Dragon Bowl Asian Bistro (**½)

Posted on July 1st, 2006 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Dragon Bowl Asian Bistro

1221 W 11th St

Houston, TX 77008

(713) 426-2750

http://www.dragonbowlbistro.com/

Dragon Bowl Asian Bistro is a new restaurant at the edge of the Heights, at the intersection of N. Shepherd and 11th. We’ve been watching them build out the space for it in the strip center and have been anxiously awaiting the opening of another nearby food choice. It finally opened recently and today we finally made it in to try it out.

All three of us got bowls, and they were pretty good. Mine was shrimp, vermicelli, assorted veggies in a citrus sauce and it was quite tasty. I had steamed dumplings as an appetizer and they were okay. The rest of the group liked their food as well, but there were no raves.

There were two issues that detracted from the dining experience. The first is that we waited over 30 minutes from the time of our order until the food was ready. I can understand that a new kitchen won’t operate at peak efficiency for a while, but that seemed a bit overlong for the simplicity of what we ordered.

The second issue was that the menu had been pared down quite a bit to match what the new kitchen was capable of producing, but even the reduced menu was overstating what they could deliver. I first ordered the tempura shrimp appetizer, and was told they weren’t currently making that. I then ordered the fried dumplings and was told they could do steamed but not fried, which didn’t make any sense to me as the obviously had the dumplings to steam and their open kitchen showed plenty of woks with oil for frying.

There were also a lot of grumbling, unhappy patrons waiting around for their food. The place is pretty small so some of them tried to engage us in the camaraderie of their shared conversation about how slow the place was, but we were giving the kitchen the benefit of the doubt seeing that it was so new, and demurred from joining into the dis-fest.

However, I will say that I agreed with their opinions, even if I felt it impolite to blather them about a small restaurant within earshot of the busy crew working in the open kitchen. Having been peripherally involved in the restaurant business I can say that their kitchen is both overstaffed and overslow, and a single well-trained chef with maybe one assistant could have produced all the food much faster than the 4-5 people they had bouncing around back there like pinballs.

The bottom line was that the food and prices were at just about the right place for us to keep Dragon Bowl on our radar, so we plan to check back after they’ve had time to work out the kinks. But for now we’re not paitent enough to beta-test this new restaurant.

Update 8/22/2006

We went back to DBAB today for lunch, and there was much improved efficiency in the preparation and delivery

McCain’s Market: Gourmet in the Houston Heights

Posted on December 10th, 2005 in Houston by mynagirl

McCain’s Market

Heights Blvd at White Oak (6th)

Houston, Texas

http://www.mccainsmarket.com

I had been waiting. The fancy new stone shopping center put up in the Heights had been empty for almost two years, except for an antiques store that came and went. Then I was watching — coffee cups and cappucino machines appeared in the window. Finally! A good coffee place in the Heights! Maybe a Starbucks? Then a few days later, a Boar’s Head deli sign on the wall was visible… clearly this place was going to be more than just a little corner coffee shop.

Finally it opened! It took us about a week to get in there, but we finally stopped in today. Wow, what a place! Gourmet spaghetti sauces, Napa Valley buttermilk pancake mix with exotic syrups (boysenberry merlot!), a great cheese case, a few choice bits of produce (shallots!), fancy teas, chocolates (fabulous dark Parisian chocolate with orange peel!) unbelievable olive oil and fresh bread, and a deli case with… Prasek’s sausage from Prasek’s Hill Country Smokehouse in Hillje, Texas. This place is on the way to Engineerboy’s hometown of Port Lavaca and a regular stop for us when we drive there. The place is an authentic Czech wonder, with their famous sausage and true Czech kolaches (fruit kolaches, not meat). Alas, Jason, the proprietor at McCain’s informed us that they haven’t figured out a way to bring those kolaches up to the Market yet. But it was a great treat for Engineerboy to find the hometown delicacy of the sausage right here in the Heights.

The place is everything that new retail in the Heights should be — small and neighbor-friendly, with an unbelievable selection of fancy goods. I could easily migrate to a European model of stopping at the market on the way home every night for fancy yummies — tonight’s fare was a baguette, infused olive oil for dipping, fresh apples, and some incredible aged Wisconsin cheddar — along with Pomegranate soda and a decaf cappucino. Oh, and that dark chocolate with orange rinds in it. Yum! Engineerboy feasted on Prasek’s and buttered noodles along with Raspberry tea sweetened with cane sugar. Suffice it to say we were imminently pleased with dinner. And knowing that the place is open at 7 am on weekdays might make it a regular on-the-way-to-work kinda place.

