The Summer of the Fried Green Tomato
Although I love making fried green tomatoes at home, I'm not that good at it. But when summer gets in full swing, I begin to crave the things like mad. And luckily, this year, an increasing number of Houston restaurants are incorporating the Southern delicacy into their menus -- and in increasingly creative ways. I've been saying it for about a month now: This should be the summer of the fried green tomato here in Houston.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt The Viola Lee taco is suitable for vegetarians and vegetable-loving carnivores alike.
I love the versatility of fried green tomatoes, the way they can be incorporated into a dish or stand alone as an already clever pairing of flavors: tart and barely sweet and salty all at once, with a crisp first bite and an easy finish. At Radical Eats and Greatfull Taco, the tomatoes are treated in this way, with only the simplest of ingredients to buttress the summery flavors.
Greatfull Taco's Viola Lee has become a fast favorite of mine, with a simple slaw of cabbage and carrots atop the chunks of fried green tomatoes wrapped in dual corn tortillas. Under the tomatoes, a vibrant swipe of garlic-serrano mayonnaise. The heat bolsters those tart-sweet chunks of tomatoes, just as the vinegared red cabbage does in Radical Eats' fried green tomato tacos (which will soon be available full-time at its new storefront on Fulton).
But as much as I enjoy these simple renditions, it's the more playful creations around town that have piqued my interest.
It's a given that upscale-casual Southern strongholds like Zelko Bistro and Haven would have fried green tomatoes on the menu (although, frankly, I'm more enamored of Haven's wonderfully in-tune grilled okra right now). Take Canopy's crab cake over fried green tomatoes with a scallion remoulade and jalapeño chimichurri: It's comfortably accessible, both taste-wise and price-wise, as you can order a small portion for $12 or a large plate of the good stuff for $20.
Photo by Tam Vo Zelko Bistro's Captain Crunch-battered fried green tomatoes.
Over at Tony Mandola's, you can get your fried green tomatoes topped with a different kind of Gulf seafood for less than $10: fresh shrimp and a spicy remoulade. As with Canopy's jalapeño chimichurri, the heat works as a counterbalance to the tartness of the tomato and the oil in the breading.
And at Backstreet Cafe, you can get a combination of both worlds: Its fried green tomatoes are topped with a crab remoulade for $10. Syd Kearney at 29-95 is a fan, too. I keep clicking over to the site just to look at her photo of the tomatoes, all in a tidy row with tender curls of watercress peeking out from underneath.