Fish On Friday: It's A Good Thing

Categories: Lunch

Photos by John Kiely
Doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice to have this for lunch.

It's a cinch to give up meat for Lent on the seafood-abundant Gulf Coast. But I grew up in the landlocked Midwest, and during the weeks leading up to Easter my parents had a fondness for baked haddock, one of the fishiest-tasting fish I know. I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese.

When I balked, my parents told me I was lucky, as they abstained from meat every Friday of the year when they were young. That threw me, as I'd always thought it of a give-up-stuff-for-Lent sort of thing, a question of sacrifice and spiritual discipline. So, why did the rule change, and where did the practice originate?

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BB Donuts' Croissant Burger Might Be the Best Burger Value in Houston

Categories: Food Nation, Lunch

Photo by Nath Pizzolatto
The website still calls it "BB Donuts," but the sign just added an ampersand to make it "B&B". Either way, they make a delicious croissant.

In a strip mall on Westheimer near Taft, nestled between a dry cleaner and a Chartway Credit Union branch, you can find BB (or B&B) Donuts. Not to be confused with BB's, this eclectic breakfast and lunch spot offers a wide range of options, from kolaches and donuts, to the sublime breakfast croissants, to lunch options from hamburgers to Vietnamese sandwiches and fried rice.

I discovered BB Donuts in 2013 on a recommendation from a friend. We recently went there for lunch to have a croissant burger, which for my money is one of the best lunch deals in town.

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¡Ay Chihuahua! The Right Cheese for a Quesadilla

Categories: Lunch

Photos by John Kiely
There's something special about La Mexicana's quesadillas.

The quesadilla from La Mexicana restaurant completely changed my mind about that menu item. Normally, a quesadilla is like its American grilled-cheese-sandwich counterpart -- warm, gooey, comforting and something easily made well at home.

However, La Mexicana's version has a distinctive tangy white cheese, and I was entirely unable to make a similar one using store-bought "quesadilla" cheese. So I asked a longtime server what kind of cheese they used at the restaurant.

"It's Chihuahua cheese, and it comes here from Mexico," he informed me. I'd never heard of it before, so I investigated.

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Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Chinatown

Photo by Groovehouse
The crispy whole catfish at our No. 4 spot is topped with fried pork skin. Need we say more?
We've been rounding up our favorite budget lunch spots in different neighborhoods around town (See the complete list at the end of the post).

This week, we're moving to the dining mecca that is Chinatown. With its huge number of incredible and authentic restaurants -- from family favorites like Fung's Kitchen to younger, hipper joints like Mala Sichuan Bistro (where you'll want to spend more than $10) -- it was hard to narrow the list down. But, of course, we did.

With a focus on fantastic cuisine and even more fantastic prices, here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:

Honorable mention: Chicken pho at Pho Ga Dakao and Pho Thai Binh (for dry pho), the two lobster special at Confucius Seafood, sushi lunch specials at Sushi Miyagi.

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Filling the Gaps: Backstreet Café

Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
I had to put the beignets in the background, as my wife had already started attacking them.
I've lived in Houston for 22 years. It took me 16 of those to visit the Rothko Chapel for the first time. I didn't eat at Ninfa's on Navigation until I'd counted myself a Houstonian for nearly a decade. I still haven't eaten at Frenchy's. The list of glaring omissions goes on and on. Before you boot me from the city for civic negligence, or at least refuse to continue allowing me to write about Houston food, let me assure you that 2014 is the year I start fixing this problem. I'm making a list of places. Places I should have been by now. Places even I can't believe I haven't visited. This is the year I get (re)acquainted with my city. Maybe you'll find a few from your own list in these posts. And, I encourage you to follow suit.

I've driven past Backstreet Café more times than I can count. Each time, I would comment to myself or others, "We really need to go there sometime." We never did. It's hard to pin down exactly why. On a recent, semi-surprise Monday off I decided to change that.

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Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Clear Lake

Photo by Dawn M. Simmons
Expect spiced lamb and authentic tandoori chicken at our No. 5 pick.
We've been rounding up our favorite budget lunch spots in different neighborhoods around town (See the complete list at the end of the post).

This week, we're moving toward the shores to the Clear Lake/NASA area. With plenty of old-time favorites and a couple of newer spots in the mix, here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:

Honorable Mention: Soups and sliders at Seabrook Classic Cafe and large-enough-to-split wood-fired pizzas at Boondoggles.

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A Surprisingly Darn Good Lunch at Little Woodrow's

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
The cafeteria-style trays are perfect for their Texas-sized burgers and sandwiches.
When I think of a sports bar, I think of beer and carelessly made, cookie-cutter versions of fried food. So when I went to the newest Little Woodrow's, which is on Shepherd, to watch some Sunday football with a group of friends, I wasn't planning to eat lunch. That is, until my girlfriend told me I may want to rethink that.

Sure, they have your typical sports bar fare, including wings, nachos, and fried pickles. But they also have pork ribs tossed in a sweet Asian chili sauce, housemade Texas chili, and panko-crusted portobello mushrooms.

And I can assure you that the food here, whether it's typical or not, is pretty darn good.

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Sleepy's Roast Beef Po-Boy: How Does One Eat This Great Sandwich?

Categories: Lunch

Photos by John Kiely
This sandwich is difficult, but it is awesome.

Main Street near the South Loop looked as rundown as the nearby Astrodome, until Reliant Stadium was built. The street's pavement was refurbished, new businesses went in, and the fast-food joints have nearly all been remodeled.

Recently, even the semi-abandoned shopping center at Buffalo Speedway (which is packed with the cars of Carrington's Sports Bar patrons every weekend night) got a facelift and a pave job. A small restaurant space, which once housed the first hamburger outpost of Ricky Craig's Hubcap Grille and its worthy successor, The Hamburger Kid, got a steady new tenant--Sleepy's Po-Boy. It advertises the Hot Roast Beef on the window, so I guessed that's what they are famous for.

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Cheap & Good Eats: Top 5 Budget Lunch Spots in Lazybrook/Timbergrove

Photo by Kevin Shalin
Don't be fooled by the plastic wrap; the sandwiches at our No. 5 pick are supreme.
We've been rounding up our favorite budget lunch spots in different neighborhoods around town. (See the complete list at the end of the post.)

This week, we're moving just west of the Heights proper to the adjoining neighborhoods of Lazybrook and Timbergrove Manor. Here's our list of the best cheap (less than $10) lunch spots that this area has to offer:

Note: The boundaries for this list are as seen on this map.

Honorable Mention: Po-boys with chow-chow at Antone's Po-Boys.

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Sesame Hut: This Korean Beef Is Cheap, and It Is Delicious

Categories: Lunch

Photos by John Kiely
The onion rings are a great touch.

Northwest Mall has seen better years, as the Macy's wing has no Macy's, and the Antique Center of Texas (Hey look, cool old stuff for sale in a mall) anchors the other wing. However, the place still thrives as a bazaar of interesting one-off stores, offices and clubs, and the food court has several good places at which to eat.

The standout food stall, with a steady stream of lunchtime customers, is Sesame Hut. It serves typical mall Chinese fare, and the employees will ask you to sample their spicy chicken, but what Sesame Hut is famous for -- especially to guests from the gleaming HISD headquarters across the street -- is the Bulgoki Korean Beef.

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