Anyone who's driven along Kirby Drive in the past couple of months has probably noticed a pair of restaurants that recently opened within blocks of each other. It's not their proximity of location that makes them stand out, nor the fact that they share sports pub/fern bar-type menus. No, their distinction comes from their weird names: bw-3 and Snuffer's.
bw-3 is shorthand for Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck. (A "weck," for those who, as I was, are ignorant in such matters, is a kaiser roll with salt on top. Like buffalo wings, weck is more common in far northern places such as upstate New York.) The focus of bw-3's offerings is, not surprisingly, buffalo wings. That portion of the menu is pretty easy to deal with, but the rest of the eight-page creation is difficult to find your way around, partly because of the restaurant's habit of throwing the word "buffalo" into the name of every dish.
Still, even amid the distraction of nine-count-'em-nine TV sets in the main dining room -- the presence of which squelched meaningful conversation at my table -- I was able to determine that what's served here is quite a bit better than average for sports bar food. Particularly pleasing were the Cajun-style onion rings (or "buffalo onions," as they're senselessly titled), thick, sweet rounds of onion that pull out of their sturdy, barbecuey batter shell, and the buffalo chips (a.k.a. French fries), sliced flats of potato that are fried up fluffy and non-greasy. The wings are also gratifying. I sampled them with two sauces from the spectrum of 11 sauce choices that are listed in decreasing order of spiciness. Hot BBQ, fourth down from the hottest, was tasty ... and amazingly hot. I couldn't imagine the pyrotechnics that would have been set off in my mouth -- not to mention my stomach -- if I had tried to consume more than one or two wings drenched in one of the hotter choices. Honey Mustard, next to the mildest, was nicely sweet and tangy.
Buffalo breath nachos (how unappetizing are they trying to make their menu sound?) were kind of wimpy -- and the cosmopolitan blue corn tortilla chips they were built on seemed out of place. But if you're looking for a good place to watch an important game with people you're not particularly interested in having an intimate conversation with, I decided, bw-3 merits a try.
The puzzle of Snuffer's name, which brings to mind a particularly unpleasant genre of film, turns out to be simple to decipher. The restaurant is named for its owner, Pat Snuffer, who opened the original in Dallas. (Houston restaurateur Frankie Mandola, a high school friend of Snuffer's, is his partner in the Houston location.) The kitchen behind this faux saloon facade serves forth a limited menu of burgers, fries and the like. I enjoyed the onion fries, cut in semi-circles and encased in a firm, flavorful -- if too salty -- batter, and the oversized burger, which oozed tons of mayonnaise on a huge, soft bun with lots of poppy seeds. The French fries were marvelous: crisp outside, with just a touch of cayenne pepper thrown into the salty seasoning mix. The chicken fajita soft taco, with its exceptionally fresh guacamole and pico de gallo, also satisfied, but the fried chicken tenders that topped the spicy battered chicken salad, though savory, were perplexingly tough. They, unlike the rest of what I tried, deserved to be snuffed. -- Kelley Blewster
bw-3, 2525 Rice Boulevard at Kirby, 521-1100; Snuffer's, 5333 Kirby near Sunset, 529-1266.
18 wings, $6.09
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