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
La Fisheria made national news after an announcement last week that the owner, Aquiles Chavez, has decided to ban kids under nine years old after 7 p.m. out of respect for other patrons. The announcement was made on La Fisheria's Facebook page.
La Fisheria isn't open on Mondays, so August 6 was the first day the policy was put into action.
We called Chavez at La Fisheria at dinner Tuesday evening to inquire about the response to the new regulation, but we have not been able to reach him.
Chavez tells the Houston Chronicle that the decision came after customers complained about children running around the restaurant while adults were trying to have a romantic or low-key evening away from children — their own or others. Indeed, based on the responses to La Fisheria's Facebook post, it seems that even most parents agree with the decision.
Some seemed less thrilled with the new policy and took issue with the fact that the restaurant calls itself a "family friendly" establishment. Chavez notes that La Fisheria has a kids menu, but that's not good enough for many who think "family friendly" means kids should be allowed in all the time.
The angry parents and individuals really are the exception, though. When KHOU took its cameras out to interview people unhappy with the new decision, the station primarily found people applauding Chavez's choice.
Some people who agree with the policy do note that 7 p.m. might be a little early to stop letting in kids, instead proposing a 9 p.m. cut-off. Another woman on La Fisheria's Facebook wondered how the restaurant will be able to differentiate between a tall six-year-old and a small nine-year-old.
The consensus seems to be echoed by Terry Alexander, who replied to my question about the policy on Twitter.
Two restaurants in Houston have previously attempted to ban an age demographic with little success. Vida Tex Mex and Vegas Grill both closed shortly after implementing "16 and over" policies at the restaurants. Neither restaurant was as well known or as upscale as La Fisheria.
Another question raised by this policy is whether it's acceptable for a restaurant owner or manager to ask a family to leave if a child is being disruptive. Many on La Fisheria's Facebook page suggested that might be an option, but Chavez told the Chronicle, "Customers don't like screaming kids, and you can't tell customers' kids to be quiet."
What do you think? Do you support La Fisheria's decision? And is it ever okay for a restaurant manager to ask a family with a disruptive child to leave?
Houston Restaurant Week
What they're up to for Restaurant Weeks: Glass Wall is on the higher end of pricing ($45 for dinner instead of the usual $35) for Houston Restaurant Weeks, but it's a case of getting what you pay for. They are only open for dinner. There are optional (and astute) wine pairings by "Grape Alchemist" and co-owner Shepard Ross for the first and second courses at a very reasonable range of $7 to $13 per glass. Splurge on this and go "full-tilt boogie" if you can.
Service/Atmosphere: Glass Wall is noisy, but it's lively, not obnoxious. Go when you're feeling convivial and festive. If you want it a little quieter, snag a booth if one is available. Service is warm and professional. Our server said he's worked with Ross since they were at Zula, which was several years ago. That really says something about the owners and staff.
Items that won't be on the regular menu: Special to the HRW menu are the Jumbo Blue Lump Crabcake, appetizer-size lobster ravioli, hearty veal on risotto (as an appetizer!), a stunning local heirloom tomato salad and the Sweet Corn Crusted Gulf Red Snapper.
Don't Miss This Dish: I made a promise to myself to use HRW this year as an opportunity to check out places I'd never been. Why did I choose Glass Wall as the first to explore? They posted a photo to Facebook of the complex, gorgeous and sophisticated Hereford Beef Tenderloin and I knew I had to have it. It's a symphony of beef, foie gras brûlée topped with huckleberry jam, mashed potatoes with a luscious hit of mascarpone cheese, haricots verts and Cabernet sauce.
Don't Bother: Pass on the paella. The shrimp was good, but the overcooked whitefish put this on the bottom of the list.
Final verdict: Glass Wall is a must-go destination for Houston Restaurant Weeks. Reservations are absolutely required, and I recommend you make one now, even if you don't plan to go right away. Please don't just show up on their doorstep. Thanks, friend.
Low alcohol for high temps.
Nicholas L. Hall
Back in the summer of '93, I got heat stroke. And a concussion. It was my first summer in Houston after ten years in Indiana, with its average July high of 83. I was playing an all-day soccer tournament out in Bear Creek Park, its freshly razed expanse offering no respite from the brutal sun. I had been hydrating on the South Bend plan despite the Houston heat, and it all came to a head in the fourth game of the day.
Deep in my backfield, a high crossing pass came my way, headed for the other team's right wing. We contested it in the air. I won. I also lost. As I followed through on my header, sending the ball up the line to a waiting midfielder, I collided head-to-head with the other guy and hit the dirt like a waterlogged ragdoll. I've been obsessive about hydration ever since, especially during the comfortably oppressive heat of a Houston summer.
That gets us to session beer. Session beer is its own hydration plan, a built-in mechanism for ensuring that you don't wind up day-drunk, which in my experience is similar in unpleasantness to lying on the sidelines of a soccer game, a teammate's sweat-soaked bandanna draped across your forehead, woozily waiting out the effects of blunt-force trauma and a lack of fluids. Since I don't like that feeling but I do like whiling away a lovely Saturday mornaftervening over a succession of delicious adult beverages, I've become quite fond of session beers.