I suspect they’ll be seeing a lot more of us.

The Best Petsitter in the Houston Heights (or all of Houston, for that matter!)

Posted on August 1st, 2005 in Houston by mynagirl

Jenny Jurica, Pet Sitter

281 546-5941

Jenny@wetnosenews.com

www.wetnosenews.com

We recently had the opportunity to take our I guess-it’s-gonna-be-annual cross-country road trip. While the two hounds got to romp the week away at Urban Tails, the kitties were gonna need some in-house attention. At that point, I sort of knew who Jenny was from an email she’d sent me months ago — she’d found our puppies’ web site and let me know about her petsitting service.

Boy am I glad she did… she was GREAT!! We’d used various petsitters in the past — all were competent but none made me feel like the cats were in true pet-lover hands like Jenny’s. When she came to our house for the meet-and-greet before we actually left, our dogs just went right up to her. Weagle the guard-dog Rottweiler didn’t even bark — I think that’s a first!! I think they could just tell she was an animal person. Our tabby Tigger — a lovebug once she gets to know you but pretty reserved with new people — also went right up to her within 45 seconds of her being in the house. Those are all pretty strong recommendations in my book.

And not only do the animals approve, but she gets my vote as well — she is SO organized! She had a “don’t forget” checklist for things to help make the petsitting experience better for your animals and for her (tell your alarm company you’ll be having a petsitter if needed, leave a radio on to a calming station to give the pets a sound of a human voice). She emailed me reports during our trip and left us a full printed report of our cats’ activities for when we returned. She even checked the Urban Tails’ web cam while we were gone and let us know how the dogs were doing!!

All in all she was GREAT and I’m so happy to have really found a petsitter I love. And I’m sure Scout, Bouncie, and Tigger can’t wait until she comes back to visit! I highly recommend her.

Recommendation for House Cleaning in Houston

Posted on April 7th, 2005 in Houston by mynagirl

Maria Rodriguez

Home: 713 413 1659

Cell: 832 875 8115

If you’re anything like us, you like having a clean house but hate housecleaning. Or you don’t have time. Or it’s a point of marital tension — differing definitions of “clean” and differing tolerances for “dirty”. To solve any or all of these issues you might be willing to give up a portion of your otherwise “fun” money to have someone (or some service) come in and clean up your house every so often, if only…

…if only. And there’s always the trouble I’ve had. If only you can find someone you like. Someone you trust. Someone who will come into your house and do a good job, and you can trust to be in your house with your things (and your pets!) but won’t leave you feeling like your personal space has been invaded. Truly the only way to find someone like that is with a personal recommendation. I mean, you can’t really trust a cleaning service, can you? Where different people will be coming in every time, someone new handling that key to your house / apartment / condo every single week?

Well, in this digital age, consider this an effusive personal recommendation for Maria Rodruiguez, the wonderful lady who cleans our house. She’s cleaned our house every other week for about four years (although there was a period of about six months where I foolishly did without her and miserably tried to do it myself) — both where we are now and the townhome before this.

She and her helpers (mostly relatives, I think) are great… I never worry when they’re here: our dogs love her (although they’re in their crates on Maid Day) and Maria & Co. take great care never to shut our cats in a room or closet when they clean. She mostly brings her own supplies, although I provide some stuff like Murphy Oil Soap for our hardwoods and generally ask her if she needs anything specific. She does laundry if I ask, any dishes in the sink (I try not to leave too many but sometimes it happens), and all the normal hard work stuff — bathrooms, floors, carpets, mirrors, etc. Our house is a particular challenge because of all the pet hair and a fair amount of technology clutter and they do a great job. The house is always AMAZING when we come home… coming in from the garage on Maid Day is the most wonderful treat. We always look forward to it, because it’s like our house has been transformed to this sparkling palace just for us.

If you’re looking for a someone to clean your house in the Houston area, I think she can do houses mostly anywhere, although we happen to be in the Heights. (She’s also cleaned for some of my friends out on the West Belt, so I think she’ll range pretty far). She’s pretty

Shade Cafe / Restaurant / Bistro (***½)

Posted on March 2nd, 2004 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Shade

250 W. 19th Street

Houston, Tx 77008

713 863 7500

You can tell when you enter a new restaurant if it’s helmed by a true restaurateur or a wannabe. This place is the real deal. We went to Shade for brunch this morning, and the entire experience was perfectly crafted, start to finish. It’s definitely going to be on the repeat list.

