Middling Appetizers, Better Entrées at Polovina Italian Cafe

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Peppers Rios

On the never-ending restaurant row that is Washington Avenue, it is easy to overlook Polovina Italian Cafe with its generic facade and mini-strip mall locale. Or, perhaps, people do look at Polovina and are confused. The menu features many red sauce Italian-American classics like chicken marsala, fettuccine alfredo, and eggplant parmesan, but there's also outlier dishes like cannelloni stuffed with chicken and vegetables and "straw and hay" (egg and spinach fettuccine tossed with mushrooms and peas in a cream sauce), which seem more adventurous if not more "authentic" Italian. Other parts of the menu suggest an over-eagerness to cater to broader palates. The build-your-own pizza section, for example, offers unconventional toppings such as avocado, crawfish, and shrimp, and the array of "signature" pastas are available in wheat, gluten-free, and spinach forms.

The latter offering particularly suggests a willingness to accommodate children and adults with special dining needs and in combination with the very casual opening dining space, initially leads you to conclude, "Okay, this is a place where I can take the whole family, even gluten-intolerant little Timmy and Mediterranean food-loathing Uncle Ralph."

But then there's the heavily advertised daily drink specials, which make you wonder if Tuesday, "Bourbon Night $3," is the best time to take the pee-wee football team for a post-game supper.

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Dish of the Week: Loco Moco

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Jeff Keyzer
This Hawaiian dish is the perfect way to use leftover rice.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're sharing a recipe for loco moco.

Loco moco is a Hawaiian dish typically consisting of white rice topped with hamburger patties, fried eggs, and gravy. Other variations use Spam, chili, bacon, teriyaki pork or chicken, shrimp, and oysters in place of ground beef.

The dish was created at a Hawaiian restaurant called the Lincoln Grill in 1949. The story goes that a group of local boys would hang out at the grill after playing football at the nearby park. Not able to afford anything, the boys requested that owner Nancy Inouye add hamburger meat and brown gravy to a bowl of rice. She charged them 25 cents and "loco moco" -- a name chosen by the boys -- was born. The fried egg was added some time later.

Today, the dish is popular all over the islands of the Pacific, largely because stick to your ribs kind of meal is incredibly cheap and it lends itself to a variety of flavors.

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First Look at eT Craft Burgers & Beer in Northwest Houston

Photos by Molly Dunn
Customize your own burger at eT Craft Burgers & Beer in Northwest Houston.
Fans of the mini double-patty burgers from eT Premium Grill in the tunnels below the JP Morgan Chase tower now have a larger location to frequent in Northwest Houston. eT Craft Burgers & Beer opened in Cypress on September 25 and features a much larger space than the restaurant downtown. It's a welcome addition to this expanding shopping center.

Right off the bat you will notice that the newest location has a different name than the original tunnel restaurant (eT Craft Burgers & Beer instead of eT Premium Grill) and that's because the 3,040-square foot establishment not only serves up juicy double-patty burgers with specialty fries, but it's also got a stellar lineup of local craft beers. Folks can fill up a growler to take home (eT Growler glass bottles cost $6 and each fill costs $16). Choices range from 8th Wonder Alternate Universe, Karbach Hopadillo, Buffalo Bayou 1836 Copper Ale and Saint Arnold Santo (as well as the brewery's root beer!), giving Cypress residents an excellent choice of local craft brews that they might not otherwise get at other restaurants in the area.

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Chris Loftis in as Executive Chef at Number 13 in Galveston

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Mai Pham
Chris Loftis is the new executive chef at Number 13 in Galveston.

Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood, the swanky waterfront restaurant overlooking Galveston island's Pelican Rest Marina, has named Chris Loftis as executive chef. Loftis, who joined Number 13 as part of their opening crew, had originally joined the restaurant as a sous chef when the restaurant opened in December. He was promoted to executive chef late July, and has slowly been revamping the menu since.

This is the first executive chef position for Loftis, whose resume includes being a part of the opening crew at Killen's Steakhouse under Ronnie Killen, as well as stints at Skyline at the Hilton Americas, The Foundation Room at House of Blues, Strata in Vintage Park, Sweetwater Country Club and at the now closed The Barbed Rose in Alvin, Texas.

