Over the course of the next few months, I'm counting down 100 of my favorite Houston dishes. I chose some because they are such quintessential Houston creations, others for their cultural or historical significance, and others because they are just so damn tasty. Share your own nominations in the comments.
#22 The Roast Beef Poor Boy at Mama's Cajun Cuisine
The quarter roast beef poor boy at Mama's Cajun Cuisine on Barker Cypress is piled so high with falling-apart roast beef, I can barely get my mouth around it. The meat chunks in gravy look like the stuff you get on a "debris" poor boy at Mother's in New Orleans. At Mother's, debris is what they call the scraps of meat that fall off when the roast beef is sliced.
At Mama's Cajun Cuisine, there aren't any slices -- the cook braises the entire roast in mushroom gravy until the whole thing turns into exquisite mush. The beef is sopping with homemade gravy, and it comes with a little bowl of extra gravy on the side. I accidentally-on-purpose spill gravy all over my french fries while I eat the sandwich.
Was Mother's the inspiration for the poor boy? "Actually, it's more like the roast beef poor boy at a convenience store called Lyttle's near Abita Springs, where I ate roast beef poor boys when I was a kid," says co-owner John Pott. Sadly, the convenience store is not there anymore, he says. But thank goodness the memory of that magnificent roast beef poor boy has survived.
Truth be told, the food at Mama's Cajun Cuisine is closer to big-city New Orleans cooking than rural Cajun fare. Pott grew up in Covington on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and went to college at LSU, where he played on the golf team. As you can imagine, the restaurant is decorated in gaudy purple and gold pennants.
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All the poor boys at Mama's Cajun Cuisine are enormous. That's because they're made on French bread loaves rather than poor boy rolls. When you get a quarter, you are ordering a quarter of a large loaf of bread. John thinks the best bread for poor boys comes from Leidenheimer's bakery in New Orleans. "We used to buy their bread," he says, "but we haven't been able to get any since Katrina, so now we make our poor boys on Gambino's French bread." Gambino's is a famous bakery in Metairie, right across the bridge from Covington.
Talk about authentic New Orleans poor boys...
The list to date:
#100: Green Chile Chicken Kebabs at Chatkhara Grill #99: The All-Day Burrito at Cherry Top Bakery #98: "You Buy We Fry" Trout Basket at Hank's Fish Market #97: Chicharron de Barriga at La Michoacana Meat Market # 10 #96: Pakistani Breakfast at Kings Chicken #95: Fried Mojarra at Taqueria Jesus Maria #94: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake Ball at Coffee Groundz #93:Cheeseburger at Leonard's Famous Burgers #92: Lasagna at Doyle's #91: Cochinita Pibil at Tacos La Bala #90: Fajita Tacos at Taqueria El Charro #89: Kubideh and Zereshk Polo at Kasra Persian Grill #88: Trentino Gelato's Dulce de Leche at Shisha #87: Deviled Eggs at Nielsen's Deli #86: Italian-Cuban Sandwich at Logan Farms #85: Vegetable Trio in Sichuan Sauce at Spicy Sichuan #84: Salchi-Burger at Brisa Cocina #83: El Ultimo Taco Truck's Breakfast Tacos #82: Kielbasa on a Sizzling Comal at Polonia #81: Shrimp and Grits at Bistro Alex, Hotel Sorella #80: A Bowl of Chili at James Coney Island #79: Lamb Dumplings at Lucky Pot #78: Crazy Irishman Sushi Roll at Soma #77:Tesar's "Magic" Burger #76: Mac n' Cheese at Two Saints #75: Spicy Armenian Kebabs at Café Rita #74: Jalapeño Gefilte Fish at Rustika #73: Greek Burger at the Hubcap Grill #72: The Basil Inferno at Thai Bistro #71: Paella at Rioja on Kirkwood #70: The Big Adrian Burger at Adrian's Local Café #69: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Bar at La Paletera #68: Indonesian Deviled Eggs at Rice Bowl II #67: Al Pastor Quesadillas at Tierra Caliente Meat Market #66: Boudin Kolaches at Shipley's on North Main #65: Banh Cuon at Tay Ho 18 in Hong Kong City Mall #64: Cumin Lamb at Chinese Halal Cuisine on Bellaire #63: Stuffed Artichoke at Mint Café on Sage #62: Italian Sausage Pie at Russo's Coal Oven Pizza #61: Tom Kha Gai at Thai Choice on Wilcrest #60: Torta Cubano Estilo Mexicano at El Amigo Taco Truck #59: Whataburger Triple Meat, Triple Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños #58: The Banana, Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip and Dulce de Leche Empanada at The Original Marini's #57: The Barbecue Brisket and Egg Breakfast Taco at Plantation BBQ Trailer #56: Chicken-Fried Steak at Frank's Chop House #55: Catfish and Grits at the Breakfast Klub #54: Bun Bo Hue at Kim Chau #53: Beef Tips at Davis Meat Market #52: Moules Frites at Jeanine's Bistro #51: The Fajita Taco at the Taconazo Truck #50: Frito Pie at the Rio Verde Taco Truck #49: Ceviche at Yelapa #48: African-American Beef Links at Bar-B-Que Done Right #47: Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ham and Mushrooms at Ciao Bello #46: Ice Cream at Hank's #45: Oysters with Lardons and Leeks at Brocante #44: Steak Tikka at Himalaya #43: Barbacoa Soup at De Buey Y Vaca #42: Banh Mi Xiu Mai at Don Cafe #41: The BBQ Burger at Guy's Meat Market #40: Indian Borsch at Indika #39: Mole Poblano at Hugo's #38: Banh Bot Chien at Tan Tan #37: Soft-boiled Quail Eggs with Asparagus Tips at Chez Roux #36: Surf and Turf Salad at Que Huong #35: Breakfast Tacos at Laredo Taqueria #34: French Fries at Little Big's #33: The Picnic Platter at the Grove #32: Cheese Enchiladas with Fried Eggs at Los Dos Amigos #31: The Sampler Plate at Café Lili #30: Elysian Fields Lamb and Mushy Peas at Tony's #29: The Cheeseburger at Christian's #28 Couchon de Lait at Stella Sola #27: Warm Glazed Donuts at Shipley's on Ella #26: Fried Shrimp at Segari's #25: Special Enchiladas-A-La-Taylor at Spanish Village #24: Pasta with White Truffles at Da Marco #23: Green Falafel Sandwich at Zabak's