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For Richer or Poorer

The po-boys at Zimm's Little Deck come up short.

There are many things to love about Zimm's Little Deck. Oddly — for a Cajun restaurant with an executive chef from Louisiana — the po-boys aren't one of them.

Perhaps the fact that Zimm's employs an executive chef who's rarely seen on premises is one of the problems. Chef Jeramie Robison has been busily improving and modernizing the menu at Cinq, the new restaurant in La Colombe d'Or that's the crown jewel in the Zimmerman family's Montrose empire (which also includes Zimm's Martini Bar), leaving the kitchen at Zimm's to its own devices. But great Cajun food rarely requires overly fancy fussing around with, so it would stand to reason that perhaps the po-boys would be better without interference from an executive chef type. Even a young one. Even a Louisianan.

Whatever the reason, I cannot fathom how Zimm's can serve a barely six-inch-long "rich boy" on soft, squishy, slightly gummy, totally inappropriate bread and charge $15 for it. It would almost be offensive if not for the obvious care that's been taken with it, awful bread notwithstanding. Zimm's and Chef Robison have clearly put a lot of effort into the menu here, and I do love the idea of having "rich boy" and "po-boy" sections (as much as I don't love the inflated prices in either).

Skip the po-boys and go for the cocktails and small plates, especially the calamari.
Troy Fields
Skip the po-boys and go for the cocktails and small plates, especially the calamari.

Location Info

Map

Zimm's Little Deck

601 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: Montrose

Details

Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight, Sundays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays through Saturdays.

Dozen Gulf oysters: $17

Gumbo: $4

Calamari: $9

Pate: $7

Fried shrimp po-boy: $12

Fried oyster po-boy: $12

Le Grand Cochon: $12

Casablanca: $15

Chocolate bread pudding: $9

Zimm's Little Deck

601 Richmond, 713-527-8328.

And on my very first visit, when Zimm's first opened, a Moroccan-inspired lamb sandwich off the "rich boy" side of the menu wowed me: The tender lamb had the slightest tinge of game still playing on the edges, thickly infused with turmeric and ginger and coated in a tangy aioli that made the lamb sing. Punched up with peppery leaves of arugula, the lamb and the sauce were more than enough to make me overlook the bread that night.

Other rich boys on Zimm's menu had me eagerly awaiting return visits: Le Grand Cochon with pulled pork, another lamb sandwich called a Casablanca, a Lafitte with fried oysters and beef tenderloin. But when I tasted my dining partner's Huey Long — a rich boy filled with barbecued shrimp — it was like glimpsing the future. And it wasn't a bright future.

While the barbecued shrimp were perfectly passable, if forgettable, his rather puny rich boy contained very few of the actual crustaceans and was far from dressed, a trend that only continued with further visits. If the kitchen works so hard crafting these cocktail sauces and aiolis from scratch, why skimp on them instead of allowing them to shine?

Luckily, we'd ordered a dozen Gulf oysters along with our sandwiches, and my dining companion took refuge in their buttery, briny embrace while I polished off my rich boy. It was a bit of a shock, however, to get the bill later and find those oysters were $17 for a dozen. Considering you can get the same oysters — shucked with the same care and skill — down the street at Danton's for $9 a dozen, I was unimpressed with Zimm's markup, to say the least.

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But while Zimm's doesn't necessarily have it together on the poor/rich boy front, I still found myself looking forward to return visits for three things: the small plates, the cocktails and the inviting atmosphere.

The restaurant is entirely new, built from the ground up on Richmond just off the spur. The Zimmermans took care to make it look as authentically French Quarter-esque as possible, something that was noticed with affection by my Cajun friend, Jason, when I took him for dinner one recent night. The patio area lines a pétanque court, which I expect to be in full use this summer. A fireplace outside attempts to make things cozier in the winter (although there's no seating next to the fireplace, which I found very odd). And while people have complained about the noise coming off Richmond when seated outside, I question which patios they usually frequent — this stretch of Richmond is almost as quiet as you'll get in Montrose.

At the long, smooth, veined marble bar inside, you can perch on a stool while watching oysters being shucked or sandwiches constructed in the open kitchen. It's a very cozy — if very upscale — feeling that's strongly enhanced with a cocktail in hand. The cocktail program here was developed by Anthony Montz, formerly of Hearsay, and while he's now moved on to other projects, the drinks are still made skillfully and creatively by bartender and front-of-house man Cory.

On a recent blustery evening, a pear-clove sour — a wintery twist on a whiskey sour — warmed me up as I awaited my food with Jason. He was annoyed that the cocktail menu listed a "Nawlins Collins" as an option ("No one from New Orleans says or spells New Orleans like that," he huffed), but ordered one anyway and ended up loving Zimm's twist on a classic Tom Collins. A Sazerac on another visit was ruined by an abundance of bitters that turned the cocktail a rosy orange-pink color, but was made up for by a Hurricane that was heavy on the rum and packed a serious punch. At the very least, Zimm's is a wholly pleasant place for a cocktail and catching up with friends.

