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Houston visit report from a grateful 'hound (oops - long!)


Restaurants & Bars 25

Houston visit report from a grateful 'hound (oops - long!)

reinadetostones | May 26, 2011 06:26 PM

I love Houston. I love reading about people who love living and eating in Houston. I love reading about people who love visiting and eating with people who love living and eating in Houston. I just got back from a precious few days in your amazing city with my 6 y ear old houndlet, and although I won't be breaking any new ground, here is my report.

FuFu Cafe - loved it. I had the spicy beef noodle soup - it was wonderful. Broth was rich, complex and flavorful, pickled/preserved veggies almost smoky in their counterpoint to the toothsome, awesome, noodles. Got the beef sesame pancake, and weren't that thrilled - the "pancake" was pretty thick and dry, the beef wasn't moist enough to offset. Flavorrific, though. The pork dumplings (I can't remember which ones we ordered) were like little cannoli - open on the ends, with the fabulous pork (and chive? something green) forcemeat spilling out. Crunchy where the wrappers hit the pan, light and chewy everywhere else. Divine, and an enormous amount - I think they gave us 8 or 9 HUGE dumplings. The soup dumplings were also great - I don't have that much XLB experience, but the wrappers were not thick (to me) and the loose meat and broth within was kiddo ate THREE of the four we ordered, and commented that enjoyed the pronounced ginger flavor of the broth (before translation, this was something like " ginger.....yum........." Also loved the otherworldly red vinegar - something I haven't come across before in SF/NY/Austin. Very nice people, very wonderful experience.

Empire Cafe - I have been here before (thanks to CH) and enjoyed it again. Kiddo had a whole wheat pancake with strawberries - he approved - although last time they embedded the berries in a face-motif into the pancake, this time not....sigh....I have been a huge fan of the eggs Roma there - focaccia, pesto, grilled tomatoes, mozzerella, topped by eggs any style (over easy for me). Not being a fan of the cheddar hash browns, I asked if I could sub bacon. The answer was yes, for an upcharge. When I pointed out that as sides, the cheddar hash browns and bacon cost exactly the same, the charming gals at the counter were flummoxed. No biggie - enjoyed some organic Peru coffee, the great patio, the cool people, and left satisfied.

T-Bone Toms - I took my son to Space Center Houston, and was drooling for Gilhooley's grilled oysters. Luckily, as he was shooting asteroids with foam balls, I called to check their hours and learned that they don't allow anyone under 18 in the place! I was crushed, but as we accidentally passed the Kemah boardwalk I spotted T-Bone Tom's, and remembered reading something about it here. The server said that Guy Fieri had flipped for their housemade sausage, so we split a sausage sandwich with beans and coleslaw. The sausage was very, very good, and they must have stuffed the equivalent of two linear feet of beefy porky snappy yum into a very nice roll. Loved the pop of the coriander seeds. According to the kid, the server was "the nicest man ever!"

Fiesta Bahn Mi - I love that you can get cheap bahn mi at Fiesta near Reliant Stadium, and I wasn't expecting the best bahn mi in town. It was fine - I got the combo, and it had one tired flavorless slice of jalapeno. Serviceable. Houndlet saw bahn bao on the menu and ordered it himself and it was awful. Awful. Old, gross, poorly formed, sad.

Frenchy's - I hadn't done any research on Frenchy's, but we saw it when we were at Fiesta, and then a Groupon popped up for it, so I had to grab it. I really liked it a lot - the skin was crisp and flavorful - not too spicy, with a terrific crunch. Meat was moist - not as flavorful as some I've had, but very, very good. The biscuits, however, were AMAZING...I will forever hold the memory of this biscuit (well, the three I ate) as the high biscuit point in my life. Honeysweet, buttery, shatteringly crisp outside, savory pillowy steamy heaven inside.

HK Dim Sum - NO LAMB! Maybe I misunderstood the previous discussions, but there was mention of a lamb and squash dumpling that I considered destination-worthy. Is HK Dim Sum the same as HK Dumpling? Anyhow, we got a bunch of dumplings, and they were all wonderful. Really wonderful. In particular, the siu my (sp) had very tender wrappers and a great filling. The "shanghai-style" were shaped like mini XLB - they had no soup, but had an exceptionally delicious filling.

Captain Benny's - Grieving the loss of Gilhooley's, we stopped in at Captain Benny's between the MFAH and the HMNS. Oysters were fine - I think people have discussed the lack of brine, but with a squirt of lemon they were just fine - cold, fresh, yummy. Boiled shrimp were GREAT - having been boiled in a flavorful cajun boil, they didn't need cocktail sauce. Fried catfish was good - a little heavy on the breading for me, but the fish was fresh and moist and flaky. Icy cold Corona was a perfect compliment - and the frosty mug was a treat. Oh, didn't care for the hush puppies, found them a little too dense.

Dolce Vita - I love this place. I had a perfect negoni (well, half....) and kiddo had an aranciata at the bar while we waited for our to-go order. I'm a fool for the calamari with orange, mint and olives... such an intoxicating blend of sweet, salty, and herby. The octopus with rapini was luscious, with the nicely chopped rapini soaking up the flavor of the nice crunchy garlic chips and chile flakes. Beets with horseradish, walnuts and chives was an awesome mix of flavors and textures, but it needed more nuts. The margherita pizza was great, as usual, but the vongole....I saved the best until last because this pizza was paradigm-shifting. The fabulous crust (crisp on the bottom, chewy at the edges, delicious everywhere) held the most mind-boggling mix of huge, plump clams, sweet little grape tomatoes (burst and charred and almost sugary), bubbling fresh mozzerella, and fresh Italian parsley. SOOOOOOOOOOO good.

Hit King Bakery on the way out of town - my son was tired, so I couldn't browse, but got half a dozen char siu bao. EXCELLENT - light airy bread, meaty chunks inside...fabulous.

I'm already planning the next trip. Thanks all - you have an amazing city.

Gilhooley's Restaurant
222 9th St, Dickinson, TX 77539

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