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Eat This: Oysters at Punk's Simple Southern

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Although my first visit to Punk's Simple Southern proved mediocre, the restaurant seems to have gotten its act together. Somewhat. Despite the fact that we had made a reservation 72 hours in advance, no tables were available when we arrived; the manager then set up a table approximately three feet from the door, which opened regularly bringing in gusts of 40-degree air. No thanks, we'll wait for (non-refrigerated) seating.

Forgiving that small snafu was easy, however, when it was followed up by otherwise very attentive service plus some delicious and well-executed albeit slightly overpriced dishes. (The worst offender is the fried chicken, which costs $40 for a whole bird.)

The hush puppies and the various biscuits (especially those stuffed with "ham and jam") are terrific and can by themselves make for a reasonably satisfying happy hour meal. If you're craving protein, however, but not in the mood for a burger (if you really were, would you be at Punk's?), and/or don't eat fish tacos at non-TexMex joints, then please go for the oysters.

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They appear in various versions on Punk's menu (fried, as sandwich stuffings, grilled with different toppings), and a particularly delightful combination is that of the fried oyster po'boy and the broiled oysters with lemon garlic butter. The po'boy ($16) absolutely overflows with battered bivalve nuggets that are complemented by a generous glaze of pickled tartar sauce. It's not the best po'boy in Houston, though its accompaniments are the most unique: a deviled egg and a bag of "spicy cajun crawtators" flavored Zapp's potato chips.

The otherwise smoky briney flavor of broiled oysters ($18) becomes tangier thanks to a pungent lemon garlic butter dressing. It readily spills over from the half-shells when you raise them to slurp the oyster and Punk's thoughtfully include a toasted half-baguette to sop up the extra juices.

Punk's is very much a family restaurant, the fact of which I was reminded in the middle of second course when a four-year-old boy shouted, "Daddy, I NEED another root beer," across our table to his father standing at the bar. The dining room can be quite noisy and chaotic, so go elsewhere if you're determined to have an intense tête-à-tête. But if you've got money to spend on some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food amidst a multi-generational crowd, Punk's is perfect.

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