January 5th, 2011

Houston Restaurants: More or Less

Look, we love Houston and because of our love affair with this city, we have some pretty lofty expectations for the restaurants that endeavor to feed this belt-busting city.  There are a ton of amazing places in and around Houston to spend an evening, but with as many restaurants as we visit in the course of our eating and experiencing, we’re bound to run across some duds. So, as we were compiling our Bestus Prospectus this year, we decided to include some places that we wanted to see more, or less, from. At first, it was just going to be a one or two places, but the more we discussed it, the more the list took on a life of its own.  I think that says something about us, but we’re choosing to ignore that fact. For a myriad of reasons, the following venues didn’t live up to the lofty expectations that we have for our wonderful Houston. We’re not ready to close the book on these places just yet, but we’re definitely putting them on notice.

TQLA
First of all, I’m disappointed in the name. TQLA…really? Can’t we use all the letters? Secondly, dining in the restaurant left as much to be desired as the name. From food, to drinks, to service, the experience was a mess. Wrong orders, drinks that took forever and food that was not very special definitely left me wanting more… or less. When you name your restaurant TQLA, it’s a safe bet that people are going to order drinks with dinner, after they figure out what the name means, of course. On a Friday night, maybe it’s a good idea to schedule a bartender to just work the well or, when drinks start backing up, maybe one of the five managers on the floor should jump behind the bar with an assist? There’s no excuse for a 30 minute virgin margarita. Of course, there’s also no excuse for the “specialty” margaritas that are really just frozen house margaritas with a way too sweet flavoring dumped in the bottom.

Stella Sola
I was so amped for the Texan and Tuscan fusion of Stella Sola, and while the food was good, it wasn’t as impressive as I expected. Certainly that could have been because of my great expectations, but ultimately, what was most disconcerting was the lack of flavor in the dishes. As an Italian-American living in Texas, I can tell you that the one thing Texas and Italy have in common is big, over-the-top personalities. Unfortunately, that wasn’t translated into the dishes at Stella Sola.

Shade in the Heights
Shade, you’re hit or foul. I won’t say miss because you’re food isn’t bad, it’s just…okay. For what you’re charging for some of your items, I should think they were all worthy of praise, but sadly, this isn’t the case. The Fouls: a Shade Eggs Benedict and Bloody Mary have given me high hopes, twice, as they are my favorite breakfast combination. Twice, I’ve been disappointed. The SEB was bland, specifically the Hollandaise sauce, and my Bloody Mary was all spice and water. The Hits: your Fried Shrimp and Cheese Grits are incredible, as is the Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop, as I write this salivation has begun. I’ll definitely be back, but only after I’ve seen that the line is a bit long at Zelko.

Zimm’s Little Deck
Ah, Zimm, Zimm, Zeroo. Zimm’s Little Deck, you’re Petite Lafitte and Ceveche were both quite good and reasonably priced at that. The monetary exchange for your drinks, however, was about what I’d expect to pay when my weak dollar is hit in the stomach over in Euroland. $4 for a Shiner and it’s Happy Hour? I’m not happy. The other prices only further separate me from joy. So, I guess “bravo” for bringing that across-the-pond-flava. Your Patenque/Bocci game was fairly fun. Although not too practical at night when pairs of headlights are streaming down Richmond Avenue every other second only inches from the gravel court being played upon. Maybe I’m old, but I lose that little yellow ball. One more thing, your Website music is a misrepresenting deterrent.

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Les Gival’s Kahve
We tried to love you, Les Givral’s Kahve, we really did, but your Washington Avenue location let us down one too many times. From wilted vegetables and way too stale rolls for the bánh mì to flavorless phở, we just started getting a tad annoyed and disappointed. We hope the new year stirs the collective Les Givral’s Kahve heart a little and quality finds its way back to the Washington Avenue location.

Hefley’s
Hefley’s Bar, you’ve got a great thing going with your location and your sports bar crowd, but please no more touting yourself as a BBQ place. As Texas meat cathedrals go, you just don’t really cut the mustard. Too smoky. Too dry. Sauce is just “meh”. Stick to (and expand) your delicious burger selection and then we’ll be in business. Until then, Hefley’s Bar, stick to the basics.

— The Loop Scoop

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