Kasra Persian Grill – Persian Perfection

The Cyrus Cylinder (the first attempt we know about running a society and a national symbol of Iran) and this restaurant are a couple of great reasons to appreciate Iran. Kasra Persian Grill is yet another cultural treat available in Houston.
Feta, Parsley, Spearmint, Basil and Radishes To Start
Hottest of Bread Greets Each Diner
Tomato Cucumber Salad Refreshes With a Squeeze of Lemon
Cherry Rice With Butter, Roasted Tomatoes and Filet Mignon
Lamb Shank Extraordinaire – Eggplant Sauce
Adam Parsa and his father, Morty Parsa, and mother, Cyndi Parsa have swept the restaurant location of any bad vibes of previous owners. The lunch crowd on a weekday was constant – business and family combined, and happily sated with the luxuries of graceful, peaceful Middle Eastern dining. The service is friendly and solicitous – each customer’s needs are attended quickly and with a smile. The team of waitstaff obviously support one another by removing plates and offering tea and more bread – all making sure that all diners come back. 

When you are one of Houston’s (Allison Cook’s) Top 100 Restaurants (and the only Persian one), you try harder.  Moving up year after year has been a point of pride and accomplishment. After over 20 successful, hard-won years in the business and serving such a wonderful variety of unique dishes, this restaurant deserves a try from you. Iranians savor saffron and Zereshk, a unique tart barberry that is believed to limit your cholesterol intake; the dried barberry flakes are tucked on every table to help you keep your waistline in check throughout the seasons’ eatings.

By Culinary Houston Senior Editor, Sally Tyler

Kasra Persian Grill
Morty & Cindi Parsa
9741 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77042
713-975-1810
www.KasraHouston.com



Going With the Flow at FLO Paris Bakery and Cafe

A delicious little corner restaurant on Westheimer near the Galleria just popped up. Sally is a sucker for a pretty typeface sign. She spotted it on a frequent drive-by a few months back and wondered if it was a hair salon. On closer inspection, she reported happily that it was a new French cafe, Flo Paris Bakery and Cafe, tucked nearby Cafe Lili, another favorite lunch-spot. A little late for her recent birthday celebration and in the mood for butter and perfection, I decided we’d better try it.

The gleaming counters and crystal clear display cases beckon with amazing patisseries, confections and a crepe station. Old standbys like Salad Nicoise, Chocolate Eclairs, gorgeous breads and French Onion Soup….cleverly topped with a removable lid of Gruyere and fresh crisp Sourdough bread that could be dipped or submerged into a flavorful dark and comforting “liquid lunch”.

French Onion Soup
Followed by a Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Quiche
A Salmon Mille-feuille layered with Avocado, Wasabi Cream was so light, fluffy and thinly, flakily crisp as to have us both moaning with pleasure. A neighboring diner asked if it was as good as it looked – we just smiled and glowed.
To close the meal, I chose a Strawberry Cream Puff which carried home handily while we devoured the complimentary multi-colored, multi-flavored Macarons (Vanilla, Cherry, Lime).

good-natured solutions

The comfortable modern chairs and wide open seating make it a family-friendly, upscale training ground for young diners. The food is so pretty that two little girls were perfectly well-behaved with the hope of returning to the counter to choose their desserts. A small outside area allows those who wish to, enjoy the last of our beautiful fall weather.

A lovely experience from start to finis! Merci beaucoup for opening so near our house!

Flo Paris Bakery and Cafe
5757 Westheimer #105
Houston, TX 77057
713-706-4442
www.FloParisCafeBakery.com

Himalaya… Indian and Pakistani Cuisine


I always thought that Indians and Pakistanis didn’t get along very well. Well that’s NOT the case at Himalaya… a small restaurant in a mostly Indian-American strip center at Hillcroft and SW Freeway. While I’ve eaten here before, it was a surprise for Sally. 

The restaurant is small and casual and you must be 
impressed by the awards and rave reviews on the wall!
The restaurant is small and casual and there is plenty of attention from the owner, Kaiser Lashkari. This trip, we decided to eat rather lite and asked Kaiser to order for us. Hard to do, as food from this region is not easily “diet-ized.”

Garlic Naan.


Our lunch consisted of regular Naan and Garlic Naan. The Garlic Naan was spectacular and we decided that it could be a destination dish. All crispy and you could taste the garlic before it reached your mouth!

