Reasons We Should Eliminate Tipping at Restaurants

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Photo by Torbakhopper
That's great advice sidewalk sign.

I'm always a little shocked and disgusted when I discover that someone I'm friends with is a lousy tipper, or expects some ridiculous level of service in order to extract a meager dollar bill from their miserly pocketbook. It's not usually a case of that person simply being an insensitive or cheap individual, although there probably are lots of diners that fit that description out there.

I've never been a waiter or depended on tips to make money, but lots of people in my life have been in that position, and I feel like the time has come to do away with tipping at restaurants. I have several reasons for feeling this way, so bear with me, before the cries of "That's crazy talk! Kill him!"

In Texas, it's legal to pay waitstaff as little as $2.13 an hour, with the rationale that they will make up the difference in tips. Yes, there are people that make great money relying on this system of tipping, but there are also many more that get shafted at the end of their shift.

Interestingly, while the idea of tipping food workers is a very American concept today, it was originally a custom brought over from Europe when wealthy Americans visiting there decided it was a cool way to show off their elevated social status when they returned to the States. In the early 20th century there was actually an anti-tipping movement in America, because many people thought that the entire idea ran against the ideals that this country was founded on. They felt that it imposed a system of inequality that was Un-American by its very nature. Sadly, that movement didn't catch on, and the haven't been major drives to abolish the system of tipping in this country since.

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Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel Hosts Eid-al-Fitr Feast

Categories: Edible Events

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Photo by Paula Murphy
Chef Hassan Obaye will prepare the Eid al-Fitr feast at the Four Seasons this year.
For the second year in a row, Quattro, the restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel, will serve an Eid-al-Fitr buffet dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan. This year's feast will again be prepared by sous chef Hassan Obaye, who was born and raised in southern Morocco and learned much of his culinary skills cooking with his mom at home.

In an interview with the Houston Press last year
, Obaye says, "My mom deserves much of the credit for my career." Obaye received formal culinary training in southwestern regions of France and Germany at several Michelin-starred restaurants.

On Monday, July 28, at 6 p.m. the Four Seasons Hotel will celebrate the end of Ramadan with a buffet-spread feast. The entire meal costs $95 per person and reservations must be made 48 hours in advance...so do it now.

And don't be ashamed to fill up your plates because Eid-al-Fitr is a feasting celebration, and Obaye has prepared a menu complete with delightful dishes.

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Consumer Reports Names the Best and Worst Fast-Food Restaurants in America, and the Results are Surprising

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Is this the best fast food burger in the country? Voters seem to think so...
Last week we published an article about good, old-fashioned, roadside-style Texas burgers, and in this story, we might have insinuated that there are a lot of crappy fast-food burgers out there. One commenter called us out on it, writing: "I would also argue that McDonald's does not serve a poor excuse for a cheap burger. They serve the gold standard for cheap burgers. The McDouble is a good burger, especially for $1.19."

Well, friend, I'm sorry, but the latest study by Consumer Reports begs to differ.

The online shopping resource conducted a study in which they asked readers to rank fast food meals on a scale of one to ten (ten being the best thing they've ever eaten). According to the report, readers ate "53,745 burger chains' burgers, chicken chains' fried or roasted chicken, Mexican chains' burritos, and sandwich chains' sub -- or heroes, hoagies, grinders, or wedges, depending on where you call home."

In the burger category, McDonalds came in dead last, and not by a narrow margin.

More surprising, though, is the burger category's winner...

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The Houston Press Is Expanding Its Food Coverage, Has Opening for a Freelance Restaurant Reviewer

Categories: Our Staff

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The Houston food scene is gloriously rich, wild and big. And getting bigger.

As a result, we at the Houston Press have decided to split up some of the responsibilities of our food coverage. Restaurant critic Kaitlin Steinberg will remain fulltime but move to a new role with additional daily online food writing and planning duties.

