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More Than Just Nolan Ryan

5 food-related reasons to drive to Alvin.

ON THE ROAD

In the past, I've been criticized by some readers for focusing my restaurant research on establishments inside the Loop. And while it's true that I don't regularly travel very far for my food, I recently found yet another excuse to go way outside my ZIP code.

Alvin, Texas, is my new favorite dining destination, and here are five reasons it should be yours as well:

5. Scotch Eggs

At Gordon Street Tavern, the fare is solid but predictable: hot wings, fried mushrooms, burgers and some damn good waffle fries doused in beef gravy. The unexpected hit, however, is the Scotch Eggs made from scratch by Chef Jason Chaney, who was inspired to re-create the British dish after tasting it as a child at Dickens on the Strand. House-made sausage, bright yellow yolks and a crisp coating of fresh bread crumbs make this appetizer fresh, robust and flavorful.

4. Craft Brews Great and Small

To wash down your Scotch Eggs, Gordon Street Tavern offers a wide range of mass-market and craft beers, including some varieties (like Coors's Batch 19) that are available only in a handful of Texas bars. There's also a wide choice in portion sizes from the cute mini-mugs for tastings and sampling to the 120-ounce containers (about two pitchers) for larger parties that require a lot of brew to fuel their brouhaha.

3. Grilled Oysters Three Ways

A hop, skip and a jump from Gordon Street Tavern is Coastal Crossing Grill, where fresh gulf seafood rules. Of special note are the monstrous grilled oysters, available in three different styles: "Fancy" (a sharp, citrusy dressing of shallots, cracked pepper and lemon vinaigrette), "Creole" (creamy jack cheese coating with smoky notes ) and "Sealy Street" (a fiery blend of pickled jalapeños and almost-burnt bacon).

2. Deep-Fried Short Ribs

Given that the Grill's kitchen is also manned by the talented Chaney, who earned significant street credit for his work at The Barbed Rose (former occupant of the site), it's not surprising that a non-seafood dish is also (ironically) making waves. To say that the deep-fried smoked short ribs are tender is, perhaps, the understatement of the year; when I picked up one of the ribs, the meat literally fell off the bone and almost into my lap. And despite a thick coating of spicy batter atop the sumptuous streaks of fat and pig flesh, the ribs are not cloyingly rich. Even a generous dip in the accompanying sweet, vinegary barbecue sauce isn't enough to induce moans (in a bad way). The sounds coming out of the mouths of diners (including my own) are of pure pleasure.

1. Elvis Cake Balls

"Omigod, cake balls are, like, so 2011." Fine, naysayers, you can skip the cake balls at Norma's Cakes & Cookies. Just know, however, that you'll die without tasting one of the most incredible creations in the history of baking. An homage to The King's favorite sandwich, the Elvis cakeball combines peanut butter chips with (overripe!) hearty banana cake to form a dense sphere that's finished with a dip in fine milk chocolate.
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BURGER BREAK

The Trompi-burger
Mexico's answer to the bacon cheeseburger

It's been awhile since a burger has stopped me dead in my tracks. Such is the arresting power of the trompi-burger at Taqueria La Macro, a new Monterrey-style restaurant in Northside.

I first ended up at Taqueria La Macro after my boyfriend came home from driving down North Main and reported that there was a new restaurant in the neighborhood, and it looked like it served trompo. As we've discussed before, true trompo — pork cooked al pastor-style on a vertical pit with a whole pineapple dripping down onto it as it rotates — is incredibly difficult to find in Houston. Even at one of my favorite spots, Tacos del Julio, the "trompo" is actually kept in a refrigerator and warmed up on the griddle to order.

When we walked into the bright, well-appointed dining room at Taqueria La Macro, I expected the same. This place simply looked too clean, too modern to have an authentic trompo like places such as Karanchos boast. Yet there it was, a glowing orange beacon from the middle of the open kitchen, topped with a fat, golden core of pineapple.

Trompo is a specialty at any Monterrey-style restaurants, and Taqueria La Macro is no exception. And in typical fashion for any restaurant operated by expats from Monterrey, the city and its famous mountains are well represented, from the neon outline of Cerro de la Silla in the window to photos of the chic Mexican city on the walls inside. (When it comes to having pride of place, Texans and Regiomontanos are tied in terms of sheer ostentatiousness.)

Also in true Monterrey fashion, the trompo makes appearances throughout Taqueria La Macro's small menu: You can order it in tacos, taquitos, tortas, quesadillas and even on hamburgers. And although it's very good on a Gringa taco with asadero cheese, folded into a flour tortilla and grilled until oozing, it's even better on a hamburger.

It's also sort of Mexico's answer to a bacon cheeseburger. Here's how it breaks down:

In place of a hamburger bun, you get buttery torta bread that's crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.

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