We've been hearing the buzz about Little Bigs, the burger shack from Bryan Caswell, the mastermind behind the hot midtown spot Reef. They recently extended their hours to include lunch, so we stopped in to check 'em out.
Little Bigs is located in the old Ming's location on Montrose near Westheimer. They've really brightened up the place, sprucing up the deck and installing a bunch of large picnic tables. Indoor seating is limited and packed in tightly; if you dine inside on a busy day, you'll be making new friends.
Ordering is a snap: Choose between three varieties of sliders: Beef, chicken, or mushroom. Add some fries, and your choice of beverage, including shakes and a variety of alcoholic options. Then wait. And if they're busy, the wait can be 15-20 minutes, as it was for us this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Our name was called, and we went to claim our sliders.
We had been disappointed with the beef sliders at Reef, but the ones served here at Little Bigs were a revelation. Cooked medium well, the mini-burgers remained deliciously juicy, with just the right amount of ooze. Grilled onions perched atop the beef, and a bit of American cheese formed the perfect finale. The whole assembly is perched atop a small yeasty roll, and the result is Slider Nirvana.
We also sampled the chicken slider: A crispy fried piece of chicken breast, seasoned with Cajun spices, served atop the same yeasty rolls. Tasty, but they play second fiddle to the superb beef sliders. (We didn't try the mushroom option.)
Chef Caswell has a winner in Little Bigs. We look forward to watching this mini-burger empire spread across Houston; a second location in Hermann park is already in the works.
We're not sure if they're actually food, but we love Jack in the Box tacos. And now Jack is returning the love, offering a coupon for two free tacos next Tuesday, February 24th.
It's part of their "Save Jack" marketing campaign. We do hope Jack gets better, but if his recovery means free tacos, we hope it's a very long, protracted process.
Foodies in Houston are lucky to have so many interesting food blogs to read. We've found another great one - HoustonWok. The blog focuses on dining in and around Southwest Houston, with an emphasis on Asian cuisine. We particularly enjoy the original photography that peppers the posts.
If you're heading into New Chinatown for a culinary adventure, a brief perusal of HoustonWok would be time well spent.
The Texas Restaurant Association, a long-time smoking ban opponent, is now supporting a ban. The TRA's board of directors voted to formally support the measure.
Restaurant owners have long been opposed to smoking bans, due to the perception of a decrease in business. But many association members have changed their minds because individual city bans have created a statewide patchwork of legislation.
In a poll of group members two years ago, the majority were in favor of a ban that leveled the playing field.
The bills (House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 544) would ban smoking in public places statewide, including restaurants, bars, shopping malls and sports arenas.
More from the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
Brian Caswell, the chef and owner of Reef and Little Bigs, has created a blog. In his words
"The food, cooking and coastal culture of the South are just a natural part of who and how I am as a person, chef and restaurateur. Whole Fish gives me a chance to do what I do best…show off: to brag about my hometown -- Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast area -- as the best place in the world to live, work and eat."
Here's a fun exercise for the devoted foodie.
Here’s what you do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
10. Baba ghanoush
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
47. Chicken tikka masala
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% alcohol
60. Carob chips
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
79. Lapsang souchong
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
90. Criollo chocolate
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
Houston is a great city for Mexican food. From the humble taco truck to elegant fine dining establishments, Houston has the entire spectrum of Mexican food experiences covered. And everyone has their favorites.
We've been hearing buzz about a little place way out Westheimer, Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen. So we made the trek out to see what all the fuss is about.
Sylvia's has an unassuming strip center location, in an older strip center well beyond the Beltway. But don't be fooled by the modest exterior; open the door and you're transported to the border, where the nights are hot and the food is hotter.
Sylvia Casares is the name behind Sylvia's, and she was recognized as one of the top Latino chefs working in the United States by the Spanish-language magazine Siempre Mujer. She's brought the food from her native Lower Rio Grande Valley to Houston, and created dishes that span Anglo and Mexican culture. Those who view Tex-Mex cuisine as some sort of inferior stepchild to other Mexican cuisines need only to sample Sylvia's cooking to have the attitudes adjusted.
As with most Mexican establishments, you start with chips and salsa. Sylvia's chips are fresh and warm, and the salsa is a thin, housemade and savory. We had to remind ourselves to save room for the enchiladas.
As one would guess from the name, Sylvia's specialty is enchiladas, and there is a wide range to choose from -- no less than 18 different styles.
Sylvia helpfully offers two different sampler platters, each with four different petite enchiladas. For this first visit, we selected her North of the Border sampler.
First we sampled the Refugio - a basic cheese enchilada made with blended cheddar cheeses and topped with chili gravy. It was a good enchilada; smooth and spicy with a moderate amount of heat from the gravy.
Next came the Lubbock - a ground beef enchilada with Sylvia's Signature Gravy, a meatier take on regular chili gravy. Carnivores will love this enchilada; there is plenty of beef both inside and out, and the seasonings are masterfully balanced to provide heat that does not overpower.
Cheese enchiladas and beef enchiladas are Tex-Mex staples. After this things get creative.
We dove into the Laguna Madre - fresh crab enchiladas topped with a creamy seafood sauce. This delicious enchilada was stuffed with plenty of juicy lump crab meat, and the creamy sauce had a bit of a kick to it. If you're a seafood lover, this enchilada is one you can't miss.
Finally came the most unusual enchilada - the Sarita. A vegetarian enchilada filled with a combination of calabacita (summer squash) corn, and mild cheese, topped with a light cream sauce. The fresh flavor of the vegetables combined with the rich, savory cream sauce and the result was one of the best enchiladas we can remember tasting.
Sylvia's was busy on the night we visited, but service was professional, prompt and friendly. Prices are a touch higher than one might expect for Tex-Mex dishes, but we feel that the quality more than makes up for the extra $2-3 per plate.
All in all, we think that Sylvia's is one of Houston's best Mexican restaurants, and if you've not visited, you're missing out on a meal that any lover of Mexican food will enjoy.
Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen: 12637 Westheimer Road, Houston, 77077, 281-679-8300
Cue's Burgers & More is another blast-from-the-past restaurant located on S. Post Oak, the Street That Time Forgot.
Walk into the strip center location, and the feel is more of a small town cafe than a restaurant in a major metropolitan area. Cue's is the place where local social clubs meet, and where the police grab a bite during their shift.
Their burgers are pretty good, but not amazing. Thin machine-formed beef patty, griddled flat, and served on a generic bun with the usual topics. We had no luck getting them less than well done, so the ooze factor was factored out. But still a step or three ahead of what you'll find at a typical fast food chain.
Cue's offers a full breakfast menu, and a variety of other dishes. Best thing we've found there are the excellent pork chops - they're not huge, but they're nicely seasoned and flavorful.
If you're looking for a reasonably-priced meal in a very relaxed setting, you can do a lot worse than Cue's if you're on S. Post Oak.
Cue's Burgers & More: 10423 S Post Oak Rd, Houston, 77035, 713-726-0313
Eating Our Words, the Houston Press Food Blog, is a source that we read religiously, both for the solid information and the entertaining prose.
We were surprised and honored to be mentioned in this post, a listing of interesting Twitter feeds for foodies. And we were in some very impressive company.
Houston was not ignored when the list of James Beard Award semifinalists was announced by the James Beard Foundation.
Outstanding Restaurateur - Jim Goode and Levi Goode - Goode Company Restaurants
Best New Restaurant - Feast
Best Chef (Southwest) - Brian Caswell, Reef
Congratulations to all the nominees. The award ceremony is May 4 in New York City.