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4 Ways to Make a Better Homemade Pizza

Categories: Recipes

Photo by Jeffreyw
Pictured: Pizza bliss.

Most people in this country love pizza. On any given day, 13 percent of the country's population eats the tasty Italian culinary treat in one form or another. Despite its European origin, it's difficult to imagine a time when pizza wasn't a major part of the American food scene.

Unsurprisingly, pizza entered this country with the enormous population of Italian immigrants who settled here in the early 1900s. Since the majority of those early immigrants were poor people from the southern part of Italy, pizza was originally a cheaply made peasant food created in their homes. Pizza's rise to dominance as an all-American comfort food was a slow one initially. When it moved from the kitchens of those Italian immigrants into eateries open to the public, pizza was still mostly available only in cities like New York and Chicago, where large numbers of those immigrants had settled. Even then, pizza was still almost exclusively viewed as a strange ethnic food, only eaten by poor people of Italian descent.

Many things changed in America after the end of World War II, and pizza was no exception. Returning soldiers who had been introduced to the joy of eating pizza while overseas in Europe wanted to enjoy the delicious treat stateside, and pizza places began springing up all over the country. By the late '50s and early '60s, giant chain restaurants like Pizza Hut and Domino's began to appear. While they spread far and wide, increasing exposure to pizza and creating total mainstream acceptance, they also steered their pizzas away from the traditional recipes into the fast food style pizzas that those chain places specialize in.

And don't get me wrong, I ate many a thin crust Pizza Hut supreme with a sixer of cheap beer when I was a struggling musician not too many years back, and I still enjoy the greasy, salty cheap culinary thrills that some of those fast food pies can provide from time to time. I'm no snob, I'll eat pizza in Rome and I'll eat it at Pink's in the Heights just as happily. And yes, every once in a while I'll eat a Pizza from Mr. Gatti's or another national chain, and I can like those, too.

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First Look at Moving Sidewalk

Categories: Bar Beat

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
The door that used to lead to Goro & Gun now leads into a quality cocktail bar.

The name of the new bar, Moving Sidewalk was inspired by a band that Billy Gibbons played in before ZZ Top. It's also a reference to the foot traffic to the area near Congress and Main. The area is officially bar-heavy now: The Original OKRA Charity Saloon, Bad News Bar, Little Dipper, The Pastry War and stalwarts Warren's and La Carafe are just a few of the others nearby. It's quite easy to pop into one, check out the scene, have a drink and then move on to the next one.

Yet, once you enter Moving Sidewalk, you might just decide to stay the rest of the evening. Gone is the Asian antique shop vibe of Goro & Gun with its taxidermy and toy robots. In their place are streamlined bar shelves and walls repainted in ocean blue. It's very dark inside, but it's also sexy--a much different environment than the casual intimacy of Little Dipper, the noisy bustle of Charity Saloon, the New Orleans-esque gentility of Bad News Bar or the colorful cantina flair at The Pastry War.

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The 5 Best Things to Eat or Drink This Weekend: Can You Complete The World's End Pub Crawl?

Categories: Edible Events

Photo by Troy Fields
King's Oktoberfest takes place this weekend.
5th Annual Galveston Island Shrimp Festival @ Saengerfest Park
Friday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
23rd and Strand, Galveston

Spend your weekend in Galveston at the
5th Annual Galveston Island Shrimp Festival. The weekend is filled with events and activities where you can sample shrimp creations, as during the Gumbo Stroll on Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. Walk around The Strand sampling gumbo from more than 80 teams; tickets cost $12 and include admission into the Gumbo Stroll as well as a tasting cup to sample all the gumbo your stomach can hold. Sunday includes a Pint Jockey's Sunday Funday Pub Crawl where you will visit four bars featuring a particular brewery. Pick up one playing card at each of the stops: Stuttgarden will feature Rahr & Sons; Board Game Island will have Southern Star; Murphy's Irish Pub will serve Karbach; and Brew's Brothers will have Saint Arnold. The last stop is at Saengerfest Park serving Ziengenbock.