Depending on whom you talk to, you might find somewhat differing opinions of what exactly "session beer" means. Alcohol by volume provides an easy, definitive target, though it also opens up plenty of debate. Beer Advocate calls it at 5 percent. Lew Bryson, a professional beer writer of some repute, draws a firm line in the sand at 4.5 percent. Over at his Session Beer Project, a repository for all things session, he both admits the slightly arbitrary nature of the threshold and makes a convincing argument for its importance. I tend to edge toward lenience, keeping things under 5 percent and using the other qualifiers, mentioned below, to separate what I think of as true session beers from those that simply have moderate alcohol.
Pretty much all parties agree on a few key points, ABV set aside. Session beers must be low in alcohol, low enough that you can enjoy multiple pints in a "session" without suffering the ill effects of higher-alcohol brews. They have to be balanced and refreshing in character in order to make it enjoyable to drink them in significant quantities in a (relatively) insignificant span of time. They must taste good.
Within that rubric, there's a lot of room for stylistic variety. Some beers lend themselves to sessions more than do others, of course. Belgian strong ales, by definition, will never be session beers as we've laid out here. Pilsners, Witbiers, Kölsch, English Bitters, Berliner Weiss — these are just a few styles whose typical characteristics land them handily in "session" territory or whose flavor profiles lend themselves to the low-alcohol, high-drinkability treatment.
The more I look around, the more beers I find waiting for a session, whether or not they intend to. Here, in no particular order, are a few examples I've been enjoying lately, consumed like dominoes while tending a grill in the backyard or just sitting around the house hanging out with the family. I'm sure they've appreciated the general level of sobriety I've maintained in the process.
Founders All Day IPA
American IPA, 4.7 percent ABV
A light and lithe study in hops aroma and flavor, this packs more wallop than many more standard pales manage. If there's a beer available in the Houston market better suited to session proselytizing, I've yet to find it. It starts bright and grassy, with hints of pine and citrus bleeding from the nose into a palate that allows just a hint of malt. Never bitter or aggressive, this is as thirst-quenching as it is delicious and engaging. A picture-perfect session beer. If they could sneak the alcohol down a half percent or so, this beer would be nothing short of miraculous. I don't think my fridge has been without this one since it made its Houston debut.
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale
American Blonde Ale, 4.4 percent ABV
Smooth as Old Blue Eyes wrapped in Teflon tape, Big Wave is easygoing and laid-back in a way that speaks to your mental image of island life, stereotypical though it may be. Tropical fruit (think the dried nuggets in trail mix, only pleasant) shuffles amiably past moderately bready malt, chased by a lightly spicy hop profile that whispers toward a squeaky-clean finish. Like a hammock in a bottle.
Jester King Le Petit Prince, Commercial Suicide
Farmhouse Table Beer, 2.9 percent ABV; Oaked Farmhouse Mild, 3.5 percent ABV
These are just a couple of JK's session offerings (See also: Das Wunderkind!, Bonnie the Rare, Drink'in the Sunbelt, Buddha's Brew). Clearly, Jester King has a crush on session beers, and I'm all for it. They consistently manage to make session beers that manage extremely low alcohol and significant flavor.
Petit Prince is worth a mention if for no other reason than the fact of its alcohol content. If there's a lower-alcohol craft beer available in the Houston market, I've not found it. If it were as weak in flavor as it is in booze, though, that would be a moot point. Thankfully, though it's done with a light hand, Le Petit Prince is packed with flavor. Bright with lemon, prickly with a peppery spice and teasingly laced with an almost transparent banana note, Le Petit Prince offers a lot but is also willing to take a back seat to whatever else is going on. If you're deep in conversation, it's an affable whistle-wetter. If you've got a few minutes to pay attention, you'll notice the hint of funk under its cracklingly dry, exceedingly crisp surface. Follow it through to a slightly spicy, ever so mildly bitter finish. The next sip is back with lemon-pepper, grassy hops right up front, all of it purposefully light and as refreshing as a jump into the pool.
Commercial Suicide manages a similar feat but from the opposite direction. Dark fruit and coffee bump up against the slightly musty character of old books, brittle and deep but with a lightness that makes it all feel like an optical illusion. Nutty, dusky roasted malt predominates, but with a light hand and an easy demeanor. Dark and mild (the style of origin here) is a good way to put it. You take a sip, and the beer fills your mouth. You swallow, and it's like it was never there. It's powerful but refreshing and inviting. It makes me want to read romantic poets and assures me that I won't fall asleep while doing it.
