BEAVER’S | GALLERIA CUISINE: All-American 6025 Westheimer | 713.714.4111 | www.beavershouston.com Mon–Thurs: 11am–10pm, Fri: 11am–11pm, Sat: 10am–11pm, Sun: 10am–9pm
Grilled Oyster Photo by Becca Wright
A big fan of Beaver’s in the Washington Corridor, I was excited by the news that they were opening a new location in the Galleria area. Taking over the spot formerly occupied by Texadelphia, owners Todd Johnson and Jon Deal have made some serious transformations to the space. A new back patio area with picnic tables, games and an Airstream turned to full bar provides fun for the whole family. The Beaver’s Den up front caters to the “older” children with a full-blown whiskey bar. The menu under Executive Chef Arash Kharat features many of the Washington favorites – Texas Deviled Eggs, smoky queso and tots-n-shots. Kharat’s influence comes through in the seafood, grilled and BBQ items available at Beaver’s West. I started with the tuna tower (Yellow fin tuna, citrus ponzu, avocado, toasted sesame, seaweed salad, cucumbers and wonton chips). A very light ponzu allowed the tuna to shine. Next, grilled oysters topped with bacon, chimmichuri and ponzu were perfectly smoky and delicious. An off-menu combination of grilled Brussels sprouts is one that Kharat promised would make it full-time. Again, with a good char and combination of flavors, even a carnivore would be satisfied. Speaking of carnivores, Kharat’s BBQ sampler met my high expectations. He has two smokers that allow him to produce consistently good BBQ. The brisket had a good smoke ring and was fork tender, the pulled pork well sauced, the sausage link had great flavor not overwhelmed by the jalapenos, the ribs came off the bone easily with good char. Accompanied by the truffle mac and pickled veggies, I was impressed with the whole plate. Finishing with Beaver Balls (panko fried brownie balls, powdered peanut butter and sauce) made a complete meal. It’s Texas. What isn’t better deep-fried? Overall, with everything it offers, Beaver’s West provides a destination for every customer.
ISLAND GRILL CUISINE: American/Mediterranean Woodway | Bellaire | Bunker Hill | www.islandgrillhouston.com Mon–Sat: 7am–4:30pm; Sun–Sun: 8am–4:30pm
Pancake Photo by Becca Wright
After nearly 17 years, Faysal Haddad, the owner of Island Grill, has established himself as one of the best at providing healthy and delicious food. In opening his fourth location – in Rice Village, in the space formerly home to Ruggles Café and Little Liberty – Island Grill is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. While focusing on Mediterranean cuisine, the menu is diverse, with a great Angus burger, pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. It also features a breakfast menu with fantastic omelets, breakfast pitas, pancakes and large (but healthy) egg dishes. Throw in the Juice Bar with plenty of tasty and nutritious drinks, and it becomes a destination after a workout or for brunch. It’s impossible, though, to come to Island Grill and someone at the table not have a pita. The chicken pita with extra garlic sauce was the perfect choice. Overflowing with marinated grilled chicken and veggies, it was exceptional. The Kabob plate with a mix of beef and chicken would be a perfect dish for sharing. I paired it with the hummus and Greek salad. The tender beef and very garlicky hummus (I might have added a little more garlic sauce) were delicious. Not wanting to only have Mediterranean, I tried a newcomer to the Village menu: shrimp étouffée served over brown rice. The rich sauce had a piquant flavor, and dipping pita instead of French bread was a nice change. Beyond the food, the space itself makes it family- friendly. With a large covered patio, dedicated parking for the restaurant (a premium in the Village) and an open kitchen concept, Haddad should do very well. There’s no doubt he’s worked hard to keep the quality. Overall, Inner Loopers should rejoice. Eat healthy, but don’t sacrifice taste. You don’t have to at Island Grill.
GROTTO | DT CUISINE: Italian 1001 Avenida De Las Americas A | 713. 658.0752 | www.grottorestaurants.com Mon-Thurs: 11am–10pm, Fri: 11am–11pm, Sat: 4-11pm, Sun: 11am-–10pm
Photo Courtesy of Landry’s
While the Super Bowl madness lasted only a few days in February, the lasting effect was the flurry of restaurants opening downtown. One of the true gems is Grotto Downtown, located near the GRB and Minute Maid Park. And as Chef Sean Hochstein explained, it’s not your father’s Grotto. Given more leeway to offer a variety of small plates, antipasti and pizzas, his menu offers diners a chance to share incredible food at very reasonable prices.
What are called “Small Plates” are enough to share with several people. Based on Chef Hochstein’s recommendations, we started with the Gamberi (colossal head-on shrimp in a scampi gravy with soaking bread). A mouthwatering version of New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp with perfect combination of Worcester and piquant flavors. My only regret: that I couldn’t take home a gallon of the sauce. Next came the mussels in a pinot grigio broth with lemon and garlic. Divine, especially with more bread to dip.
Continuing the theme of sharing, we ordered the Meatzza, a lovely pie topped with pepperoni, meatballs, pancetta, and Italian sausage. Crispy and airy crust with a very good cheese to sauce ratio. And the meatballs were the perfect size, not too large to fold the slice or so small they would be ground beef.
To finish, we had the bombolino, brioche donuts with dipping sauces (chocolate, lemon curd, strawberry). If I had only had the lemon curd, I’d have been in heaven. Light and warm, the donuts were a perfect end.
I applaud Chef Hochstein for the new direction. And don’t worry, you can still get Grotto’s signature veal chop, pasta vongole and pesce al forno.
Food shared is always better. Grotto takes it to another level. Even better, you can get it before walking to an Astros game. I know I will.