Restaurant Reviews

A Day Devoted to Dining Out In Houston

A rose made for Houston's summer.
A rose made for Houston's summer. Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We all have different ideas of a perfect day out and also with whom we want to spend an entire day. We have romantic dates with our significant others, kid-friendly experiences with our children and party nights with our pals. Then there are times you just need a friend. Just one, with some heart to heart chat and hopefully more laughs than tears.

I called up a friend who I knew needed some one-on-one grown-up conversation. The words were barely out of my mouth before she screamed, "Yes!" I suggested a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to see a couple of exhibitions and a restaurant that I wanted to check out.
click to enlarge An excellent way to start a day out. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
An excellent way to start a day out.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
So on a Saturday morning we met up at Agnes Cafe and Provisions which recently opened June 8. We had plans to eat at 93 Til for an early dinner so we decided just to have a croissant to start our day. I asked her if we should get coffee or a mimosa. She was quick to affirm that a mimosa was preferred.

The total for two mimosas and two croissants was about 30 bucks. Not cheap for a light breakfast but the croissants were big, buttery and flaky and our mimosas were filled to the top. The cafe was contemporary and bright with an attractive bar in the middle. The staff were sunshine-y and smiling, so it was a pleasant half hour to make our plans for the rest of our adventure.

On the way out we took a quick look at the "provisions" section of the shop. There were some reasonably-priced cheeses and some rather expensive gourmet items. The shop also sells the conservas which are on the cafe menu as well. I grabbed a jar of Edmond Fallot Provencale Dijon Mustard for $4.99. If we didn't have other plans we might have stayed longer and blown the rest of our day's budget on foodie delicacies.
click to enlarge Agnes Cafe has a small market area. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Agnes Cafe has a small market area.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We managed to find parking for the MFAH on the little side streets by the churches. This is one of my favorite areas of Houston. The canopy of oak trees, the steeples reaching into a blue, cloudless sky and the mix of modern and old architecture gives the Museum District of Houston a European feel. The 95 degree weather and overhanging humidity, not so much.


We headed to the Audrey Jones Beck Building for the first exhibition, Monet to Matisse: Impressionism to Modernism from the Bemberg Foundation. The ticket price that day was $23 and included the Monet to Matisse exhibit and general admission. The exhibition, which runs through September 19, had a strong array of impressionist paintings that aren't often seen and the Houston exhibition was the only U.S. venue for this collection. Pierre Bonnard, perhaps a little lesser known than some of his contemporaries, has an entire room of the exhibit devoted to his work. There are several works by Toulouse-Lautrec, including one that had us wondering if were seeing what we thought were seeing. Hint: It's a depiction of a prostitute in a brothel and she's not alone.
click to enlarge The interactive SunForceOceanLife by Ernesto Neto glows. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The interactive SunForceOceanLife by Ernesto Neto glows.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We then made our way to the Caroline Weiss Law Building for an exhibition from The Fayez S. Sarofim Collection. Three Centuries of American Art - Antiquities, European and American Masterpieces was almost overwhelming in scope. It felt like it took three centuries for us to see it all. John Singer Sargent is a particular favorite of mine and there were several stunning examples of his work in this exhibition. We weren't as taken with some of the modern work simply because it is not our bag. However, The Sarofim Collection definitely has something for everyone. I am probably going to make a return visit before it leaves just to take some more time to enjoy it. It runs though September 6.

After all that art, we were ready for some libations. We had planned on dining at 93 Til, the lounge/restaurant concept from Lung Ly and Gary Ly which softly opened in December 2020 in the former Night Heron space. It has gotten quite a bit of buzz and it has a fried chicken sandwich that I wanted to try. Unfortunately, it was closed in the middle of the afternoon that day. We didn't want to go eat elsewhere so I suggested we hit Eugene's Gulf Coast Kitchen for a brief visit. It  offers a Saturday happy hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., something you don't find very often in Houston.
click to enlarge Photo of family and friends adds to the conviviality at Eugene's. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Photo of family and friends adds to the conviviality at Eugene's.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We decided to ride together which was a good thing because the residential area where Eugene's sits is tight and the parking lot was even tighter. And it only goes one way. My friend squeezed her car in a spot and we walked into Eugene's, finding an older crowd that made us feel comfortable. We sat at the bar and were given happy hour menus.

There was a selection of happy hour wines ($7) but I saw the Pink Fizz ($14) advertised and it sounded refreshing. My friend ordered a glass of pinot grigio and we hovered over the menu of bar bites. Not wanting to ruin our appetites for 93 Til, we ordered two each of the Peel and Eat Shrimp ($1 each), raw oysters ($1 each), Crab-Stuffed Jalapenos ($2.75 each) and Mini Crab Cakes ($6.95 for two).

