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As mentioned on August 1st, Houston Restaurant Weeks is upon us–a chance to try some places you never have been before or to visit old favourites and help raise money for the Houston Food Bank.  Last year, I was sidelined due to the Gastro-intestinal surgery and could not put much into it beyond donations to the Food Bank and a visit to one my perennial favourites: Sud Italia Ristorante.  This year I have made some plans to hit at least 4 restaurants I have not tried yet, along with a few old favourites.  And keep in mind, this is in and around the start of fall semester so the posts may be a little irregular in their pacing.  However, I want to do a solid to all of you, my dear readers, who have asked me via face to face, phone, and other means of communication “What places would you recommend we visit if you had a lot more time and money to do this?”  All of them doesn’t quite work as a good answer either!  I will add that any restaurant participating in this event is worthy of your patronage. However, I think a few lists are in order of best bets via a few criteria, and after taking a couple of days to really think about it, I believe these would be among the best to visit this year.  And with multi-course meals such as lunches for $20, Brunches for $22, Dinners for $35 or $45, this is a great value on top of everything else it already is!

Best Bets for Brunch

  • Harold’s Restaurant Bar & Terrace: Harold’s has established a great reputation for Alli Jarrett and Harold Ware’s very deliberately curated menus that elevate Southern Home Cooking to a fine dining experience, paired with Great Cocktails and a friendly environment. Two of their great HRW Brunch Items are their Big Nasty Biscuit: 5 oz fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese on homemade biscuit, topped with sausage gravy or their Big Dang Breakfast: 2 eggs cooked any style, roasted potatoes, bacon, homemade biscuit and house-made jam. 
  • Liberty Kitchen Be sure to try the Banana’s Foster Bread Pudding French toast served with bacon jam whipped cream cheese, ohio 100% maple syrup ‘caramel’, sugar cured bacon
  • The Tasting Room: I recommend the Crab & Champagne Benedict, which includes fresh crab on poached eggs, champagne hollandaise, home fries and fresh fruit.  

Best Bets for Lunch

  • FM Kitchen & Bar:  Another great Southern/Texas Cuisine concept on the list to be sure.   The FM burger is NOT TO BE MISSED–loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and that wonderful shhh sauce! And with the option of being served with choice of fm fries, fm tots or broccoli & onions, it’s a clear winner. Plus those loaded shakes are heavenly! Even the ol’ Drunken Pork Chop, Uncle Tex enjoyed the loaded Chocolate shake despite him normally being a Roggenbier or IPA fanatic.  Just please be careful where you park (Or use Uber if you live close by) and please don’t double-park!  
  • Beaver’s on Westheimer: I want to get my mitts on the Two Meat BBQ Platter that includes choice of in-house smoked 44 farms brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork or jalapeño pork sausage, two sides, bread, onions, pickles & jalapeños.  Of course I can’t bring Uncle Tex along for that one for obvious reasons.  Plus with those Texas Deviled Eggs and the Mexican Street Corn, the crew at Beaver’s will leave you eager for more!
  • Max’s Wine Dive: Both the Fried Chicken Dinner Egg Roll and the Southern Fried Chicken Tender Basket, both made with jalapeño-buttermilk marinated chicken, and served with cole slaw & wine dive fries, and jalapeño gravy too!  And be sure to ask for a list of wines that pair well with that wonderful fried chicken!  I promise you will NOT be disappointed.  

Best Bets for Dinner

  • Sud Italia: Shanon Scott and Chef Sandro Scarafile have earned a reputation for a well curated Southern/Sicilian style Italian menu with plenty of fresh veggies and seafood in the mix.  As one of my favourites of the genre, there is no way you can go wrong with their dinner menu. Start off with Carpaccio di Salmone Thinly sliced salmon topped off with capers and a lemon olive oil; next enjoy a Orecchiette con Salsiccia, Rapini e Pomodoro e Porcino: Orecchiette pasta with sausage, rapini and porcini with a light pomodoro sauce; and finish with Tonna alla Griglia: Grilled tuna steak topped with a green peppercorn sauce and served with fresh asparagus and fingerling potatoes   

  • Izakaya:  This 3 Course Dinner has so many great choices!  I would start with the Grilled Oysters: 4 whole creole style oysters with shrimp, butter, cheese and herbs; then indulge in the Japanese Beef Curry: 6 oz 44 farms sous vide short rib, curry, rice and house pickles. And finish off with either the Butter Mochi (condensed milk and coconut milk mochi cake dulce de leche sauce, blackberries) or one of their assorted nitro ices!

