Part of what began Hank on Food was a quest to find one of the best burgers in Houston. And while this website/online publication branched out way beyond that in a hurry, it is still in the roots and when I get a call from a worthy burger joint to check out some of their new options, I will gladly do so. Grub Burger Bar is a Texas original having its origins in College Station, is a favourite among my friends who are Aggies and for the past few years it has been deliberately building a reach way beyond Aggieland. Steve Padgett, the managing parter at the Houston City Centre Location was in the house when I came by, and along with South Texas Market Partner Walter Cervin, we grubbed down and talked healthier options for those who want them.
We started off with sharing a couple of appetizers. One their great not so healthy items that has been on the menu for a while, the Chorizo Queso. This has cooked Chorizo & ground beef mixed in a blend of melted cheeeses, topped with homemade guacamole & served with tortilla chips. This Queso is addicting due to the spicy addition of the Chorizo! It holds together very well due to the meat thickening it up and does not turn runny, nor rubbery. Getting that bite out of the way, attention was turned to a new appetizer for Grub that we have seen many versions of all over the place: Roasted Brussels Sprouts! These sprouts are taken off the stalk, chopped in half, roasted and tossed in ancho lime vinaigrette. and topped with queso fresco. Nothing like cheese and sauce to make it easier to eat your veggies. However, these veggies are crunchy, full of flavour and the cheese adn ancho lime vinaigrette accentuates the sour, hardiness of these miniature cabbages.
Grades: A+ and A
Sometimes it’s tough when you feel like the odd one out–i.e. the only Pescatarian in a group of carnivores or the only dieter in a group of Eat What You Wanters. Thankfully many fast casual dining places like Grub Burger Bar know of these issues and try to accommodate a diverse group of eaters. Putting the wheels to the road, they have rolled out two new Salads/Bowls for the more health conscious diner who also does not want to compromise on Flavour. The first of these is their Salmon Filet Bowl: A grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon filet, avocado, chopped bacon, black bean & corn medley, lettuce, campari tomatoes, sprouts, queso fresco, & ancho lime vinaigrette. This is a beautiful mix of grilled seafood and veggies, but where it really hits you best is in the palate–good salmon flavour, lots of different textures, a little spicy, good and crisp, fresh veggies below. The other new addition is the Thai Noodle salad: chewy Rice noodles, mango, tomato, avocado, cilantro, peanuts, lettuce & a sweet chile vinaigrette with a choice of sliced medium rare Ahi Tuna or grilled chicken. I went with the Ahi Tuna (which is lightly seared with a mix of peppercorns and other seasonings), and this is some good quality tuna, let me tell you. Again, the veggies are fresh and crisp, and again, full flavour. Grades: A and A+.
For those who prefer sandwiches, twochicken sandwiches will take care of your clucking needs. The California Chicken: Grilled chicken breast, bacon, Swiss, sprouts, avocado & chipotle aioli on a wheat bun; and the Greek Chicken Sandwich: Grilled chicken breast, feta cheese, lemon caper vinaigrette, arugula, tomato & fresh tzatziki on homemade flatbread. The California Chicken was a favourite of my kids’ aunt–she loves avocadoes, bacon and Swiss cheese, found it to be tasty and flavourful, but not too bad for any diet she was on. My daughter was very fond of the Greek Chicken Sandwich. The Feta cheese is a bit pungent, the Tzatziki sauce is full of garlic and herbs, and the grilled juicy chicken breast works well with those, inside the fluffy yet not overfilling Pita style bun. And though I did not picture it, the Back Porch is a standard chicken sandwich with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo which would appeal to those who like a simple yet good chicken sandwich.
