Pudgy Pork Dumplings and Crisp Soft-Shell Crab

Cafe Chino proves looks can be deceiving.

I'm a bad bride, I know. It just doesn't excite me all that much. Well, except for the food (err, and the man, that too). The food, I can dream about that all day.

So I've dreamed up a cocktail hour filled with five of my favorite bites in Houston. From the city's best sliders to East Coast-West Coast wings, here's what I'd love at my un-fancy affair:

5. Reef Sliders & Oyster Bar

Pork dumplings...
Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Pork dumplings...
...and soft-shell crab with tomato chile at Cafe Chino.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary
...and soft-shell crab with tomato chile at Cafe Chino.

What guest wouldn't love a Reef slider, I ask you? No guest of mine.

The salted, crisp and buttery grilled bun; plump, juicy-as-hell hunk of ground beef; mound of sweet, melt-in-your-mouth caramelized onions; and drizzle of creamy Sriracha rémoulade dripping down your chin. Add fresh Gulf oysters on the half shell and you have yourself a lifetime of ­happiness.

While we're at it, maybe I'd just make the whole thing a Reef happy hour and include the jumbo shrimp shooters, too. Now that's true love.

4. Italian Station from Coppa

People like stations at cocktail hours. I think. Well, I do. And it's my fake wedding, so I do what I want.

This Little Italy-inspired station would include a feast of Coppa's best: baratta arancini — little deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with creamy mozzarella and served with shaved parmigiano cheese and fresh marinara; fritto misto — piles of fried calamari, shrimp and fennel; freshly made escarole and Caesar salads (because we need at least some greens); and made-to-order pastas and brick-oven pizzas, obviously.

3. A Miniature El Rey Taqueria

For my Cuban/Mexican station, I'd have the guys from El Rey Taqueria slinging out a few of my favorite tacos — ropa vieja, tacos al pastor, grilled fish tacos, carnitas, and chicken and steak fajita.

Then, of course, there'd be all the fixin's — fried plantains, charro beans, Mexican rice, grilled onions, shredded cheeses, sliced cabbage, fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, habanero mayo and some cilantro for good measure.

2. Chicken Wings for Days

Including but not limited to: Max's Wine Dive's jalapeño and buttermilk-soaked fried chicken (served with the jalapeño corn cakes and maple syrup, of course); Mai's salt and pepper fried chicken wings with pepper and onion relish; and for shits and giggles, Goro & Gun's ODB & Biggie wings. We'll see where our guests' loyalties truly lie.

1. An Underbelly Carving Station

Who else to trust with the carving station than Mr. Houston himself, Chris Shepherd?

I'd let him choose the cuts of the day, but I'd make sure they were served alongside freshly baked loaves of Slow Dough bread and farmer's market sides like smoked corn puree, heirloom tomato and pepper chowchow, and hand-pulled Caprese salad. Then, also whatever else Shepherd thinks is best. I trust him. I do. (See, I can say it!)

With drinks (read: Jäger-bombs) flowing and these Houston favorites along for the ride, this is one wedding cocktail hour I'd actually want to have. A girl can dream, can't she?

What kind of cocktail hour would you dream up?

Restaurant News

Openings and Closings
Steak on acid, Louisiana cookin' and Twin Peaks.

Kaitlin Steinberg

If you're interested in a steakhouse on acid, then Mr. Peeples is the place for you! Eric Sandler at Eater reports that Mr. Peeples Seafood & Steaks opened July 29. Sandler was able to snap some photos of the place, which is majorly purple. There's also a 1,600-bottle wine tower, VIP lounges and graffiti made by a team of actual artists led by James Perez. The Eater article notes that a nightclub and performance space will be constructed in the basement in coming weeks. Thank God, 'cause I don't know how I'll be able to digest steak without strobe lights.

Queen Burger at 1802 West 18th closed several months ago but has reopened with the same ownership as Hughie's Tavern and Vietnamese Grill. The menu has some old favorites from Queen Burger as well as Southern standards like shrimp po-boys and buttermilk chicken tenders. The menu also has some Asian flare with fried rice and bánh mi sandwiches. Fans on the Hughie's Facebook page are already raving that the bánh mi are the best in the city.

Bust out your Mardi Gras beads a little early because Mojeauxs Louisiana Drinkery has moved into 2024 Rusk, the space formerly occupied by Cork Soakers Wine Bar. Cork Soakers has been transitioning into Mojeauxs since it closed in April, and Mojeauxs will have events and specials similar to those at its predecessor. The grand-opening celebration is Saturday, August 3, at 11 a.m. in the Mojeauxs parking lot. It will feature a gumbo cookoff, live zydeco music and lots of drink specials. Screw drink specials, though. What I want is one of Mojeauxs's INSANE Bloody Marys!

Swamplot reports that Maggie Rita's, the local Tex-Mex chain owned by Santiago Moreno and comedian Carlos Mencia that closed all three of its Houston locations in late 2012 and early 2013, has reappeared underground. Tony Shannard bought the name from Moreno and Mencia awhile back and opened another Maggie Rita's, in the underground tunnel, last year, so now there will be two margarita hot spots for the downtown mole people. The new location will open beneath First City Tower at 1001 Fannin, just half a mile from the other location, beneath the JP Morgan Chase building on Travis.

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