By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Molly Dunn
By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
Searching for a neighborhood joint where I could eat some mudbugs, since they're in season, I called Beaucoup Bar & Grill (3102 Old Spanish Trail, 713-747-5100) to see if they were holding. The sweet, friendly voice on the phone informed me that Beaucoup does crawfish boils on the weekends sometimes, but today was "free gumbo day." Free gumbo? I'm on my way...
I met up with some friends for a late lunch and some drinks. As we walked through the double doors, I felt like I'd just walked into a private club. The booths and tables are all neatly arranged inside a room that is painted black and dark red. There's a small counter that looks like a bar you'd find in a nightclub. You order at the counter and take a number to your table.
We ordered a few cocktails, a homemade lemonade and some beers, along with an assortment of eye-catching items from the menu. So far, nothing was impressive about this place, and the atmosphere seemed slightly amusing. There were a handful of diners scattered around the room eating out of Styrofoam to-go containers. Our complimentary gumbo arrived in small Styrofoam cups. Beaucoup is still new, and I guess they don't have spoons yet. We had to eat our gumbo with forks.
3102 Old Spanish Trail
Houston, TX 77054
Region: Inner Loop - SW
Crawfish bread: $5.99
Fried shrimp po-boy: $8.99
15 wings: $8.99
Deep-fried burger: $8.49
Catfish basket: $10.99
Pot roast sandwich: $11.99
3102 Old Spanish Trail, 713-747-5100.
Like with barbecue and chili, people love to debate whether a gumbo is authentic or not. I have tried lots of different kinds of gumbo — some thin, some thick; with okra or, God forbid, without; with chicken and shrimp and andouille. Gumbo is to parts of Texas and Louisiana what bouillabaisse is to France. A difference of opinion about roux could start a barroom brawl. I am sure someone is getting into a fistfight over it right now.
I like mine a little thick, with a slow-cooked red roux and lots of meat. Okra or no okra is fine. Then again, I like chili with beans (just kidding). I thought Beaucoup's gumbo, with crawfish, shrimp and beef-and-chicken sausage, rocked. It was just how I like it, and my lunch mates agreed. After I scooped all the rice and meat out of the broth, I slurped the rest out of the cup. Heat from the spices burned the back of my throat a little.
Among the three of us sitting at the table, we split several dishes. The crawfish bread came out first, looking like a crazy French bread pizza. A loaf of French bread was cut in half and smothered in sautéed crawfish meat and cheese. It was buttery and gooey and one of those comfort food dishes that you beg your mom to make every time you visit. I would come here just for that dish. We hacked at it like hungry alligators till the wings and fried burger arrived.
Different members of the staff kept randomly coming by our table and asking how everything was. It was more of a rhetorical question. They know everything is good, especially that crawfish bread. You'd have to be allergic to shellfish not to enjoy it. Even then, you might just chew a handful of Benadryl and go for it.
My friend Jeff Boudreaux, who is from Louisiana and claims never to have been past the Mason-Dixon line, is an amazing chef and a self-proclaimed authority on Cajun dishes. He's also a purist when it comes to po-boys: They should consist of a French baguette, pickles, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with seafood or meat inside. That's it. And this is exactly what Beaucoup does with its po-boy, which was an instant hit with everybody at the table. The shrimp were crunchy, and the bread was extra-soft. I think it might have been one of the best po-boys I've ever had.
If I see a deep-fried burger on the menu somewhere, you know I am going to order it. Our server set the fried beef patty with cheese in front of us, and it was a ferocious mound of love. Something so indulgent is almost taboo. It's like staring at your best friend's girlfriend's boobs — so wrong, but you can't help it. You have to do it. The deep-fried burger was excellent.
Beaucoup was on a roll, and it didn't stop there. The chicken wings were high-quality. I ordered 15, half battered and the other half with Beaucoup seasoning, a sort of dry rub that's not spicy. I asked for some hot sauce, and when the little unmarked ramekin came to the table we played the old "guess the brand" game. Someone said Frank's, but I was guessing something hotter, like Crystal's or Cajun Chef.
When I asked the server what brand it was, he replied, "We make it here with various spices and things." I was starting to notice a trend — everything at Beaucoup is made in-house, including the lemonade. This is how it should be. When all restaurants do is open up a bag of frozen "product," deep-fry it in another product and serve it with a side of prefab product sauce, it shows. In fact, it blows. When the server told me the hot sauce was homemade, I was impressed. It is one thing to bread and fry your own chicken tenders — it's a whole new level of passion to make your own hot sauce that's actually as tasty as or tastier than Tabasco.