Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.
First there was Pampa Grill in Spring Branch, known for its juicy, sizzling parrillada platters filled with all sorts of meat and bright green, peppery chimichurri sauce.
But something happened that led to a rift between the owners of Pampa Grill, and they parted ways. Some remained with the Argentinian restaurant, while others moved down the street a few blocks and opened their own incarnation, Tinto Grill, a small, homey space that smells of grilled meat and garlic. I happened upon it during a tour of the Spring Branch area, looking for new restaurants and was drawn in by the smells.
Though the menu contains a number of Mediterranean options--a result of continental settlers in South America--the best bets remain the traditional dishes like empanadas and the delectable parrillada platter.
The six-empanada sampler plate allows you to try everything from the classic ham and cheese to the Italian-influenced caprese, and each filling is contained within a flaky, buttery crust that shines with a brush of egg white.
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The "Grill for 1" (which they kindly agreed to serve to two people on a recent visit) features the juiciest, smokiest skirt steak, flank steak and sausage you'll find, along with unlimited chimichurri bursting with spicy garlic and parsley flavors. It arrives still sizzling and trailing wisps of smoke behind it.
The skirt steak is the most tender, still pink in the center of each slice and almost buttery in flavor. It's smoky and slightly crisp on the edges, and it's perfectly tasty without a drizzle of garlicky chimichurri on top--though that's how I prefer it.
I pile my plate high with all three meaty options, then douse the whole thing in chimichurri and pickled vegetables, also available in unlimited quantities. It's mildly spicy and full of classic South American flavor, brought to you in a small, charming family restaurant on busy, eclectic Long Point Road.
The list so far: No. 77, Spaghetti Carbonara at Coppa Osteria No. 78, The Outdoorsman at Pi Pizza Truck No. 79, Campechana de Mariscos at Goode Co. Seafood No. 80, Whole Fried Fish at Churrascos No. 81, Daughter-in-Law Burger at Natachee's Supper 'n Punch No. 82, Chiles en Nogada Tradicionales at Pico's Mex-Mex No. 83, Porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 84, Chai Pie at Pondicheri No. 85, Tacos at Taqueria Maya Quiché No. 86, S'mores at 13 Celsius No. 87, Calamari at Lillo & Ella No. 88, Pulled Pork Nachos at Way Good Food Truck No. 89, Garden Sammie at Local Foods No. 90, Barbecued Salmon Salad at Brooks Family BBQ No. 91, Smoked Salmon Waffle at The Waffle Bus No. 92, Chirashi Lunch at Sushi Miyagi No. 93, Finocchiona Sandwich at Siphon Coffee No. 94, Combo Catracho at Mi Bella Honduras Restaurant No. 95, Tamal de Puerco at Andes Cafe No. 96, Cheeseburger at Sparkle's Hamburger Spot No. 97, Mi Quang at Simply Pho No. 98, Helado de Lúcuma at Pollo Bravo No. 99, Fat Fries at Fat Bao No. 100, Fish Bánh Mì at La Baguette