  • Brennan’s of Houston: This Houston and New Orleans Classic is always in good taste.  From their Dinner Menu, I’d start with their Duck & Collard Green Gumbo, served with toasted garlic jazzmen rice and chef’s blend of file. Next course would be the Southern Cast Iron Seared Pork Tenderloin, with whipped sweet potato, roasted garden vegetables, petite herbs, and habanero bacon & peach bbq sauce. And for dessert, their classic Creole Bread Pudding, crowned with berries, toasted pecans, and hard whiskey sauce poured over the top.  

Best Burgers

  • B&B Butchers: Whether you get the  Butcher Shop Burger w/ white cheddar and applewood smoked bacon served with fries or the Hill Country Burger w/ Texas smoked sausage, pepper jack, bbq mayo, B&B Butchers will give you a satisfying High End Burger Fix like you would not believe!  And please, whatever you do, don’t go past Medium on that patty!  Your taste buds will thank you for it!!!
  • True Food Kitchen: Their Grass Fed Burger is 6 ounces of protein,  umami, mushroom, onion, mayo, arugula, parmesan, and served on a flax seed bun.  This is the veggie-loaded burger that won’t make you feel like you’re the one being fed grass, but instead a satisfying and filling burger!!!
  • The Tasting Room: The best burger that is paired with an impeccable wine selection.  An absolutely tasty, Bacon Cheeseburger topped with smoked tomato jam (way better than Ketchup), Swiss cheese, and truffle aioli, and served with house fries.  Get it paired with a Central California Coastal Pinot Noir.  I promise it will work so well in your mouth!!!

Best for First Time HRW Diners:  

  • Jonthan’s The Rub: Jonathan and Sam Levine run an absolutely wonderful little joint in the Memorial Villages area that has a great batch of wines, a curated house seasoning (ay, there’s the rub!) Of their HRW selections, I would most highly recommend the Lamb Paradiso: half rack of lamb chops, marinated in mediterranean herbs, then roasted & flash grilled, finished with a mint balsamic chimichurri sauce.  This meal will be remembered by you for a good while afterwards!  

  • Goode Co. Armadillo Place/Seafood:   Goode Co. Armadillo Palace and Goode. Co. Seafood are Houston institutions that anyone should have visited not long after arriving.  However, if you have never been there, I highly recommend the Armadillo Palace, as it is True Texas on several levels. Start with the Guacamole Made to Order with chips, salsa and choice of 3 toppers (toppers: bacon, roasted garlic, chicharron, toasted pepitas, pickled onion), have the Heritage Pork Rib Chop–house cured and slow-roasted over mesquite coals with tomato-bacon jam; and finish with the Brazos Bottom Pie for dessert.  
  • Fleming’s: Nothing says elegeant traditional steak dinner like Fleming’s.  I’d start with their Caesar Salad (it’s a little peppery, but good), then enjoy the Beef Burgundy (slow cooked beef tenderloin with burgundy wine, onions, carrots, herbs. served with truffle mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus) and finish off with one of their seasonal cakes or their classic creme brullee!

Best Old Favourites

  • Peli Peli: With all of their growth (La Centerra Opened recently, Austin in the Works and a distribution center too), Chef Paul Friedman, and partners Thomas P. Nguyen and Aki Michael Tran have made quite a name for themselves due to this unique, so flavourful and creative concept that has become one of my favourites of all time in Houston.  Brunch, Lunch or Dinner, you truly cannot go wrong with anything that Peli Peli would serve.  And if you are one of the few who have yet to try Peli Peli, now is your chance to do so with impunity.  Shake your Bobotie Layered African Meat Pie.   Enjoy a chicken or beef espetada!  Enjoy a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream.  Your taste buds will thank you for it, as will the wonderful staff at any of their 3 locations.  

  • Lucille’s Another Houston Classic that has become one of my trusted favourites.  Chef Chris Williams and his crew over in the Museum District have put together an HRW menu that features their original dishes, as well as new additions over the past few years.  Lunch, Brunch or Dinner, you cannot go wrong with Bone Marrow served with oxtail marmalade, gremolata, orange zest, ciabatta; or Classic Shrimp & Gritsw: 3 gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, sherry tomato broth, stone mill grits; or Croissant French Toast with spiked berries and you can add wings for $5  more! 

  • State Fare:  Lee Ellis’s contribution to the Houston food scene is very strong.  He’s the Jedi Master of Southern Cuisine, and with ranking Jedi Knights like Jim Mills, Anthony Calleo and so on as his partners, the Foodster Force is STRONG with this one!  Lunch or Dinner, you will get some great, flavourful and filling meals served by his staff of friendly professionals at Memorial gateway.  From their HRW Menu, I highly recommend the Chilled Avocado Soup with radish slaw, Maw Maw’s Skillet Chicken Thigh, the Red Snapper Shrimp & Oyster Courtbouillon, and their Buttermilk Chess pie.  When you eat at State Fare, Jim and Lee will make sure you roll out of there a happy, satisfied customer!!!

