Off the Wall: Zelko Bistro

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Last week, Minh T. Truong asked the question, "Which Houston restaurants deserve Food Network recognition?" The comments poured in, but one in particular from EOW reader Ali caught my attention: "I'd love to bathe in Jamie Zelko's grits. Is that TMI? I don't care. And I could eat her chopped bleu salad and lemon ice box pie every. damn. day."

Any food that warrants that strong a reaction, I'm intrigued by. I carefully navigated through the Heights traffic and construction to arrive at a nearly packed Zelko Bistro.

I was a little put off by how narrowly spaced the tables were. While quite homey and charming, this restaurant is much too small to accommodate the type of crowds that chef Jamie Zelko's food brings in. And parking can be hard to come by, even with two small lots on the premises. But Ali was right. Whatever complaints I could possibly have about this joint were completely overshadowed by the food. Especially those grits.

I skipped out on the chopped bleu salad but ordered the fish tacos for my main, with a side of grits. "Do you want those instead of the sweet plantains it comes with?" the waitress asked. "Is she crazy?" I thought to myself. "Of course not. I'd like them in addition to the plantains." I mean, the audacity.

And those grits were decadent. The cheese in this creamy, yet perfectly granular, bowl of Southern goodness permeated my taste buds. Ali, I'm ready to join you in your grit-filled bathtub of bliss.

And don't even get me started on that Lemon Ice Box Pie. It truly was the perfect dessert, so light and fresh with its lemony mousse-like texture and its perfectly crumbly graham cracker crust. Plus, it was served atop some raspberry coulis, the perfect accompaniment to that zesty lemon flavor.

This was my second time at Zelko, and I'm eagerly awaiting a third. Have you been? What are your favorite dishes?

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