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Hughie’s Offers Inconsistent Food and Long Waits, but the Crowds Keep Coming

For every hit at Hughie’s, there's a big ol’ miss.

The dumplings are equally as good, tiny in size but filled with juicy pork and steamed vegetables and served with a chile-lime-soy dipping sauce that I considered downing like a shot because it was so delicious. For the record, I did not, and I'm glad, because I needed it later.

My friends gave me a hard time for ordering tofu off the meat-heavy menu of steaks and chicken tenders and fried seafood. I later found myself thinking they were right, since the tofu was virtually flavorless. I know, I know, soybean cubes are inherently mild and are intended to take on the flavors of whatever they're mixed with, be that lemongrass or chiles or even soy sauce. In this case, the "flame broiled" tofu didn't appear ever to have been near a flame. It was mushy and coated in red pepper flakes and bits of charred lemongrass that didn't do much to enhance the flavor. The gingery vinaigrette dressing on the salad served with it was delicious, though, so I dipped each piece of tofu into that and the chile-lime-soy sauce in an attempt to make the dish a little more interesting.

This was perhaps the worst of the Vietnamese dishes I've sampled at Hughie's. The shaking beef I tried for lunch on a different visit was the best. It was actually more like shocking beef, as I was surprised by how tender and juicy it was after the failure of the country fried steak to live up to my expectations. It's marinated the same day it's prepared and stir-fried in a hot wok with slices of onion and gloriously plump cloves of garlic, infusing every bite with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized allium plants. With a scoop of rice to soak up all the juice, and a side salad, it's a steal at $12.

The vibe at Hughie's is much more tavern or pub than traditional Vietnamese restaurant.
Troy Fields
The vibe at Hughie's is much more tavern or pub than traditional Vietnamese restaurant.
A cook sears the traditional bo luc lac in a wok by shaking it rapidly, giving the dish its Americanized name, shaking beef.
Troy Fields
A cook sears the traditional bo luc lac in a wok by shaking it rapidly, giving the dish its Americanized name, shaking beef.

Details

Hughie's

1802 West 18th, 713-869-1830. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday, private parties only.

Dumplings $6

Vietnamese eggrolls $6

Banh mi $5

"Banh mi" burger $8

Country fried steak $12

Shaking beef $12

Spicy lemongrass tofu $8

Side egg roll $2

The prices at Hughie's are its most redeeming quality, aside from the huge beer selection, which, the owner told our own John Kiely, is lengthened anytime someone requests a beer he doesn't have. And for the selection and the neighborhood, the beer is a great value. So, too, is the banh mi, whose $5 price tag may initially cause people to recoil (it's half that in Midtown) until they see the size of the thing.

It's quite possibly the biggest banh mi in Houston, and if you order two of them, they're only $8 for two. The bread is crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, and it's packed with pickled daikon, carrot and cucumber. A few slices of fresh green jalapeño add heat, while a smear of mayo cools it down. The meat can be hit-or-miss, depending on when you're dining, but when it's on, it's really on. The grilled pork is thin and nicely charred, as is the beef. Neither is overly marinated, allowing the flavor of the meat to be the star of the show. For a real treat, order the "specialty" banh mi with sliced pork, pâté and Vietnamese ham, which is a sort of sausage made of lean pork and potato starch. It's much tastier than it looks.

Unfortunately for an earnest place like Hughie's, looks can be deceiving. To an outside observer, the place seems to have everything going for it. The decor is fun and inviting, somewhere between a pub and a bistro, and the beer selection makes me want to camp out on the front patio for hours and while away my evening over Brooklyn Summer Ale and a banh mi. And it's darn cheap.

I just wish the food were as consistent as the perfect froth on my pint of Brown Buffalo Rye'd. No matter how inexpensive the price tag, I can't seem to justify waiting hours for a weeknight dinner only to walk away vowing to fill up on craft beer should I return in the future. Craft beer and perhaps a banh mi, if the kitchen seems to be on top of things that day.

Of course, the crowds tell a different story, one of people happy to have a slice of the food and drink that make Houston great in a largely residential and fast-food-occupied neighborhood, away from the hustle and bustle of Midtown beer joints and Chinatown traffic. It may not be the best Vietnamese food in town, nor the best Southern food, but Hughie's is winning over Houstonians with sheer charm and a sincerity not often found in the cutthroat restaurant industry.

