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
SEASON'S EATINGLet's face it, sometimes a "home-cooked" meal in a restaurant is better than anything we can whip up at home. Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most difficult, time-consuming and stressful meals to make if you don't normally cook meals at home.
But, there's one thing to be thankful for this year, and that is you can have a wonderful and delicious home-cooked meal without the stress and anxiety of burning the turkey, messing up the gravy or serving cold food that should be hot. Here's a running list of places to dine in Houston on Thanksgiving Day. You can't go wrong with a home-cooked meal by a professional on Thanksgiving.
945 Gessner, 281-501-4300
At just $35 per person, 024 Grille at the Westin Houston offers a Thanksgiving Day menu of one first course, one entrée with three sides and one dessert. The classic Boston bibb lettuce and heirloom tomato salad with bacon and smoked blue cheese sounds like a winner in my book. Try something other than turkey and choose their prime rib or Cuban-mojo roasted pork leg with the traditional green bean casserole, or adventurous truffle mac and cheese. It'll be hard to choose just one dessert when you have choices like pumpkin crème brulee or a simple pecan pie with vanilla ice cream.
800 Sorella Court, 713-827-3545
The Brennan's family restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner this Thanksgiving Day. Sample their holiday-related specials for lunch and dinner.
You don't have to eat turkey at Bistro Provence for Thanksgiving dinner. Try their roast beef or Nova Scotia grilled salmon, served with delicious French sides like cauliflower puree or maple roasted potatoes. Choose from a petit chocolate pot de crème or pumpkin bread pudding after this three-course French dinner.
benjy's on Washington
5922 Washington Avenue, 713-868-1131
This modern-style restaurant offers a three-course dinner from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for $38 per person. Just like their daily menus, benjy's offers bold ingredients to change each item from a typical Thanksgiving dish into a delicious and enticing plate of food. Choose from their chilled roasted beef salad with truffled potato, arugula and a mustrard vinaigrette, or their roasted pork rack with a maple cranberry compote. Every main entrée comes with green bean casserole, challah dressing and mashed potatoes. Complete this delicious meal with Mom's Chocolate Cake and you'll be sleeping like a baby for the rest of the day.
Although every day is like Thanksgiving at Boston Market, they are one of the only chain restaurants open on turkey day. You can dine in or take your feast to go. Choose from a variety of meal packages to help you have the best Thanksgiving dinner. This year, Boston Market offers sweet potato cheesecake, spinach-stuffed Portobello mushrooms and mashed potatoes five ways along with their everyday menu.
Branch Water Tavern
510 Shepherd Drive, 713-863-7777
If you're not into the sit down and order style of service, bring your family to Branch Water Tavern for a buffet-style Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. It's only $40 per person and kids under 12 get in for half price. Choices include pork roast, roast turkey, oyster stuffing, orange glazed carrots, sweet potato gratin, a cold buffet of salads and seafood cocktails, and a dessert buffet with bread pudding, brownies and classic pies.
2521 Bagby, 713-521-7231
Join chef Johan Schuster as he celebrates Thanksgiving the continental way, with a meal that includes traditional American favorites as well as his signature Central and Eastern European dishes. Create your own menu for $48 and choose from a wide array of appetizers, entrees and desserts such as pan-fried foie gras, garlic cream soup Transylvania, Weiner schnitzel, bacon-wrapped quail, Linzer torte, apple strudel and, of course, pumpkin pie. Call for reservations.
2502 Algerian Way, 713-581-6101
This year at Haven you and your family can dine in (reservations required). (Sorry, if you hadn't ordered by Monday, November 19, you can't do pick up by Wednesday.) If you choose to dine in, enjoy Chef Randy Evan's Modern Texas Cuisine featuring a three-course menu of house-made turducken terrine, a variety of meats and fish paired with potatoes, sausage dressing, cornbread pudding and risotto.
Houston Texans Grille
12848 Queensbury Lane, Suite 208, 713-461-2002
For all you diehard Texans fans, visit Houston Texans Grille for tailgate grub and cheer on the Houston Texans as they play the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. No need to worry about tryptophan making you sleepy, because there's no turkey served in this tailgate Thanksgiving Day meal.
1600 Westheimer @ Mandell, 713-524-7744
There's no rule against eating authentic Mexican food on Thanksgiving Day. Hugo's offers a delicious menu filled with ceviches and a variety of tamales, served with authentic accompaniments like mole cornbread and of course, guacamole. Wrap up this Mexican feast with a classic tres leches dessert or a delicious flan de queso.
