Tony Mandola’s is still a Modern-Day Classic

“Dedicated to the preservation of the art of our Mama’s Cooking”
– Tony Mandola

It was almost 35 years ago (1982) when Tony Mandola opened his restaurant, Tony Mandola’s Blue Oyster Bar, on the Gulf Freeway… and I remember it well. Later, he had one on Shepherd… and I remember it well, too. However, his location on West Gray became the go-to meeting place for those in the River Oaks area and beyond. I was a regular there for his Mama’s Gumbo. He was always kind enough to me to make a plain old Oyster Gumbo (off the menu) by adding fresh raw oysters to steaming hot gumbo just before delivering it to my table… the edges of the oysters were just starting to curl and were at the perfect juncture of cooked and raw.

So now, Tony has a huge beautiful new restaurant on Waugh Drive and four of us dropped in to try old favorites, as well as sample newer items on his menu. Presentation has evolved in ALL restaurants over the past 35 years… but, in Tony’s case, whose standards on the menu taste the same and which are his mama’s recipes, are NOT his mama’s presentation.

As there were four of us, we all shared and I have a lot of observations in this review!

Mama’s Gumbo
So, I started with Mama’s Gumbo.  Nice dark roux, as usual, and topped with shrimp, fried crawfish and fried okra. Looked good… tasted good… different, but the same. That’s good.
Oyster Trio

Appetizers started with his Oyster Trio. It included two Oysters Rockefeller, two Oysters Buccaneer and two Oysters Bienville. All of these were prepared traditionally and were made with large fresh oysters.


Spiedini followed. They are mini-roulades of mozzarella and Genoa Salami rolled in pork tenderloin, tossed in garlic and olive oil, then grilled. My first time to try this dish and they are now a go-to appetizer for me (in addition, of course, to the Oyster Trio).

Crab Salad

Next was a Crab Salad of seriously jumbo lump crabmeat, avocado, golden beets, mixed baby greens, sliced tomato and sliced boiled eggs. Vegetables were all crispy and fresh and this salad (although I ate plenty more) is a light lunch in its own and perfect for that choice.

Decadent Pizza

I’m almost embarrassed to admit ordering and eating anything with the word “decadent” in its name. However, I’m pretty proud that I bit on this item. The Decadent Pizza is everything that you might expect here in a specialty item… except that you can’t convince me that Tony’s Mama ever made it! If there was ever a take-out item for a party, this one, by itself, qualifies as a unique catering delicacy for an office luncheon or board meeting. The Decadent Pizza is loaded with a fried egg right in the center, bacon, lobster meat, truffle cheese, an Alfredo-type sauce and sprinkled with parsley. Can I have a “yum”?


Now to something that is one of my “hot buttons” in restaurants in Houston… and I guess, in restaurants all over the country outside of San Francisco. I ordered the Cioppino, which I order whenever I see it on a menu anywhere. Tony Mandola’s Cioppino is actually Cioppino! Well done… it even has the right type of crabs in it. Most I order and try elsewhere are served sans crab and those with crab don’t use the requisite Dungeness crabs as in San Francisco. So, what we have here is classic in that it has Dungeness crab, mussels, shrimp, fish (as in SF, the “fish” varies with the catch brought in by the fishermen that day), scallops, peppers, and potatoes in a rich broth. Loved it.

Gulf Red Snapper Martha

Another at the table ordered Gulf Red Snapper Martha. Fresh broccoli and tomatoes were topped with shrimp, crawfish tails, and crab meat basil a basil wine butter sauce… sprinkled with julienned fresh basil leaves. This Napoleonic presentation of veggies, fish, shrimp and sauce wowed the senses and was as beautiful as it tasted.

Salmon Burger
Bacon-wrapped Filet

I can only eat so much, but I dutifully photographed what others were raving about… with the exception of the monster/delicious Salmon Burger and the Bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon (both of which I took home to Sally, who wasn’t with me at lunch). For what it’s worth… and it’s worth a lot, she raved about both.

Galerie du Cuisine

Stuffed Poblano Pepper
Salmon Sofia
Molten Chocolate Cake
Tony Mandolaʼs 1212 Waugh Drive
Houston, TX 77019


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