Thursday, October 29, 2015

Waffle House isn't Awful House anymore!

Long before Benihana and other restaurants like it made food preparation a performance art, an old and familiar slice of Americana allowed us to peer into its kitchen for our culinary entertainment. Known for their steaming hot coffee, crisp waffles, and hash browns (scattered, smothered AND covered), Waffle House was a mecca for late night bar hoppers, or bleary-eyed truckers to partake in some greasy comfort food.

I realize it doesn’t sound like place that I would review on this blog – I’ve focused on cheap and tasty bar bites, but the WF franchise on Highway 6 and 10 is a standout. The food is fast and inexpensive, but what makes it exceptional is the quality of the food. You would think that the waffles would be the star attraction, but for me, the other breakfast staples -- eggs, hash browns, and grits make it worth the trip. The aforementioned hash browns are crisp and golden brown on the outside, but soft and creamy on the inside. And eggs, wow, they cook their eggs perfectly – I’ve been to very fancy restaurants that turned out overcooked eggs. But, the piéce de résistance is the grits – not just any grits, mind you, but a creamy, buttery, salty, steamy bowl of happiness. The one note though, you can’t get these grits every day of the week, at least you can’t get them on Sundays, because the “Grit Meister,” our friend, Lugene, doesn’t work on Sundays.
Our friend Lugene, whipping up his magic

Lugene is Waffle House’s main short order cook and customer greeter. Not only is he a great cook, but his glowing personality makes the place a destination. He moves gracefully between acting as the social ambassador for the restaurant, and whipping up multiple short orders, making it all look very easy. He is amazing to watch, and is an example of how one person can make a big difference in an organization.

Eating at WF is an experience in itself – hop up to the bar to watch Lugene and all the staff rustle up your meal, or for a quieter experience, sit at the tables near the window. Be advised, though – it’s always very chilly in the restaurant, so bring a jacket. The good news is, unlike many WFs, this franchise has a policy of no smoking, so you don’t have to deal with nasty smoke invading your breakfast experience.

My partially eaten breakfast...I couldn't wait to dig in!
Navigating the parking lot at WH can be a bit of a challenge, especially now with the Mercedes Benz dealership construction happening next door, but the trouble is worth it. The earlier you can get there, the better, because they get busy after 8 a.m.

Try the cheese and eggs special – for $7.90, you get 2 scrambled eggs mixed with melted cheese (delicious!), two sausage patties (or bacon), toast, grits (or hash browns) and coffee. Good food for that price is practically unheard of here in the Energy Corridor. Too many restaurants hype their great food, but few deliver so deliciously and inexpensively as the I-6 Waffle House…check it out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Perry's Steakhouse Surprise

When I left Long Island in 2008, I didn’t think I would miss much – after all, I’d left to come back to Texas without having a job, so I was serious about leaving New York. As the years have passed since my cross country move, I realized that one of the few things I missed from New York was the pizza. The pizza there is luscious, fresh, and ubiquitous. Unlike Houston, you can pull up to most any mom and pop pizza shop and get a slice of doughy Sicilian, or a slice of crisp and crackery thin crust spread judiciously with fresh sauce – notice I said judiciously, not slopped on - and any number of great toppings. The outside edges of the slice were always crusty and burny-tasting, and great pizza always leaves a dusting of flour on your hands as a reminder of your good fortune at selecting a genuinely excellent slice.

In the seven years I’ve been back to Texas, I’ve yearned to eat a slice like this again – to wait anxiously as the pizza purveyor prepared his perfect masterpiece and slid it gently onto a paper plate. I wanted to smell the fresh tomatoes and basil, and to fold it ever so gently just to bite into the tip end of the triangle. Until now, nothing had satisfied my pizza yearning – but now, I’ve found a local restaurant that has genuinely great pizza and so many other fine points that I wanted to start my new blog with a review of this restaurant – Perry's Steakhouse and Grill in Memorial City.

I know, I know, this is a steakhouse, so why do they have great pizza? I have it on good authority (my friend Angela) that the Perry family comes from an Italian heritage, which may explain how this family taps into the essence of what makes a great pizza. Sit down at the bar at happy hour and peruse their bar menu, and you’ll notice the New York Strip Pizza. For $7.95 (Happy Hour price), you get a pizza that covers a good size plate and excellent fresh ingredients. The crust is cracker-thin and burny, and leaves the tell-tale flour dusting behind on your hand. The amount of sauce is just right to give the pizza a flavor boost without making the crust soggy. The pizza is topped off with Italian sausage (sweet) and a chiffonade of basil. We usually split the chopped salad ($9.95), so for just over $20.00, you have a delicious meal in one of the nicest restaurants in the Energy Corridor.

Oh, and did I mention there’s live entertainment? Every evening starting at 6, Perry’s has live music, usually a piano player, which adds a great ambience to the already beautiful surroundings of Bar 79. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6:30 every evening, so no need to pack your bags and move to New York to get fine pizza!