Burger Guys Bad-Ass Brunch Is Back
Long ago, The Burger Guys held routine Bad-Ass Brunches that would feature inventive breakfast dishes such as Shrimp and Oats, Steak Meets Eggs and Glass of Milk. But then the guys got busy with running a temporary second location downtown and just being crazy, creative burger guys in general — it's a busy life when you run one of the best burger joints in town.
Luckily, the Bad-Ass Brunch is back. I attended the first revival of the brunch on a recent Sunday, and another is planned for June 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Like the rest of The Burger Guys' menu, nothing on the Bad-Ass Brunch menu is standard fare. That's why I've put together a field guide to eating brunch with Jake Mazzu and his crew (including prodigal son Brandon Fisch, who has returned to the fold after an absence spent at now-closed Yelapa Playa Mexicana and Xuco Xicana). I hope it's useful, and I hope you absolutely flood them with orders on June 17 so that they'll make the brunch a weekly instead of a monthly occasion.
5. This is not fast food. The brunch isn't meant to be a Le Peep-style affair, with quick service and tables turned in less than 45 minutes. Expect to plant yourself in one of the booths or at the long, silver counter for at least a couple of hours. Bring a book if you must, but don't get mad about the wait and stomp out to Doneraki, like one couple near me did. You've been warned. (Side note to the Guys: Employing another server certainly wouldn't hurt, as the one waitress seemed more than a little overwhelmed during the first brunch.)
4. This isn't typical brunch food. Again, you're not going to get eggs Benedict with a slice of cantaloupe on the side. The closest thing to a typical brunch item here is an omelet — filled with spicy homemade kimchi and served with a side of nuoc mam. But as my boyfriend said that Sunday morning, it was the best goddamned omelet he'd ever had in his life. I'm pretty positive that he's still talking about it to random people on the street.
3. Expect the unexpected. When you order migas at The Burger Guys, you're not going to get a pile of scrambled eggs and tortilla strips slammed onto a plate. You're going to get a pair of delicate bird's nests made with wispy shreds of corn tortillas, filled with eggs and perched upon an exquisite tomato puree.
2. Expect the expected. On the other hand, when you order a mirepoix Bloody Mary, understand that it's literally made with mirepoix. Raw onions, raw carrots and lots and lots of raw celery are mixed together with tomato juice and vodka — this is not a drink for the faint of heart, but it'll put at least 50 new hairs on your chest.
1. Don't think you're going to get burgers. You can get a burger here any time. Order extravagantly and prepare to experience something new in every dish. Peppery, nose-rackingly spicy radishes and gorgeous purple carrots dipped in foie gras butter. Biscuits infused with peanut butter and jelly, then topped with a tart, homemade crème fraîche and a drizzle of honey. Ceviches made with golden tilefish and cured with coconut leche de tigre, served with bright green pops of avocado and cucumber. Red snapper banh mi with a Sriracha-lime sauce. Everything but anything ordinary.
That's why you go to these brunches: for the excitement of trying something wholly new and communing with the chefs who hand it over the counter to you. The bottomless "adult OJ" isn't too bad of a draw, either, though — this is still brunch, after all.
Openings & Closings
Haven raises the raw bar.
BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT
Hang onto your napkins, folks — last week was a busy one for restaurant news around Houston.
While coffee connoisseurs across the city eagerly await the opening of Blacksmith and Southside Espresso, another new coffee shop is already taking shape in Midtown. Aperture Coffee & Wine Bar took over the old Coffee Groundz location at McGowen and Bagby on May 26. Although the old Coffee Groundz sign is still up for now, Aperture is otherwise fully open as both a coffee shop and a wine/beer bar — as well as a photography gallery component.
Look for more beer and wine from Local Pour, a new upscale pub and eatery, when it opens this fall in River Oaks at 1952 West Gray. Along with drinks, Local Pour plans to offer small plates and classic cocktails and even has a few beer dinners lined up for the future. You'll be able to enjoy all of the booze and food late into the evening, too: Local Pour will be open until 2 a.m. every night of the week.
