King Biscuit Restaurant – Mediocre

Posted on November 14th, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

King Biscuit
1606 White Oak Dr
Houston, TX 77009
Phone: (713) 861-2328

The King Biscuit restaurant is tucked back in an old Houston Heights neighborhood along White Oak bayou. The menu is fairly extensive, including soups, salads, hamburgers, sandwiches, seafood, steaks, pork chops, etc, and the ambience is sort of kitschy-Heights. The building appears to have grown organically from an old gas station, and is tucked into a V in the road. There is almost zero designated parking, so you usually have to park on the streets of the surrounding neighborhood. There is a nice patio with a good view of the bayou, but it is usually infested with hard-core smokers making anything you eat out there taste like you’re licking it out of a used ashtray.

We have not been impressed with the food quality on our last couple of visits, and while the food isn’t terrible, it’s really nothing special. So, given the wide variety of excellent eats in Houston, I think King Biscuit is going to drop out of our restaurant rotation, at least for a while. A few years ago the food was noticeably better, and we hope that the quality starts to improve again, as we like this place and want it to be good.

Da Marco Italian Restaurant – Highly Recommend

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Da Marco
1520 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX
(713) 807-8857

It’s easy to miss Da Marco: the small converted house is set off the street right at the most harrowing narrow-laned portion of the Westheimer curve; the sign is well-lit but competes for eye attention with the nearby tattoo and body piercing joints. Those eclectic surroundings, sprinkled with top-notch food choices is, of course, a major part of the appeal to this section of Houston. This gracious Italian eatery fits right in.

Last night was our first trip to Da Marco; we wanted an upscale (but not outrageous) dinner treat before heading over to the SkyBar. The entrance to the restaurant leads you into a tiny 3′ curtained area, and from there the hostess escorts you another three feet to the small bar. Jacketed waiters efficiently weave through the small non-smoking dining room — the feeling is intimate but not overly cramped. The place was very well candle-lit, although a bit too warm in the bar area because of the open wood-burning bread oven just behind the well-roasted bartender. The families and couples dining there on this visit (a Friday night) were a comfortably mixed bunch: everything from middle aged couples in jeans and tennies, to younger couples in suits and evening dresses, to at least two very authentic-looking garrulous Italian families.

Our white-linened table was nicely placed near a back wall and our waiter was affable and knowledgeable. The wine list was all Italian, with only a few selections available by the glass. The menu was structured in a traditional three-course format: antipasti, pasta, and entrée. The off-menu selections were presented via a chalkboard and included an oxtail pasta selection as well as main courses of rabbit and in-house aged angus beef. Our meal for two included:

antipasto
Frisée with pears, candied walnuts, and some type of wonderfully soft ripe cheese
 
 

antipasto
Giant sea scallops with orange segments (two bites into which Scott proclaims, “this might be my new favorite restaurant”)

pasta
An unbelievably good sweet corn ravioli with huge bits of fresh lobster meat
 
 

pasta
Mouth-watering porcini risotto with fresh hunks of ripe parmesan

entrée
Very tender pork tenderloin with figs in a sweet balsamic reduction, accompanied by a very tasty cheese polenta
entrée
Fabulously tender duck in a sweet glaze, accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes and wonderfully grilled brussel sprouts

Total meal cost: $140 before gratuity

Alas, we skipped any dessert / coffee course, as we were full and ready to move onto the remainder of our evening’s entertainment. But Da Marco’s definitely delivered what we were looking for. The food was unbelievably good, the waitstaff attentive (the steady stream of fresh bread and ripe olive oil was quite evil), and the ambiance and people-watching were perfect: not too clattery, nicely candle-lit, and a fun mix of patrons. And, as a big bonus for us, it was all smoke-free. There was a separate dining room completely enclosed by French doors — it could

Phoenicia Deli – Highest Recommendation

Posted on July 5th, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by The Donkeys

Phoenicia Deli
12116 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX
(281) 558-0416

The Phoenicia Deli, located out on the west side on Westheimer between Kirkwood and Dairy Ashford, has

some of the best food we have ever eaten. I’m specifically talking about the

Chicken Shawarma. For the uninitiated, a Chicken Shawarma starts out with many chicken breasts, rubbed in various heavenly spices, then piled up and slow roasted on a turning spit. The outer crispy parts of the chicken breasts are then shaved off, so every bite of chicken is crispy and wonderful. These bits of chicken-y goodness are then wrapped in a large homemade flatbread with this AMAZING garlic sauce. The sauce (we originally mis-indentified it as mayonnaise, and that’s the texture that it has) is actually (based on some research) some sort of heavenly marriage of garlic and olive oil. It is POTENT and oh-so-good.

