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Finally Discovering Down House

Where have you been all my life?

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

My first time at Down House was on a blind date. He lived in the Heights and I had never been, so it seemed perfect. Sometimes there's just a connection, an instant attraction, a chemistry you can't deny. And that's how I felt...about Down House. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the date, but Down House, where have you been all my life?

I've more than made up for the lost time. I've had brunch there three weekends in a row since that fateful date, and each time, I found, I enjoyed it even more than the last. The restaurant opens early and closes late, so you could stay all day. Linger over a cup of coffee, stick around for lunch and finish the night with cocktails. It's all in the little details, the periodic table of elements on the wall, your receipt stuck inside a book — usually something along the lines of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The service is friendly, I've had a different server each time and each one of them made me feel as if I were a welcome guest in his or her home. But what would any of that matter if the food weren't solid? And Down House delivers as well.

Down House opens early and closes late which means lots of time to linger.
Photos by Troy Fields
Down House opens early and closes late which means lots of time to linger.
Relax with a breakfast croissant and a cortado.
Photos by Troy Fields
Relax with a breakfast croissant and a cortado.

The taco plate is perfect for brunch ($10), with two tacos of your choice served with home fries or black beans. The applewood-smoked bacon and egg taco with Cabot cheddar is my favorite, a straightforward classic made excellent by the thick cuts of bacon and sharp, slightly pungent cheddar.

The kimchi burger ($15 at dinner), available all day, is worth a trip on its own. A perfectly cooked-to-your-preference (in my case medium rare) patty is served on a Slow Dough challah bun and comes with house kimchi, that same Cabot cheddar, a sunny-side up egg, house mayo and bulgogi sauce. If you think it sounds messy, you're right, but as you bite into it, and the juice from the patty mixes with the yolk and sauce and mayo, and it oozes onto your hands, you won't even reach for a napkin, opting instead to lick up whatever you can.

For another Asian-inspired dish, try the shrimp and grits ($15); wild-caught Gulf shrimp, applewood-smoked bacon, Anson Mills grits, cilantro and scallions all come served in a shallow bowl topped with pho broth. It's rich and flavorful, but not so much that it weighs down any one ingredient.

To me, the true sign of a good restaurant is if I recommend it to friends. If I think they should try a particular place when there are so many great joints in our city, then you know I think it's something special. On one occasion, I took some friends who'd never been. They immediately liked the decor, and they enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice ($3) and the spicy Bloody Mary ($5); things seemed to be going well. When our food took far too long and my friends were starting to wonder what I saw in the place, I thought perhaps my love affair with Down House was going to be a quick one, but the manager came by, apologized genuinely and offered a complimentary dessert. Now even my friends approve. This could be love.
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HOW TO

THROW A SUMMER OUTDOOR DINNER PARTY
Don't let the heat ruin a good time.

MOLLY DUNN

The unfortunate part about summer in Texas, more specifically in Houston, is that you want to go outside, but it's just too dang hot to stay out there for more than five minutes without breaking into a sweat.

My family loves to grill during the summertime, and we love taking our food from the grill to the patio table. Sometimes the weather is our friend and we can stand the heat of not only the grill but also the season itself; however, most of the time the weather is our worst enemy.

But if you're still determined — and why shouldn't you be? — to throw an outdoor dinner party, or just an outdoor dinner, here are some tips on keeping the food fresh, you cool and your guests comfortable.

Keep the Bugs Away

First of all, keep your food and guests bug-free with a few tricks. Place covers over dishes if you're having a serving station outside. Of course, you can keep bugs from getting into your serving dishes if you let guests fill up their plates inside, but where's the fun in that?

Whether you have covers that match your dishes or you want to purchase some of those super-cool net covers, anything that keeps insects out of your food will work.

I have always been a fan of using tiki torches to light up the night and keep the mosquitoes away. It's a twofer — decorate and keep the bugs out. Obviously you need to be careful with your torches; don't place them underneath a tree or tent or close to anything else that could catch fire. But if you properly set the torches up in areas where mosquitoes and bugs are most likely to congregate, then you can create a relaxing, mosquito-bite-free zone.

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