Wondering what Local Pour is replacing? That would be the much-maligned Sherlock's Baker St. Pub, which closed last year after a shooting and subsequent TABC investigation.
Exciting news from Haven comes courtesy of its sous chef, Jean Philippe Gaston, who told Eater Houston that the locavore mecca will be installing a raw bar component this fall. "We're going to do raw in all its forms," he says.
The raw bar area will replace/supplement the cocktail lounge area of Haven, which is a popular spot for classic cocktails and craft beers with a more low-key vibe. The raw bar won't replace the bar bar entirely, though: The "bartenders [are] getting more opportunity to interact with the kitchen and be more creative," says Gaston.
More cool news comes from national yogurt chain Pinkberry, which is opening two more Houston stores just in time for summer: In addition to its Clear Lake store, Pinkberry will open a location at The Woodlands Mall (near Urban Outfitters) on June 8 and a location at Highland Village (3838 Westheimer) in late summer.
Two more locations of another popular chain are headed our way: Raising Cane's is opening its Garden Oaks location at Ella Boulevard and Loop 610 on June 14 and its Pasadena location at 5107 Fairmont Parkway a week later on June 21.
Out in Katy, the fifth location of local favorite Alicia's Mexican Grille is slated to open on Monday, June 11, with a grand-opening cocktail reception to follow on Saturday, June 23, from 2 to 5 p.m. The new Tex-Mex joint will clock in at a massive 8,800 square feet in its new location at 25725 Katy Freeway, and will serve the same salsas, fajitas and margaritas that made it famous elsewhere in the city.
Pastry Chef Chris Leung debuts new dessert menu at Kata Robata.
BY MAI PHAM
When we talk about pastry in Houston, it's impossible to overlook Chris Leung. Though he's only been at it for four and a half years, Leung's whimsical dessert creations get noticed. They win awards. They get people talking.
The first bite of one of Leung's desserts generally brings some sort of unexpected surprise, like a texture I wasn't expecting, a savory flavor that has taken on a sweet spin or an ingredient that I have never tasted before.
This week, Leung, who recently joined the Azuma Group as Pastry Chef, debuted a new dessert menu at Kata Robata. Each of the dishes subtly incorporates a Japanese element. You may get green tea matcha in one dish, black sesame in another. There will be new specials every other day, in addition to the regular menu, and if you plan to get a chef's-tasting omakase, he'll be on site to whip up something new as well.
A recent night featured a seasonal off-menu special of compressed local Texas seedless watermelon. To make it, Leung compressed watermelon with Japanese togarashi chili, adding sweet pickled fennel, volcanic salt, togarashi-spiced crumble, buttermilk sherbet, watermelon ice and vinaigrette made of fennel tops. The dessert was cool on the eyes and on the palate, a refreshing foil against our hot Texas weather.
One of the new house menu items is a play on the traditional strawberry shortcake. For that dish, Leung made strawberry mousse the central component, accenting the dish with cinnamon and white chocolate scones, whipped lychee cream, strawberry sorbet and white pepper meringue. The deconstructed dish was thought-provoking and fun.
Leung is also debuting a new dessert menu at Azuma Kirby, Azuma Downtown and Azuma on the Lake. He says the Azuma desserts are meant to be more traditional, and include items like strawberry vanilla roll cake, Japanese cheesecake, green tea banana tart, and mango mousse with chocolate namelaka and miso.
The New York City Big Gulp Ban
Here are 5 Texan foods worth banning, too.
BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT
In the latest blow to common sense, New York City has moved to ban Big Gulps — the extra-large soft drinks of the type you usually see in Styrofoam cups triple the size of a human's normal stomach capacity, or anything more than 16 ounces in capacity (which is close to the size of a McDonald's small soda).
