The best first, what comes from the kitchen, bar, and from the wine list. We began with cocktails, Paloma for me, and a Chilton for my charming and also witty, I suppose, dining companion. Both were delicious, and better than usual; the Paloma drink dangerously quickly on a warm evening, and in a warm restaurant. She drank the Chilton in a surprisingly more measured pace. For food, it started with chili, that Texas favorite, which is actually not found that often on local menus, comes in three sizes, a cup and a bowl, of course, and a shot. Also planning on an appetizer, it was a shot for each of us, an engaging and fun way to start a meal here. It was terrific, meaty and properly bean-free, much more complex and flavorful than the version of Lady Bird Johnson’s chili I make somewhat regularly (and which is actually usually quite tasty). That appetizer, thankfully just one given its size, was the queso. It is a production that includes a dramatic, large fried potato that looked like a sheet of chicharron, beef fat-laden flour tortillas, a jar of nopalitos; sturdy house-made chips, and a slightly sweet green salsa. The preternaturally melted processed orange cheese-food that was the queso was fine, very thin and straightforward, if far from fine dining. Enjoyable, this is not a must-order, though, and it’s somewhat of a lower-key outlier with the rest of the well-crafted items on the menu.
For the main, though hardly a Texas staple, but a favorite of my childhood, I opted for that evening’s special, pierogies, as our server said that these were lighter than my other choice, the pork shank. These were filled primarily with nicely moist and flavorful braised rabbit topped with some more chopped rabbit. Very tasty and nicely put together, if not light at all, probably the heartiest pierogies I’ve ever had, which is something. The other order, a quail preparation, two of the small birds that were bacon-wrapped and filled with corn bread stuffing and served with cream cheese and jalapeño slices, was eaten ravenously. The small piece I had was a little overcooked and dry, but maybe that was the only part of it that was. No desserts; we were stuffed. We ordered heavily but the menu is heavy-dish-laden, too much so for my tastes.
For the necessary wine, we enjoyed a really nice, ready-to-drink 2019 Barbaresco from Luigi Giordano, a producer that has found a home on many Houston area lists, for $78 the complemented both of the entrées quite well. The wine list from Matthew Pridgen is predictably engaging, nicely-edited and affordable for a restaurant of this quality. It is easy to choose well and without too much stress on the pocketbook here.
Service was a little slow at times, including receiving menus as we were told they restaurant did not have many of them, but friendly.
Now the bad and I guess ugly: décor was homey in a Texas-through-a-Disney-esque-lens and did not work well at all to our eyes: an amazing number of quilted throw pillows on the benches lining one wall; cloth half curtains on the windows looking like cheap gunny sacks; and the bill delivered in an old steel Gilley’s beer can. Even worse was the noise level. It was very, very loud even being only two-thirds filled. We had a tough time carrying on a conversation even with an empty table next to us. Ridiculous. The dining area consists of three rooms plus a bar area and a patio. We sat in one with a fairly low ceiling, which certainly made it worse, but there are just too many hard surfaces throughout. We thought that it was a poorly designed restaurant, and one of us believed it was very unattractive, somewhat insultingly so, also. As much as we enjoyed the food and drink, we won’t be rushing back.
2520 Airline (south of I-610), 77009, (713) 393-7205