100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 25, Shrimp and Grits at Shade

Shade Shrimp Grits.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

Despite its lowcountry roots, shrimp and grits has been embraced by Houstonians, for whom the dish is the perfect marriage of Gulf seafood, Cajun spices (which are found in our versions of the dish more often than not) and Southern grits. I'm willing to bet that most Houstonians would recognize the dish as something of our own creole creation before they'd recognize it as coming originally from South Carolina.

Perhaps because it's not a native dish, shrimp and grits gets poorly treated and battered around by clumsy cooks far too often in Houston. Ideally, it's a dish that's prepared and presented very simply -- it's only a few shrimp and a couple spoonfuls of cooked hominy, after all. Instead, I've witnessed incarnations of the stuff that range from disgustingly baroque (truffles don't belong on everything) to mystifyingly cooked (grits should never resemble congee nor ready-mix) to woefully bare-bones (simple is best, but you do have to at least salt the grits and add some butter to them).

Not so at Shade, where Claire Smith has been turning out impeccable shrimp and grits in her own signature style for years. I love that her shrimp don't come swimming in a bowl of grits, but are rather presented on their own. An ample serving of grits accompanies them should you decide to mix them -- which I do recommend -- but the parts work well separately too.

In true Texas style, the shrimp at Shade are served fried to a golden brown, sweet and plump under their crunchy batter. They rest on top of a bed of Frank's Red Hot sauce that offers a nod to lowcountry cuisine with its vinegar tang, while the buttery grits offset the spice that the dark orange sauce offers up.

And in the grits themselves, you'll find bacon and cheese -- which could, again, border on baroque -- but Shade shows just enough restraint when adding the extra ingredients, making the grits cheeky instead of overly cheesy. And the best part of all? You can have a dish all to yourself for only $10 during Shade's excellent happy hour.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast
No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck
No. 48: Malted waffle at City Cafe
No. 47: Banh mi bo kho at Cafe TH
No. 46: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 45: Larissa plate at Harry's
No. 44: Spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Ristorante Italiano
No. 43: Wings and grits at The Breakfast Klub
No. 42: Frito pie at C&D Burger Shoppe
No. 41: Pollo con mole at El Gallo de Jalisco
No. 40: Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs
No. 39: Rigatoni in bolognese sauce at Paulie's
No. 38: Chorizo kolaches at Peña's Donut Heaven
No. 37: Sashimi at Dadami
No. 36: Half-pound burger at benjy's
No. 35: Fried chicken at Haven
No. 34: Whole-fried speckled trout at Liberty Kitchen
No. 33: Moules congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro
No. 32: Pancakes at Fountain View Cafe
No. 31: Pineapple with chile en polvo at Canino's
No. 30: Fried chicken at Barbecue Inn
No. 29: Dirty Burque at Green Seed Vegan
No. 28: Egusi at Finger Licking Bukateria
No. 27: Brisket and turkey at CorkScrew BBQ
No. 26: Menudo at La Mexicana



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Location Info

Shade

250 W. 19th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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2 comments
FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Better than Ouisie's?  Or Laurenzo's?  I may have to do a food challenge with these.

UrbanSwank
UrbanSwank

 @FattyFatBastard Thinking the same thing with Ouisie's...love their version. We will need to check these out as well.

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