I think we can all agree that a Big Gulp-size soda is bad for you. But banning them entirely? What's to prevent people from purchasing two large sodas and drinking them one after another? And why is it any of New York City's goddamned business if some assholes want to thin their bodies' fluids with high-fructose corn syrup and carbonated water? What possible good could this really achieve in the long run over, say, banning soft-drink machines in school cafeterias and therefore nipping America's soda addiction in the bud (if you're into such measures, that is).
There is so much that is stupid and unnecessary about this proposed ban that it led me to wonder about all the foods and drinks we consume in Texas that would rightfully horrify pearl-clutching New Yorkers. What foods and beverages of ours would they ban?
I'm pretty sure they'd start with...
"You mean to tell me they're melting blocks of cheese down with a few stray tomatoes and calling that 'good'? Do they have any idea how much cholesterol is in this 'queso'? How much saturated fat? Wait — what?! They're not even using real cheese? Velveeta? That's made almost entirely of chemicals. Jesus Christ, these people are clearly too cheese-addled to think for themselves. Ban."
"It's a pig in a blanket. With more cheese? And they can't claim that a jalapeño is a vegetable. It's fatty meat wrapped in fatty dough with fatty cheese — and they're eating this crap for breakfast? Ban."
3. Biscuits and gravy
"So...let me get this straight. They're eating one type of flour and lard poured atop another version of flour and lard. White flour. Processed, bleached, white flour. With grease mixed in. You have got to be kidding me. Ban."
2. Breakfast tacos
"I...I don't even...Eggs? Inside a tortilla? With sausage so greasy that it's a shade of orange found nowhere else in nature? Grease that saturates through the actual — ugh — tortilla and drips out the sides while you eat it? These people are eating pure fat and cholesterol again, for breakfast, again. Ban."
1. Everclear-based margaritas
"I'm pretty sure this is what the kids have been soaking tampons in to get drunk faster. Ban."
You Win Some, You Dim Sum
A first-timer's guide to eating dim sum.
BY SAPNA PATEL
What's not to like about simmering hot tea, savory, steamed gow gee and marinated chicken feet? Dining without adventure is no fun. If you're looking for an authentic Chinese culinary experience — or even a fat-filled, fried hangover brunch — the wild west of dim sum has you covered.
For the inexperienced, dim sum can prove daunting and leave you hungry and confused. Without further ado, here's a step-by-step guide to perfecting the flavorful art of this ancient Chinese tradition.
10. Timing Is Everything: Who knew? Apparently, dim sum, that age-old tradition started in the teahouses that dotted China's famous Silk Road, inconveniently is available at different times depending upon your location of choice. Some stop the cart at 3 p.m., and others stop as late as 8 p.m. Before heading out, check to be sure the light is on. The most popular time for dim sum seems to be the American Sunday, when sons, daughters, parents, toddlers, grannies and friends crowd into lobbies and seats like it's Easter. But the upside is that the cray-cray ambience provides a boisterous, lively, loud, happy family-style dining experience that fills your heart and belly.
9. Take an Experienced Guide: You don't know how to order, you don't now what to order, the cart driver can't hear you and doesn't even understand you when he does. Dim sum is way easier if you go with someone who knows the difference between pork siu mai and pork fun gwar, knows not to look into the teapot to find mysterious, brown, floaty bits and who, preferably, speaks Cantonese. Take an experienced guide or you'll be confused and starving when you exit.
8. The Group of Four: A dim sum menu has about one gazillion possible dishes to choose from, and there's often at least 12 different carts boasting various delicacies and dessert. For some reason, when one of them stops, you lose your damn mind and believe to your core that you want one of everything you see. There's something about food being delivered and presented to you that makes you feel you must devour it or suffer FOMO (fear of missing out). Let's be honest. You cannot eat two dried shrimp dumplings, one bean-curd roll, four stuffed crab claws, steamed beef tripe, cheung fun rice doodle...and Rainbow Jell-O. Bringing a larger group ensures you can try many dishes yet surreptitiously ignore the taro root pudding cake you excitedly demanded and no longer desire. Dim sum remains family-style, with shared plates, so someone else will inevitably eat it.
