Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.
“I’ll take a plate of the Tex-Cajun Virgin poutine, please,” I said to the young waitress at BB's Café on Montrose at Westheimer.
“I’m sorry?” asked the young waitress, confused.
“The poutine?” I could feel my heartbeat jump a notch. Did BB’s not have it anymore? Oh dear.
“No, that might have been on a previous menu,” she said.
I peered at the menu. Surely it wasn’t gone. Why would they take it off the menu??
I spied it with its new, family-friendly name. “Ah-ha. Here it is. The Tex-Cajun Fries,” I said with a sign of relief. Whew.
I’ve been coming here for BB’s Tex-Mex take on poutine for years and it was probably Robb Walsh’s original 100 Favorite Dishes list that made me aware of it in the first place. Crispy fries are topped with queso and roast beef that just falls apart and melts with the thick, brown gravy. This is no purist’s poutine. Don’t go looking for cheese curds. This is Texas, man. We eat queso.
As related in Walsh's original article, BB's owner Brooks Bassler had no intention of creating a Tex-Mex-Cajun version of poutine. It just happened that way when he was inspired by diners at Domilise's in New Orleans who ordered roast beef — usually used in the sandwiches — on top of the fries. Coincidentally, around 2010, the same time Walsh wrote his blog post, poutine suddenly became not just a known quantity but even trendy. I can tell you there are far, far worse takes on poutine in Houston than what Bassler unknowingly came up with.
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Fries with stuff on them come and go, but this one remains the king. Either a spicy Bloody Mary or an Abita goes good alongside, and the pile o’fries and meat is plenty big enough for two to share. The closest competition I’ve found is the Hell Fries at Hubcap Grill and the Foie Gras Fries at Bernie’s Burger Bus, which are available only on special occasions.
The Montrose BB’s is now open 24 hours a day (filling in the void left when Hollywood Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant shut down), and there’s little better after a night of liquid celebration than the Tex-Cajun Virgin — I mean, Tex-Cajun Fries.
The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies