Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lenox Bar-B-Q - Houston, TX

I came across Lenox BBQ on a recommendation from my virtual friend Texas Chef ( I must say, without his help, I’m certain I wouldn’t have found it! Lenox BBQ is a classic hole-in-the-wall barbeque joint tucked into the east side of the city. It’s a little hidden but there’s a welcoming sign signaling where to get come good barbeque (which I missed as I drove past it).

Inside, Lenox is a living piece of history with the menu on huge plastic posters. The tables are covered with a classic red-checkered tablecloth. There is a great homey feel. Not surprisingly, even at 11:00, the place was filling up with lunch goers (including two of Harris County’s finest, demonstrating that we all made a good choice since cops know where to eat).

The CFS: Pretty good. It was chewy and had a good amount of give. It tasted of a nice quality cube steak and was tasty.
Breading: It was a bit dry and tasted a bit pre-made. It didn’t appear to be hand formed or have been fried fresh. This isn’t ideal, of course, but the thick shell held up to the gravy nicely and kept each bit together.

Gravy: Very good. Just what gravy should be: smoky, rich, peppery and creamy. It came on the side in a little bowl (which I’m becoming a bigger fan of the more I try it).

Knife: Something bigger than a standard knife would have been good but there was only one option in the little bin of utensils.

Sides: There was a list of 6-7 and I chose fried okra and the greens. The okra was tasty – a bit more buttery than other kinds I’ve had. The greens were good but I didn’t care for them. It’s not because they weren’t good (even though it could have used a bit of salt and heat) – it’s because, as much as I try, I can’t grow to like them.

Cost: Simply great. $6.45 for the “dinner” platter (plus $1.30 for a tasty large lemonade).

Service: Just great. Exactly what you’d expect from a local neighborhood joint. The staff were friendly and efficient and were most welcoming (even when the place was pretty busy).

Music Selection: None. Just the whirr of traffic on Harrisburg.

I’m going to go back to Leonx, but probably not for the CFS. I plan to try the CFS sandwich, which seems like a good use of the CFS that was tasty but not terrific on its own. If you’re ever in the Second Ward, stop in and try it but don’t let the outside fool you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

CFS, Texas Monthly and You

Texas Monthly has run a neat article featuring the "40 Best Small Town Cafes": Clearly such a list can produce serious (but yummy) debates, but anything that leads to eating more chicken fried foods can't be a bad exercise.

There's a handy link to Google maps so you can find a joint close to you. Chain places will not appear.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Barbecue Inn -- Houston, TX

You can smell the Barbecue Inn for a few blocks away – like a hickory smoked trail leading you to paradise. You’re not just smelling the smoke for the barbeque, you’re also smelling a little piece of Houston history.

Barbecue Inn is a really neat diner that is very comfortable. It has a diner feel (complete with lunch counter and pie window box) but some modern updates like iconic Texas and Houston images etched into glass separating tables. You sink deep in to the red benches and feel instantly at home.

The CFS: Juicy and well done. Cubed steak was the meat, although they were a bit small (it actually came in two steaks). The consistency was perfect and the bite gave just enough resistance.

Breading: Flaky and crunchy (southern style). Held up to the gravy nicely. It did not have enough flavor, compounded by the fact that the gravy didn’t have much punch.

Gravy: Not great. It was bland and white. Not much flavor, requiring me to execute two rounds of salt and pepper to make it to my liking. The gravy was served on the CFS (they didn’t ask if I wanted it otherwise).

Knife size: Standard knife given and used. But, really, something more on the order of a steak knife would have been more appropriate.

Sides: No choices. It comes with a salad (lettuce and tomato) and French fries. Neither were great, but the salad hit the spot and the fries were fresh, hot and useful for soaking up extra gravy.

Cost: $10.75. A bit high considering the sides weren't great. But, the portions were significant.

Service: Great. The waitresses are from a bygone era where you were called “hon” regardless of your age and everyone makes you feel welcome. This compliments the comfort of the place perfectly.

Music selection: Musac’ed hits from the 1980s (Solsbury Hill “by” Peter Gabriel was a favorite of Mrs. CFS).

I’m sure I’ll go back to the Barbecue Inn but I’m not sure I’ll order the CFS again. The menus indicate “Serving Houston Since 1946.” Here’s hoping for at least another 60 years.

116 W. Crosstimbers, Houston

Monday, November 3, 2008

Humble City Café (Revisit) – Humble, TX

Most qualified and conscientious restaurant reviewers visit the same location several times before writing their food columns. Being neither qualified and conscientious, I have already written about the Old Humble Café. A visit by Chicken Fried In-Laws inspired us to sample a little chicken fried goodness.

This round, I decided to try the Chicken Fried Chicken (but insisted Chicken Fried Wife get the CFS so I could taste it again).

The CFC: The chicken was pounded flat and fried up. I frankly prefer having the full chicken breast without the pillard which I think makes it juicier. Still, it was moist and tasty.

The Breading: Like the CFS, the breading was thin but crunchy. The style was the same and was pretty tasty.

The Gravy: Too much! The CFC was swimming in the stuff. It made it a bit soggy. (although our waiter did ask if I wanted it on the side or not). Again, it was creamy and smooth, but the flavor was a bit bland (I allowed myself to add salt and pepper).

The Knife: Something involved like a steak knife was again required (a standard kitchen knife not workable here). If nothing else, it helped cut through the gravy.

The Sides: Mashed potatoes and fried okra. The potatoes were lumpy and thick. The flavor was a bit bland again, possibly because the same gravy was spread over it (our waiter asked if I wanted it on or off). The okra was awful – just awful. Cold and soggy, nothing like the fried okra I know and love.

So, when more company comes to town, I think I’ll recommend the CFS over the CFC at Humbe City Cafe. And, for pete’s sake, go easy on that gravy.

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