$13 at Charlie's Restaurant & Catering in Missouri City

Where: Charlie's Restaurant and Catering, 8817 Highway 6, Ste. 900, Missouri City, 281-778-5222.

What $13 gets you: Your choice of basic American comfort food and a dessert. Portions are substantial, and the food is served hot and fairly quickly.

Charlie's is sparkling-clean, with friendly service and not a lot of business on a recent Saturday noon hour. Menu items include a reasonable selection of hamburgers and salads in the $6 to $8 range, as well as the more expensive "plates & platters" ($10 to $16), which include meatloaf, Salisbury steak, pork chops, baby back ribs and brisket.

This newly opened restaurant is part of an equally new strip shopping center hanging on to an edge of Highway 6 in Missouri City. Making the abrupt turn into the strip center takes an alert driver, as speeds tend to run 50 miles per hour and above on this stretch of the roadway.

A dining companion had the chicken strips appetizer as a main course, and we had the mushroom burger. The mushroom burger was unexceptional - a pretty standard flat burger (well-done, no E. coli) with mushrooms and melted cheese on top.

The waitress made a mistake with our order, bringing fries instead of the requested fruit cup. This was our lucky day, since the fries were a sensational, non-greasy perfection with a light dusting of what appeared to be paprika. (The fruit cup, alas, was a disappointment, with Red Delicious apple chunks, green grapes, one stray slice of kiwi and some strawberries). The fried chicken strips with honey mustard dip were good. Charlie's has figured out how to fry without leaving a heavy, greasy residue.

We came back later in the day right before closing and got the Charlie's Classic Chocolate Cake and bread pudding with bourbon sauce (each $5). Some of the items on the menu don't arrive exactly as described: There was no whipped cream with the bread pudding, and the chocolate chips that were supposed to cover the cake went missing. But both deserts were successes. The bourbon sauce was sweet without being overpowering, the bread pudding itself had a nice taste and texture (and reheated well later), and the fudge topping on the chocolate cake made that one a standout.

Charlie's also has a breakfast menu that includes wings and waffles, pancakes, biscuits, grits, a breakfast poor boy and a pork chop sandwich. Prices range from $4 to $7, and you can "add a pork chop to any plate" for another $3.

Recommended? Yes, especially for the fries and the desserts. Also, the chicken strip appetizers are very good ($7).

Heads Up: On Sundays Charlie's closes early, at 4 p.m., and the food starts getting packed up before that.

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