This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape. It's a list to drool over.
Have you read enough about oysters here yet? We've been talking about them a lot since the gulf oyster season started on November 1. We've told you what kind of season to expect, where to get oysters and how to order them (baked and topped with ham) at Danton's, our favorite seafood place. And all this talking about oysters, well, it's only made me want them more.
And that's how I ended up at Pappas Seafood by myself shortly after oyster season began. I got a craving for fresh, raw oysters on the half shell, and I just couldn't wait around for someone to join me. It's probably better that way, actually, because eating oysters -- slurping them out of the shells in one massive gulp while the salty water inside runs down my chin -- is not my most attractive look. So I sat at the bar at Pappas alone with my dozen oysters on ice, and I was happy as a clam at high tide.
Or rather, an oyster in the ocean.
Now, unless you're eating appellation oysters, most gulf oysters taste pretty much the same. Even if you are eating appellation bivalves, you'd probably need to taste the ones from different reefs one right after the other in order to notice a discernible difference. In most cases, a gulf oyster harvested during gulf oyster season and served at Pappas will be much like a gulf oyster harvested during gulf oyster season and served at Goode Company. Briny and delicious.
There are a few reasons why Pappas oysters are on my favorite-dishes list, though.
For one, they're incredibly fresh. Like, the restaurant just got them in shortly before I ordered them, and I watched the designated oyster shucker behind the bar twist open the shells and place them on the icy platter as soon as I ordered them. The only way they'd be fresher is if I'd plucked them out of the ocean myself.
Second, they were of a good size. Every shell was at least two to three inches long, and a few of the oysters inside were big enough that I had to take more than one bite.
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They were served with three different sauces, too, and though I'm usually an oyster purist, I found the mignonette sauce of red wine vinegar and shallots quite refreshing on top of the flesh.
Finally, the price. When I got my check, I thought there had been a mistake, but the bartender assured me that the oysters were on special because they're so abundant right now. I was stuffed, but I almost ordered another dozen, just because I wanted to take advantage of the amazing deal. A dozen oysters for $6.50.
I would have paid three times that much for the über-fresh, salty, buttery, soft gifts straight from the cool, welcoming waters of the gulf.
The list so far: No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery