5512 La Branch St., Houston, TX 77004 | 713.568.2505 | www.lucilleshouston.com
Chef Chris Williams has been a cook all his life. It’s in his blood. The namesake of his first restaurant, known for its world-class Southern fare and soul food recipes, is his great-grandmother Lucille. The original Lucille was a restaurateur herself, nearly a century ago. Despite his formal education and years in European kitchens, Chef Williams has dedicated many of the dishes on his menu to her original recipes. On the walls of the small house-turned-restaurant are pictures of Lucille B. Smith with the likes of Reverend King and Joe Lewis. The woman was a legend. Luckily, her great-grandson has only added to that family legacy.
My wife and I had the pleasure of sampling more dishes than I have room to write about in this short column. I would be remiss, though, if I did not first give praise to the almighty fried green tomatoes. A staple of southern cooking, Chef Williams’ recipe has truly redefined the dish. Nearly as impressive are the famous chili biscuits. Straight from the pages of Lucille’s recipe book, this small plate takes yeast mini-rolls filled with chili and tops them with a healthy serving of melted cheddar. In a show of more refined ability (and touting his expertise of West Indian cuisine), Chef Williams introduced us to the revelation that is oxtail and bone marrow. Oxtail marmalade, orange zest and gremolata rest gently upon a split piece of bone to create a dish memorable enough to earn Lucille’s a spot on my personal list of Houston’s best restaurants.
After nearly a dozen courses, each more exciting than the last, I begrudgingly tapped out and asked the chef to bring us dessert. The flourless chocolate cake and lemon meringue pie were incredible, but nothing in comparison to the house special – croissant bread pudding. Layer after layer of croissant, soaked in a bourbon cream and baked into a warm brick of heavenly sweetness. Our experience at Lucille’s was not one we will soon forget.
THAI CAFE 917
917 Franklin St. # 101, Houston, TX 77002 | 713.228.8424 | www.thaicafe917.com
So much more than Pad Thai and Green Curry, Thai cuisine is a complex and varied assortment of flavors, inspired by the neighboring cultures adjacent to Thailand’s borders that all come together to form the food genre commonly known as Thai food. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good Green Curry, the truth is, there is more to this exotic cuisine than most Westerners realize.
Thai Cafe 917 is in the far north end of Downtown, in a historic building on Franklin Street that was once home to the Commercial National Bank, and today is home to high-end loft offices. The cafe is an easy to miss hole in the wall, but a standout among Houston’s many Thai kitchens. The delightfully authentic menu highlights Thailand’s exciting varieties of dishes and flavors. Take, for instance, the fish cakes, or Tod Mun Pla, a simple dish of fried patties made from fish paste, red curry powder and long beans, served with sweet chili sauce. Or my personal favorite, the Tom Yum Shrimp soup. A classic hot and sour soup, deeply aromatic and flavored with lime and red pepper, with a prawn the size of a small lobster marinating in its red broth. As a proud advocate of soups and broths, I strongly endorse this dish.
What separates Thai Cafe 917 from their competitors is a commitment to authentic dishes and creative preparation. Such a commitment is obvious even on the drinks menu, which includes house variations on traditional Thai Tea and Green Tea. Both drinks are a standard mix of tea and condensed milk, with an added pinch of sea salt to reduce the decadent sweetness to a more palatable and refreshing taste. It is in those small and thoughtful touches that Thai Cafe 917 manages to elevate itself above the sea of curry kitchens and noodle houses that make up the Houston Asian food market.
11199 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77042 | 713.789.7337 | www.lepeep.com
Lumberjack Breakfast | Photography by Becca Wright
Long before trendy brunch spots with three-hour waits, before bottomless mimosas and $30 avocado toast, Le Peep opened the doors of its first Houston location, on Westheimer near The Galleria. For decades, this Uptown institution served thoughtfully curated and chef-designed breakfast and lunch fare to hungry, often hungover, Houstonians. Recently, that historic Le Peep poured its last cup of joe, turned off the grill and closed its doors after nearly 30 years of business, only to reopen just two miles east in the burgeoning Westheimer Oaks District.
The upscale shopping center has quickly become the unofficial new home of Houston luxury, boasting nearly as many designer boutiques as The Galleria. The addition of Le Peep, with its casual ambiance and diner-style friendliness, is a welcome addition to a shopping center that lacks the easy familiarity of a neighborhood hangout. The new location is already abuzz with action as I arrive for a late breakfast. Is there anything more relaxing in this world than the chaotic sounds of a busy diner on a Sunday morning? Plates clinking, children screaming and the heavenly smell of coffee and bacon. Longtime customers may be surprised to find Le Peep’s menu now includes (no doubt by popular demand) a selection of brunch cocktails, wine and craft beer. A generously poured mimosa is the perfect pair to my all-time favorite Le Peep breakfast, the Southern Benedict: Take a traditional Eggs Benedict, add grilled chicken and tomatoes, chopped bacon and melted cheddar for a down-home brunch that will hold you over well into the evening.
Those slow to rise will also appreciate the other exciting addition to the newest Le Peep: a full coffee bar in the dining room, complete with barstools and baristas. Have your breakfast at the bar with a latte, or just stick to Bloody Marys. The new Westheimer Le Peep adds modern amenities while staying true to their neighborhood roots.