Grades: A and A
Of course for those of us who go to Grub Burger Bar for duuuhhh… the Burgers, they still have a great selection of many options to choose from. Some of my personal favourites include the Lockhart Legend: grilled beef patty, Applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, Dr Pepper BBQ sauce, two onion rings & sliced dill pickles. Or the Texas Luau: a grilled beef patty topped with Braised pulled pork, grilled pineapple slice, grilled jalapeños, lettuce & tomato; or the Voodoo Mushroom Burger: a beef patty topped with Absinthe sautéed mushrooms, Swiss & Tabasco mayo. As you can see, my favourite burgers tend to lean to the spicy, but not so spicy that you regret it later on (cough cough, acid reflux!). I told Walter Cervin that Grub really needs to coordinate a deal with Dr. Pepper and HEB to bottle and sell the Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce–it is a unique condiment that I could make all kinds of use of all kinds of ways. And I would be remiss if I did not miss the hand spun shakes from Grub–Jason’s fave is specifically the Dirt & Worms, which has Oreo cookies and Gummy Worms in the mix. Yes, I realize these are not as healthy as the Salmon Bowl, the Ahi Tuna Thai Noodle salad nor the chicken sandwiches, but they are good for your soul! And that counts, right?
Grub Burger bar has two Houston area locations–CityCentre Plaza at 799 Town & Country Way #200 (Next to Ra Sushi) 77024; 713 827-7157; and in The Woodlands at 241 Research Forest Dr. Suite A 77381; 281 907 9001; with both locations open most days 11 AM to 10 PM. I want to thank Steve Padgett and Walter Cervin for letting me know about these new options so I could share them with you.
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
A tequila sampler: Just like home!
When I moved to Manchester, I was worried that I might never drink good tequila again. Most of the stories I’d heard were about a clear liquor that tasted like petrol. But one of my first Manchester Tex-Mex experiences, a visit to Chiquito’s at Salford Quays, put […]Continue Reading →
Manx-Mex Defined: The popularity of Tex-Mex restaurants in Europe peaked sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but Tex-Mex flavors became indelibly imprinted on the palates of Europeans, especially the French, English, Irish and Dutch. Today, tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are familiar menu items. And rare is the […]Continue Reading →
My contribution to a cajun or Mardi Gras dinner.
Mardi Gras is almost here. I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras and I guess I don’t care if I ever go to one but I do love cajun cuisine. When we were in New Orleans last summer we had all kinds of cajun food and a few things I made after I got home.
I picked up these decorations/props at my craft circle. There’s a room bigger than my whole house (maybe twice over) full of supplies that we can go back and get for any project our group […]Continue Reading →
Brunch, my fave meal of all. Breakfast and lunch, eaten at leisure, breakfast, lunch and Sunday Dinner altogether with some booze in the mix if you desire. Okay, I have waxed eloquent on Brunch more than a few times since this website has started it’s becoming trite and I would prefer to not be as such. Suffice it to say, I love brunch. I’ve never had an over the top style Brunch like the one on “How I Met Your Mother” where Ted Mosby got dumped by one of his girlfriends while his parents finally told him (years after) that they’d gotten a divorce and his “friends” gave him a ton of unnecessary teasing in the process, and thankfully so. No in this posting, I want to spotlight the new Brunch Menu at one of my favourite local eateries, State Fare by Lee Ellis, Jim Mills, Laurie Harvey and the whole Cherry Pie Hospitality Crew.
|Lord take me downtown…|
State Fare took over the spot that Pour Society occupied last April and has been through an ongoing renovation starting with the menu and the bar and then working their way around the whole space. Concept Guru Lee Ellis and Chef Jim Mills have been producing a mix of elevated Southern, Texas Southwest, with more than a few haute twists and turns to give comfort and flavour to all. Cocktail genius Laurie Harvey has worked with Ellis and Mills to invigorate the bar. State Fare has not only upped the craft beer selection with a focus on Texas, Louisiana and regional beers, but they have also rolled out a batch of unique cocktails that are both familiar and yet special for any mixological leanings. Newly upholstered chairs, nicer partitions, a music room that is a work in progress, local art and photography focusing on Houston’s history, promoting local artists, and classic cars as art have given the space an elevated feel blended in with a touch of La Grange by ZZ Top.
