Friday, February 26, 2010

Great Burger on a Budget: Mel's Country Cafe

Some of you might have noticed that we are on a neverending quest to find superb burgers, no matter where they are. One thing that we've noticed on this quest is the gradual creeping up of burger prices in the Houston area. Fortunately, it's not gotten to the NYC/Las Vegas levels of insanity (there's a $36 burger at Daniel Boulud that we hear great things about) but it's not unusual to pay $10 or more for a burger these days.

But what if you're on a budget, and still want a serious burger? One choice is Mel's Country Cafe, the legendary restaurant between Tomball and the Woodlands. While Mel's is known for the insane Mega Mel, the non-linebackers among us will discover that Mel's does a very credible regular burger, and it starts at $2.95.

Our choice this visit was the Bacon Cheeseburger. It's a 1/3 lb patty, hand formed and griddled to medium well (Mel's doesn't do medium rare). It's topped with traditional American cheese, a lot of good quality bacon, and a plentiful portion of the traditional veggie toppings.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Retrospective: The Return of the Balinese Room

UPDATE: Sadly, the Balinese Room was lost during the early morning hours of Setember 13, 2008, when Hurricane Ike crashed into the Galveston coast. All that remains are a few piers and the fading memories of those who loved the place.

This story originally ran on our other food site, in March of 2003.

Way back in post-WWII Texas, one nightclub stood above the rest. It offered the best entertainers, the hottest crowds, and the best illegal gambling in the state. It was the infamous Balinese Room on Galveston island, the swankiest spot on the Gulf Coast.

“Deep in the South of Texas
not so long ago,
there on a crowded island
in the Gulf of Mexico

it didn't take too much money,
man, but it sure was nice.
You could dance all night if you felt all right,
drinking whiskey and throwing dice.

And everybody knows
it was hard to leave.
And everybody knows
it was down at the Balinese.”

“Balinese” – ZZ Top – 1975

The Balinese was the jewel in the crown of Sam and Rosario Maceo’s Galveston-based empire. The Maceo brothers were Italian immigrant barbers turned bootleggers, who ended up as a gambling club owners. Their holdings on Galveston Island were immense, and their influence helped Galveston weather the depression far better than most other cities across the nation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tony’s Restaurant & Tony Vallone to Be Honored at Texas Legends Gala

HOUSTON --Tony’s Restaurant, the product of Tony Vallone’s life-long devotion to fine dining, will be honored at the Galleria Chamber’s annual Texas Legends Gala at the Omni Riverway tonight, Friday, February 19, 2010, at 7:30 p.m. Energetic and entertaining radio personality Sam Malone will serve as MC for the evening, alongside New York food critic and Esquire magazine columnist John Mariani, who will offer a colorful keynote address. Mike & Betty Tapick, owners of Martin Foods, along with Ileana Trevino, CEO of Memorial Hermann Foundation, and husband Michael Trevino, of Reputation Management Associates, will serve as Honorary Co-Chairs for the event. “We are thrilled to be part of this Texas Legends Gala and to recognize the Vallones contribution to Houston’s culinary scene,” said Ileana Trevino. A “Friend of Tony’s” and local legend herself, Yvonne Washington will perform standards to contemporary fare for gala patrons.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Houston Chefs among James Beard Semifinalists

The movie industry has the Oscars.  TV has the Emmys.  The food industry has the James Beard Awards, and four Houstonians are nominated for the prestigious national awards, presented by the James Beard Foundation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rant: Absurd treatment of a dissatisfied patron

The Chronicle's restaurant critic, Alison Cook, posted an amazing account of an unpleasant experience at Jonathan's The Rub, a small, high-end restaurant in the Memorial area.

UPDATE: Apparently this isn't an isolated incident. another patron reported a similar encounter.

You should read the entire account, but to summarize, Ms. Cook ordered a steak medium rare, it came out overcooked, and she sent it back. Instead of graciously handling his kitchen's mistake, the restaurant's chef/owner, Jonathan Levine, confronted Ms. Cook, and ultimately threw her out of his restaurant.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brennan's of Houston is Back -- Deep in the Heart of Houston

After a 17-Month Renovation Post-Hurricane Ike, Houston's Beloved Culinary Gem Once Again Welcomes Guests on February 16, 2010

Beginning on February 16, 2010 Brennan's will be open for dinner from 5:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

On Monday, February 22, 2010 Brennan's will begin serving lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

As of February 27, 2010 brunch will be offered every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Brennan's legendary Sunday Jazz Brunch will kick off on February 28, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Forty-three years ago (incidentally, about the same time the New Orleans Saints began playing in the NFL), the Brennan family of New Orleans embarked on a journey to bring its renowned culture of Southern hospitality to the people of Houston and opened the doors of Brennan's of Houston, one of America's most beloved dining destinations and the forerunner in serving Texas Creole Cuisine.

In September 2009, a two-alarm fire that occurred during Hurricane Ike engulfed the historic building in flames. After 17 months of renovation, Brennan's of Houston once again invites its friends, old and new, to gather around its tables on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 to celebrate its re-opening. "We didn't burn down, we burned up," says co-owner Alex Brennan-Martin. "We are thrilled that we were able to save more than 75 percent of the original structure and can't wait to welcome our guests back to our historic home. We're looking forward to another 43 years of creating lasting memories for our guests."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quest for 'Q: Rudy's Country Store

Houston is hands down the best food city in Texas, and we Houstonians are spoiled.  We're used to being able to readily find great examples of pretty much any cuisine.

One area where we've had difficulty in Houston is Bar-B-Q.  Sure, Houston has some amazing BBQ joints, like Thelma's and Burns.  But the typical BBQ place in Houston serves mediocre BBQ, especially if you're looking for a convenient, family-friendly setting that won't challenge the less adventurous among us.

Enter Rudy's.  This San Antonio based chain has established several outposts in Houston, and has developed a reputation for better-than-average BBQ.  Our first visit (soon after the Spring store opened) wasn't memorable, but we'd been hearing good things, so we visited again.