Devouring Houston: Exploring Houston One Bite at a time

Houston has so many incredible food establishments...from sumptuously designed restaurants to fun storefronts selling gourmet cookies. From Mexican Food Carts to the Best BBQ in the World. And...I want to expore it one bite at a time.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Little Matt's

Living in a big city, I love that Little Matt's is just like an old time-y neighborhood eatery.  In the heart of the West University town square, neighborhood kids walk or ride their bikes there to hang out or grab a bite with their buddies.   The little restaurant is casual and family friendly.  And, the best part of the venue is their candy bar! 

Candy at Little Matt's

Without a liquor license (not allowed as Little Matt's is across the street from West U Elementary), Little Matt's is BYOB or, even better, they often times are giving away wine and margaritas.  They have a frozen margarita machine on site.  If you buy the margarita sans the tequila, they will gift you a shot of Patron for your Frozen.  Other times you will see the manager or owner walking around with a bottle of wine offering customers a glass of wine, all of course, on the house.  How fabulous!

Back to the family friendly orientation -- in addition to the fanciful candy bar selection, Little Matt's includes an Icee machine.  Yes!  With 4 different flavors, nonetheless.   And, if that isn't great enough, they have a small arcade.  So, while your children play games, munch on candy, and slurp down an Icee, you parents can hang watching the game on the flat screen, sit in the nice patio area while sipping your Rita or wine.  Hello Relaxation!

Inside Little Matt's

The food.  They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  All American Fare.  We tried the Chili Cheese Fries with house made chili, cheddar, and green onions ($4.99).  Unfortunately, this was the one disappointment of our visit today.  The fries were actually pretty good solo (standard burger fries -- crispy outside, soft inside, with the perfect amount of salt).  But, the fries with the chili and cheese was just, well, very boring.  No flavor.  No pop.  We didn't even eat them.  Sad day for me.

Chili Cheese Fries

But, things looked up.  The hot dog was juicy, plump, and beefy.  And big.  The bun was soft and fresh. ($4.99)

Hot Dog

The Miss California Salad ($11.99) included "barely naked chicken" (which meant lightly breaded), fresh greens, avocado, shaved Parmesan cheese, and a very tasty Artichoke Vinaigrette.  The dressing was acidic and sweet.  A nice pairing with the fresh salad.  The chicken was very tender and easy to cut with my fork. 

Miss California Salad

I like going to Little Matt's.  It is a happy, easy place to dine with a family.  The prices are a little on the high side, but they have so much to offer, including that stellar candy selection. 

Little Matt's
6203 Edloe
West University, Texas  77005


Actually, Chuy's is a chain.  But, I don't feel "that" way about Chuy's.  Having loved Chuy's while living in Austin (its birth place) forever years ago, even dining at Chuy's in Houston feels like home.  Chuy's is always consistent in food, service, and decor.  And, even though they promise each Chuy's location is unique and different, they all do represent, well, Chuy's unique style -- with Elvis, their fish, pinks, and sparkles.  I love Chuy's!

Yes, it is Tex-Mex, and yes, Houston has many great Tex-Mex spots, but Chuy's is a favorite of mine.  Fun.  Lively.  Consistently good food.   On this visit, I started with a cup of Tortilla Soup. I do believe this is some of the best Tortilla Soup I have eaten.  A touch of spiciness.  Delicious chicken broth full of crunchy roasted corn, tomatoes, green chiles, pulled white meat chicken, perfectly ripe avocado, crispy chips and cheesy, melted cheese on top.  This soup is hearty,  yet still light.  Not overly filling or heavy. 

Tortilla Soup

Next up, The Elvis Presley Memorial Combo, which includes a beef enchilada, cheese ranchero enchilada, chicken tomatillo enchilada, seasoned ground beef crispy taco and chips with queso.  Hello Love!  Is there anything better than all of your Tex-Mex favorites on one plate?  See, Love on a plate!  There is nothing fancy about this dish.  Nothing that would be taught at Le Cordon Bleu or the CIA .  Just great tasting Texas comfort food.  And, God Bless Texas for this platter of ooey, gooey yumminess.