Ellis & Co. rolled out their brunch as the “Big Game” was under way in H-town not too long ago, and since the tourists were gone, I packed up my crew for Sunday Brunch recently. Based on my experience with State Fare and all of Ellis’s concepts, we all knew we were in for a real treat and tried a bit of everything on the menu, starting with Harvey’s creation, the Bloody Mary Flight. While Tomato juice by itself is something I can take or leave, when it’s blended with high quality alcohol and spices, it is greatly improved and hard to turn down. If you are someone who likes different variations on this concoction, I highly recommend getting the Bloody Mary Flight so you may try one of each, and then pick a favourite. The Standard Bloody Mary with Vodka includes either regular or spicy House made mix (Duh, I chose House Spicy) garnishe with bacon and green beans. The Red Snapper is made with Gin, garnished with a pickled onion and Olive. The Bloody Maria is made with Tequila, has pickled onion, mini tomato, lime and jalapeno. And a House Michelada blend of tomato juice and beer with lime. All are salt rimmed, some with a dash of House made Tajin Mix. All of them are photogenic, all pack good flavour and are artfully crafted for your drinking pleasure. Cheers! Grade: A+ for all
Starting off for those who like some good appetizers before hitting their Brunching stride, there are some really tasty choices for your dining enjoyment. For those who dig seafood, there is smoked salmon served with potato pancakes, cream fraiche and dill. Very savoury, slightly smokey, almost wanting it with a bagel, but this configuration is just as good! For those who love a nice topped toast, I highly recommend their avocado & street corn toast: mashed avocado, smokey street corn aka elote, topped with Mexican style crema and seasoned with house Tajin mix and cilantro. This is a spicy, southwestern take on Avocado toast that will appeal to all of us who love that green, creamy fruit. And for those who like a nice, whipped, Deviled egg, they are served two ways–one with traditional whipped yolks and a house cured bacon garnish, and another whipped with avocado & lime for a nice shift from the ordinary. Grades: A, A+ and A respectively.
On the main brunch menu, there is a plethora of items that appeal to any brunch diner’s tastes. If you like big fluffy pancakes with various fillings, go for the XXL Buttermilk Griddle cake with whipped butter and maple syrup. Both the kiddos were into it, and when the plates arrived, jaws dropped at the sight–Ellis and Mills really mean it when they say XXL. These griddle cakes are the size of a medium pizza from Pi Pizza (another Cherry Pie joint!). They can be enjoyed plain, with Chocolate Chunks (because as Jason said, chocolate chips won’t do with an XXL Griddle cake!), or Cinnamon Apples. Jason went with Chocolate chunks, while Helena went with Cinnamon Apples. The best strategy seemed to be to slice them up like a pizza and all of us tried some. Very fluffy, like a warm pillow, loaded with the chosen toppings and quite comforting in the mouth and the belly alike. We saved leftovers and had breakfast with them on Monday and Tuesday! Grade: A+ and A from my two assistants, Helena and Jason
For the more savoury diner, there are plenty of choices that feature eggs in all kinds of ways. Two of the notables for us were the Oxacan style Drowned Eggs (aka Huevos Ahogados) and the Poached Eggs & Smoked Pork Belly. Drowned eggs are more commonly found in Southern Mexico. State Fare serves them up as Poached eggs served in a semi-thin Salsa over potatoes and other veggies in the mix, garnished with cilantro and served with lime and flour tortillas (it is Texas after all!). The sauce is a bit like a thin red mole, full of cayenne, cumin, and tomatoes. I was dipping tortillas in the sauce while eating it like a soup or stew. And the poached eggs had slightly runny yolks that popped when you bit into them. The Poached Eggs & Smoked Pork Belly are served atop three nice slabs of said Pork belly, atop two grit cakes with house Hollandaise sauce over the top. These are a savoury delight, sweet yet smoky pork belly, yolk popping poached eggs, and salty grit cakes all homogenizing together. Grade: A for the drowned eggs, A++ for the Poached Eggs & Pork Belly (apologies to the Bad Piggies)
