Houston's Food Nazis

Some are curmudgeonly but intriguing. Others are just a bad trip to S&M land.

But it's clear the longest line belongs to Doozo Dumpling and Noodle.

The menu is simple: Steamed dumplings, ten for $5, pork or veggie, spicy or mild. Perhaps you'd like a half-order. That's available too, as are two noodle dishes and two kinds of sushi roll.

In line are several men in khaki pants and women in pantsuits, all waiting patiently, holding their money and talking about work.

Doug Mac

Behind the counter is a middle-aged Asian woman in a bright orange sweater, stacks of Styrofoam containers piled behind her, directing a fleet of employees dressed in yellow T-shirts.

"Ten spicy pork!" she yells. "Pepsi!" she demands. "Five mild veg!" she calls back to her hive of yellow-clad bees.

Doozo's "dumpling nazi" is nothing short of a food-slinging maestro. She has to be. Being located in the food court next to downtown's corporations is both a blessing and a curse. Built-in business, to be sure, but not exactly a place folks are seeking for anything more than a quick fix. No, Doozo has two and a half lunchtime hours (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) to maximize profits and move asses through the line.

Because of this, each move she makes is precise, each uttered word audible. Her employees listen for her cues, not making a move until given instruction. An indecisive customer costs her money. If she's frank, it's because of this fact.

I have come to take it on the teeth. I want the full brunt of Doozo's dumpling nazi contempt, which is probably why, while waiting in line, I begin shaking, nervously flopping sweat. How bad is this going to get?

I know what I have to do to provoke the nazi's ire. Money? Still in my pocket. I've made the simple choice of pork/veg/spicy/mild impossible.

Although long, the line moves quickly. After all, the food is already prepared. My time has come.

"May I help you, sir!" she demands more so than asks.

I look up absently at the menu, gaze longingly at the mountains of Styrofoam to-go containers and muster my best "Ummmmm."

She waits quietly with pursed lips.

"I'll have the ummmmm. How spicy are the spicy pork?"

I begin to feel heat on my neck. I look back and see 30 hungry FVC, El Paso Energy and Reliant employees fiddling the security badges that hang from their belt loops, all quelling the urge to tell me to hurry the hell up.

"You don't have Coke, huh? Just Pepsi?"

I am an asshole.

After one minute (which feels like several, trust me), I order.

"TEN SPICY PORK!" she calls out, noticeably louder than for the folks who came before me. Not so bad. I got off easy.

In fact, compared to what I expected, she's a princess. It is the stern and palpable disapproval of those in line behind me that is the worst of it. Looking for a table, I can't help but feel I'm being stared at like I just cut a wet fart at a funeral.

After awhile, I approach someone with the familiar to-go box.

Elizabeth Davis has heard Doozo referred to as the dumpling nazi, and she doesn't understand why.

"I eat at Doozo every week, sometimes twice. Most of the people that eat there are regulars, so they know what they want the minute they get in line," Davis says.

And know to have their money ready.

"Exactly," she agrees.

It's become a science. Regulars are regulars because they know what to expect. "A line at Doozo can be twice as long as one somewhere else, but it will move three times as fast," Davis explains.

Dictatorship has its privileges.

On the patio at Bibas, John directs me to a seat next to a bus tub full of dirty, food-caked dishes.

"I'd like to sit over there," I say, motioning toward a row of bushy hedges.

"Oh, what difference does it make?" he asks dismissively while throwing his arms up in the air.

Three women nearby begin laughing.

Rosemarie Moore, a Heights artist, and her daughter, Roseann Siddell, eat at Bibas every week. They've become well versed in John's peculiarities.

"The first time I ate here I came home and told my mom, 'Gosh, he's so rude,' " Roseann admits. "But after coming here a couple times, you learn he's just kidding."

"It takes you aback," Rosemarie explains. "You're so used to walking into a restaurant and, 'Oh, ma'am, may I help you?' " she says as she mockingly fawns over her daughter.

Both agree that, while they find the food at Bibas "excellent," neither would eat there as often if John weren't around.

"We'd miss it," says Rosemarie. "I remember a while ago he went back to Greece for a week, and it was weird. There was no one here to give you a hard time."

John, having arrived late to the conversation to refill waters, hears the tail end of the conversation and tells us that Americans are "very finicky peoples" who "like to fight" and "don't like to be challenged."

This elicits a series of jovial "Ohhhhhh, John"s from the ladies.

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