King's Oktoberfest @ King's Biergarten & Restaurant
Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday noon to 9 p.m.
1329 E Broadway, Pearland

King's Biergarten and Restaurant will host its 4th Annual King's Oktoberfest this weekend filled with lots of German beers, food and dancing. General admission tickets cost $10 each day. Celebrate the Ceremonial Keg Tapping at 7 p.m. on Friday and sip on a selection of German beers throughout the whole weekend ($6 half-liters, $12 liters), such as Hofbrau's Oktoberfest, Dunkel and Hefeweizen, and a limited batch of Paulaner Oktoberfest. King's will also sell sausages, German pretzels, homemade sauerkraut and an eight-hour smoked pork loin. Participate in or watch the Bavarian Strongman Competition on Friday and Saturday held every hour from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. Don't forget to enter into the raffle for a chance to win an all-inclusive trip for two to the Oktoberfest 2015 in Munich, Germany.

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Upcoming Events: Bratoberfest at Hay Merchant

Categories: Edible Events

Photo by Julie Soefer
Get this bratwurst at The Hay Merchant during Bratoberfest.
The Hay Merchant will celebrate Oktoberfest, or as they like to call it "Bratoberfest," by serving a special bratwurst created by Underbelly's chef Chris Shepherd available now until October 5. Pair that slow-cooked bratwurst featuring hints of nutmeg and garlic topped with butter-braised onions all inside a pretzel bun with one of the many Oktoberfest beer selections at Hay Merchant. And don't forget to stop by to watch the Texans game! If our home team is winning, all local beers are half off.

While these two Houston Culinary Tours aren't until October 26 and November 16, the tickets go on sale Wednesday, October 1, at noon. Secure your spot at the Day of the Dead 2014 culinary tour led by chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo's and Caracol, and his brother, pastry chef Ruben Ortega; the tour departs from Central Market at 11 a.m. and includes tastings at each stop during the Dia de los Muertos educational journey. Tickets cost $180 per person. If you're a fan of BYOB restaurants, or are looking for some to try, purchase your $180 ticket to the BYOB 2014 culinary tour led by Backstreet Cafe's sommelier Sean Beck and Houston Wine Merchant's Antonio Gianola. The duo will take you to their favorite Houston BYOB restaurants, so bring a bottle of wine and enjoy delightful bites at each stop.

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Openings & Closings: There's a New Doner Kebap in Town

Categories: Restaurant News

Early in the morning on Tuesday, September 23, Spanky's Homemade Pizza's kitchen caught on fire, causing enough damage to close the 7210 South Loop East pizza shop. No one was injured during the fire and the owner plans to reopen Spanky's. The southeast Houston restaurant posted this statement on Facebook, "For over 35 years, we have been honored to serve great food and provide a family atmosphere to generations of Houstonians. A fire won't stop us from continuing to do what we do best. Our first priority now is taking care of our employees while we work on reopening the restaurant as soon as possible. Again, thank you for your support and concern."

The Houston Chronicle reports that Otilia's, located at 7710 Long Point, closed this week. The restaurant known for the slogan, "No Tex-Mex," had a vacate notice sign posted on the door effective August 31.

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Alison Cook's Top 100 Restaurants Revealed - Oxheart Takes First Place for the Third Year in a Row

Photo by Mai Pham
Alison Cook's 2014 Top 100 Restaurants book is available in single copy sales today. Copies will be sold at local stores in October as well.

Last night, Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook revealed her 2014 choices for the Top 100 Houston Restaurants. It was the first time since the list was first released in 2012 that she did it in a public forum, in this case, a sold-out walk around dining event called the Houston Chronicle Culinary Stars.

The event, held at the Hilton Americas downtown and benefitting Recipe for Success, featured wine tastings and samplings by 21 of Houston's top chefs, all of whom had a place on Cook's list.

One of the evening's highlights included Ronnie Killen's short rib topped with bonito flakes, a four-mushroom medley and finished off with a barbecue beef consomme. To make the incredibly rich, flavorful cuts of meat, Killen says he sous vide the short rib for 48 hours before barbecuing it for another six hours. Killen's BBQ, which received a four-star review from Cook this year, debuted at third place on Cook's list; his steakhouse came in at 22, dropping 14 spots.

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