Of course not everyone is a fan of poached eggs and that it quite all right. There are many other great options on the Brunch Menu to enjoy. For those who prefer a breakfast sandwich, don’t settle for some fast food over warmed small bite. State Fare has two really great brunch sandwiches. One is the Eggy BLT: 2 Firm Fried Eggs (you can get them over easy if you prefer a runny yolk), a half pound of house bacon, Sriracha mayo, fresh lettuce and tomato, all on a soft houes bun. This sandwich gives you a burst of bacony delight at first bite. Good crunch, some creamy heat from the Sriracha Mayo and cool, fresh veggies. This is no ordinary BLT! As a burger lover, I was very interested in the The other which we tried today was the Big Brunch Burger: Texas Akaushi beef patty cooked to order, house made sausage patty, spicy brown sugar bacon, crisp hash browns and a fried egg, served with fries. You can add cheese for a little extra if you want. As advertised, this burger is Big, and as expected, it is packed with flavour. A loved it per the menu specifications, though the next time (and there will be more than a few next times!) I will be adding cheese and Sriracha mayo, for research purposes, naturally! This is a burger I could eat any day of the week, at any time of the day. However, unless you are doing 2 hours of crossfit every day for the rest of your life, or are working as a lumberjack, you may want to have it every now and again! Grades: A and A++ respectfully
Of Course no Southern Brunch is complete without Chicken and Waffles, and I would have been surprised if there wasn’t this on the menu from the folks who brought us Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts! Here you get a huge, yeasted waffle (so thick it seems almost a Belgian Waffle) topped with crispy, savory Chicken Thigh Strips and served with whipped butter & maple syrup. Again, Ellis, Mills & Company blows you away with a generous portion of crispy, juicy fried chicken, and a waffle that is crispy outside, and pillowy soft inside. No maple flavoured corn syrup is used at State Fare–it’s the real deal maple syrup, naturally. The kids, all the crew were highly pleased with this renditon of a Southern Classic. Grade: A+
Whew! State Fare’s brunch has literally everything you want in a Brunch that will get your motor running on all cylinders for the rest of the day on a weekend. I mean fuel for yard work, house work, home work, or going to work for those who have to work on the weekend. These are not all of the items on their Brunch menu–The Texas Loco Moco is on my radar, along with the Steak & Eggs, New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp & Grits, Farro Risotto Style. If you have not yet been to State Fare and you live in Houston, you are officially out of excuses!
Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday, with the restaurant being open 10 AM to 11 PM on Saturday and 10 AM to 10 PM on Sunday. State Fare is located in the Memorial Gateway at 947 Gessner Suite B 190. Phone 832 831 0950. Reservations recommended, but not required.
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
Ramen has always been a staple of college students as an inexpensive, flavourful and filling meal. The higher end version, still reasonably priced, has been available at many an Asian restaurant over the years. The highest end version of this wonderful noodle dish is usually fully loaded with meat, veggies, soft boiled eggs, and a plethora of seasonings in marrow broths, curries and all kinds of sauces. Since the opening of Tiger Den on Bellaire a few years ago, Houston has had a number of the higher end Ramen restaurants open up and enjoy some success due to the city’s appetite for all kinds of different foods, Ramen included. Agu-a Ramen Bistro which has become a staple in Hawaii since 2013 made its first jump to the mainland, bypassing California and the West Coast and landing with both feet in the Houston area. Here’s a bit more about them from their website.
“A harmony of aroma and complex flavors is affirmation of my love for the art of ramen.
Steeped deep within the noodles, is a reverence for life and the Japanese culture.
However, these bowls of passion can only reach perfection,
if I succeed in passing on their secrets to future generations.”— Chef Hisashi Uehara
We don’t just love ramen, we live ramen! Not long ago, a group of savvy business partners sat together enjoying a beer and doodling ideas on their cocktail napkins. In 2013, their collective dream of a high-end ramen house became reality when AGU a Ramen Bistro opened with fanfare at its first location at the Saint Louis Alumni Association in Honoloulu. A recipe for instant success, more AGU locations sprang up on Oahu over the next couple of years.
Hisashi Uehara, Executive Chef and Owner, named his premier ramen bistros, “AGU” which means “fellowship” or “best friends” in Miyako, his native Okinawa dialect. Every day, more than 1,560 pounds of pork bones are slowly boiled at an extremely high heat for over 24 hours in order to create AGU’s signature, creamy yet hearty, tonkotsu broth. The resulting enticing rich flavor speaks of the love that goes into every bowl. Tonkotsu Ramen is considered by many to be the “king of ramen”.