Naan



Aloo Chana Masala

The Aloo Chana Masala (chick peas and potatoes) was delicious and was not one of the dishes that made it to the doggie bag. It was an a vegan Punjab Indian dish simmered in a piquant curry sauce.

Chicken Achaari 
Chicken Achaari was cubed chicken simmered in a tangy smoky curry sauce. Delicious.


Goat Masala 

The Goat Masala was bone-in goat cooked in a tomato and onion sauce. It also had a rich garlic curry sauce. The meat was tender as can be and the bone-in treatment is testament to the fact that nothing is wasted in that part of the world.

Indian Rice

The Indian rice was cooked perfectly and not the slightest bit of stickiness such as in Japanese or American rices. Himalaya is certainly our go-to restaurant for Indian/Pakistani food… and just may become a hang-out for me! Himalaya is a must-go experience!

Himalaya Restaurant & Catering Houston, TX

6655 Southwest Freeway, Houston 77074

713-532-2537
www.HimalayaRestaurantHouston.com



Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar

A Chef’s Journey… From Salerno on the Amalfi Coast of Italy to Sardinia and back to the Amalfi Coast!
Born and reared in Solerno on Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast.  Chef Giancarlo Ferrara was immersed, as a child, in his fourth generation cheese makers family’s love of and contribution to the foods and cuisines of the area. He attended Centro Professionale Albergiero cooking school in Salerno, then furthered his training at Scuola Arte Culinaria Etoile. Upon completion of his studies and apprenticeships, he built upon his experience at various of the finest resorts and restaurants in Italy (receiving such awards as finalist in Barilla’s Prima d’Italia contest and winning the honor of Best Restaurant in Veneto from the Veronelli Guide in 1998).
Chef Giancarlo and Lisa Ferrara
In 2002, Giancarlo joined Arcodoro in Houston as executive chef and quickly became well-known in Houston for preparing the cuisines of Sardinia for eager Houstonians who raved about his expertise and creations from that area.  He represented Arcodoro at the prestigious James Beard House in 2003 and won the “People’s Choice” award at the 4th annual Risotto Festival.
Not a sports bar… but a good place to watch NBC Nightly News
while enjoying a cocktail!
After 11 years with Arcodoro, Giancarlo is now fulfilling his dream of opening his own restaurant. He has come full-circle to the cuisines of his homeland of the Amalfi Coast of Italy with his new eatery, Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar.
The Wine Room Doubles as a Private Dining Room
 
So, with that in mind, noting that the new restaurant had opened in my neighborhood in Briargrove Center, I dropped in for lunch with a friend (more dishes to taste and write about if I liked it… which I did). Also, it is important to note that the Amalfi Coast of Italy and Sardinia have important similarities… the main daily occupations of the citizens are dining, drinking, relaxing and enjoying life… hence, Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar seems to be an oasis of casual relaxation, wine and (in my opinion) great food. So, we weren’t pushed along with each course bumping the previous one out of the way.
Salmone Maritato Agli Agrumi
We started with a daily special, which was Salmone Maritato Agli Agrumi. Giancarlo smokes Scottish salmon in-house, then marinates it with sea salt, lemon, orange zest and raw sugar. It’s topped with a julienne of carrots, zucchini, micro greens, an orange-infused dressing (and some strategically placed salmon roe). I know that it looks like it was delicious, but it was better than that.

Tartar di Mezzancolle e Caviacole
Our server suggested a Mediterranean red shrimp tartar, Tartar di Mezzancolle e Caviacole, as a second antipasti. It was at once gorgeous and tasty and photogenic (important!). The shrimp were marinated in lemon-infused olive oil, chives, basil and pepperoncino, then served over a zucchini carpaccio with Servuga caviar and a shrimp dressing.

Ravioli di Zucca Aragosta e Tartufo
This house-made ravioli, Ravioli di Zucca Aragosta e Tartufo, was filled with creamy butternut squash then topped with LOBSTER and a black truffle sauce. The pasta was perfect and I am qualified enough to say that the truffle sauce, while it may have been made with truffle oil… it was house-made from black truffles. It was a sophisticated presentation of rustic ingredients with a musky, sexy aroma… really nice!
My dining companion ordered a custom-built pizza… that’s not a problem here, as they even have a granite counter for customer-involved pizza crafting. There are specialty pizzas on the menu, such as Margherita, Prosciutto di Parma, Salame, Funghi (etc., etc.), but from what I could see, if they have it, they will put it on a pizza for you. It was delicious with a perfect crust and I noticed that they also have Calzones and Focaccia on the menu.

