We were excited to hear about new restaurant projects from Johnny Carrabba, a scion of the famed Mandola restaurant family, and founder of one of Houston's great Italian spots, Carrabba's.
So on a recent weeknight, we met friends before a concert for a meal at Mia's Table, the new fast casual comfort food concept from Carrabba. Mia's is named after his daughter, a charming tradition that continues with his other new spot, Grace's, named after his grandmother.
Mia's is a casual, inviting space, reminiscent of an older (but meticulously maintained) Hill Country home. Patrons order at the counter, and are presented with an eclectic menu of Texas comfort food: Sandwiches, tacos, burgers, and an assortment of fried entrees, from chicken to chicken-fried steak to fried shrimp and snapper. We ordered at the counter from a helpful and friendly teenaged staff member, and were off to find our seats.
The sprawling dining room was filled with families and small groups enjoying an early dinner; the organizer of our gathering had reserved a semi-private space in the rear, away from the hustle and bustle. The room had a distinct energy; patrons were enjoying their meals, laughing, and seemed to be in a boisterous mood. Mia's is not the spot for a quiet, intimate dinner, but it's a great place to hang out with friends and family.
Our food arrived shortly.
No one will be surprised that we had to sample Mia's cheeseburger, an interesting architectural diversion from this classic American staple. The de rigeur beef patty, slightly melted cheese, and fresh veggies were placed on a distinctly oval bun - the two patties were essentially side-by-side, instead of stacked. This is an unusual arrangement, and resulted in a lot more bun than we prefer; we were essentially eating two smallish burgers instead of one big one. The patty was cooked medium well and was slightly dry; the veggies were fresh, and the bun had a nice texture but very little flavor.
All in all, a solid burger, but not one we'd go out of our way to order again.
Next up was the Chicken Fried Chicken, a generous chicken breast breaded in the style of a chicken fried steak (the more traditional Southern Fried Chicken is also available) and topped with cream gravy seasoned with bits of jalapeño.
This dish was a winner - moist, juicy, well-breaded chicken, with a nice peppery kick, accented by just enough cream gravy and a mild jalapeño burn. Balance was the word that came to mind with the chicken; good balance between the meat and the crust, good balance between the fresh chicken flavor, the creamy gravy, and the spicy counterpoints.
Sides were a mixed bag. Mashed potatoes were very good; creamy, smooth, with just enough pepper to be interesting. Green beans were uninspired, limp, and lacking in flavor.
All in all, Mia's is a nice addition to the Kirby restaurant scene. It's a great spot for families and groups looking for a quick bit of Texas-style comfort food in an upscale but casual setting.
We'll be back.
Mia's Kitchen | 3131 Argonne Street | Houston, Texas 77098 | 713-522-6427 | miastable.com
As our readers know, Houston's vibrant food scene isn't limited to Tex-Mex, BBQ, and burgers. As our nation's most multicultural city, dining options span the list from African to Vietnamese, with pretty much everything in between.
And Vietnamese is a big deal here. Houston is home to one of the nation's largest Vietnamese communities, and these immigrants have brought the delicious foods of their culture along with them. Vietnamese restaurants thrive in Houston, and range from tiny mom-and-pop pho shops to thriving local chains like Kim Son.
Imagine our surprise when we got a note from Houston's home-grown upscale burger empire, Beck's Prime, talking about the Banh Mi sandwich they were adding to their menu. We received a generous invitation to visit any of the Beck's locations and sample this interesting new offering (along with a couple of others).
Burgers and Banh Mi. If that's not 21st century Houston casual dining, I don't know what is. But we had to wonder how good a Beck's Prime banh mi would be. To determine that, we put together a crack tasting team and ventured over to the Woodands' own Beck's Prime location.
Befitting this multicultural offering was our multicultural team, consisting of your humble editor and real estate guru / celebrity foodie Huy Dang, the man behind the stunning @uberbites
Instagram account. His knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine far exceeds mine, and he has a very keen palate. He's also a sharp dresser, adding a badly needed touch of class to our dining party.
On a blustery February at noon we converged on Beck's Prime on Grogan's Mill in the Woodlands, skillfully avoiding the road construction that rendered the parking lot all but inaccessible. Even with the construction Beck's was doing a strong lunch business. Woodlands residents know their burgers, and Beck's are among the best. But we weren't here for the burgers.
Beck's staff demonstrated their usual flawless hospitality, and we ordered and grabbed a table. In short order the food came out. Front and center was the new banh mi.
|Banh Mi at Beck's Prime
No, this is not your Aunt Thuy's banh mi. The traditional french loaf is replaced with one of Beck's signature egg buns, the fatty mystery pork usually found has been replaced with lean, chargrilled, generously-sliced pork sirloin, and the vegetables were crispy, very fresh, and freshly cut.
Biting into the sandwich revealed the bright, sharp flavor profile that defines the best banh mi. But the textures were very different. The rich egg bun didn't have the traditional chewy mouthfeel of french bread. The pork flavor was more prominent than in a more pedestrian banh mi, and a gentle kick of sriracha brought a garlicky heat to the sharp tang of the onions, cilantro, and jalapeño.
The result is a very good sandwich, although it's far from a traditional banh mi. Huy confirmed that Beck's had altered the traditional components, but he approved of the result, and nary a scrap of banh mi was to be found on either of our plates at the conclusion of the meal.
The second offering we sampled was another new pork sandwich from Beck's: Hickory Prime Pork. A far more traditional sandwich, it included the excellent sliced pork sirloin, pickles, onions, and Beck's house made hickory BBQ sauce.
This riff on the classic BBQ pork sandwich was much more traditional. The hickory BBQ sauce accented the rich pork flavor, and the classic pickle/onion accoutrements made for a very familiar sandwich. Our only beef (no pun intended) with this sandwich was the mildness of the sauce - a smidgen more heat (or a lot more heat, if you prefer weapons-grade sauces as Huy does) would bring this good sandwich to the next level.
All in all we were impressed by these new offerings from Beck's Prime. Over the years Beck's has offered not only some of the city's best burgers, but also very good non-burger offerings for those who weren't in the mood for mesquite-grilled ground beef. These new items continue that winning formula, and we predict that they'll both be popular all across Houston.
Beck's Prime | Locations all around town