Eat This: Summer Salad and Crawdads Biscuit at Punk's

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Crawdads Biscuit

The calendar says September, but it still feels like summer in Houston, so why not indulge in some warm-weather fare as long as it's on offer? See Punk's Simple Southern Food, where one of the best things on the current menu is the "Summer Salad." Although most patrons go to Punk's for the fried chicken (despite its high price tag), you will be just as satiated (in a different, less bloated way) by ordering this sweet, refreshing assemblage.

With a spinach and romaine lettuce, over-sized candied pecans, mandarin orange slices, strawberries and avocado bits all dressed in a strawberry poppyseed vinaigrette, the salad might verge on cloying if not for the earthy salt from the pecans and creamy botanical flavors of the avocado.

Ask for the dressing on the side to fully appreciate the salad's "naked" flavor, which is arguable as just as good plain as dressed. Also know that the Summer Salad is certainly enough for one at lunchtime but also great to split at dinner, especially as a precursor to richer dishes. And speaking of which...

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The 5 Best Happy Hours in the Galleria

Photo by Troy Fields
Recognize this bar? We'll give you a hint: free pizza.
If you love happy hour as much as we do, you'll love this new series. We're taking a look at the best happy hours in town, 'hood by 'hood. To narrow it down, we're focusing on the spots with the best deals on not only drinks, but eats, too. From upscale eateries serving bar bites and half-priced wine to dives with cheap beer and burgers, we've got it all. See the complete list at the end of this post

This week, we're moving on to the bar and restaurant packed 'hood around the Galleria.

Note: For purposes of this list, the Galleria is defined as anything west of Loop 610, south of Woodway, east of South Voss/Hillcroft and north of Richmond Avenue.

Honorable Mention: Craft cocktails and small plates at RDG Bar + Annie, fresh and bold Peruvian flavors at Latin Bites, and 7 for $7 at Table on Post Oak.

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Try These Seven Non-Burger Sliders in Houston

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
Little Big's does sliders right.
These days, there's way more to sliders than just burgers. And while we of course love the mini beefcakes, we're pretty excited to see some new kids on the block. From a breakfast treat to mini dogs, here are five new kinds of sliders to check out in Houston:

Chili Cheese Dog Sliders
Where to find them: Little Bigs

Little Big's has long been the king of sliders, offering the tiny sandwiches in burger, pulled pork, and fried chicken form. But last year, the almighty trio got an upgrade when the restaurant added Nathan's slider-sized hot dogs to the menu. They're almost too cute to eat....almost. We love them smothered in slow-cooked chili, shredded cheese, and jalapeños from the toppings bar.

Pancake Sliders
Where to find them: Union Kitchen

If breakfast appetizers aren't a thing that you participate in yet, they totally should be. UK proves that with these miniature pancake sandwiches, which get the royal treatment with a Canadian bacon, breakfast sausage, and fried egg filling. Share these with friends and thank us later.

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First Look at Pho & Crab Restaurant, a New Vietnamese Restaurant on Houston's West Side

Photo by Mai Pham
What do you order at a restaurant called "Pho & Crab?" Pho and crab.

Approaching from the west, the prominent signage of the one month old Pho & Crab Restaurant is easy to spot. The letters are in bold, the sign's black background pops, and, despite the neon brightness of the Ninfa's sign behind it (its neighbor), the words Pho & Crab Restaurant Vietnamese Cuisine stand out.

That's definitely going to be one of the restaurant's advantages. The fact that it's probably the only Vietnamese restaurant in the near vicinity of Memorial Drive and Dairy Ashford is another. If it's aiming to become the neighborhood Vietnamese hotspot, it's got a good chance, a fact that was underscored during a late Sunday evening visit, when the restaurant was lightly occupied by tables of different age groups and ethnicities.

Like most Vietnamese restaurants, the menu is fairly large, encompassing way more than just pho and crab (there are appetizers, rice plates, rice vermicelli dishes, wok entrees and curries), though it's probably a safe bet to start with those two dishes. We made sure to order both of these, getting a bowl of the "singed beef" pho on the recommendation of Andrew Tran, the general manager. We also ordered the tamarind dungeness crab (they also offer the king crab and soft shell crab, as well a salt and pepper flavor in lieu of the tamarind), a Vietnamese delicacy that is hard to master.

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Chicken Sandwich Chronicles: Jerrybuilt

Categories: Meat!, On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
This might taste better than the burger version.
Following a less-than-stellar experience with Smashburger's chicken sandwiches, advice poured in as to where better versions could be found.

Among those venues suggested was JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers, whose seasonal burgers, at least, have been impressive.