Ossobuco al Taurasi con Risotto al Timo e Burrata
The king is in the house! My rule has always been that if there is Osso Buco on the menu, I look no further. Of course, it has to be prepared by a chef who knows how to do it. When the dish arrived, braised in Taurasi wine with thyme risotto, it had the marrow fork already inserted in the bone, indicating that Chef Giancarlo knew why I order Osso Buco and what I wanted to do first. Tender, rich and juicy with creamy marrow, this veal dish is as good as I’ve had in Houston. The aromatic aroma of it wafting behind the server, as he glided through the tables, drew the admiration and comments from a table-full of “ladies who lunch” next to us (one of whom came over to our table to gaze at it).
Trilogia di Nocciola
Dessert was a creative and decadent Trilogia di Nocciola (Is “decadent” overused in dessert reviews? Certainly it is.). It’s like Hazelnut three ways. A warm cake, creamy smooth and melted in the center… a panna cotta… and a smooth gelato. There was even a macaron perched on the plate. Our server suggested a Frangelico Cappuccino to be paired with it and it worked beautifully. 
Frangelico Cappuccino
We found Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar to be comfortable, unhurried and elegantly casual. All of the dishes we ordered were delicious and I, for one, recommend it without reservations. But I recommend reservations (today).
 Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar
6100 Westheimer
Houston, Texas 77057
713-532-2201
info@amalfihouston.com

Urban Eats Bistro + Bar + Market, in Houston’s Washington Corridor, is Definitely a Keeper



There are so many restaurants, bars and bistros along the Washington corridor that I keep thinking “So many eateries, so little time.” 


So this spur-of-the-moment drop-in at Urban Eats Bistro + Bar + Market was both, a roll of the dice and a fortuitous find.


Urban Eats is housed in what I seem to remember from decades past was an old auto repair shop. A major renovation based upon a lot of creative juices and a limited budget made this building unto something that drew me in. The best description I can come up with for it is a mini-Eatsie’s, as the downstairs also features a specialty market that sells freshly baked breads, carefully sourced cheeses, cured meats and epicurean products that are aimed at local foodies. 


The ground floor Market area of the “fast casual” eatery serves brewed-to-order Java Pura Coffee Roasters coffee (they have a barista station) and espresso drinks, as well as freshly baked muffins, croissants and breakfast sandwiches, along with ready made luncheon sandwiches, salads prepared meals. While many of the entrees, sides and salads are ready-made to grab and take to home or office, if you are in a hurry.  If you dine in, they are all made from scratch per your order.

The upstairs is full service Bistro + Bar that offers fifty beers (including a full arsenal of Texas beers), a collection of wines from across the U.S., and 36 craft cocktails (I counted them). The outdoor rooftop patio offers views of the Houston skyline.  Live music with old standards, jazz and blues is performed every Friday and Saturday after 9:00 pm.


Owner/Culinary Director Levi Rollins 
Chef Jason Grigar


Owner/Culinary Director Levi Rollins has spent his life in the restaurant, service and sales industries.  He came from a family of self-taught chefs, he spent much of his time in his family’s restaurants where he learned recipes from his mother and grandmothers.

There’s also a lot of experience detailed by Chef Jason Grigar (Educated at the New England Culinary Institute, and has worked locally for Houston Center Club, Cafe Annie, Lancaster Hotel and A Fare Extraordinaire; as well as Bistro Roti in San Francisco CA, and Eastside Oyster Bar & Grill, in Sonoma CA.)


Tuscany Pommes Frites are served with fresh rosemary, oregano
crumbles feta cheese and an herb balsamic vinaigrette on the side
The savory Skillet Seared Cauliflower is seasoned with sea salt, shallots, 
toasted pine nuts and golden currants. 
The Eggplant Napolean is a savory, rich, gooey bread crumb crusted
eggplant layered with mozzarella, ricotta, sharp provolone and 
house-made marinara and parmesan. Big enough to share and
MY favorite.
The Fried Green Tomato BLT is served on a warm pretzel
roll with thick hickory smoked bacon, baby lettuce cumin aioli 
and red pepper jam. These are “Signature Sliders“, but large ones!
The Mob Boss slider is a combo of herbed and breaded eggplant,
meatloaf, dry salami, mozzarella and marinara.

After tasting this Fried Chicken and Pickled Veggie salad,
I admitted to Levi Rollins that they may have changed the way
that I fry chicken from now on. The salad has greens, shredded 
red cabbage, savory fried breast tenders, pickled root veggies 
(you can buy these pickled root veggies downstairs), goat 
cheese, buttermilk biscuit croutons and a sweet/tart vinaigrette.
Lemon Meringue Tartlet
Pecan Praline Bread Pudding (YUM)



3414 Washington Avenue

Houston, Texas 77007.

HOURS
Market

Monday through Thursday, 7 am to 10 pm; Friday, 7 am to midnight; Saturday, 8 am to Midnight; and Sunday 10am to 3pm.

The Bistro + Bar

Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 10pm; Friday through Saturday, 11am to midnight; and Sunday 10am to 3pm.

832-834-4417
www.feasturbaneats.com

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
 


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”?

Cioppino


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

713-528-3474
 

Hugo Caliente… Farm-to-Fork Quick Serve Concept is Open

When was the last time that the chef came to your table in a “quick serve” restaurant to check on your meal?


OK, full disclosure… I was with two other food/restaurant writers to check out Hugo Caliente, a new quick-serve “Tex-Mex/Mexican” restaurant in Town and Country Center. Also, he knew who we were. The real point here is the fact that there IS a chef. Furthermore, all of his offerings are scratch-made and from locally sourced fresh seasonal ingredients. So fresh and so seasonal that he doesn’t even have a freezer. So, what what we have here is a true chef-driven quick-serve restaurant (called “fast food” a little over a decade ago). When I say “chef-driven”, by the way, Chef Chris Smith is a veteran of over 25 years with Pappas Restaurant Group and was manager of their sous chef program.

Chef Chris Smith
If you care to have a glass of wine or a margarita with your meal, Hugo Caliente  (wine and beer license only) has a nice, yet medium-to-low-priced wine list and serves really tasty “margaritas” made from agave wine that (to people like me), smells and tastes much like Tequila.





A master of “mise en place” all food is prepped throughout the day and prepared by Chef/Owner Chris Smith’s kitchen/line staff as ordered, in front of the customer right in the service line. As an example, outside skirt steaks (sourced from Cameron, Texas) are grilled to your order to build fajita plates, then accented with locally grown veggies, such as in a tangy Pico de Gallo.

Outside Skirt Steaks

Speaking of Pico de Gallo, Hugo Caliente  has an impressive array of salsas to complement the offerings and all are made in-house.

Hugo Caliente’s Salsas

Galerie du Cuisine

Bacon-Wrapped Outside Skirt Steaks 
with Avocado Puree
Shrimp Cocktail
Chicken Quesadillas with Manchego Cheese
Tres Leches
709 West Sam Houston Parkway, Suite 112 
Houston, Texas
   713-464-1601    
                               

Sylvia Casares is Sharing Her Techniques at Sylvia’s With a Tamalada



I’m a big believer in cooking lessons and grab knowledge wherever I can… especially of Mexican regional cuisines.

Sylvia Casares

Most of my limited cooking expertise in Mexican regional cuisines has been gathered around Mexico in cooking classes and in the kitchens of Mexican chefs who were generous with their time and knowledge with me. I learned to prepare Huachinango a la Veracruzana in Veracruz. I was taught the simple art of making Aguachile, as well as many grilled seafood specialties in Mazatlán. I’ve been mentored on the preparation of richer, more complicated ceviches and cocktails in Acapulco. I’ve lurked in the kitchens and learned the importance of lard in the unique spiny lobster dishes typical of the Pacific coast of Baja California Norte, such as Puerto Nuevo-Style Lobster.

Tamales with a Perfect Chili Gravy


Yet, I had shied away from learning what I had considered the more mundane typical Mexican dishes, such as tamales and enchiladas, as I always seemed to gravitate toward what I considered to be the more difficult and exciting regional dishes. I no longer feel that way… nor, do I consider tamales to be something casually thrown together by almost any Mexican wife/mother on a moment’s notice. A couple of weeks ago, as part of Sylvia Casares’ Fall Cooking Classes, I was a student in her class on making tamales (Tamales 101). That class was in the form of Sylvia’s memories of her family’s  “Tamaladas”, with her dear recently departed mother at the helm… then a demonstration of making tamales as she was taught by her.