The Elvis Presley Memorial Combo

As if I haven't said this enough, I love Chuy's.  Staff is friendly.  Atmosphere is fun, silly, and gaudy all wrapped into one.  The margaritas are cold, invigorating, and full of flavor.  The chips are crispy and fresh.  The salsas are the perfect dipping sidekick.  Chuy's is just a happy place. 

Locations all over - from Austin to Tennessee!
Six Houston Area Locations -- check out their website

Friday, January 28, 2011


Hugo Ortega, Executive Chef and Proprietor, is well known in the Houston Foodie Circles.  I had not visited Hugo's in a while, so I thought it was time!  Walking in Hugo's, I could feel the buzz of energy.  Very lively, lots of conversations.  The place was completely full at 6:45 on a Wednesday evening.  Everyone there looked to be having a good time.  And, I couldn't help but let that rub off on me!

We started with the Empanadas de Plantano Plantain -- turn overs stuffed with frijoles refriotos ($9).  They were good.  Mild.  Light.  Tender.  Not too fried.  The bean and cheese sauces under the empanadas were a great pairing with the empanadas, as were the fried string chips.  The crunchy contrast with the soft beans and soft outer empanada was really yummy.  A touch of sweetness from the plantain.  Nice start.

Empanadas de Plantano Plantain

For a main entree, I ordered the Pollo Asado Con Salsa de Ancho - smokey grilled chicken with ancho chili sauce, avocado relish, potatoes, and tortillas.   The chicken was delicious.  So tender that it fell off the bone.  The smokiness was the perfect compliment.  The flavor permeated all the chicken, yet didn't over power the dish.  The relish on the side was fresh, crisp, and light -- a great compliment to the smokey chicken.  The potatoes were crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, with a touch of spice. 

Pollo Asado con Salsa de Ancho

My dining companion ordered the Carnitas - tender slow cooked pork, served with Salsa Mexicana, cilantro, and onions ($17).   A nice porky flavor.  Very meaty.  Very hearty.  Very substantial.  A bite of the pork with a tortilla and the fresh pico de gallo was a very balanced, flavorful combination.


Next up, dessert.  We tried two delectable-sounding sweet concoctions.  Let me start with the Churros Rellenos con Dulce de Leche -- churros stuffed with dulce de leche, Mexican hot chocolate and house made chocolate ice cream ($8.50).  Oh. My. Gosh.  Heaven sent this delicious dessert straight down to our table.  Maybe I loved it so much because I'm not ordinarily a big fan of churros.  But, this dish....all I can say is yum.  The soft, sweet dulce de leche (aka milk-caramel sauce) paired so nicely with the sweetly-fried crunchy texture of the churros.  The chocolate sauce on the plate also a great compliment.  The ice cream topped the dish off nicely with many textures and flavors -- creating a symphony of yumminess in my mouth.

Churros Rellenos con Dulce de Leche

The second dessert we tried was the Piramide de Chocolate - Criollo Chocolate and flourless bizcochode chocolate, with dulce de leche cream and Xoconostale (wild prickly pear sauce).  Criollo chocolate is known as a high quality cocoa, used by the top chocolatiers.  So, this dessert would have to be delish!  The light mousse-like chocolate on top of the crunchier chocolate cake was an excellent contrast.  The pear sauce would seemingly be a great pairing -- the tart with the sweet.  But I couldn't get paste the extreme tartness of the sauce, even in a small quantity.  It was just too over-bearing.  But, without the sauce, the chocolate dessert just left me bored. bored with chocolate?  It seems impossible, but it was true.  The Churros blew this dessert away.

Piramide de Chocolate

Some other tasting notes from Hugo's:   The guacamole was fantastic -- velvety, smooth.  Great avocado flavor.  The Hot Chocolate (as in cup of) was amazing!  Not too sweet.  A touch of cinnamon.  I would bathe in this stuff if allowed.  It tasted like true hot chocolate, as God intended it to be, not a commercialized version.  The Gran Reposada Margarita was fresh and light, but lacked a punch of flavor.  It was weak.   The black beans had a nice bean flavor, but needed more spice, more seasoning. 

