August 5th, 2009
Barnaby’s Cafe: Hungry Like The Wolf (Sheepdog in This Case)
In 7 Words: Zany, Vibrant, Craving, Boisterous, American, Paws, Plenteous
There is an axiom that I’ve tried to introduce to the modern lexicon that hasn’t quite taken off: “Life isn’t always rainbows, kittens and scotch.” But, for one Houston institution a similar theme has indeed served them well. Life, for Barnaby’s Cafe, is rainbows, puppies and American cuisine.
An errand takes me to the wiles of River Oaks. A trip to the bank, on to pick up a tux and the need for some good food has me attempting to kill three birds with one feat of German engineering. On the second leg of the trip I run into a friend and his wife at the tuxedo pick-up desk in the Men’s Warehouse. Trying on a tux only to disrobe a minute later surely gets metabolism churning. They are a quick sell on grabbing lunch after getting back our 20 pounds of heavy wool and patent leather.
After a quick volley of locations we decide on Barnaby’s Cafe. The next issue is deciding which one. Three out of the four are just a hop skip and a jump away (not counting Baby Barnaby’s… they deserve a separate experience). The closest to us is the Shepherd location so we steal away with our tux rentals and head for the rainbow-clad promised land.
My cohorts end up taking the last spot in the small amount allotted to Barnaby’s leaving me to venture down the street to make my own. The patio is small, but crammed with tables and patrons have responded by filling any and all spots even in this early afternoon heat. Inside is packed as well. We aren’t the only ones that thought a late Friday lunch at Barnaby’s would be the perfect idea.
My married friends wave at me from the very back corner of the restaurant. They sit in the last of the three booths on the back wall, away from everything but still in the thick of it all. They are indulging in a carafe of fresh lemonade, leaving me to contemplate my own drink choice. I opt for an iced tea in the hopes of stealing some of their lemonade. Perhaps I can craft my own Arnold Palmer?
The walls and ceiling are sky blue, vibrant and overwhelming. There are images of clouds, rainbows, paw prints and recurring, large furry dog. It’s as if Charles Shulz had decided to focus on interior design and an English Sheep Dog instead of the Sunday strip and a Beagle. The namesake is everywhere; Barnaby will surely never be forgotten even by those who never met him.
Taking a look at the menu much of it is foreign. I’m not a foodie. In fact, I used to be a “fast foodie” which is a habit I’m in the process of breaking. What the Newport Chicken consists of is a mystery to me. The same can be said about the Chicken La Jolla. But, I do notice the Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger which immediately gets my attention. All of us end up ordering burgers for lunch and I quickly add a request for the spinach and artichoke dip.
As we sit and wait we chitchat about life, our friends’ upcoming wedding and what we would have named The Loop Scoop if it existed anywhere else (”Creme de la Kremlin” and “Capitol Fill” coming soon to a Moscow and DC near you in 2010). An offer to have my friend write a tour of Houston, taste testing Creme Brule wherever they serve it, is quickly shot down by his wife. All good ideas are not good for the arteries, apparently.
Our plates filled with burgers and fries are placed on top of our menus-turned-place mats served along with our side of melted, hot dip and chips. All conversation stops. This is exactly what we have been needing. A mound of blue cheese crumbles adorns my sandwich making it so tall I hope to avoid lock jaw in the eating process. My stomach tells me to look past logic and accept the challenge.
After each of the plates in front of us has been polished we half-heartedly consider venturing into the land of desserts. Full and sated we each decide to pass on an extra course, though the Recession Brownie (just $1 until the Dow hits 11,000!) seems like a solid choice. They may have to roll me out of here eating so much already.
We split the check two ways, I take responsibility for the artichoke dip bringing my total to $17 plus tax. A small price to pay for such a large portion. We slide out of the booth and walk through the still packed dining area to our respective cars. Thankfully I have a bit of a walk to work off a couple of the calories I’ve just consumed.
Where – River Oaks (1701 S. Shepherd, Houston, Texas 77019) View Map
Midtown (414 W Gray St, Houston, Texas 77019) View Map
Woodway (5750 Woodway, Houston, Texas 77057) View Map
Montrose (604 Fairview, Houston, Texas 77006) View Map
What – A Slice of Americana, Houston-style
Wear – Anything as Long as You’re Not Cruella Deville
Who – Dog, Food, Meatloaf Lovers
How Much – Admittedly Quite Reasonable
When – 11:ooAM-10:00PM is Your Best Bet – Check Locations for Breakfast
Web – http://barnabyscafe.com/