All of the soups and dishes served at AGU are made with only the freshest, exceptional ingredients. The rich, clear chicken broth is made using organic, cage-free Jidori chicken that has been raised on a vegetarian diet. Our noodles are made fresh daily from a special house recipe. However good ingredients are not enough to create AGU’s specialty soups and dishes. Our chefs are dedicated to preparing each item with perfection, patience and a little extra Aloha! Our ramen cannot be rushed!
|Karaage Fried Chicken|
Delicious Tonkatsu Ramen in thick broth with all the trimmings or a nice Jidori Ramen are a welcome bowl of comfort to me and my kiddos. On a recent day off from school the three of us headed to the location at 9310 Westheimer Rd near Chuy’s. This is one of 3 locations already open in the greater Houston area with plans for 3 more opening this quarter of 2017. Agu’s Menu includes all levels of Ramen and ingredients from the very basic Shoyu Ramen to the sublime Innovative Hot Mess and plenty of variations in between. They also have a good variety of small plates/sides, including Spicy Kim Chi, Gyoza Dumplings, Kicked up Fries and Karaage (a special moist and crunchy fried chicken, picture on the right.) We came hungry and tried a few things!
We went with two variations on the Tonkatsu Ramen–one with Miso, the other a Spicy Kotteri Ramen, as well as Karaage Fried Chicken. The Spicy Kotteri Ramen is made with bonito-infused shoyu tare with a choice of spice level (hot but not blistering for me) and
topped with fresh house made pork char siu, aji tamago*, crunchy menma, fried garlic chips, fresh negi & sesame seed. I elected to add a Jidori soft boiled egg for good measure. This Ramen was prepared and served piping hot and had a great, savoury scent from the pork, the broth, the onions, peppers, spices, sesame and other wonderful ingredients. A nice garnish of fresh green onions and half a soft boiled egg crowned this lovely bowl of noodles and it proved to be very photogenic on this sunny day. When it came to the eating, there was no disappointment. The broth was rich, had a nice oily marrow essence to it and it teemed with chewy, satisfying ramen noodles. A Bit of Heat hit at the end, clearing out the ol’ sinuses. Everything delivered as advertised, no disappointments!
|Miso Tonkatsu Ramen|
The Miso Tonkatsu ramen has a traditional rich & hearty broth full of robust flavors, with a unique blend of miso and an additional topping of sweet corn. It also includes the fresh house made pork char siu, aji tamago*, crunchy menma, fresh negi & sesame seeds. The kids wanted a Jidori egg in the mix as well–always a good call. This ramen was less spicy, more smooth and salty–more to the kids tastes. The sesame seeds add a bit of a nutty essence to the mix and add a layer of texture to the umami and the other sensations. The two of them ate the full contents of their bowls with glee. And the Karaage fried chicken is crunchy outside, moist inside, has a great flavour much like the salt and pepper wings from House of Bowls. Had I not already eaten a substantial bowl of Ramen, I might have craved waffles with that Karaage chicken.
Report Card for Agu Ramen on Westheimer:
Spicy Kotteri Ramen: A+
Miso Ramen: A
Karaage Fried Chicken: A
Dining area: A+
High End Ramen Bistro/Bar: A
Overall Grade: A
Agu Ramen has 3 open Houston locations now, with 3 more to open 1st Quarter 2017. We went to the location at:
7 Days a Week
11 AM til 10 PM
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
Crunchy and delicious!
I love just about every kind of sushi and even unagi which is freshwater eel. So, what does eel have to do with this recipe? Well, for years of watching cooking shows and hearing the word Umami I’ve been hearing “unagi” and thinking where’s the eel.
Over the last few years I’ve discovered how wrong I was and that the chefs are actually saying “umami” which is the fifth taste. We all know sweet, salty, bitter and sour but did you know there was a fifth taste called “umami” and it wasn’t a recent discovery.
I […]Continue Reading →
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