The service was nice, friendly, and knowledgeable.  The prices are fair.  I had a positive experience.  I may just go back for the Churros and Hot Chocolate because they were that good! 

1600 Westheimer
Houston, Texas 77006

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ooh la la: The Dessert Boutique

I love desserts.   And, I really love cupcakes.  They make me happy.  They represent a smile on a plate.  I'm always searching for the perfect cupcake.  And, Ooh La La comes pretty darn close.

The downside for us Houston proper folks is that the two locations are in Katy.  But, lucky for me, I live in West Houston, so the drive is not bad at all!  The store is a cupcake eatery should be.  Ooh La La has a large selection of cupcakes and also offers pies, cakes, cookies, cheesecake truffles, coffees, and many other dessert drinks.

Cupcake Display Case

So how do the cupcakes fare?  Excellent!  Of the ones I sampled, my favorite was the Margaritavilla - vanilla cake infused with tequila with key lime zest buttercream icing -oh, and rimmed with sugar.  Being a little afraid initially of the bright green frosting, I ordered the mini size ($1.00).  And, of course, the irony is that this little nugget of yumminess was my fave!  Light, moist cake, with a mild kick of flavor from the shot of tequila.  The key lime zest addition to the creamy buttercream was super fresh.  Great lime flavor without seeming artificial or hokey.  A truly delightful cupcake!!

Cookies and Cream, Boo Bunny, and Margaritaville Cupcakes

The Boo Bunny Cupcake, with orange sprinkles ($3.00), was comprised of a mouthwatering spice-carrot cake.  Light.  Moist.  Subtle cream cheese icing - smooth, fluffy, creamy icing.  The Cookies and Cream cupcake was comprised of  a delightful chocolate cake topped with vanilla buttercream.  The chocolate cake was similar to a devil's food.  Heavy flavor, not heavy cake.  Light, moist.  Not too sweet.  Chopped Oreo pieces on top. 

The Nilla Nilla Cupcake, which I expected to be my favorite, was a simple, nice cupcake -- vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  This cupcake continues the Ooh La La trend of light, moist, enjoyable cupcakes.  Not too crumbly.  Luscious, creamy, fluffy, smooth frosting.

Nilla Nilla Jumbo Cupcake

I also sampled a Sugar Iced Cookie ($3.00).  The cookie was heavy (not hard) and substantial (not dry or crumbly), yet still tender and easy to sink my teeth into.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  A good solid, subtly sweet cookie.  The icing was nice and sweet, without being too sickling sweet.  All the iced cookies were cute -- which,  yes, iced cookies should be.  Cute.

Iced Sugar Cookie

You should definitely check out Ooh La La.  Or even just get on line and peruse their menu. Yum! They truly are a Dessert Boutique offering all of your sweet treat fantasies -- Banana Pudding  ($5.95), French Macaroons ($1.75), or several varieties of cheesecake ($4.95 a slice).  And, Danger Alert:  They even have a Drive Through Window!!   Ooh La La.....

Ooh La La: The Dessert Boutique
23920 Westheimer Parkway
Katy, Texas 77494


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vincek's Smokehouse - East Bernard

Vincek's Smokehouse is located in East Bernard.  While probably not on your normal beaten path, the barbecue is excellent and worth the trip if you are heading South on 59. 

Not only a local spot, but a tried and true stop for hunters who are reveling in a happy morning of a successful duck or goose hunt.  Vincek's is not only a barbecue eatery, but a meat market, bakery, caterer, and deer processor.  It definitely has the charm and character of a traditional Texas BBQ joint.  Maybe that is why the barbecue is so authentically Texan.

Vincek's Smokehouse

Fresh & Smoked Meats

The Sliced Beef Sandwich ($4.50) featured tender, full-smoke flavored brisket.  The bun was fresh and soft.  An excellent combination for a party in my mouth.