4100 Westheimer, 713-960-8472
Chef Kiran Verma is hosting a Thanksgiving buffet at Kiran's, where you can choose from a wide variety of delicious dishes including roasted butternut squash and pear soup, organic tandoori turkey, shaved brussels sprouts, pumpkin ravioli, carrot cake with ginger cream icing and much more. Seatings are available at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is $45 per person or $25 for children under 12.
Line & Lariat
220 Main Street, 713-224-4266
Visit the Hotel ICON's restaurant for a pre fixe dinner on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. for $27 per person ($12.99 for kids ages six to 12, free for kids under five). Executive Chef David Luna has created a menu starting with roasted butternut squash soup and candied spiced pecans, followed by an arugula salad, then a roasted turkey dinner with cornbread dressing, gravy and roasted cranberry relish. Finish this meal with either pumpkin pie or a bourbon pecan pie and caramel ice cream. Reservations are required.
Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar
1985 Welch, 713-533-0200
Dine in for a three-course menu featuring unconventional entrees like sea bass and grilled prime rib eye, all paired with delicious elegant side dishes. End your Thanksgiving dinner with their classic crème brulee or pumpkin cheesecake with huckleberry sauce. Dining-in reservations are required.
Monarch Bistro at Hotel ZaZa
5701 Main, 713-527-1800
Join the Monarch Bistro for a four-course Thanksgiving Day meal for just $55 per person. From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., you and your friends and family can dine on roasted squash soup, quail with cornbread sage sausage and cherry stuffing, the classic turkey with giblet gravy or smoked duck breast with shepherd's pie, and finish with a twist on pumpkin pie: pumpkin panna cotta.
Philippe Restaurant + Lounge
1800 Post Oak Blvd., 713-439-1000
From noon to 8 p.m., French Cowboy Chef Philippe Schmit will feature his take on Thanksgiving dinner: Sweet potato flan, coleslaw with horseradish, braised collard greens with bacon and almonds and chocolate pecan pie.
Quattro at Four Seasons Houston Hotel
1300 Lamar, 3rd floor, 713-276-4700
Whether you prefer brunch or dinner, Quattro at the Four Seasons has you covered. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., enjoy their brunch buffet for $79 per person, but kids under five eat free. Starting at 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., you and your family can dine in for Thanksgiving dinner featuring an antipasti buffet of various cold salads, cheeses and fruits, followed by plated entrees and an assortment of desserts, all for $58 per person. Reservations are required.
1972 Fairview, 713-523-7667
Roost will be open for Thanksgiving Dinner at 4 p.m. serving its latest regular local / seasonal menu, plus a few special dishes just for Thanksgiving: seared allspice duck breast with roasted beet and rye bread panzanella; honey-brined turkey breast with sweet potato purée, braised greens, jalapeño cornbread and cranberry chutney; and an appetizer of country fried local quail, butter biscuit, cream gravy and sweet pickled jalapeños. Reservations are required, and parties of six or more are subject to a credit card deposit.
1200 Louisiana, 713-654-1234
Take your guests out and take in a beautiful, 360-degree view of downtown from Spindletop's perch above the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown. The restaurant is offering a Thanksgiving lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that features a four-course meal along with a lavish dessert display of tartlets, pies, cheesecake pops and other assorted sweets. Lunch is $60 per adult, $30 for children ages 7 to 12 and complimentary for children 6 and younger.
Black Friday Steals
Everything tastes better on sale.
BY MOLLY DUNN
While you're going crazy running from store to store to grab the best deals for Christmas gifts this Black Friday, you're definitely going to be starving for something good to eat. Why not stick with the theme of finding the best deals when it comes to where you'll eat or drink that day?
We've compiled a list of the places in Houston where you'll find discounted food and drinks on Black Friday. Everything tastes better when it's on sale.
800 Sorella Court, 713-827-3545
Happy hour lasts all day at Bistro Alex this Black Friday. All the specials, including half-price cocktails and appetizers featuring flatbreads and burgers, will be served from 10:30 a.m. until midnight.
1201 Lake Woodlands Dr., 281-298-6426
Mi Cocina offers extended happy-hour hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Try a domestic beer for $3 or one of their appetizers and margaritas for just $5. If you bring your receipt from shopping that day, you'll get a free cup of queso with your happy hour treats.
