Monday, January 25, 2010

Sam’s Cafe

Sam's Cafe is off Studemont and Washington in the shopping center behind Walgreens, next to Absolve Wine Bar and Terlingua Mexican Grill & Margarita bar.  I suppose most ppl still don't have a clue where this is, I know I've never gone into this shopping center up until a couple weeks ago.  I met some out of town clients at this location and stopped by for a quick bite before heading over to Absolve Wine Bar one day and to my suprise it was very good.  At this point I've gone maybe 4 times in the last 2 weeks and haven't been able to move away from the current dishes of choice, Orange Chicken and Stir Fry Green Bean with Special Sauce.  One day, I'll try something new, but for now, I like what I like.  It's authentic Chinese food, but who likes that stuff anyways besides Asians.  I like the

Americanized Chinese food, a few notches above General Joe's Chopstix, it's my new favorite place!

The website shows favorite choices and they do deliveries as well.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hickory Hollow’s of Heights and Washington

It's always an interesting feeling having grown up in the 4th largest metropolitan city in the US, yet Texan. Having grown up here we're never surprised by cowboy hats, boots, banjo, etc although even to us (gen x and younger) it's more of a roots thing we accept rather than something we partake in. Well, some of us. It was common to see your classmates wearing cowboy boots and wranglers, although I've never taken part in that trend. Sometimes, even in this urban culture, I'll step into a place like Hickory Hollow and feel like I just stepped into a scene in some Urban Cowboy-like movie. It's still part of our Texas culture, but it always still catches me off guard. The interesting thing is I think places like this are actually trendy spots, trying to create that traditional Texas feeling, bc we're really not all that Texan anymore. But this time I looked around and the patrons actually looked like authentic Texans, boots, cowboy hats and all!

I feel like I'm always saying I'm not this kind of food person, but with BBQ, I really am not a BBQ person over anything else. I never crave BBQ and never really enjoy it. It's ok. The truth is I don't know how to judge BBQ. I know Rudy's is good BBQ, especially their creamy corn, yum yum. Hickory Hollow's BBQ, nothing to write home about, but it is central, so if you're looking for BBQ inside the loop with that traditional Texan vibe, here is one place. Yee-haw!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

the Lot, Sam's Cafe & Absolve

On the way to Cougar Power Hour held at the Lot next to Pearl bar on Washington and parking is ridiculous. We get into a altercation with a seemingly homeless guy about parking, apparently if the no parking sign is not on a pole cemented into the ground, it's not a city regulated sign. The owners around these bars put up no parking/tow signs, but HPD says if it's not a city sign, you can park there. We didn't want to take a chance so we parked across the street next to some run down looking shops. Lock your doors, it's best not to keep any valuables in the car, this area is still transitioning. So, we walk into the Lot, seen it, never been before prior to this, there's a taco truck, food smells so good, I'm tempted. Apparently, the food not only smells good, it really is good, say the bar patrons. The Lot is a small bar, Kat from the Fish (sushi restaurant in midtown) is a bartender there. Cute female bartenders in red tanks, red walls, and a few arcade games, typical bar, but way smaller. They don't seem really busy, but apprently the owner knows the committee head of the UH Alumni and will be holding more Cougar Alumni events in the future.

The Lot on Washington
4212 Washington Ave.
Houston, TX 77007

Stop by Sam's Cafe on Studemont in the same shopping center as Quiznos next to Walgreens. It's a store front restaurant, but surprisingly, food is good. We had the orange chicken and it was reall good. Typically orange chicken is battered, but this was just barely and drenched with that orange/hoison sauce. It's a bit pricey, one dish was $12, with the addition of an extra bowl of rice, but it was a large dish. Two of us shared that one dish and we were pleasantly satisfied. The owner was accommodating, charged us for extra rice, which is fair. Somewhat similar set up to General Joe's Chopstix, but cleaner, way cleaner...and no pictures inside. Pictures are outside on the windows.

920 Studemont St.
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 861-1109

Next to Sam's Cafe is Absolve Wine bar. It's been on my to do list and at the suggestion of a friend, I finally made it over. I didn't like that it was in this particular shopping center, you're under the impression it's not going to be a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere. Surprise! It's super cozy inside, high ceilings, dark, rich colors, nice rich decor, large naked paintings, and incredibly tall thin bamboo-like trees with bark cut neatly and clustered in tall vases around the room. Someone asked me if it was "better than Tasting Room". I said it was different. At TR you go to see and be seen. At Absolve you go to be with your company. Cheese plate was excellent. I could've done without the blue cheese brie, but I'm not a fan of blue cheese and I know many are. I have found a new love...the Emmanthaler. My new favorite cheese. Yum! Excellent place to take a small group you'd like to have converation with.

920 Studemont St. Suite 150
Shops @ Memorial Heights Houston, TX 77007

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ciao Bella

"If you love great Italian food, you've found your new home away from home. Welcome to Ciao Bello - the delightful Italian restaurant from Tony and Jeff Vallone. Ciao Bello delivers serious Italian food in a casual, fun setting that's the perfect place for family and friends."

Says the website, so I thought...ok, casual, fun, "serious italian food", definitely must try. We enter and casual is not the first thing that comes to mind, it's more like business professional, a bit upscale actually. I asked our waiter what was the name of the pasta dish on the website, it didn't say. He didn't know and somehow I ended up making my own pasta dish, which was a bit disappointing, since I wanted to try a Ciao Bella dish. I custom-made my pasta dish, angel hair pasta, basil, garlic, pine nuts, tomatoes, olive oil, and chicken. There was no basil and it looked like more of a pasta in marinara sauce rather than just in olive oil. The overall dish was not very good and the chicken was dry. My dining mate had the chicken alfredo, I tried it, it was bland like he described. The manager came by asked how or meal was, my dining mate responded "very good", I quickly said, "don't lie to him, tell him, he wants to know", he then fesses up and tells the manager it was bland. The manager asked if dining mate like something else and he declines. We're finishing up our lunch and the manager brings out a new chicken alfredo dish and says, "this is the way it was supposed to be made", etc...we both try it, it's actually good. I asked him what happened, he said the cooks didn't put enough herbs and stuff in the cream sauce. So I give Ciao Bella an A+ on service, although our server wasn't as lively as the server next to us. C- on food, B+ on the revised Chicken Alfredo.

One last note, I always find it a turn off to see a pepper shaker at an Italian restaurant.

Their slogan: "Serious Food. Casual Setting. Serious Fun. That's Ciao Bello." I don't think that's a very accurate statement. It should be more like "Casual Food. Serious Setting. Great Service. That's Ciao Bella"

So This is my opinion, if you are not close to me (inside the loop) my dining experience better be good, otherwise, I will not give it another chance if it's not convenient for me to get there. I think places like Ciao Bella really need to make extra effort to wow their customers, each and every time. I hope they make it, I was pretty disappointed with the food, but the service was good. They're located on San Felipe next to the Randalls, old La Strada home.