Sliced Beef Sandwich

The Chopped Beef Sandwich ($4.25) was also a crowd pleaser.  The chopped brisket was tender, coated in their tangy, mild, yet a touch-of-sweetness barbecue sauce.  Again, the bun was fresh and soft.  An excellent barbecue sandwich.

Chopped Beef Sandwich

The pork & beef sausage ($5.99/pound) was super juicy.  Tender.  The casing embodied that familiar, expected crispness with the tender yumminess of meat on the inside.  Mild smoke flavor -- smoked with pecan wood.  A really, really excellent sausage.  Not greasy.  Not dry.  Super delightful.

Beef & Pork Sausage

The potato salad ($2.50/pint) was worthy of a mention too.  Creamy.  Tender potatoes.  However, it could have used a little more yellow mustard and a little more crunchy sweet relish, but it still met my criteria as excellent, traditional Texas potato salad. 

Go try Vincek's.  The food is worthy of the drive, and the East Bernard residents are positively friendly.  I think you'll be happy you went for a visit.

Vincek's Smokehouse
Highway 60
East Bernard, Texas

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Usually skeptical of chains, I headed to Grimaldi's Coal-Fired Brick Oven Pizzeria in Sugar Land.  Let me put to rest any was really delicious, delectable, distinctive pizza.

I am a fan of thin crust pizzas, but I believe truly good, authentic ones are hard to find.  The crust can be too hard or too crisp.  Or, too soggy, not able to withstand the ingredients on top.  Or too greasy.  Well, Grimaldi's did not have these issues.  The crust was thin, yes.  But, still left a little chewiness.  The crust was crunchy, but not too crisp.  The tomato sauce was full of tomato flavor, but yet still mild.  The mozzarella was fresh and melted well.  No pre-shredded stuff here.  A genuinely enjoyable pizza. (16 inch pizza = $14).

Cheese Pizza

The menu selection is small -- the focus is on pizza (the thin crust pizzas, white pizzas, or pizzas with pesto as the sauce).  However, they do offer several salad choices that are served family style.  We ordered the House Salad with Grilled Chicken.  The salad was about what you'd expect, but included roasted red peppers, which were delicious.  The chicken was very tender and moist.  (House Salad: Small $5.  + $4 for chicken).

House Salad with Grilled Chicken

Also of note, for children, Grimaldi's provides raw pizza dough for the kids to play with while waiting on their order to be served.   It is a super fun and different way to pass the time while waiting for your pizza to be delivered hot and fresh to your table. 

I plan on returning to Grimaldi's.  I really dug their pizza.

Grimaldi's Coal-Fired Brick Pizzeria
First Colony Mall
Sugar Land, Texas
The Woodlands, Texas

Sunday, January 16, 2011


BRC (aka: the Big Red Cock) can't be missed off of Shepherd with the literal Big Red Cock in the parking lot.  I had heard great reviews about this gastropub.....and the good reviews were totally accurate!  Read on...

The interior design is cute.   Wait, don't worry...totally appropriate for any manly man pub, but yet suitable for a girlie girl, too (and yes, they do mesh - great date place).  The wallpaper is toile-inspired.  Color palate includes red, olives, and browns.  Soothing, yet fun and energetic.  Decor is simple, clean and cozy.


We started with the Fresh Baked Bacon Cheddar Biscuits (2 for $5.50).   Tender, soft biscuits with subtle hints of bacon and cheese.  Served with extremely delicious chili bacon jam and whipped butter.  The combo of the bacon jam and butter spread on the biscuits was next to perfect. 

Bacon and  Cheese Biscuits

We also tried the Pickle Jar ($5.50).  Jeff's jar of house cured half-sour garlic, dill pickles and asparagus.  I have to admit that I had not sampled a pickled asparagus before.  Okay, new love.  Pickled asparagus.  Crisp.  Crunchy.  Not too tart.  Touch of maybe All Spice?  Very pleasurable and memorable way to start the meal.