3908 Westheimer, 713-621-5800
Relax after a long day of shopping with sushi, appetizers, tapas and drinks at RA Sushi during their extended happy hour from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Each food item costs no more than $7.25 and every drink costs no more than $7.
4601 Washington, 281-501-3237
From 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. if you bring your Black Friday shopping receipt, order one food item and get a second equally priced or cheaper one for just ten cents. What a great way to get rewarded for shopping.
The grocery chain is rewarding Black Friday shoppers who get their Christmas buying done in the stores by offering a special deal: All H-E-B plus! store customers who spend $50 or more on Black Friday will receive a coupon for $10 off to be used on Saturday, November 24, in H-E-B plus! stores.
IN THE TRENCHES
To Order Fish on Mondays or Not
How valid are the old "rules" of dining out?
You've heard the old adages about dining pitfalls to avoid:
Don't order fish on Mondays. (It's all left over from Friday's seafood shipment, goes the tale, and you don't want gross, slimy salmon.)
Don't eat the bread in the bread basket. (It's supposedly recycled from table to table, people say.)
Don't order the daily special. (It's just a way for the kitchen to use up old food that's on the verge of spoiling, they'll tell you.)
But in the modern era of chef-driven restaurants and places that emphasize fresh, local, seasonal ingredients above all things, are these old wives' tales just that? Or is there still a kernel of truth in the warnings? "The beauty about food these days is constant availability," says David Luna, executive chef at Line & Lariat in the Hotel Icon. "Seafood is available and my sources have product coming to them or them going to the docks pretty regularly."
In other words, it's probably a safe bet to order seafood any day of the week if you're dining in a restaurant that specializes in seafood or simply takes pride in their ingredients. "Restaurants sourcing their seafood from reputable suppliers is the most important factor," says Luna. Those suppliers are held more accountable, too.
"A well managed kitchen has someone inspecting deliveries for quality. Suppliers learn from the delivery drivers who checks and who doesn't," Luna says. "Suppliers now run a higher risk of spoilage than restaurants do by gambling on demand. We can always send it back if the quality isn't there."
As for the old "specials" adage, this is one that most people routinely ignore now — and with good reason. "I don't believe daily specials are an outlet for 'extended stay' food," says Luna. "I like to think chefs use 'specials' more often to promote their talent and create a trend in their establishments."
The "avoid the specials" warning is definitely an old wives' tale, says Genevieve Guy, owner of Bistro Provence: "We usually do specials to try new recipes on customers, not to get rid of old stuff."
The main reason that so many of these old food rules no longer apply, however, doesn't have as much to do with chefs showcasing talent or fresh ingredients. As with most bottom lines, this one is financially based. You won't find a chef bragging about 27 percent food costs, but you will find chefs keeping a much closer eye on their balance sheets in a time when profit margins at most restaurants are slim.
"I don't think everyone realizes that food prices are out of control these days," says Luna. "I've seen some products go from 79 cents a pound to $2.50 a pound over the last few years. The key to success is eliminating potential waste."
Rob Frias, executive chef of Cali Kitchen in Los Angeles, agrees.
"In my kitchen I have a waste-not-want-not kind of mentality," says Frias. "Everything gets utilized in one way or another. I rotate stock as to not keep stale items in my storage areas. Specials are usually creative ways of utilizing items that are not going to be used in the main dishes unless an establishment has a set budget for actual specials."
"In my case," Frias says, "it's a combination of both. Gone are the days of 'getting rid of old food.' Nowadays it's more, 'How can we maximize the potential of an ingredient and avoid waste?'"
But none of this means that chefs or restaurateurs are willing to put their customers' health on the line for a few extra cents saved in food costs — especially when the incidence of foodborne illnesses has risen 44 percent in the last year alone. And most reputable restaurants certainly aren't going to recycle things like bread or tortilla chips from table to table. Even the abjectly terrible Tex-Mex restaurant I once worked for didn't recycle its tortilla chips. "I cannot imagine why a chef/operator would risk getting someone sick when the results could be catastrophic," says Luna. "And I'm not at least concerned with the financial part; I'm talking about killing someone."
Customer and food safety are concerns that are — thankfully — endemic throughout the industry, says Philippe Gaston, sous chef at Haven and its new raw bar, Cove. "I think for the most part we are all pretty good about keeping everything fresh."
"But," he jokes, "there's obvious places that you shouldn't even go into — yet we do every day."
So what is the most obvious sign that a restaurant (and its food) should be avoided? That's an easy one, says Luna.