For starters, the restaurant is located in the old location of the Kaldi Cafe, next door to Edin and October Galleries on 19th in the heart of the heavy foot traffic antique-ing district. The space has been unrecognizeably transformed from Kaldi’s dilapidated corner-of-an-antiques-shop crumbliness to an airy, soft, Asian-inspired eatery that is easily prepared to compete with Houston’s nicest bistros. (Since I believe Shade is owned by the same person who runs the Daily Review on Lamar, this doesn’t surprise me — the Daily Review is one of Houston’s nicest bistros).

Brunch menu includes Gingerbread pancakes, a Fried Green Tomato and Bacon Sandwich, or Grilled Salmon with Basmati rice and a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. Dinner menu offers appetizers such as grilled qual with steamed stir fry rice and orange infused hoisin sauce and entrees like Wasabi and Cucumber crusted red snapper in a vegetable stir fry with a ginger and red curry coconut sauce, and grilled marinated medallions of pork served with homemade ciabiatta bread and caprese salad.

New Year’s Evening Out: Soul Circus / Soundtrack at the Mercury Room

Posted on January 2nd, 2004 in Commentary,Houston by mynagirl

So, Mynagirl and Engineerboy head out on the town for New Year’s Eve for a little food and dancing at The Mercury Room. I always fancy a chance to dress up sparkly, and Scott very gamely plays along… plus, Soul Circus was the band at Mercury Room, and they are our absolute favorite live band that we’ve heard in Houston.

The Fashion Report for the evening included a Carmen Marc Valvo dress with two layers of silk chiffon covered by a layer of beaded lace paired with a trusty set of Stuart Weitzmans and some new Christmas earrings, plus a sequined flower in the hair. The dress was actually very comfortable, and molto bene for dancing… quite twirly! Scott wore a Tallia Uomo suit with a DKNY dress shirt and a tone-on-tone Ermenegildo Zegna tie. (Ok, maybe none of you care, but I put this article in the Mynagirl category and I’m pretending I write for W magazine, so there. Author’s prerogative).

After dinner, we navigated to the Mercury Room with what I would consider perfect timing: about 10:15 pm. Not old-person early, but shouldn’t be too packed, right? We take the southern path through downtown, cleverly skipping the carcrawl through clubville and whisking our car straight up to the… uh oh… nonexistent valet stand at the Mercury Room. I guess Merc Room gave it up on NYE because of the crowds, so our clever strategy was completely hosed. Twenty minutes and a complete circuit of the clubgoer-packed streets later (well, it was fascinating people watching) we circle back around to the parking lot with a … cough … $40 parking fee.

Scooching across the misting streets, we (thankfully) got to get right in the door because we’d bought tickets in advance (we weren’t gonna risk missing Soul Circus). The band was already in full swing, playing some great funk tunes already! We went straight for the dance floor: Superstitious, Brick House, very rockin’ stuff. The band confused us a bit by telling us they were called Soundtrack, then announcing themselves as Soul Circus and then Soundtrack again… but we recognized most of the people on the stage and the quality of the music was definitely up to par, so we had no complaints.

The band took their first break pretty quickly after we arrived, and the club became pretty smoke filled and packed after that. One of my favorite things about the Mercury Room (not that we’ve gone to many different nightclubs in Houston — we pretty much found that place and we’ve stayed with a good thing since then) is the mixed crowd: couples in their 40′s and 50′s in from the suburbs, young hipsters, gaggles of gorgeous girls on the prowl, and at least one May/December where the December was in her laaaate 40′s and the May was in his 20′s with a satin shirt open to his navel, no lie (“It’s not sexy to scrub for the customer!”). The DJ music was pretty okay,

Nino’s Italian Restaurant (***)

Posted on January 1st, 2004 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Nino’s Restaurant

2817 West Dallas

Houston, Tx 77019

713 522 5120

 

This year we decided to do the big evening out for New Year’s. Our daughter would be up in Indiana (instead of down here in Houston with us) and so we would be left to our own devices for evening entertainment if we so chose. Lucky for us, our favorite live band was playing at our favorite club and we decided to make a whole evening of it.

Of course, the perfect start to that type of evening has to be the just-right spot to eat. In a place like Houston, there are so many great spots to choose from, even when I limited myself to the spots near the house. I was looking for the exact right combination of ambiance, price, location, and food to fit the evening’s adventures. I knew I was going to go dressy with the outfit but I didn’t want to totally over-kill, money-wise, on dinner: it was just going to be the two of us and neither of us are big enough drinkers to make it worth it to go all-out with the wine-and-after-dinner-ports type feast.