Pickle Jar

Our table sampled a few menu items.  All were very tasty and prepared well with the exception of the omelet.  Since the whole BRC experience was pretty good (minus slow, but very friendly service), I'm not going to further mention my disappointment with the omelet.

Moving on to the Special of the Day -- The Cardiac Dog ($10.00).  This extremely savory hot dog was full of beef flavor, smothered in queso, beans, and a few onion rings.  The bun was soft with a touch of sweetness.  Hearty dish. 

Cardiac Dog

Another dish I would order again was the Avocado Egg Ham Salad Sandwich - served with olive oil mayo, smoked bacon, shredded iceberg lettuce on toasted sourdough.  This was a light, happy salad on a sandwich.  Perfect for the hot months of Houston (although, today wasn't hot and it was still magnificent).  The bread was crunchy and thick.  This sandwich paired nicely with the White Wine Strawberry Mojito (which was also light and refreshing).  I don't have a picture of the Avocado Sandwich, but the french fries were delicious, too ($5.00 for a side order).  Thinly sliced.  Crispy.  Heavy on the salt, but I really like salt.  So.....Yum.

French Fries

Our meal ended on THE sweetest note.  A Grand Finale of high sorts.  The Frozen Snicker Beignets (3 for $7.00).  Beignets served with dark chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.  Oh.  My. Gosh.  Great contrast of textures between the soft beignet and the crunchy, gooey snickers/peanuts inside.  The majestic chocolate sauce was a delicious marriage tasting of dark chocolate and cream. 

Frozen Snicker Beignets

BRC was an excellent venue to spend a meal with friends.  The atmosphere and the food left us feeling satisfied and happy.  I look forward to going back.

519 Shepherd
Houston, Texas 77007

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brio Tuscan Grille

For a chain restaurant, Brio Tuscan Grille is upscale. You can expect the same in the atmosphere and menu options.  Walking into Brio, you feel a special sense of serene-ness.  The establishment has colors that bring a happy quality, yet a peaceful atmosphere. 

We started with the Beef Carpaccio ($10.95) (carpaccio is a dish of raw meat or fish).  It was served with field greens, mustard aioli and parmigiano-reggiano.  The dish was supposed to come with capers, but they must have forgotten ours.  The carpaccio was delicious and did not need the capers, but I bet they would have been an excellent flavor combination.  The mustard aioli was fantabulous.  The mustard was not overbearing.  It paired beautifully with the light beef and fresh, lightly dressed greens.  Additionally, the cheesy toast was delicious.  Magnificent!

Beef Carpaccio

The soup of the day was Italian Wedding Soup ($4.95).  I paired it with the Brio Chopped Salad ($4.95).  The soup was just okay.  Heavy on the chicken broth, light on the meatballs, carrots and rice.  I would have preferred more seasoning as well.  The salad was fresh, light, and crisp.  

Italian Wedding Soup and Brio Chopped Salad

Our table also ordered the Grilled Shrimp with Orzo, grilled asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, and lemon vinaigrette ($12.95).   The orzo was creamy and yummy!.  The shrimp was cooked perfectly and had a perfect amount of heat to it.   The vegetables were seasoned well and crisp.  Very enjoyable dish.

Grilled Shrimp with Orzo

We ended on a sweet note, ordering the Tiramisu.  It was light, not heavy.  Good coffee flavor.  Moist ladyfingers.  Yummy creamy vanilla sauce.  An excellent ending.


The service was prompt and friendly.  The establishment was clean and well run.  We agreed that Brio Tuscan Grille was a pretty good meal.

Brio Tuscan Grille
(at City Centre)
12808 Queensbury Lane
Houston, Texas 77024

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q

I first met Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q when I moved to Austin forever years ago.   It was SO Texas to me -- the whole "gas station and convenience store with barbecue restaurant inside" thing.  The guy I was dating insisted it was the best barbecue EVER.   And, I agreed that is was pretty tasty.  Years pass, we got married, moved to Houston...sadly, no Rudy's was here at the time.  We met and dated Goode Company BBQ and LOVED it!  Then, Rudy's comes to Houston.  Quite a quandary, huh?