So, apology accepted, Hughie's. You're too cute for me to stay mad at you. But next time, I want shrimp chips while I wait.

kaitlin.steinberg@houstonpress.com

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14 comments
jberlat1
jberlat1

I think the food is fine, but they do get slow when there are too many people. 

johngregorybarker
johngregorybarker

Oh, and this? "For every hit at Hughie’s, there's a big ol’ miss." 


1 for 1, huh? And the misses are bigger than the hits? 


That's just negative, shitty bullshit to draw readers. LAME and untrue and a disservice to Hughie's and your readers. 

johngregorybarker
johngregorybarker

The negative reviews here about the food and the wait are MYSTIFYING to me.  I go there ALL the time, and aside from a couple of less-than-stellar waitstaff (and some times when theyve been short-staffed), I have never had a negative experience.  


The food is GREAT, and it's served appropriately quickly.


They have trouble keeping waitstaff, probably because it's not near enough to a concentration of offices that could provide them a serious lunch business, and the prices are LOW. Like REALLY LOW. They're also closed on Sunday, because the owner believes Sunday is for faith and family and football. I can't begrudge that, even though I know they'd do mad business on Sunday. 


They are the nicest people, and I think they have some of the best food in town, and they are serious about keeping their craft beer selection eclectic and delicious.  

jeeterbug
jeeterbug

the 3 times I've been there I had to ask for "sambal oelek (aka garlic chili sauce)" to be brought to the table for my vermicelli bun so I could add it to the fish sauce.  the 1st time I went & asked, the waitress acted like I was from another planet.  I eat at a lot of pho & hole in the wall Vietnamese places & this is usually a staple ON the table.  Each time the only way for success of it landing on my table was after the wait staff went and got the owner b/c he was the only one that knew wtf I was talking about.  However, each time this took an additional 15-20mins after my food arrived to make it happen.  Even though this place is in my neighborhood & I was happy to have it at first, the long waits and inconsistencies (sometimes the bun is good, sometimes it's absolutely terrible) have made this place completely fall off my radar. 

Rodney Barnes
Rodney Barnes

NoBi's makes better sandwiches and I don't have to wait for over thirty minutes.

dlawso235
dlawso235

On Wednesday they have one of their beers for $2. Best time to go is usually right after 3. It gets hectic after 5 on weekdays.

carriebwc
carriebwc

Each time I have eaten there, I have sat at the bar, and had no issues, but I think it may have been on off weeknights.  But given its proximity to my house, I would probably go anyway.  I truly hope they can get it together, because those of us in this neighborhood could use more places like this, not less.  I realize we are close to the Heights proper, but sometimes you just want to stay in the neighborhood.

kolmedo1982
kolmedo1982

There was only one time where I didn't get the shrimp chips. I looked around and noticed no one else had them either. Hughie's is great. My office and I have just recently gotten hooked on this place. It is a tad bit slow, but we found our optimal time to go. I will not share that here because, well I gotta keep my secrets to myself :). I love the shaking chicken, that is what I have been getting the past couple of times. The dumplings are also super delish. The bahn mi is huge, but too huge for me to enjoy with out feeling awful. 

jberlat1
jberlat1

It is a place that you won't get in and out quickly, but they will figure it out. There are worse places to eat and not have the craft beer selection. I haven't had a bad meal there yet, but have run into the service issues. 

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

Stopped by once for pho.  It was NOT pho-nominal.  I'll give it a second try, but with reservations ( 'bout the food, not the seats ).

ShitThrowingMonkey
ShitThrowingMonkey

Maybe the shrimps chips are upon request?  Saturday when I went is not the first time I have had to ask for them, in fact I think the last three times I've been there I only received after asking.


It took me half hour to get the bahn mi, but I didn't particularly care because the beer is tasty and they will put what you want on TV (in this case the horses were running).

jberlat1
jberlat1

but they don't have any craft beer like Hughies

AwesomeMargie
AwesomeMargie

@WestSideBob Same.  I wanted to Pho and just didn't want to drive to Midtown to get it.  My vermicelli bowl was pretty bad.  Tasted like I picked it up from Kroger's.  

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@ShitThrowingMonkey The atmosphere there is one of its strong points for sure. I even like the hot, noisy patio so long as there's a cold beer in my hand :)

 
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