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18 comments
Dbeveridge2003
Dbeveridge2003

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wms
wms

Zimms or Danton's, who cares? One word. Calliope.

Charlz
Charlz

Caliope's Po-boys are a great choice. Take it from a real Cajun! $15 for oysters, they can have 'em!!

I am very unimpressed with "cajun" places in Houston Ragin Cajun SUCKS!! and Boudreaux's is bland.. Can someone please quit trying to imitate!!

Mike_mcr
Mike_mcr

$7.00 for a St. Arnold beer. No thanks...

Chef504
Chef504

The great New Orleans trap. I went to University there, Culinary school there and lived there for years. People love to take what works in New Orleans change it and try it somewhere else. That approach never works for long. I have never heard of a rich boy, and am very glad to say that. If a place can't get the po-boy right then sign that place off. The perfect po-boy is simple and should stay that way. I'll be happy to give anyone my recipe. $17 for a dozen oysters not even if Scarlett Johansson was shucking them topless baby. To be from New Orleans and spell it Nawlins your on the gas. To call a po-boy a Huey Long, that makes me think that after I eat it I will have to keep paying for it. I'm not sure I would name anything after him. I make it a habit to avoid places that use gimmicks to force New Orleans down your throat. If you are eating at a place and without any props around or not so clever menu listing say to yourself, hey this sorta reminds me of NOLa then that place has done it right. The secret to great New Orleans cuisine is to let the food be the star. I have never gone back to a restaurant because the ambiance made my belly happy.

Jeff
Jeff

After eating at this place three times, I have to say, I'll probably never go back. The menu items are described in mouthwatering fashion, which made me return to try a variety of things, but each time was a disappointment. The food was ok, but it wasn't sublime even the slightest bit. The food tasted dirty, dusty and overworked which is maybe how one expects New Orleans style food to taste. The 8 or 9 potato chips you get with a 12 dollar sandwich tasted like burnt grease. The lamb sausage sandwich tasted pretty good. The croque monsieur hushpuppies were fairly tasty, but WAY overpriced for a paltry 4 or 5 bites. The thing that kills me about this place is that they're called Zimm's Little Deck. There is no deck to be found! The *patio* suffers from a bland gravel expanse for a petanque (sp) court with no greenery or vegetation. It really should be filled with potted plants and palms to hide the noisy Richmond speedway with cars flying down the road at 40mph. How pretentious to think that people who just dropped loads of cash to eat and drink are going to play some obscure European park game 3 feet from a busy, noisy road. Instead their "deck" is a few chairs and tables (which don't have a comfortable dining height) hugging the side of the restaurant while 80 percent of the outdoor space is a barren desert of gravel. For such a cute restaurant/bar, the outside suffers immensely. Hire a landscape professional, make it a lush patio, but a "deck" (a structure of planks and boards) it certainly isn't.

FromTheHood
FromTheHood

Overpriced for sure. Way overpriced. Way to keep out the bulk of the neighbors in the area for sure. No riff-raff for Zimm's, only their rich friends in their overpriced cars.

Adsa
Adsa

This place is pure crap!

Abz
Abz

The freezer is outside the restaurant. When we walked up the line cook was taking a box out of the freezer and then ran it under water to defrost. I observed the "defrost" process as I ate at the bar. Sorry to burst the bubble.

nola yarddawgs
nola yarddawgs

Come down and have a real po'boy at the zoo... yeah that's right! the zoo, a well hidden little spot with the best roast beef po'boy!... ya better get some napkins!

TJ
TJ

I don't know... I'd pay $17 a dozen to see Scarlett Johansson shucking oysters topless, as long as she wasn't wearing an apron.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

"$17 for a dozen oysters not even if Scarlett Johansson was shucking them topless baby." This made my day. Ha!

3Steel Balls
3Steel Balls

If you happen to be European, Petanque is not obscure. If you played the game, you'd probably like it. I don't think you can call it pretentious by any means. Just because you've never heard of something that millions of others have heard of and play every day doesn't make it pretentious. We are talking about a game where you throw steel balls at other steel balls in gravel, not high tea at 4.

To me, having a bar where I can enjoy a few decent bites and copious amounts of cold beer along with a good game of petanque with my friends makes it all worth the price of admission.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Will confirm this myself, but in the meantime...damn. Yet another bad mark for Zimm's if that's true: Lying straight to our faces when we asked if the squid and clams had been frozen.

Rachelneff
Rachelneff

By that logic, if they have an oven, then what you ate was baked calamari....

Abz
Abz

To be fair it was a box of frozen shrimp I saw (2 to be exact) so maybe the clams and squid were fresh but I'll leave that up to your investigation.

GilchristJ
GilchristJ

Frozen doesn't mean bad. In fact, most would prefer well-frozen and properly thawed to 'fresh' stuff that sounds good, but loses its freshness more quickly than most care to admit, especially when it comes to seafood.

 
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