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The Gumbo at Gilhooley's

Forget about chili -- I can't think of a more hotly debated dish (in this part of the world, at least) than gumbo. Restaurant gumbo is totally different from homemade gumbo, and homemade gumbo is totally different all along the Gulf Coast stretch of I-10. Some like okra in their gumbo (who are you people, really?), some like tomatoes, and some like a deep, dark and muddy roux (yes, please). Whether it be Creole-style or Cajun-style, there are plenty of variations from which to choose.

Gilhooley's in Dickinson has gotten plenty of press from former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh, but he focused on the oysters. During my last visit, I branched out from Oysters Gilhooley and tried the Everybody Gumbo.

Gilhooley's is the kind of place where everyone spins around in their chair to see who's walking in when the door creaks open. When I entered, the local populace inside seemed surprised to see me. It was probably the same look I gave that bowl of gumbo from my barstool when it arrived. The Everybody Gumbo really lived up to its name.

In the one bowl there were four or five ultra-plump oysters, a couple of mammoth shrimp, thick-cut chunks of chicken breast and several discs of andouille. There was no okra (thank the sweet, sweet gumbo gods), but the roux was lighter and a little thinner than I would choose. To me, it was more of a stew. But even though it wasn't my preferred style of gumbo, it was a tasty, piping-hot dish.

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