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
Personally, I view bulgogi as more of a dinnertime affair — I like to linger with friends over the hot grills and cold soju — and dishes like bibimbap as more lunch-friendly. Even then, however, dolsot bibimbap (my favorite kind) requires a little bit of patience to enjoy. This isn't a dish you can rush through. White rice and stir-fried vegetables — the base of any bibimbap dish — are served in a blistering hot stone bowl, which further cooks rice that's touching it until it achieves a delightfully crispy, chewy texture. (Regular bibimbap, it should be noted, is served in a standard bowl and doesn't crisp up your rice.) Once you've left the rice alone long enough to crisp up, stir the whole thing together with gochujang and devour. There's typically an egg yolk on top, which will cook into the dish as you mix it up.
Jjigae is another lunchtime favorite. Like bibimbap, this stew is served boiling hot. The jjigae broth is typically thin and spicy. It can be filled with a variety of ingredients, but my two favorite versions of the stew are kimchi jjigae and sundubu jjigae. The latter, made with soft tofu, is a standard Korean dish and therefore common at Korean restaurants around Houston. This tofu stew typically contains seafood and shellfish, too, which gives the hot broth a sweet, salty kick.
Pescetarians rejoice: Hwe is where it's at. This is basically the Korean version of sashimi, with a few notable differences: The hwe is usually sliced off a fresh, live fish, for one. This means the flesh (flounder and salmon are most commonly found here) retains that almost crunchy texture of super-fresh fish — a texture that most people aren't familiar with if their only contact with raw fish has been through sushi. The bones and other parts of the fish that weren't used for hwe are boiled into a spicy maeuntang soup so that nothing is wasted. And unlike at Japanese restaurants, you'll eat your hwe by dipping the fish into chogochujang (a more sour version of gochujang) and then wrapping it in lettuce leaves (or perilla, if you're at a really legit place). For a full hwe feast in Houston, gather up at least five of your friends and hit Dadami.
Houstonians hold Sunday sacred for brunching.
After the third out-of-towner in a week asked me why Saturday brunch wasn't a "thing" in Houston, I got curious. Once is a blip, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend.
The problem is that — as far as I know — Saturday isn't the traditional brunching day of choice in Houston. Saturdays are our "get shit done" days. We can't afford to fall into a pitcher of mimosas on Saturdays. They're the days of kids' birthday pool parties and errands you couldn't get done during the week and soccer matches and mowing the lawn. During football season, they're also our sit-in-front-of-the-TV-with-friends-and-yell days.
"Tailgating is Saturday brunch," as my friend Lennie Ambrose at Saint Arnold Brewery puts it. "Break out the smoker — or at least some extra cheap hot dogs, a Bloody Mary and a lawn chair in a college parking lot."
The rest of our drunken debauchery and binge eating is reserved for the Lord's Day, naturally. Most of the city's best brunches — like those at Triniti, Quattro and Danton's — can only be found on Sundays. This could be a key to why Houstonians traditionally reserve brunch for Sundays — or, as we like to call them, Sunday Fundays.
First of all, Saturday Funday does not rhyme and sounds ridiculous. Second, the whole point of Sunday Funday is to celebrate the fact that you got shit done on Saturday and are now doing one of two things (or both):
1) enjoying your day off by occupying a patio with your friends until the sun starts to set; and/or
2) recovering from the night before with restorative "breakfast cocktails" and eggs.
Sunday couldn't be a more fitting day for these activities. It's also ideal for the city's large post-church crowd, who can transition their Sunday finest into an elegant meal at Brennan's or Rainbow Lodge. Even when I was growing up, brunch was a Sunday-only routine that went: Sunday school, church, brunch at Rio Ranch, home, football (again, in season), The Simpsons, dinner, bed.
For these reasons, brunch on a Saturday seems suspiciously gimmicky to me. But those on the coasts — and in cities such as Austin, where folks from the coasts have taken over — maintain that Saturday brunch is tradition.
When I ran into Eater National Editor Raphael Brion on a recent Saturday night, he told me he was shocked to learn that Saturday brunch wasn't widely available in Houston. In both his original home base of New York City and his new home base of Austin, Saturday brunch is a given.
"We've always had Saturday brunch," explains Village Voice food critic Robert Sietsema, "but fewer take advantage of it. The meal is a restaurateur's ploy to sell you eggs and curdled Hollandaise at elevated prices, but most especially to get you drinking heavily in the afternoon." As suspected.