Well, we went to Rudy's last night after having been away from the eatery for quite a while.  There are lots of things I like about Rudy's.  All of their stores from San Antonio to Austin to Houston have consistently great staff, clean stores, and good food.  Service (order at the counter) moves fast.

The Chopped Beef Sandwich was excellent! ($4.19).  Soft bun.  Tender chopped beef.  Perfect amount of sauce.  A little spice.  Very tasty.

Chop Sandwich

The Turkey Sandwich was a winner, too.  The turkey was moist and tender.  Good smoked flavor, but not too much (too much smoked turkey flavor can kill the actual turkey flavor).   I added the famous Rudy's BBQ sauce and it was even more delish!

Turkey Sandwich

Clearly, barbecue is not only served on a bun.  What about the Brisket, you say?  It was tender.  Moist.  Excellent smoked flavor.  A little charring on the sides.  It was Yum. (1 pound=$5.89)


Finally, the Sausage.  I liked it.  The husband did not.  It was a little mealy and dry.  But I thought the subtle spicy flavor was delicious and it lingered on my palate.  (1 pound=$3.49)


I like their potato salad considerably!  Big chunks of al dente potatoes.  Creamy mayo/mustard.  Crunchy pieces of relish.  All the things Texas potato salad requires (Quart=$5.69).  I tried the creamed corn for the first time (small=$1.99).  Lots of corn, and good crisp, sweetness, but the sauce was too runny.  The beans.  I was disappointed in the beans. (Quart=$5.69).  Tender beans, but a big lack of flavor.  Dull. 

I like Rudy's.  I'm glad they followed me to Houston.....

Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q
Several Locations, but in Houston:
14620 Northwest Freeway
Houston, Texas 77040
20806 Interstate 45
Spring, Texas 77373

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jarro Cafe

Let me ruin the ending, Jarro Cafe was some of the worst food I have eaten.  Texas Monthy listed them as one of the 50 best Mexican Restaurants in Texas.  Really?  Seriously?  Texas Monthy's credibilty is seriously lost for me now.

Here are my thoughts on Jarro Cafe.  Barebones interior (that's okay).  The owner has a serious "thing" for the Beatles.  The service was slow, but nice.  Musical choices were eclectic ranging from Muse to classical to the Beatles (of course) to Caribbean steel drums to the Pretenders.  No alcohol served.  I could have used a Margarita or Tecate to wash down the food.

Jarro Cafe, Beatles posters decorate the restaurant

The food was very unpleasing.  The nachos ($6.99) consisted of poured Rico's Cheese Sauce.  You know the stuff -- the cheese product used for nachos at football stadiums and movie theaters.  Not kidding, we saw the can.  Chicken, with zero flavor, was sliced across the top (not on individual nacho chips).  The refried beans tasted like they were out of a can.  Boring.  Bland. Including the avocado.


Next up, Flautas ($7.99).  I would have guessed that messing up a Flauta plate would be tough.  I mean, fried anything is usually good.  Not so much here at Jarro Cafe.  The chicken inside the fried rolled up tortilla was white, which made me happy, but it was dry and flavorless.  No seasonings.  Again, the beans were just not good.  Very disappointing. 


Final dish ordered: Bistec a la Mexicana ($7.99).  Beefsteak cooked with tomatoes, onions, and spicy jalapenos.  This dish was a tad better because of the salsa/sauce poured over the top.  I guess salsa makes anything better!  Beef steak was pounded very was tender, but consequently did not offer much meat on the plate.  The rice.  Ugh.  Gummy.  Flavorless.  I mean just awful.  Beans, the same canned beans on other dishes.

Bistec a la Mexicana

Our lunch was such a disappointment.  I like Taco Bell better.  While I do realize that Taco Bell is using the same canned cheese sauce for their nachos, at least you expect it, and the price is cheaper.  I'm going to have a hard time believing Texas Monthy's recommendations in the future.

Jarro Cafe
1521 Gessner
Houston, Texas 77080