7. Tea at Your Service: Back in the day, dim sum was served in teahouses, where sipping this hot beverage served as the main attraction — known as the tradition of yum cha, or tea tasting. Today, infinite pots of steaming brown tea are still part of the experience, and you'd be remiss not to indulge in a cup or two. Flavors such as chrysanthemum, green or Black Dragon will relax your senses and spirit as you embark on the sometimes harrowing experience that is dim sum. Again, just don't look inside the pot, as your stomach may churn at the bits circling inside.
6. The Special Sauce: It's red, it's brown, it's crusty and spicy. Soy sauce, vinegar and chile oil. Mixed together, it looks like the ooze of a car accident, but its delectable juice soaking through your shrimp rice noodle or staining your barbecue pork bun is like a warm firecracker of flavor in your mouth. Salty, tangy, greasy and hot, this magic sauce is to be made and created by you yourself on those teeny little appetizer plates. If etiquette is not your thing and you blasphemously refuse the tea, that white ceramic teacup sans handle can serve as your mixing bowl for sauce. And, no, skinny bitches, the waiter will not provide you low-sodium soy sauce. But he will serve you a brusque "no" and a nice, big eye roll.
5. Yes Means No, No Means Yes, and...Sometimes You Might Have to Go Get Your Own Damn Calamari: In keeping with the whole rich, authentic experience, what you say will be lost in translation, even when, sometimes, all you want is a Coke. If you don't recognize what's on the tray, there is no dictionary, no phone-a-friend. You might order something you're allergic to, and don't even ask what does not have meat in it. Egos and hesitation aside, you will occasionally have to get up out of your seat and hunt down the fresh fried squid when, after four requests and the receipt of your bill, you still haven't received your favorite dish. But, hell, it's part of the fun, and anyway, you need to work off the pint of saturated fat already consumed.
4. A Turnip Is Actually Good: First of all, what the hell is a turnip? Second of all, why is it this damn good? A Chinese turnip, a.k.a. daikon radish, is a root vegetable that looks like a fat, white carrot. It's so yummy because the dim sum turnip cakes are mashed up, mixed with shrimp and pork sausage, steamed and then pan-fried, creating a nice, crispy layer all around. And its best friend is soy sauce. Throw in a little Chinese broccoli and you might get a little nutrition in your diet. But veggies beware, dim sum turns up its nose at non-carnivores — beef, pork and prawn reign. You might get chicken, but duck is preferred.
3. Tiny Plates, Big Bill: So, you think the plates are oh-so-small. You feel like you're eating ten little appetizers and can't even imagine how it makes a meal. You order like the Sultan of Bahrain. Well. Wait till your periodic table of a bill arrives and suddenly your total is more than $150. Now you know: $4 plates add up to a whole lot of money. Slow your roll, big spender, and pace yourself.
2. Shortcut to the Menu: If you were not paying attention, here's your menu: pork siu mai, pork spareribs, fried calamari, barbecued pork buns, Chinese turnip cakes, broccoli and rice noodle rolls. If you're wild and out, then do it: steamed chicken feet, sesame balls, bean curd and a little taro pudding. It's your party; you can fry if you want to.
1. It's Your First Time, Do It Somewhere Special: You've waited for this. You were worried you couldn't perform and it wouldn't deliver. But, alas, you enter the Golden Palace, with its big red doors, satin seat covers, round tables and spinning susans. Thirty years wise and newly renovated, The Golden Palace Restaurant (8520 Bellaire Blvd.) warmly welcomes you, takes your hand and thrusts you energetically into the exciting world of Houston's dim sum. Whatever you fancy, and whether or not you toss these tips in the garbage, it will be the best brunch of your life.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.