This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
Call me crazy. Go on. The macaroni and cheese at one of Houston's top steakhouses? That's what I'm choosing to put on the list? But bear with me.
The reason I love the mac & cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse so much is simple: It's simple. Chef Carlos Rodriguez explained to me that when the steakhouse first started coming up with mac 'n' cheese recipes, everyone wanted to take the dish over the top: adding bacon, crabmeat, whatever they could gild the lily with. But Rodriguez was determined to keep it simple, and it paid off.
The bechamel sauce only has three cheeses in it: American, white Cheddar and a pinch of Romano for saltiness. The plump cavatappi pasta is blanched to order and served in a white dish that makes it look, at first, as if it's been baked. But Rodriguez doesn't believe in baking macaroni and cheese: "It makes it tough," he says. So he just adds a sprinkle of crumbled croutons on top for texture and appearance. The result is the most perfectly unfussy mac 'n' cheese in town.
By extension, this dish is exemplary of all of the dishes at Vic & Anthony's: refreshingly simple, straightforward and damn good. That's all I want in a steakhouse -- really good ingredients cooked well and tampered with as little as possible -- and that's what V&A delivers every single time. Including its mac 'n' cheese. The only exception to this rule? Rodriguez's famed Burger Fridays, when he gleefully serves over-the-top burgers that even occasionally include the macaroni and cheese itself.
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The list so far:
No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf