The late Sam Segari was nuts about shrimp. His restaurant, Segari's on Shepherd, is run by his daughter now. But the shrimp dishes are still made with U-10s, the largest Gulf shrimp available. The cryptic code means "under ten to a pound" -- the actual average size is close to a fifth of a pound each. I tried some boiled in a shrimp cocktail and some fried with onion rings for lunch the other day. The beautifully cooked boiled shrimp came with some huge crab "lollipop" claws in an old-fashioned ketchup-based cocktail sauce. The fried shrimp were so big they were flattened out before being battered and fried. They tasted like chicken-fried shrimp steaks.
Sam Segari started off in business in 1971 with a piano bar on Milam called Sam's Song. He later ran Second Verse on Washington Avenue. The first Sam Segari's was a seafood restaurant across the street from the piano bar. He moved to Durham St. in the 1990s. The Durham restaurant won Best Gumbo in the Houston Press 2002 Best of Houston® awards. When it burned down in 2003, Sam moved over to Shepherd St. He refused to pay another signage fee to the city, so he operated for a long time without a sign. His loyal customers, a bunch of maverick lawyers, eccentric wildcatters and various other shady types, knew where to find him. Sam died in August 2005, but his legendary seafood restaurant lives on.