Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quick Take: Five Guys Burgers and Fries - $6 Double Bacon Cheeseburger

Behold the bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys on Washington Avenue.



I'd not been to Five Guys in too long, and I'm glad I returned.  This burger was very good:  Two nicely thick patties, cooked medium well but still oozing. Hand-sliced American cheese.  Thick cut bacon, slightly chewy. Mild grilled onions. Fresh lettuce.

For $6, this is an excellent value.  But is it the best $6 burger in town?  I'd rank Smashburger slightly ahead.  Burger lovers, what are your thoughts?

Five Guys Burgers And Fries on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 18, 2011

Authentic Tacos near The Woodlands? A Spring Lunch at Casa del Sol

Over the past few years, The Woodlands has developed a strong dining scene. While it still has more than it's share of generic chain restaurants, there have been several notable independents calling the area home. Hubbell & Hudson, Eden Cafe, Capri, and Crust Pizza Co. are examples of the kinds of places that would be notable wherever they opened, and are causing foodies to make the trek out past 1960.
What the area has been lacking is the kind of tiny ethnic restaurants that one finds all over the Houston area. We were excited to see someone bucking this trend - a tiny taqueria / taco truck on Gosling called Casa del Sol.


We'd passed Casa del Sol several times driving down Gosling, and finally stopped in to check it out. We were immediately taken by the quaint, relaxed atmosphere. Seating is in a covered outdoor pavilion, very inviting on a comfortable spring day.


The kitchen is housed in a food truck parked semi-permanently beside the pavilion. The feel of the spot reminded me of one of the tiny cantinas in Mexico's costal towns... a welcome change from the slick atmosphere that even the independents build in The Woodlands.


Having never visited before, we wanted to sample a variety of tacos. A brief chat with the proprietor gave us our game plan: One each of al pastor, barbacoa, and beef fajita.

I first dug into my benchmark - the taco al pastor. Served on a freshly-made corn tortilla, quarter-sized chunks of roast pork were liberally sautéed in a deceptively spicy chile pepper sauce, and topped with the traditional fresh chopped onion and cilantro. Biting into this taco was a revelation - the tender chunks of pork were considerably larger than what we typically find in an al pastor taco, and the seasoning was kicked up a notch, starting with a savory, rich note and building to a slow burn. The cup of horchata provided a welcome relief from the heat; I said a silent thank you to the friend who first suggested this beverage with Mexican food many years ago.

Tacos al Pastor at Casa del Sol
Next up was the barbacoa. Prepared in the traditional manner using the cheek meat, it was incredibly tender without venturing anywhere near mushiness. After the tang of the al pastor, the barbacoa's subtle smokiness was almost lost, but a quick shot of the housemade red salsa got my tastebuds' full attention.
Finally the beef fajita was up. Knowing The Woodlands, this is probably the most oft-ordered taco, and it does not disappoint. Beautifully charred beef, still moist inside, was accented with a hearty squirt of lime juice and the chopped onion and cilantro. This taco will please the Tex-Mex aficionado, and will remind him just how boring the tacos are from the big national chains. Yo quero, indeed.

Beef Fajita Taco at Casa del Sol
We really enjoyed Casa del Sol, and recommend that anyone who loves Mexican food stop by. For what you'd spend at Taco Bell, you can enjoy something far more authentic, and most importantly, far more delicious.

Casa del Sol | 22507 Gosling | Mo-Sa 7a-6p, closed Su
(4 mi south of Woodlands Parkway, just past the train tracks) 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Houston Foodie Community comes together for Linda Salinas

Linda Salinas, a popular figure on the Houston food scene, was recently injured while riding her scooter.

Photo: Sarah Rufka / Houston Press

She is known to many of us as a bartender at Beaver's or Anvil, and as a sommelier at Voice.

Like many who work in the hospitality industry, Linda has no insurance. In a wonderful display of what Houston and its foodie community is all about, people came together to support Linda in her time of need.

The good news is that she's regained consciousness, and has spoken both in English and Spanish.  The bad news is that she's still in ICU, and that she obviously can't work.  Her bills are piling up.

This Sunday from 4pm until 10pm Linda's Block Party will be held at Paulie's on Westheimer.  It's a fundraiser for Linda, and all are invited to attend.  There will be a silent auction, and many local businesses (including Samba Grille, Killen's, Anvil, Mortar, and others) have donated valuable prizes to be auctioned off.

Local foodie Phaedra Cook has been instrumental in organizing this fundraiser, and she's keeping an updated list of the prizes to be auctioned on her blog, Houston Food Adventures.  (And if you don't read her blog, you're missing out.)

If you can't attend, you can donate directly to Linda via ChipIn and PayPal.