I knew I wanted a known quantity; for a fun evening out I wasn’t interested in breaking new ground. Most important on the list was good food. Next was an intimate ambiance, not too clattery. And of course, not too much of a schlep: close to our house (in the Heights), close to downtown. One of my first thoughts was Vincent’s… we love the rotisserie chicken, it’s so close to the house, and it hit that perfect mid-price point I was looking for. When making the reservation, I switched to Vincent’s next-door brother restaurant, Nino’s, instead — similarly wonderful food (including that famous chicken), but with a more intimate atmosphere.

The New Year’s reservations process was pretty straightforward; we had to give a credit card and confirm on the day. We were also warned to get there on time or risk losing our table and that we’d only have a two-hour window for dinner. All seemed like reasonable rules, given the logistics of the holiday. The staff handled everything smoothly when we arrived: they sat us exactly on time at a great little table in the center of the downstairs floor but nestled near a plant stand so it still felt private. Everything proceeded perfectly from there; our orders were taken precisely and accurately, our drinks brought out fairly quickly, and our appetizers, entrées and desserts perfectly spaced. And the food was fabulous! I had Penne alla Vodka (pasta in a tomato cream sauce with vodka, one of my favorites) and Scott had the Pollo Pasquale (chicken stuffed with sausage and mushrooms, very tasty)!

The very precision of our food delivery, actually, was an amazing feat: going out on New Year’s Eve is pretty much like going out on prom night and Mother’s Day all rolled into one; even a well-oiled restaurant machine can get overwhelmed with large conflagrations of young couples and big family

Ragazza (**½)

Posted on January 1st, 2004 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Ragazza

920 Studemont

Houston TX 77007

713 864 3700

We’ve been meaning to try this place since it originally opened as The Rivendell, but the Rivendell closed down so quickly we never got a chance. The new joint, Ragazza, shows the hallmarks of being a vulturous re-incarnation — the strategy is that you let the other guy pour all the money into the fixtures and furnishings and opening the place, then let him spend but not recover enough money to keep the place open, and you then swoop in and set up your own shop at rock-bottom prices without even having to hire a decorator.

The location is a bit odd and may have contributed to the Rivendell’s tough time of it — it’s in the new strip center at the Southeast corner of Montrose and Washington. The neighborhood is definitely going upscale, with the new townhomes and nice apartment houses, but the décor of the restaurant aims a bit too high for a strip center restaurant… even a nice, new, stucco strip center. Even in non-zoned Houston, where eclectic is the name of the game, a stand-alone structure is usually an easier sell than the corner shop at a non-established retail center next to an eyeglass place.

Although the place looked uninviting from the outside (the wood blinds are drawn against the late afternoon sunshine), once inside, Ragazza’s ambiance was very cozy and welcoming on a quiet Thursday evening after work. The ambiance is sort of James Bond ski lodge: pale yellow walls, exposed stone pillars, and really nice cushy half-moon booths for good conversation. As I mentioned, the place definitely aims for upscale: a baby grand piano is just inside the entrance, and waiter was crisply dressed and quite attentive.

After having eaten and paid for an entire meal there, however, I have to say that Ragazza has the feel like they swooped in to buy the upscale restaurant space but they’re not ready (or they don’t have the funding to be) a restaurant at the level that they or their prices aim to be. Please keep in mind that while I’ve worked in several restaurants throughout my life, they were places like “Goodall’s Country Restaurant” and “Goofy’s”… I’m no real expert on white linen cuisine, although a four-year stint in consulting and the fact that I do like to eat has turned me in to something of an aficionado of eating out. Engineerboy, however, has some experience with the business side of finer dining, and so my case before you is based on both our perceptions and conversation about the meal.

Our meal consisted of:

Italian bread with dipping sauce

Glass of Pinot Grigio (for me)

Shrimp bisque

Mushroom Ravioli with Grilled Shrimp

Meal total, before tip: $57

Sorry, I should be able to tell you we each ordered a different appetizer and main dish, but we didn’t; how boring is that?!