And, we are searching for a freelance restaurant critic who will be responsible for writing one longer restaurant review a week to appear in print and online for us.


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The 5 Best Things to Eat or Drink This Weekend: Christmas in July at Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.

Categories: Edible Events

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Summer's Wit will be served at the Christmas in July party at Buffalo Bayou Brewery.
Christmas in July @ Buffalo Bayou Brewery
Friday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
5301 Nolda

Christmas is five months away, y'all. Get excited. Or just go drink some beer at Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company this evening during Christmas in July. The fun starts at 6 p.m., and for $25, each guest will receive admission into the brewery (must be 21 years or older), one beer glass and as many samples of beers they can handle. Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company will offer more than 20 different brews, including Christmas favorites like 2013 Gingerbread Stout and the 2014 Gingerbread Stout, plus Wit Da Eff, More Cowbell, Summer's Wit, and test batches of Blood Orange Wit, Lemon Ginger Wit, Blueberry Lemon Wit and Orange Imperial Cream Ale. And it wouldn't be a Christmas party without tacky sweaters. Whoever wears the tackiest one will win Gingerbread Stout goodies. All tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door.

Alaskan Brewery Dinner @ Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
Friday, 7 p.m.
1510 Texas

Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse will host a dinner featuring beers from Alaskan Brewing Co. tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets to the dinner cost $75 and include six courses paired with beer, beginning with an amuse of smoked sockeye salmon tartare paired with White, Wheat Ale. Next, guests will snack on crudo of Gulf swordfish served with grapefruit, pickled shallots and a chile puree, paired with Freeride, American Pale Ale. The next course includes quail stuffed with cornbread and served with mushrooms, duck egg yolk, and a slaw of pickled watermelon and radish; this course is paired with Hop Thermia, Double IPA and 2013 Jalapeno, Imperial IPA. Munch on a pretzel served with Madrange ham and rhubarb mostarda while sipping on Alaskan Summer, Kolsch-Style Ale, followed by bison brisket with hot German potato salad, lardons, cucumber salad and smoked tomato BBQ sauce paired with 2013 Smoked Porter. Dessert features roasted apricots with whipped ricotta, a slice of angel food cake and cocoa nibs paired with 2013 Barleywine.

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Upcoming Events: Feast on Eel at Kata Robata & Get Ready for Houston Restaurant Weeks

Categories: Edible Events

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Photo courtesy of Paula Murphy
Kata Robata will feature several unagi specials on Tuesday, July 29.
Kata Robata will celebrate Doyo-no-ushinohi, Day of the Ox during the Doyo period, on Tuesday, July 29. Basically, it's a day of feasting on freshwater eel in Japan. Chef Manabu Horiuchi will prepare a variety of freshwater eel dishes (unagi), as well as ones featuring saltwater eels (anago). The specials will range from $3 to $22. One of the featured dishes prepared by Chef Hori will be unagidon, sliced eel on a bed of rice. Some of the specials will still be served after July 29, but not all of them will be offered.

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Openings & Closings: Closures & Confusion in The Heights

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photo by Troy Fields
Owner and executive chef Jamie Zelko uses locally-sourced ingredients in her dishes at Zelko Bistro.
The Heights just couldn't catch a break this week. City Oven, located at 2802 White Oak, took down its signage and began clearing out the restaurant on Sunday, July 20. City Oven was owned by HUSA Management, Inc., who also owns Local Pour, Baker Street Pub & Grill in Rice Village, Watson's House of Ales and Sherlock's. HUSA co-owner Edgar Carlson released this statement to the Houston Press: "After opening City Oven last September at the White Oak location, we regretfully have decided to permanently close. We would like to thank all of our customers and the Heights community for their support, and we look forward to continuing to serve the Houston community at our numerous other concepts, including the new Local Pour opening in The Woodlands later this year."

