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.
If you haven't been to Lowbrow, the new bar opened by Free Press Houston's Omar Afra, you need to get there. It opened softly back in October, and after some consulting from the Eatsie Boys' Matt Marcus, Rachel Merk stepped in to run the kitchen. Merk was previously at Liberty Kitchen before working in Denver and New Orleans and ultimately returning to Houston. Now she's hoping to make her mark with her own kitchen at Lowbrow.
I generally go to Lowbrow for a cocktail and end up staying long enough to get a major hankering for some of the hand-cut fries served with sambal mayo, but if you're in the mood for a meal, few things are better than the Juicy Lucy burger, filled with fontina and jalapeños.
I love me a fat little stuffed burger.
To make the Juicy Lucy, the chefs start with Longhorn beef, which is totally delicious on its own. I ordered a rare burger once (I've since come to the conclusion that they're best medium-rare), and the raw beef rivaled any tartare in town. But for the sake of getting that great burger char, order it a little more cooked than I did.
After a few minutes on the grill, the patty is topped with fried shallots and pickled shallots -- two versions of the same vegetable that taste noticeably different. The fried shallots are crispy and almost sweet and a more expected burger topping than the pickled shallots, which are reminiscent of pickled onions and give the burger a vinegary bite.
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Also adding to the slightly spicy flavor profile is the fresh arugula sprinkled on top of the meat. There's enough greenery on the burger that you can fool yourself into thinking it's healthy. Or at least that there are some redeeming qualities to the meal beyond just an awesome taste.
And really, you're going to need the fresh, green arugula to counter some of the richness of the burger. When you cut into it (please do not attempt to hold it to your mouth and bite it), melted fontina enveloped in the center of the meat will ooze or occasionally spurt out -- a creamy, gooey center that, though it's written in the menu, takes many by surprise. Coupled with the jalapeños, it's almost like Mexican queso. Stuffed in a burger.
If that's not heaven, I don't know what is.
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 No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga