said customer Bernardo Garcia. "So I feel bad for them."
La Michoacana is a long-standing Mexican grocery store, bakery and meat market, with a small cafe and deli inside.
"Everything, all of the contents, will have to be thrown away," Flannelly said.
Firefighters tackled the fire fast, stumbling across the owner's upstairs apartment during their initial search of the building.
"Coming into a building like this, you would never think that there's a family on the second floor," said Flannelly.
Fortunately, no one was hurt. Regular customers just hope the family can get back on its feet, and reopen the store for business.
"It doesn't look that bad but apparently it is, so I don't know if they are going to close down completely or open up, probably not very soon," Garcia said.
The business sustained heavy smoke and fire damage in the kitchen area. Fire officials say a large pot of oil used for deep frying was turned on and left unattended. The oil reportedly boiled over, causing the fire.