My Pink Fizz had less grapefruit flavor than I expected but was very tasty. We enjoyed our conversation, cozy in the New Orleans-style decor, though touches from the previous restaurant that was there could still be seen in the architecture and fixtures. A wall of photos gave it the feeling of a place where everybody knows your name and they're usually glad you came.
click to enlarge An unplanned trip to Eugene's was a yummy success. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
An unplanned trip to Eugene's was a yummy success.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Our bartender set out our bounty of plates before us. The oysters were fine but after having some stellar ones at Pier 6 a few months ago, they weren't quite up to that standard. However, it is late in the season. The crab cakes were just fine as well. They could have used a bit more seasoning but they were tender with crab and not much breading. The garlic remoulade provided plenty of extra flavor. The shrimp had a tangy sauce with more than a hint of Worcestershire and were more like New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp. The standout appetizer was the jalapeno. It was stuffed with crab meat filling, cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese. It was fried perfectly and the jalapeno itself was still a vibrant green with a nice crisp texture.
click to enlarge This is more than a jalapeno popper. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
This is more than a jalapeno popper.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Though we were comfortable at Eugene's bar, we were on a mission. My friend shimmied her car out of the odd parking area and we headed to 93 Til. We lucked out on a primo spot in its parking lot and upon entering the bar/restaurant, found a younger crowd than Eugene's. We were there a little after 5 p.m.  so it wasn't hopping yet. We grabbed a cozy corner spot and saw that we had to scan the QR code to look at the menu.
click to enlarge The lounge vibe belies the culinary backbone. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The lounge vibe belies the culinary backbone.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We are both women of a certain age so the neon, natural sunlight and corner darkness made it a little difficult to see our phone screens. Our server was cute and friendly and between us we decided that a bottle of rose would fit our mood. We opted for the Luna Nuda 2020 ($44) from the Alto Adige Valley in Italy and were rewarded with some light strawberry and raspberry flavors and a hint of floral aroma. It was less dry than the French roses I usually drink but it still had some body to it, perfect for pairing with food.

Tucked in our corner, we chose The Chicken Sandwich as one of our meals. That's literally what it's called on the menu and we wanted to see if it really was the The. We also ordered the Steak. It's a Denver Cut from 44 Farms. I'll be honest. I had never heard of the Denver Cut. But Google helped me out and I discovered that it's a chuck shoulder cut but from beneath a bone so it doesn't get as much of a work out, leaving it a little tenderness but also the more flavorsome profile of a chuck steak.
click to enlarge Denver steaks are on trend. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Denver steaks are on trend.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We enjoyed our little hidden spot talking about life and dreams and everyday things, sipping our blush vino and watching the space fill up with more people. The crowd seem to be mostly thirty-somethings with a smattering of millennials and Gen X'ers. There's a vintage vibe with mid-century chairs and comfortable sofas plus loads of vinyl records that make up the playlist at 93 Til. There was some hip-hop, some Latin music, a little jazz. Most of it I didn't recognize but don't tell my husband Classic Rock Bob. He's still shocked that I didn't know who the bassist for Cream was.

When our food arrived, The Chicken Sandwich looked like a plus-sized person in a too-small bikini. Its fried crispiness was hanging out both sides of the bun by a good three inches. The steak was accompanied by some charred asparagus and a garnish of red onions and green herbs. It was beautifully cooked and topped with flakes of salt.
click to enlarge The Chicken Sandwich ain't skimpy. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The Chicken Sandwich ain't skimpy.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We cut the sandwich in half to split. We each dug into our still massive halves and were impressed by the crunchy chicken which retained its juiciness. The kale and cabbage slaw was creamy which was why I don't think I really tasted the honey-mustard. I wasn't quite sure it was THE chicken sandwich but it was delicious and well worth its $14 price tag. The steak was just a little chewy with a nice beefy flavor making me realize that I had been missing out on the Denver Cut trend. For $22, a steak of this caliber is an exceptional deal. I loved the freshness of the garnish but both my friend and I agreed that a little acid or even a quick pickle on the red onions would have been nice. And we regretted not ordering the Fingerling Potatoes as an accompaniment but we were already pretty stuffed. That meant we didn't have room for dessert.
click to enlarge Sweet and smoky, just like me. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Sweet and smoky, just like me.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
But we did have room for a cocktail. We both chose the Honeydew You Love Me ($13). It's a refreshing blend of Illegal mezcal, Agua Perfecta, honeydew shrub and prosecco. When we first arrived at 93 Til, a bartender was busily attacking a mound of honeydew melons which must have been for this particular cocktail. The glasses were rimmed with basil and chamomile dust but some of it had rubbed off from the condensation on the glasses. When our bartender asked how the drinks were, we said that we wished they had just a little more of the basil/chamomile dust and he reappeared with a small container of it to add to our drinks. They were a little smoky from the mezcal but the sweetness of the honeydew and the herbal flavors from the dust and the Agua Perfecta made for a balanced and stimulating cocktail.

After a wonderful day of conversation, food, drinks and art, it was time to head to our respective homes. We made a promise to "do this more often." In light of current events, I hope we will still be able to.


Agnes Cafe & Provisions
2132 Bissonet
713-714-0078
agneshtx.com

Museum of Fine Arts Houston
1001 Bissonet
713-639-7300
mfah.org

Eugene's Gulf Coast Cuisine

1985 Welch
713-807-8883
eugeneshouston.com

93 Til
1601 W. Main
281-846-6405
93-Til.com
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.