Restaurant Reviews

Checking It Out: Willie's New Sandwiches

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The Cajun Fire Sandwich at Willie's has kick in its breading.
It was a warm, sunny day in Houston and not very conducive to Christmas tree shopping. What was even less appealing was having to convince a 17-year-old boy, in this case my son, to accompany me.  After his tough day at school, I pulled out the big guns and lured him with promises of fries, meat and a chocolate shake.

I picked Willie's Grill and Icehouse for our early dinner. It was across the street from where we were seeking our Frasier fir. I had recently written about the new upcoming location in Pearland and its two new Texas Toast sandwiches. It reminded me how much I like the burger joint.
click to enlarge Play Nice is such good advice they said it twice. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Play Nice is such good advice they said it twice.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
My family hadn't been to Willie's since the beginning of the pandemic. It had been on our rotation for over a decade, especially when our kids were younger and we needed something fast-casual with a variety of options. The sandbox was a bonus in the earlier years and the kids menu fit the bill for our picky eaters. It also became an inexpensive go-to when my husband, Classic Rock Bob, returned from an out-of-town trip. It was a safe choice with good food and under-rated burgers.

After choosing a tree at Lowe's we headed to Willie's. I let my son drive because he has stressed lately that he needs to be more independent. I also considered the fact that I could safely have a margarita or two at the restaurant with a designated driver. As we were walking across the parking lot, we spotted Classic Rock Bob's shiny face smiling at us from a seat on the patio. My earlier phone message had given him an excuse to leave work early and join us. It was 75 degrees and sunny. The temptation was strong.
click to enlarge Frozen drinks with and without alcohol. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Frozen drinks with and without alcohol.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Willie's is counter service on the front end and table service on the back. Not my favorite way of dining but I have gotten used to it over the years. We placed our orders, received our drinks, then headed out to the patio to join Classic Rock Bob at a picnic table. After a few exchanges about school and work and grunted replies, our waiter appeared to re-affirm our order. When my son headed to the restroom to wash Christmas tree sap from his hands, I sneaked a sip of his chocolate shake, taking care not to disturb the whipped cream on top, lest he discover my thievery. It was thick and chocolatey. Willie's does milkshakes right and they are a good size for $3.99. That's the same price as a fast-food shake and so far, we've never experienced a malfunctioning shake machine at Willie's. Can't say that for the other guys.

The house margaritas at Willie's won't knock your socks off but they will make your wallet happy. The small margarita is $4 all day and the large house rita is $5.99, for dine-in only. The margaritas to-go are $9.99. I got a bit of a buzz from one and a half, so they aren't weak. Willie's also has wine and a huge cooler of bottled beer on ice to choose from.
click to enlarge Get the onion rings. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Get the onion rings.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We ordered onion rings to start which wasn't necessary but they were oh-so-good. CRB is a huge fan of them and the ones at Willie's are huge, with a tempura-style batter that hangs on tightly to the onion slice. They are served with ranch dressing which works well with the fried rings. We got the large order because it was only a dollar or so more. And it was a lot of rings for $6.99.

When our server brought our food, CRB was surprised. Apparently I had misunderstood him. He was only there for onion rings and margaritas but I had ordered an extra sandwich for him. Oh, well. Leftovers for lunch.
click to enlarge Twelve bucks and it comes with fries. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Twelve bucks and it comes with fries.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
My son took the Bacon Willie ($12.09), which is a half-pound cheeseburger with bacon strips and the bacon was not skimpy at all. The new Texas Toast sandwiches were the Texas Patty Melt (under $11) and the Cajun Fire Chicken Sandwich ($9.99). They were each served with a big side of seasoned shoestring fries. I have always liked Willie's fries. They may not be hand-cut, but they are always served crispy and they actually reheat fairly well in the oven.

The Cajun Fire Chicken sandwich is two flat tenders on Texas Toast with a smattering of Cajun-fire sauce, a wee bit of coleslaw and two sweet pickle slices. I could have done with an extra slice or two of pickles because I love them. I could have also used a little more sauce and slaw because they seemed to have gotten lost in the sandwich.  What surprised me was that the heat didn't seem to be in the sauce at all but rather in the breading on the chicken itself. It was a sweet and spicy combination that I really liked. However, the chicken was a bit on the thin side for a sandwich.
click to enlarge The Texas Patty Melt is loaded with grilled onions. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The Texas Patty Melt is loaded with grilled onions.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Some people adore patty melts and I am one of those people. The Texas Patty Melt at Willie's is an eight- ounce meat patty topped with grilled onions, a little "Melt" sauce and two slices of Monterrey Jack cheese between two slices of Texas Toast. The Melt sauce tastes suspiciously of Thousand Island dressing, but thinner. It had just a hint of the flavor of a McDonald's Big Mac but with way better ingredients and taste. I have always liked Willie's burgers but I think the patty melt may usurp the Cheese Willie in my preference

We were happy with our return to Willie's and enjoyed our picnic table spot on the patio, especially with such beautiful weather. Even though we were very satisfied with our food, we still left with three to-go boxes. My family knows that I have a particularly good way of reheating leftovers. No nuking in the microwave. We will still be able to enjoy those leftover onion rings tomorrow.
click to enlarge Willie's patio is a great spot to enjoy a warm winter's day in Houston. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Willie's patio is a great spot to enjoy a warm winter's day in Houston.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Willie's Grill and Icehouse was founded in Houston in 1993 and now has 19 locations with another planned for Pearland in January 2022. Its casual ambiance, good-sized menu and decent prices make it a family-friendly choice for those needing an escape from holiday cooking. And Christmas tree shopping.