The deli serves the chicken shawarma with tomatoes and potatoes (the potatoes are kept under the spit of chicken, absorbing all the wonderful juices), but we ALWAYS order it “sauce only” — (no tomatoes or potatoes). It is simply heaven on earth, I can’t even get across how wonderful this food is!!
Phoenicia’s prices are reasonable (about $20 for a lunch for two), they also offer hard-to-find middle eastern and armenian food items in their deli section toward the back of the shop, and the newly-redecorated decor is quite inviting. The staff is pretty friendly (we see the same folks there most of the time we go).

The hours are a bit limiting; they close at 7 on Saturdays, I believe, and they’re closed on Sundays. But it’s worth it — we’ll plan entire weekends around being able to get to Phoenicia on a Saturday for Shawormas. Give them a try!!

Ming’s Cafe – very ordinary

Posted on June 1st, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Ming’s Cafe
2703 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006
Phone: (713) 529-7888

We stopped by this kitschy little joint for dinner on the way home from work today. The atmosphere was Montrose-quirky, the menu was surprisingly deep for such a small place, and the fried dumpling appetizers were quite delish. However, our main dishes were extraordinarily ordinary. We may give them another try, as it wasn’t horrible, but with the huge selection of very good Chinese food in Houston, why?

Cafe Red Onion – Highly Recommended

Posted on May 3rd, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Three Houston locations:

3910 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098
(713) 807-1161

12440 Northwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77092
(713) 957-0957

1111 Eldridge Pkwy # 100, Houston, TX 77077
(281) 293-7500

http://www.caferedonion.com

We eat here a couple of times a month, and are constantly amazed at the combination of great food, good prices, pleasant ambiance, and excellent service. The menu has a Latin (Mexican-Honduran, actually) American theme, but the dishes are all sort of non-traditional and Americanized (in a good way). I am not a fan of food that is fancy and/or complicated solely for the sake of being fancy and/or complicated. The food here is neither overly fancy, complicated, nor trendy, but it *is* interesting, unexpected, and delicious.

For example, both of us have the same favorite dish here, which is Mayan Chicken. The chicken is a boneless breast that is coated in tortilla crumbs then fried, and is served over queso with black beans (I get the rice instead), fried plantains, and mango salsa. At around $10, this is one amazingly delicious bargain.

In fact, you can eat at Red Onion for around the same cost as a generic Chilis/Bennigans/TGIFridays, but you get food that is orders-of-magnitude more interesting, well-prepared, and delicious. The ambiance is nice, friendly, and casual. My one trivial complaint is that when the place is hopping (as it usually is at mealtimes) it can get a little clattery, noise-wise, and the tables are just a touch too close together for my tastes. That’s really just nit-picking, however, as the food, prices, and service *more* than make up for any cosmetic blemishes.

Do yourself a favor and check out Red Onion. Tell them that the guy who always eats three bowls of pineapple salsa sent you.

Bibas (One’s a Meal) – Highly Recommended

Posted on May 2nd, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

607 W Gray St, Houston, TX 77019

Phone: (713) 523-8432

First of all, I do not know the meaning(s) of the name(s) of this restaurant. Second of all, what I do know is that they have really good food at really good prices. The menu is typical Greek diner, and includes everything from gyros to calzones to pizza to hamburgers. My personal favorite meal starts with the tzatziki appetizer (served with delicious crunchy breadsticks for dipping) followed by the cheeseburger and fries.

Most of the times we’ve been there we’ve been waited on by John, the owner/waiter/resident comedian. If he waits your table be ready for repartee, wisecracks, asides, innuendos, and great service. The other waitstaff have all been very friendly and efficient, and the patrons are usually laid-back regulars. There’s ample outdoor seating, and inside are some huge, 6-person booths.

And if that’s not enough, it’s open 24 hours a day. Do yourself a favor and visit this deservedly legendary Houston institution.

Shanghai River Restaurant – Highly Recommended

Posted on April 6th, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Shanghai River Restaurant
(713) 528-5528
2407 Westheimer, 2 blocks east of Kirby

http://www.shanghairiverrestaurant.com

Houston has an overwhelming selection of Chinese restaurants, and many of them are good. A few of them are excellent, and Shanghai River is one of them. From the outside, this restaurant is the unassuming-looking inhabitant of one end of a standard strip center. But once you get inside, you find that the decor is sumptuous and well-maintained, the tables have white tablecloths and cloth napkins, the service borders on perfect, and the food is excellent.

Try the mu shu pork appetizer and the honey walnuts…both fabulous. We recently had the wonton soup, shrimp with asparagus, Four Delicacies (scallops, shrimp, beef, chicken with chili peppers and peanuts), and shrimp and chicken with cashews, and all of the dishes were virtually perfect. Also, for the quality of the food and the ambiance, the prices are right in line.

Beck’s Prime – Highly Recommended

Posted on March 3rd, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Currently seven Houston locations.

Houston has a plethora of great sit-down, fine-dining restaurants, and also has the requisite number of fast-food chains and Chiligan Fridays-type establishments. Easily lost in this cornucopia is Beck’s Prime. From the outside it looks sort of chain-y and fast food-y. From the inside it sort of looks like a burger joint. But the reality is something completely different and unexpected.

Yes, the ambiance is fast food (no table service), but the food, while not fancy, is composed of astonishingly fresh, tasty, and well-prepared ingredients. My particular favorite is the swordfish sandwich. I like to get it with a side of wild rice. Marie likes to get the veggie burger with a side of grilled veggies (which are actually flame-grilled and tasty). You won’t find any of that on a 99 cent menu. Beck’s also has an array of Angus steaks and chicken dishes, all available at the counter or the DRIVE THROUGH! Yes, you can drive through Beck’s on your way home from work and show up at home with some delicious rib-eyes cooked to order.  The french fries are freshly sliced and fried potatoes, not chopped/formed. The milkshakes are sinfully delicious, guaranteed to contain 10% butterfat. And it all comes at very reasonable prices (higher than fast food, but lower than sit-down).

It’s actually taken us a while to get into the groove with Beck’s. When we would eat on the cheap or need super-fast service, we would opt for traditional fast food. When we wanted better food or service we would opt for traditional sit-down dining. Also, none of their seven locations is right nearby (although they aren’t really far away, either, just not as convenient as fast-food). But every time we would go there we would simply be amazed the great food, good prices, and superbly knowledgeable/efficient/polite/helpful/friendly staff. So now we make it a point to spend the few extra minutes in the car, and spend the few extra dollars on the food to bypass the fast-food grind to have a MEAL, and not just some food. Beck’s fills a perfect niche in our dining repertoire, and they continue to move up in the rotation by always providing consistently fresh, delicious, reasonably-priced food. Give them a try.

Hot Bagel Shop – Highly Recommended

Posted on December 12th, 2002 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

2019 South Shephard – between Westheimer and West Gray

While  growing up in Texas, I never developed a taste for bagels. In my small hometown,  the only bagel options were store-bought, like Lender’s, and I found them to be  unremarkable.

Then I moved to the Northeast and worked for 6 years in the  New York/New Jersey area, and learned what bagels were *supposed* to taste like.  And boy oh boy, did I fall in love with bagels. There was a bagel shop a couple  of blocks from my home, and for years I started the day with a fresh, hot bagel,  usually toasted with either chive cream cheese or with butter.

Then I  moved back to Houston. I *love* Houston and moved back because I knew I missed  everything about it (except for the relentless heat), and I have never regretted  moving back. However, I did miss the hot, fresh, real-deal bagels that I had  grown to love. I tried some of the chains (Einstein Brothers, various donut  chains), but found them to be pale imitations and not worth the  trouble.

And then I was introduced to The Hot Bagel shop. Ohhhhh, baby.  This is the real deal. The good stuff. Authentic, legitimate, tasty, hot,  fresh bagels. If you’ve never had anything but grocery store-bought or  Einstein’s, I urge you to head to the Hot Bagel Shop and try their fantastic  bagels. They also have freshly prepared flavored cream cheeses that are  wonderful. Prices are rock bottom.

The place is really a  hole-in-the-wall, and it’s kind of hard to find. I go there regularly and I  still sometimes drive right by it. It’s on the east side of Shephard, just about  halfway between Westheimer and West Gray. It’s in a smallish white two-story  strip center that also contains the River Oaks Nail shop.

Backstreet Cafe – Highly Recommended

Posted on October 25th, 2002 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Backstreet Cafe is located on the Shepherd curve just south of W. Dallas  St. Prices are a bit upscale, but the ambience is unbeatable. We usually try to  go in the spring or fall, when the moderate temperatures make their patio a  nearly magical place to dine. We actually just went this past weekend  (10/11/2002), but were sadly disappointed to find that our *favorite* soup  (sherried mushroom) was no longer on the menu. We tried their new asparagus  soup, but it was extraordinarily ordinary.

As for the rest of the menu, I  had the duck spring roll appetizer, which was fantastic. We also love the  coffee-crusted steak and the meatloaf tower. They also have a good wine  list.

In summary, we still love Backstreet, but given the large selection  of quality dining in Houston, we may go less frequently now that our favorite  soup is no longer available. It’s still a beautiful dining experience in  temperate weather, and the food is certainly above average, so keep Backstreet  in mind.

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