Boxing It Up To Go
Whatever your criteria, Houston Restaurant Weeks is a great way to make a delicious difference in the lives of those who are food insecure in our great metropolitan area.  My name is Hank on Food, and I not only support and approve of this event, I want y’all to participate and make sure that you…

Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
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Last week, I joined Cleverley Stone and Rissa Jenkins at Bradley’s Fine Diner for for my last meal of the Houston Restaurant Weeks 2014 run.All together, as a result of our table, alone, the Houston Food Bank was able to provide 36 meals to homeless or…

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FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston>> read more & watch video

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Dinner and a movie is a great thing.  It’s even better when you can eat your dinner while you watch your movie.  While there are many such concepts all over the place, Alamo Drafthouse is one of the originals.  Besides being a great concept, Alamo Drafthouse is also showing great community spirit.  This year is their first year participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks.  And they’re doing it with a well-designed menu that will appeal to movie and food lovers of all types.  My kids and I were wanting to close out the last week before they go back to school with Guardians of the Galaxy.  We’ve been busy moving to a newer house and wrapping up a bunch of things before going back to school and we needed a break. I also wanted to try the Vintage Park Location’s HRW Menu and they gave us the opportunity to do it all.  

Dinner and a movie simultaneously would seem to be a big challenge.  Between special lighting and the use of white cards in a slot, it works like a Swiss watch a the Alamo Drafthouse in Vintage Park.  Usually for about 30 minutes there is a fully lit pre-show where you can talk with the server and place your order.  For Guardians of the Galaxy, they showed a mixture of Funny Raccoon videos and appearances of Rocket Raccoon in Marvel Cartoons in the past.  While this went on, my daughter enjoyed a refreshing glass of their Brown Sugar Lemonade while my son had a Root Beer Float made with Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream and Saint Arnold’s Root Beer.  I had a Dr. Pepper since I was going to save my adult beverage consumption for the final course of their Houston Restaurant Weeks Dinner Menu!  This 3 Course Dinner for $35.00 gives  you a choice of appetizer, main dish and a dessert.  Throw in the movie ticket and you have a sweet dinner deal that helps the hungry as well.

Baked Soft Pretzel 

For the appetizer course, the choices are Bottomless Popcorn with real melted butter and a side of herbed Parmesan cheese, a Goat Cheese & Roasted Veggie Dip served with veggies & warm pita bread or a Baked Soft Pretzel served with honey mustard and warm hatch chile queso blanco.   Though the bottomless popcorn was VERY TEMPTING, I know myself well enough to know I’d eat too much popcorn and have no room for the other courses, so I went for the pretzel–which was rich, soft, bold and went so well with the cheese dip and the mustard–and was just enough to hold me over until the main course.  Grade: A

Brussels Sprouts & Goat Cheese Pizza

For the main course, your choices are a Brussels sprouts, smoked bacon & goat cheese Pizza (gluten free available) with mozzarella, black pepper, parmesan and pecorino; a Spicy Blue Cheese burger with Frank’s red hot, red onion and mayo served with french fries; Fish & Chips with beer battering, tartar sauce and malt vinegar; or a Greek salad (v) (gf) baby kale, arugula, feta, red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, fried chickpeas, lemon basil vinaigrette–with this you can add chicken or it turn into wrap–served with tortilla chips and homemade salsa.  I love me a good pizza and the Brussels Sprouts are a great cruciferous veggie, so I went for it.  These Brussels Sprouts are roasted, a little salty and have crunch, working well wit the pungency of the goat cheese and the bacon adds more crunch and a little smokey sweetness.  Unusual pizza, full of great flavours and textures. Grade: A+

512 Pecan Porter Shake

The dessert choices for the third and final course are: Adult Shake of choice: includes a Mexican chocolate shake, a Maker’s Mark milk punch shake, an Irish coffee shake, 512 Pecan Porter Beer shake or a Southern Star Buried Batchet stout shake; OR a Saint Arnold root beer float made with vanilla ice cream; OR Three warm baked cookies of choice from what was available that day.  I went with the adult shake and chose the 512 Pecan Porter shake.  This is a nice blending of a thick, dark porter beer that has essences of Cacao and Pecan with Vanilla Ice Cream.  Not as sweet as a typical shake, a little fizzy, and a nice buzz from the beer as well.  Makes me want to come back and try the other great Adult Shake Choices too!  Grade: A+

Uncle Tex & Baby Raccoon came
for the movie!  

Suffice it to say, this was a great meal.  My kids enjoyed some snacks from their main menu and we all enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, which is still running at this writing.  However, the HRW menu won’t last beyond August, so if you’ve not been to the Alamo Draft House (which is a GREAT place for a movie date with your loved one, or your family–click the link for Houston locations and show times), then get on out there and be sure to tell them that Hank on Food highly recommended them!

Eat Happy, Y’all!!!

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