"I use the restroom rule as a factor in choosing a restaurant. Dirty restrooms equals anything imaginable."
Openings & Closings
Bruce Molzan Returns and Blacksmith Breaks Ground.
BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT
Hang on to your lobster bibs; it's been a busy week for openings, closings and chef shuffles in Houston, starting with news that everyone's favorite (fill in the blank with the adjective of your choice, Mad Libs-style) chef is back: Bruce Molzan.
After being closed for a year, The Brownstone is reopening after an extended remodel and rebranding. The complex at 2736 Virginia has three new spaces it's ready to show off after Thanksgiving: 1919 Wine & Mixology downstairs, The Oak Bar & Nightclub upstairs and Corner Table by Chef Bruce Molzan. The Oak Bar will feature live entertainment while Molzan himself will be cooking out of a brand-new kitchen downstairs.
Maybe this time around, Molzan's staff won't walk out on him. (Too soon?)
And in other chef news, Adair Kitchen has announced that Jimmy Mitchell — formerly the executive chef for such well-known restaurants as The Rainbow Lodge, Vallone's Steak House and Gaido's — has joined the team. Mitchell, who holds a certification in Master Gardening from Texas A&M University, has worked with owners Nick Adair and Katie Barnhart to create a seasonal dinner menu to go along with the simple, straightforward breakfast and lunches that Adair Kitchen already serves. Look for dishes such as green chicken enchiladas, lean turkey meatloaf and grilled salmon with pesto.
With news that the strip center which houses Vietnamese diner Thien An has been sold and will soon be demolished to make way for the long-awaited Midtown superblock, fans were left wondering what would happen to their favorite spot for a banh mi and pho fix. Eater Houston reports that Thien An plans to reopen in six months at a new location at 2611 San Jacinto, just a block away from another Viet favorite, Kim Tai.
In other Midtown news, Aperture Coffee & Wine Bar — which closed last August has yet to reopen in its new (and as yet unannounced) location. We're still waiting for their eventual return. What's going on, guys? Come back to us!
In happier news, things are swimming along nicely for Montrose coffee house Blacksmith, where construction has finally begun on the old building that housed everyone's favorite gay biker bar, Mary's. Photos have been posted to Blacksmith's Facebook page all week, showing off the same kind of serious remodeling that was required for neighbor (and fellow former gay bar) Chances when The Hay Merchant and Underbelly were getting ready to move in.
Meanwhile in Montrose, another old building didn't have such a lucky fate. The fourplex at 2310 Converse which was set to house The Muffin Man restaurant and, er, bakery two years ago — you may remember its billboard out front announcing that "a four inch muffin is better than an eight inch cock" — was approved for demolition, according to Swamplot. I guess we'll never know the gustatory joys of those four-inch muffins.
Also closed for good: Aura Restaurant in Missouri City. The French restaurant was regarded as one of the best in the city — even though it was nowhere near Houston proper. But good news (awesome news for Sugar Land Town Square, especially) comes from our friends at B4-U-Eat, who reported in this week's newsletter:
Frederic and Michelle Perrier closed AURA Restaurant, 3340 FM 1092 in Missouri City, Saturday and it will re-open the end of this month as AURA Brasserie Moderne in Sugar Land Town Square. Meanwhile, on Monday, they opened Coco Pazzo by Aura where AURA was. Coco Pazzo serves Mediterranean Italian Cuisine with still an "inch of French."
Further up Highway 59, a reader reports on a new sushi restaurant that's opened at 3800 Southwest Freeway, Michiru Sushi:
I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this place at 3800 Southwest Frwy. Stopped in last night, found some impressive stuff: king salmon from New Zealand, ocean trout, Japanese snapper, aji. Sushiman Oichi-san is from China but trained for 10 years in Japan and 17 years in New York City.
Our tipster also reports that Oichi-san is licensed to prepare and serve blowfish (a.k.a.fugu, a.k.a. a helluva way to die in case that whole eating a poisonous fish thing doesn't quite work out the way you expected). The same owners also run the popular Tyku Sushi in Webster.
Last but not least, Whole Foods has announced that it's opening a brand-new store in Katy — the same week as Rice Epicurean Markets announced the closure of four stores throughout Houston. The new 34,000 square-foot Katy grocer plans to open on January 30 at 7:30 a.m. and will be located at 6601 South Fry Road. The new Whole Foods will add 100 jobs to the area, just in time for all of us to start paying off our Christmas credit card bills.