In fact, prior to the chicken sandwich tipoff, I had planned a trip to the restaurant to try their special September burgers designed by local food writers and bloggers as part of JerryBuilt's ambassador program.

Two chickens could be killed with one stone during this visit, however, as almost all the ambassador burgers can be made with a chicken breast rather than a beef patty.

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Charming Service and Terrific Takeout from Peru Cafe Express

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Papa Rellena
It's fine day in Houston when a diner has a choice of several good restaurants serving Peruvian food. Even finer is the fact that one of them, Peru Cafe Express, offers a super casual atmosphere, reasonable prices, takeout, and delivery. Lomo saltado and an Inca Cola delivered to your doorstep? Yes, please.

The Cafe is wedged in a Greenway strip mall, and therefore easily overlooked in favor of other flashier roadside establishments such as Fuddrucker's. Its interior consists of a container, about six small tables, and framed pictures of Peruvian tourist sites such as Machu Picchu.

To facilitate ordering for those completely ignorant of Peruvian cuisine, there is a menu entirely of pictures, which the gentle, soft-spoken owner will offer you without the slightest hint of condescension. By the way, he will also bring you water and several magazines to read while you wait for your takeout.

Not that you'll need some reading material to pass the time.

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Eat This: Dry-Style Beef Chow Fun at House of Bowls

Photo by Mai Pham
House of Bowl's dry-style beef chow fun is hearty, inexpensive and delicious.

Driving on Bellaire Boulevard to get to the majority of Chinatown eateries has been a challenge for some time now. The construction on Bellaire Boulevard in areas with the densest concentration of good eats has been ongoing mercilessly for at least a year, and traffic, not to mention safety issues arise for those planning to venture to this part of town.

The hardest restaurants to reach are the ones where there is no stop sign or signal, requiring cars to stop traffic in order to turn left or right to reach the parking lots housing the restaurants. Enter House of Bowls, located off the main Bellaire drag in a small strip mall on Corporate Drive. Reaching the restaurant is relatively easy because there's a lighted signal onto Corporate, and then navigation into the parking lot is a cinch.

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Peak Season: Five Standout Apple Dishes in Houston

Photo by Catrin Austin
We're more than happy to eat an apple a day with these stellar treats.
Crisp, juicy apples are in season through the end of November, so now's the time to get your fall apple gorging on. From a salted caramel apple cupcake to a poached-apple salad, here are Five Must Try Apple Dishes:

What: Triple Apple Bacon Pizza
Where: Brasil

Why wouldn't you want crisp bacon and apples on your pizza? You would. Because the sweet and salty combination is magic. A bit of fried sage, garlic oil, and mozzarella won't hurt either. Get it all on one pie at this charming neighborhood café.

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Beyond Dumplings at Auntie Chang's

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Go for the dumplings, stay for the egg foo young.

Auntie Chang's Dumpling House is one of the best inner-loop Chinese(-American) restaurants and their namesake specials are very good. Skip the pan-fried pork, similar versions of which can easily be found elsewhere, and focus instead on the delicate steamed shrimp dumplings, whose diaphanous dough casing houses plump, perfectly cooked prawns. Also praiseworthy are the steamed vegetable dumplings, the interior of which tastes much fresher and less limp than other garden-variety (pun intended) veggie dumplings available at mediocre establishments.

And while it's tempting to let dumplings dominate your order, the restaurant also boasts a terrific version of the formidable Sino-Western classic, egg foo young. This entree finds its origins in colonial cuisine of nineteenth-century Shanghai, where Western expat demand for omelets collided with cooked egg dishes already extant in in Asian cooking to produce a fusion ova pancake of protein and vegetables.

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Eat This: Parrilla Mixta at Sal y Pimienta

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Mai Pham
If there's one thing you should order at Sal y Pimienta, it's the parilla mixta.

Tucked away in a quiet corner of CityCentre next to The Tasting Room and across from the much more grandiose Texas de Brazil is Sal y Pimienta. A new project by Gianfranco Percovich (one of the original founders of Tango and Malbec) the restaurant opened this past May, offering South American cuisine.

Percovich, who comes from Uruguay, has created a restaurant in the spirit of the many South American parrillas (grills), essentially the South American equivalent to a steakhouse. To that end, guests who plan to indulge in meat are presented with a huge tray laid out with all manner of meat cuts. A few of the cuts on offer the night we were there included: Uruguayan grass-fed, Australian grass-fed, Niman ranch dry-aged tomahawk long bone-in ribeye, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, pork chops, American Kobe short ribs, Niman ranch ribeye, filet mignon, water buffalo, and more.

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