Sylvia demonstrating the choosing of corn husks.

A Tamalada is a family celebration.  It’s a family tradition. In Mexican families, especially at Christmas time, ALL generations of the family gather to make tamales in a party that is led by the matriarch… and enjoyed by as many as three-four generations, as they come together to pass on the traditions and recipes that have existed in Mexico since pre-Columbian times.

Sylvia mixing dry ingredients
For ME to try to teach you how to make tamales would be an insult to all Mexican women throughout North America (including Sylvia)… that’s why there are lessons by experts such as Sylvia “Enchilada Queen” Casares, (owner and executive chef of Sylvia’s, on Eldridge in western Memorial of Houston). Suffice it to say that Sylvia’s recipe is four pages long and it takes hours to prepare them properly. Yet, Sylvia imparted an ability to her students to follow her recipe, as well as imparting a deeper cultural awareness of what that Mexican dish and its preparation means to Mexican families generally… and to Mexico specifically!
Students get hands-on preparation.
Kim and Jason Bellini having fun

So, this isn’t going to have a recipe for making tamales. I am making you aware of the fact that Sylvia has been teaching cooking classes for 4-5 years and that I strongly recommend that for a deeper understanding of Mexico… Mexicans… and the foods… you might want to look into her schedule of cooking classes.

Those classes remaining in her 2014 fall schedule are below:


November 1 – Chiles Rellenos – Hands on class for beef, chicken and cheese chiles rellenos. This is a really fun class and you will learn to make fabulous rellenos. $65


November 15 – Tamales 101 – Learn the ancient art of tamale making in a fun hands on class! Class will be on pork and chicken tamales. $65

December 2 (Tuesday) – Tamales 101 – Learn the ancient art of tamale making with Sylvia! This is a hands-on class on pork, chicken tamales. $65


December 6 – Tamales 101 – Learn the ancient art of tamale making with Sylvia. This is a hands-on action packed class with recipes of pork and chicken tamales. $65


December 13 – Tamales 101 – Learn the ancient art of tamale making with Sylvia. Class instruction on pork and chicken tamales with hands on participation. $65

For more information, go to:
6401 Woodway Dr

HoustonTX 77057

832-230-3842

Iconic Tex-Mex Restaurant, Los Tios, Turns 44!


Gary Adair… owner of Los Tios, showing off the Tamales
from their “Tamale Time Gift Boxes” they are offering as
Christmas and hostess gifts.

Tamale Time Gift Box 
with a dozen tamales and pralines for $12.95


In mid-September, 2014, a group of Tex-Mex lovers gathered (Official Notice of a Comped Meal) at the Los Tios on Beechnut (across from Meyerland Mall) at the invitation of Gary Adair… owner of Los Tios. We were helping the Adairs celebrate the 44th anniversary of the multi-location restaurant. But moreover, Adair was using the 44th anniversary to honor and thank his extended family… his employees.

Executive Chef Roberto Ozaeta


Gary Adair spent his Summers in Beeville,Texas. His family had been there since the War-Between-The-States, but due to a quirk of fate (like mine), his father was stationed in Louisiana, and Gary was born there. You know Beeville, don’t you? Well, it’s a small town down sorta close to Corpus Christi. Its particular location puts it far enough from Mexico to not be a hotbed of JUST Mexican food and far enough from Houston to not be a hotbed of “designer” Tex-Mex food. YET, it was close enough to Mexico that Gary and his family enjoyed the foods of the region as he grew up. 


People around Beeville always knew what “puffy tacos” and “puffy quesos” were.  They always knew about chili gravy and (very importantly), yellow cheese grated generously on a combination plate. The contrast of the bright yellow cheese and the rich dark chili gravy grated on a cheese tortilla and topped with finely chopped white Rio Grande Valley onions was a taste of heaven to Gary, growing up. So, when Gary moved to Houston, it didn’t take him long to fall in love with Rosemary Garbett’s Los Tios Mexican Restaurants at age 16. It was a taste of his Summer home and the “Valley.” Little did he imagine that it would become such an obsession that it would surprise no one that he bought Los Tios in 2000. 

