Here, Eat This

A beginner's guide to Nigerian cuisine.

If not this, then what:

"I would probably be a reporter for Democracy Now! traveling all over the world to all of the hot spots and reporting from there. Or I would go back to doing radio. I used to do political satire — telling jokes on the radio."

What's next:

Grilled tilapia in pepper sauce at Finger Licking Bukateria.
Troy Fields
Grilled tilapia in pepper sauce at Finger Licking Bukateria.
Fufu, like this example at Suya Hut, is usually served in plastic wrap that keeps the dough moist and keeps the balls of fufu from sticking to each other.
Troy Fields
Fufu, like this example at Suya Hut, is usually served in plastic wrap that keeps the dough moist and keeps the balls of fufu from sticking to each other.

"We just got our gluten-free tamales in the Katy and Sugar Land Whole Foods, which is ­really exciting. We're looking at packaging right now — something that is environmentally friendly."

Davis is also close to opening a new restaurant, though she's not ready to share many details other than the fact that she'll be serving meat there (all locally sourced) and the restaurant will have a bar. She says that she'll really have to grow up as a restaurateur, since Radical Eats is very small and has been like "kindergarten."

Top 10

Are You Being Served
Ten Houston restaurants where service is king.

Katharine Shilcutt

It's hard to find good help, or so the saying goes. Indeed, many of the chefs and restaurant owners I've spoken with over the years privately admit that finding good waitstaff in Houston can be a Sisyphean task: You manage to find a truly great server or two, they dazzle your diners and then — because this is a very marketable skill we're talking about — they're lured away to another restaurant, and your search begins anew.

But at the restaurants we're spotlighting today, the service remains consistently spectacular from visit to visit — whether the same employees are retained or not. These restaurants run the gamut from fine dining to mom-and-pop joints and all manner of cuisines.

They have one thing in common, however: service that makes every meal memorable. The kind of service that encourages you to return again and again just to see a favorite waiter or catch up with restaurant owners who treat you like family.

Honorable mention: Brennan's, The Oceanaire and Vic & Anthony's

The Oceanaire doesn't get much play as a foodie favorite, and that's a shame. The Galleria-housed seafood palace offers the same attentive, traditional service as Creole grande dame Brennan's or downtown steakhouse Vic & Anthony's — all of which are usually my first picks when my parents or other beloved elders want a dignfied, pleasant, upscale dinner. Service par excellence is the standard at these spots, and they can always be relied upon to make you feel welcomed and pampered for an evening.

10. LA Crawfish

A common complaint at many Viet-Cajun crawfish places is that service is either rude or nonexistent. LA Crawfish is an exception, however, to this anecdotal rule. The young kids who run it are unfailingly friendly to each and every patron as well as helpful to crawfish neophytes. But most importantly, they get the food out lightning fast, which ensures that even if there's a long line (which there usually is), you'll get your food posthaste.

9. King's Biergarten

I've rarely seen young servers as engaged and happy as they seem to be at King's Biergarten in Pearland. And they aren't just sporting lederhosen and dirndls for show: Every one of them can explain the German menu top to bottom, although owner Johann Sitter is always on hand should you require a description of his homeland's food directly from the man whose family recipes are used to make the restaurant's goulash, zwiebelrostbraten and more. The effect of so many nattily attired, cheerful servers delivering enormous, heavy trays of beer and brats can make evenings here seem like a vacation to Munich.

8. Barnaby's

Although any one of the four Barnaby's locations will offer you terrific service, the original — tucked away in a residential area in Montrose on Fairview — still sets the bar. Despite long waits on weekends and occasionally cramped quarters inside (especially when you're dining at Baby Barnaby's next door), the waitstaff are never anything short of charming and gracious. Besides complimenting your hairstyle, telling your grandmother how glorious she looks today, recommending their favorite dishes and always getting your order exactly right, the staff always offer excellent service. Employees appear to love the place just as much; anecdotes have flown for years of high-end maître d's attempting to lure Barnaby's crew members to "greener pastures" and failing every time.

7. Taqueria La Macro

I've never had anything but cheerful and industrious service at Taqueria La Macro, the little northside taqueria that could teach a thing or two to many fine-dining restaurants around town. You're always greeted with a big, genuine smile. If anything is running a bit behind in the kitchen, the waitstaff is quick to apologize and keep you abreast of what's going on. The moment trash hits your table — whether it's a discarded sugar packet or a straw wrapper — it's scooped up by a server. Drinks are kept constantly refilled, and plates are delivered with a genuine smile. And owner Saul Obregon is always there to keep a watchful eye on his little restaurant, greeting customers by name and often sitting down to chat.

6. Charivari

I look forward to meals at Charivari in a way that is wholly different from other nights out. There's a lovely, considerate quality to the elegant service that's rarely found in modern dining rooms. Some may find silver domes removed with a flourish from dishes to be anachronistic; I consider it a treat. I love the ballet of watching plates set down in unison or the civility of being offered a palate-cleansing sorbet between courses and a silver tray with gingersnaps alongside my espresso at the end of an utterly relaxing meal. But for all this pomp and circumstance, Charivari remains warm and accessible. The service never seems outmoded but simply chivalrous, anticipating your every need before you've even realized it.

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MadMac topcommenter

Jollof rice takes some effort to cook but it is worth it. Warning:  ADDICTIVE. Thanks, Ms. S this is fun.