In the past, I've been criticized by some readers of EOW for focusing my restaurant research on establishments inside the loop. And while it's true that I don't regularly travel very far for my food, I recently found yet another excuse to go way outside my zip code. Alvin, Texas is my new favorite dining destination and here are five reasons it should be yours as well:
5. Scotch Eggs
At Gordon Street Tavern, the fare is solid but predictable: hot wings, fried mushrooms, burgers and some damn good waffle fries doused in beef gravy. The unexpected hit, however, is the Scotch Eggs made from scratch by Chef Jason Chaney, who was inspired to recreate the British dish after tasting it as a child at Dickens on the Strand. House-made sausage, bright yellow yolks and a crisp coating of fresh bread crumbs make this appetizer fresh, robust and flavorful.
4. Craft Brews Great and Small
To wash down your Scotch Eggs, Gordon Street Tavern offers a wide range of mass-market and craft beers, including some varieties (like Coors's Batch 19) that are available only in a handful of Texas bars. There's also a wide choice in portion sizes from the cute mini-mugs for tastings and sampling to the 120-ounce containers (about two pitchers) for larger parties that require a lot of brew to fuel their brouhaha.
3. Grilled Oysters 3 Ways
A hop, skip and a jump from Gordon Street Tavern is Coastal Crossing Grill , where fresh gulf seafood rules. Of special note are the monstrous grilled oysters, available in three different styles: "Fancy" (a sharp, citrusy dressing of shallots, cracked pepper and lemon vinaigrette), "Creole" (creamy jack cheese coating with smoky notes ) and "Sealy Street" (a fiery blend of pickled jalapeños and almost-burnt bacon).
2. Deep-Fried Short Ribs
Given that the Grill's kitchen is also manned by the talented Chaney, who earned significant street credit for his work at The Barbed Rose (former occupant of the site), it's not surprising that a non-seafood dish is also (ironically) making waves. To say that the deep-fried smoked short ribs are tender is, perhaps, the understatement of the year; when I picked up one of the ribs, the meat literally fell off the bone and almost into my lap. And despite a thick coating of spicy batter atop the sumptuous streaks of fat and pig flesh, the ribs are not cloyingly rich. Even a generous dip in the accompanying sweet, vinegary barbecue sauce isn't enough to induce moans (in a bad way). The sounds coming out of the mouths of diners (including my own) are of pure pleasure.
1. Elvis Cake Balls
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"Omigod, cake balls are, like, so 2011." Fine, naysayers, you can skip the cake balls at Norma's Cakes & Cookies. Just know, however, that you'll die without tasting one of the most incredible creations in the history of baking. An homage to The King's favorite sandwich, the Elvis cakeball combines peanut butter chips with (overripe!) hearty banana cake to form a dense sphere that's finished with a dip in fine milk chocolate.
A very, very close second to Elvis variety are the chocolate chip cookie dough cake balls. Though lacking in raw egg (for those neurotic folk that fear salmonella--whiners), these cake balls taste so much like the "real" chocolate chip cookie dough that I was tempted to shove them in an oven and see if they transformed into Toll House.