First off, the service was excellent; they’re definitely hitting the mark in that category. But the rest of the meal is where I feel they don’t live up to what

Alamo Drafthouse Theater (****)

Posted on January 1st, 2004 in Houston by mynagirl

http://www.drafthouse.com

West Oaks Mall
Westheimer & Highway 6
Houston Texas
(281) 556-0204

The Alamo Drafthouse is what I’ve long hoped for in a movie theater: a place where I can go watch a first-run movie and also have a decent meal served to me while I watch. It’s pure heaven. I can’t even describe it. If you haven’t gone, GO! Seriously. I know it’s a schlep if you don’t live over on the West side, but it is WORTH it. I know you may think you know how great it would be to get your meal brought to you during a movie, but until you’ve experienced it, you just can’t know how wonderful it is.

We’ve been twice now, once for a first run flick (Kill Bill, Vol. I) and once for a classic film (The Hustler). Both times have proven that the Alamo knows what they’re doing. Seating opens 45 minutes before the show. The theater room is organized into rows of cushy captain’s chairs with groupings of narrow bar-style tables in front of the chair rows. We’ve gone early so that we can kibitz, order the majority of our food and drink, and then ease into the movie while we’re still eating. The wait staff is great; they explain the setup if you’ve never been, and they do a remarkable job of taking continuing orders / bringing refills after the show’s started without disturbing your enjoyment of the movie. Once the lights are out, orders are handled via paper clipped to the table with a minimum of whispering. They continue service throughout the movie, including bringing you popcorn (made with real butter!) if you’ve got room after eating a whole meal.

Alamo has expanded their concept beyond just movies; I know they do this same great theater and food concept for football (college and professional, I believe) and they have a “Mr. Sinus 3000″ series that invites you to deride a ridiculous film in the company of other jeerers. (On our recent trip the promised make-fun-of show was Crossroads, Britney Spears’s road trip movie). The venue often offers more than just a movie for your admission price; when we went to see The Hustler the evening’s program included a 20-minute book reading from a local author who’d written a book on pool halls and 1960′s bachelor culture. We hadn’t really been expecting this facet to the event, but there were other patrons who’d clearly known that this was part of the whole deal and had bought a signed copy of the book before being seated.

The menu itself is wonderfully expansive while not being excessively foofy: burgers and fries (but the deliciously grilled burgers are served with chipotle mayo) but also veggie pizza, garden burgers, sandwiches on focaccia bread, and inventive salads. There’s also a decent beer and wine selection, a full bar with selections like homemade sangria and Italian sodas, and an extensive dessert and coffee menu. Appetizer choices include chips and queso, stuffed jalapenos, mozzarella sticks, and similar fare.

The entire experience is

Vince Johnson, The Garage Door Doctor (Highly Recommend)

Posted on November 28th, 2003 in Houston by mynagirl

Garage Door Doctor

Vince Johnson

Repair Specialist

New Installation

Openers

281-578-7659

Houston, TX

I always like to give local people and places props on our website when I can, and I’m long overdue to put some good words about the Garage Door Doctor up here.

Our mid-80′s Heights garden house (think townhouse, but with no shared walls and an apron of land) is a cute almost-Victorian affair, with wood siding, fishscale details, and lots of white trim. When we bought the house, it included some very heavy custom-made wooden garage doors, which steadily deteriorated in the moist Houston humidity (so has the wood siding, but replacing it is a task for another time). Finally it got to the point that Scott wouldn’t let me walk under the doors while they were moving for fear they might finally disintegrate and fall on my head.

We finally called the Garage Door Doctor at the recommendation of our friend Bruce, and boy was I glad that we did. He scheduled himself to come out within a few days, for an afternoon (mornings, he told me, were reserved for all the ‘my garage door fell down on my car’ emergency fix calls he inevitably got each day). On the scheduled afternoon, he called me at the promised time, swung by our house to measure the doors (good thing, too, as he discovered that they were a weird custom size), and told me he’d be done by the end of the day. I left him in charge of the garage and took advantage of already being off work to go run business-hour-only errands.

By the end of the day, he’d magically transformed our sad dilapidated garage doors into two beautiful new metal ones with brand-new tracks and springs that even had a safety cable (so the springs don’t fly wildly if they break), integrated with our old garage door openers. He even transferred our custom barrel-lock disabler cable, that allows us to get in with a key if the power’s out. He did a great job, even sweeping up when our old garage door did indeed disintegrate into bits as he took it off the rails. The work was fabulous, fast, and well worth the price. He charged $695 for the whole deal — the new doors, installation, and hauling away those nasty heavy wooden doors for us.

If you need new garage doors or any work done on ones you already have, I recommend the Garage Door Doctor.

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