It wouldn't be a surprise if the space in the Heights is snatched up quickly by another restaurant owner, as it is in a prime location near other restaurants and bars, such as Christian's Tailgate, Onion Creek and BB's Cafe. Or, it could be turned into another concept from HUSA.

It was a very confusing day on Tuesday, July 22, when a "For Lease" sign was spotted outside Zelko Bistro's front door. The Heights Life posted this photograph and discovered that owner and chef Jamie Zelko has been in negotiations for six months with the realtor who represents the property owners. Later that Tuesday afternoon, Zelko
posted this statement on Facebook,

"Hello Everyone!!!!! We are not going anywhere!!! Currently in process of renewing our lease. Thank you all so much for all of your support!!!!! Sending love to all of you!
-Dalia & Jamie"
The sign has been taken down from the front yard, and Zelko Bistro continues to serve its customers. We will keep you updated with more information.


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Chef Chat, Part 2: How Do You Pronounce Giacomo's, Anyway?

Categories: Chef Chat

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Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chef Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's Cibo e Vino fusses over a table at lunchtime

In part 1 of our Chef Chat with Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's, we discussed how it started out being a counter service restaurant. The customers didn't like it, though, and the restaurant is now 100% table service. Why didn't it work, though? We find out here in Part 2.

We also get three recommendations on dishes to try from chef Hawkins and talk about her best friends.

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EOW: There are a couple of Italian places in town that have a counter service model (like Paulie's, for example) and it seems to work. Why didn't it work here?

LH: I think my big mistake was that I put [the names of the dishes on the menu] in Italian. Paulie's is simplified. It's in English and recognizable. Silly me, I have "orecchiette Giorgione" and no one can pronounce it much less figure out what the hell it is. I don't know what I was thinking. I was used to La Mora and forgot that "Oh, gosh. People understood the menu because the waiters were there to translate it for them." They had time to peruse the menu and weren't nervous because they were standing in line and people behind them were urging them to move on! That was a big mistake. Looking back on it, I wonder how I could have been so obtuse!

At the time it didn't even occur to me but now I know that's [the key] to successful counter service places. My menu needed to be explained. People needed to sit, relax and look at the menu at their leisure.

When I first opened, the counter service people were asking for lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza... Pasta Carrabba... (laughs)

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Cloud 10 Creamery's New Summer Flavors Are Certainly Unique

Categories: Sweets

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
I'm sorry, what? Tomato?
Ever since last September, I eagerly await the change of seasons in Houston, not because I'm waiting for that first cold front of the year (which right now feels like it may never come), but because each new season brings a new round of ice cream flavors at Cloud 10 Creamery.

The gourmet ice cream parlor in Rice Village has been churning out delectable and sometimes head-scratching flavors under the guidance of pastry chef Chris Leung. Leung is known for infusing Asian elements into his ice cream, resulting in combos like hazelnut-miso or the spring sundae, which featured red currant mascarpone ice cream and a green matcha cake.

A couple of weeks ago, Cloud 10 Creamery introduced us to the new summer flavors, and while not all were available when I swung by, those that were are pretty impressive.

Tomato ice cream, anyone?

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The 5 Best Brunch Spots in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

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Photo by John Kiely
The tortillas alone are worth the trip to our No. 5 spot.
In Houston, we're pretty serious about our brunch. Whether it be migas and breakfast tacos or chicken and waffles and loaded Bloody Marys, we have no shortage of awesome spots to get our brunch on. Keeping later hours and killer cocktails in mind, we'll be taking a look at some of our favorite spots around town. See the complete list at the end of this post.

This week, we're moving we're moving just outside the loop to the neighborhoods of Garden Oaks and Oak Forest.

Note: For purposes of this post, Garden Oaks / Oak Forest is defined as north of Loop 610, east of Highway 290, south of Tidwell and west of Yale.

Honorable Mention: Biskit Junkie, even though it hasn't opened yet, because we're just too excited about the possibilities! And Rainbow Lodge, which is just outside the borders, but worth the short ride inside the loop.

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