Stone Levitation Ale
American Amber, 4.4percent ABV
I've written about this one before, but I think it deserves mention here. A good example of how "balanced" doesn't always mean what you think it does, Levitation is clearly a Stone beer. If you drink Stone, you know what I mean; they're not exactly known for "balance." With more than a hint of hoppy bitterness, Levitation is downright assertive for a session beer. From the pine and orange-oil nose to the dryly briny, citrusy first sip to the round and full malt that hits the mid-palate like a thick slice of brown bread to the lingering bitterness of the finish, Levitation could stand shoulder to shoulder with any of Stone's beefier brews. It would stand longer, too, with its milder demeanor and tame weight. For all that flavor, it stays quite drinkable, teetering intriguingly on the edge of too heavy. It's almost like a liquid dare. Drink another one. You know you want to.
Dogfish Head Festina Pêche
(Neo)Berliner Weisse, 4.5 percent ABV
This has been one of my favorite seasonal beers for a few years now. Every time it pops up on shelves, I buy a four-pack on every trip to the store. It's that good. From the first puckering sip, a clear and bright tartness that tastes like walking out of a darkened house into the sunshine, I was hooked. That tartness snaps your senses awake pleasantly, leaning into a concentrated peach flavor that never approaches cloying artificiality, as saturated as it is. The lemony pucker brings it back in line moments later, echoing apples and bread before leaning into a pleasantly dry finish. It's lean and full, aggressive and refreshing, surprising and effortless. I didn't even realize it fit my session rubric until about a month ago. Since then, I've been buying two four-packs.
Without even really thinking about it, this list manages to show a couple of things about session beers. First, it shows their versatility. There's a lot of flavor, and a lot of flavors, to be coaxed out of less than 5 percent alcohol. Second, it shows that session beers are everywhere. This list isn't even the tip of the iceberg. I bet you have something sessionable in your fridge right now. Go check. Hell, you might have a favorite session beer you didn't even know about. Now that you do, how about we share a pint or three?
Openings and Closings
Midtown happenings and a cupcake ATM.
We had one major closing to speak of last week and one almost closing, so let's just start there and then move on to all the exciting openings, shall we?
Zunum restaurant in The Woodlands announced its closing on its Facebook page August 5. Many people voiced their disappointment on Facebook — particularly parents whose kids were fond of the restaurant and its playroom. Most critics on Yelp and Urbanspoon (heralds of quality dining that they are) found the restaurant to be overpriced and not very good, so perhaps that has something to do with its closing. The message on Zunum's Facebook page hints that the kid-friendly restaurant may be opening in a new location sometime in the future. It ends with "Stay tuned."
Eater reports that the Midtown branch of Asian-ish (it's Mongolian, but fajitas are on the menu) restaurant Kublai Khan, which opened in May, is already looking to close due to increased rental prices. I sense a theme in Midtown. The owner, Tian Zheng, tells Eater that he still has four years left on his lease, so he's hoping to sublet the property ASAP to avoid spending more money that the restaurant can't bring in. He's also looking to sell all of his kitchen equipment and dining decor.
Now for the good stuff...
The sandwich chain Capriotti's Sandwich Shop opened its first Houston-area location on July 29 in Sugar Land. Capriotti's is a favorite in Dallas and Plano as well as in other states. The chain was founded in Delaware in 1976 and is famous for its roasted pulled turkey sandwiches. Stop by 2228 Texas Drive and see if the subs live up to all the hype.
Inside Scoop Frozen Custard opened August 4, and people are already raving about the cool desserts. The new custard shop is located in Sugar Land. The place doesn't have a Web site, only a Facebook page, so there aren't many more details, but I'm looking forward to making the trek soon to get me some of this frozen deliciousness.
Another chain, Grub Burger Bar, also recently opened a Houston branch, this one at City Centre. The fast-casual chain's burgers are reasonably priced, and the joint also offers spiked milkshakes, which actually sound better than burgers in this heat.
Swamplot reports that two new bar/restaurants are prepping spots in Midtown for fall openings. The former Opium nightclub in the Midtown Shoppes is undergoing renovations to become the 3030 Pub, while Bremond Street Grill is taking over the place left empty by El Xuco Xicana at 2416 Brazos.
Tea drinkers, rejoice! Two new tea shops have opened: Kung Fu Tea in Chinatown and McHugh TEA in Bellaire. Kung Fu makes authentic Thai tea and bubble tea, while McHugh is more of an upscale tea room and gift shop. Also, I think the name is supposed to sound like "McCutie"...is that just me?
According to Woodlands Online, Fielding's Wood Grill in The Woodlands has decided on a September 4 grand opening that will begin at 6:30 a.m. with a special breakfast menu. The founder, Cary Attar, describes Fielding's as "new-age American," and the menu will feature burgers, milkshakes and salads with an updated twist.
Finally, my favorite food news of the week involves a "Cupcake ATM." Oh, yeah, that's right. Sprinkles Cupcakes is bringing Houston a 24-hour cupcake machine. The first such machine debuted last year at the Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, and now the chain has locations in Chicago and Dallas as well. Ours will be way faster, though. The company's president, Charles Nelson, told the Houston Chronicle that people will be able to get a cupcake in 30 seconds, and the machine can dispense up to six cupcakes at a time. Sprinkles expects to get the machine going by September, and it will be installed outside the Sprinkles shop in Highland Village in October.
I CAN'T WAIT.