100% blue agave tequila margaritas

Slowly, he made a few operational changes, He improved the quality of ingredients, adding freshly made tortillas, and premium, fresh squeezed lime juice to 100% blue agave tequila margaritas.  Previous owner, Rosemary Garbett claimed that Los Tios served the first frozen margaritas in Houston. The menu still features its signature mesquite-grilled fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, nachos, tamales, burritos, quesadillas and the world famous puffy queso (a hallmark identifier of a true Tex-Mex restaurant).

Tortilla Soup


Presentation of the Tortilla Soup has changed over the years… but not the ingredients, nor the taste.

And LARD! Lardy, lardy… a genuine Tex-Mex restaurant, like Los Tios, can also be identified by the unique flavor imparted by lard in many of its offerings.

Anniversary Nachos


We all expected to be in at 7:00 and out at 8:30… but the focus of our group became a discussion of the Tex-Mex dining genre, with constant illustrations provided by plates (“hot plate… don’t touch!”) of familiar old Tex-Mex standards and we didn’t break out until around 10:00 p.m.!

Los Tios long-time employees


We were introduced to those who Adair feels are responsible for the success of Los Tios… such as long-time loyal employee-family members like Juanita (35 years), Jose (26 years), Johnny (24 years), Martha (23 years), Tino (21 years) and Veronica (16 years) and the consistency they bring to the kitchen and the “front of the house”.

Gloriously updated Sopapillas


Creamy Flan


Desserts are colorful and authentic. Sopapillas and Flan and Tres Leches are offered as the finale!

Los Tios’ signature house-made pralines


As one who has eaten at Tex-Mex restaurants since his childhood, I always looked forward to the bill being handed to my father when we were in Raymondville, Harlingen or Brownsville. That was where the main course was handed to us… the Tex-Mex pralines! By the way, here in Texas, they are pronounced “pray-leens”… NOT “prah-leens”. Los Tios makes them in-house and they don’t disappoint at meal’s-end.


Locations:

·         Memorial: 14006 Memorial; Houston, TX 77079; Phone: (281) 493-4700
·         Beechnut: 4840 Beechnut: Houston, TX 77096; Phone: (713) 660-6244
·         Sugar Land: 3308 Highway 6 South; Sugar Land, TX 77478; Phone: (281) 980-1313
·         Westheimer: 9527 Westheimer; Houston, TX 77063; Phone: (713) 784-0380

www.LosTiosRestaurant.com

Here Are the Ten Most-Common Examples of Poor Table Manners!

Poor table manners are the rule… not the exception!

As one who dines out at least 5-6 times a week, as well as one whose parents knocked him on the head with the handle of a butter knife for any infraction at the table (That’s poor manners in itself, isn’t it?), I have observed that poor table manners are the RULE… not the exception in Houston (and everywhere else, for that matter). If you don’t care about these things, then skip this article, as you probably hit 10 wrong out of 10 anyway. Who am I to point out your poor table manners? Well, someone needed to, (if you care) unless you do 10 out of 10 correctly.

Here are the infractions that occur the most often in restaurants (as well as at $1000/plate galas):

WRONG!
The knife blade should never face outward! This is the 
most common infraction of proper table manners.


CORRECT!
The knife blade should always face the center of the plate.

1.      The most common faux pas at the table is the way the knife blade is faced when placed on the plate between bites. The knife blade ALWAYS faces toward the center of the plate. The knife should be placed across the top of the plate with the blade facing toward you. It is permissible to place the knife across the top right of the plate… but the key to its placement is that the knife blade is always to be toward you or toward the center of the plate. At least eight out of ten were taught that a knife blade should point outward when placed on the plate. Sometimes when I’m at table with several people, I feel like they are looking at my “innie” wondering why a guy like me never learned how to eat in public like all of them were taught. Face it, your mommy taught you the wrong placement of your knife.

WRONG!
Once a utensil has been used, NO PART of it should touch
 the table again, including the handle!


CORRECT!
A utensil, once used, should be placed completely on the plate.


2.      Once one has used a knife, fork, or spoon, NO part of either of them should ever touch the table again.  Between courses, leave the knife and fork on your plate.  The waitperson should take the plate and used utensils and bring fresh ones with the next course. Between bites, the knife and fork are always placed completely on the plate.

WRONG!
A soup spoon should never be pulled toward you.

 
 CORRECT!
A soup spoon should always be pushed away from you.

3.      A soup spoon is never drawn toward the diner… ever. The proper way to eat soup is to push the spoon away from you. Also, the soup should be scooped from the side of the bowl farther away from you.

CORRECT!
A soup bowl may be tilted away from you to get the very last bit.


4.      May you tilt a soup bowl to get the small amount of remaining soup on the spoon?  Yes, you may. However, the soup bowl, if tilted, should always be tilted away from you.

WRONG!
NEVER hold your hand over a glass to indicate that you want no more.

 
5.      You are through with your wine, tea, or water. The waitperson approaches you to refill your glass. Please do not hold your hand over your glass indicating “no more”! The proper way to stop the waitperson from refilling your glass is to open your mouth and say “No, thank you.”  NEVER wave away service. By the same token, don’t hold your hand up in the air and insult your server by clicking your fingers to get his/her attention, or summon your server as if hailing a cab. It’s an insult to the waitperson. It’s also distracting (and offensive to other diners in the restaurant and to others at your table). 


6.      Never fold your napkin neatly after use. That includes when you are going to the restroom… loosely fold your napkin and place it to the left of your plate. When you are through with your meal, your napkin may be loosely folded and placed, again, to the left of your plate… not ON the plate. In the past, it was common to place the napkin on your seat when excusing yourself to leave the table temporarily.  It is more common today to LOOSELY fold the napkin and place it to the left of your plate. A well-trained waitperson should replace it for you. If not, you at least left it where it should have been placed.

NOW WHAT?
To pick up or not to pick up?

7.      OOOOPS! You’ve dropped your napkin or your fork on the floor. What do you do? Well, whatever you do, do it without drawing any attention to yourself and what you are doing. If that is impossible, you may leave it on the floor. Yes, it IS one of the things that your server does as part of his/her job. Emily Post says to leave it on the floor and the server will get it for you.  Yes, the server has a lot to do, but, after all, it IS one of those things that is part of his/her job. Here’s the problem for you consider.  If you pick up the fork or napkin, what are you going to do with the thing? Of course, you must NOT put either one back on the table after it’s been on the floor. So, you’ve picked it up and now you have nowhere to put it, except to hold it in your hand until the server shows up to take it and replace it. I suggest that you follow Emily Post’s recommendation. The server must be involved either way, so worrying about the fact that the server is very busy is a moot point and you still won’t be able to resume dining until you involve the server to get another napkin or fork, anyway. So, discreetly ask your server to replace it.

WRONG!
Never butter (or dip) more than one bite at a time of a roll!

CORRECT!
Tear off a single bite and butter it or dip in dipping oil.


8.      Butter bread or rolls only one bite at a time… and only place one bite at a time in your “dipping oil.” Also, only cut one bite of food at a time. If you have only one piece of food on your plate and it’s too big to put into your mouth, then, of course, you may cut it into two bites. This one’s a no-brainer, but I still see diners buttering an entire roll or piece of bread… and still remember my father preaching for me to NOT do it, yet remember him (after my mother died and wasn’t there to monitor him) buttering and holding an entire piece of bread in the air and taking a bite of bread with every single bite of food before he swallowed it. 

9.      In a buffet, remember that you may waddle back to the buffet as many times as you care to. Never stack your food so that any item covers another. When you return from the buffet table, your plate should have the equivalent of an entrée and two or three “sides”, unless you are too lazy to go back again. No picture of this as it’s disgusting.  

WRONG!
Your elbow may only be on the table between courses and
during conversation… as long as you have put your fork down.
 

10.  Elbows on the table? I don’t even need to talk about this one, do I? Well, surprise! It is OK to place your elbows on the table between courses and during conversation. Also, sit up straight, bring the food up to your mouth and don’t go down on your food. There’s no left hand showing here, as it is (correctly) in her lap.

       If you got 10 out of 10 right, I’d enjoy having dinner with you sometime. If you got over half wrong, I think I’ve eaten with you every time I’m in a restaurant or event. Again… if you don’t care about table manners, then thank me for giving you 10 ways to prove it. Bon appetit!

%d bloggers like this: