I can’t see myself ever living in Houston, but I surely don’t mind visiting. I spend most of my time down town and there’s always someplace tasty a quick Uber away.
I recently turned several of my co-workers on to Gyu-Kaku so just about every trip involves a meat coma after several courses of grilled meat followed up with beef tongue w/ green onions. That one is usually all mine, for some reason a lot of folks won’t try tongue….
Just down the street is Izakaya. They have a really good selection of Japanese liquor and sake (especially cup sake) and some really good small plates. You can’t go wrong starting off with the red pepper edamame, the fried chicken (karaage), and a large Asahi draught.
If you’re in this area it’s almost impossible not to stop at Spec’s and oogle the huge selection of wine, liquor, and beer. I can always come away with something new to smuggle back, usually from the huge gin and weird euro liqueur sections.
Heading way out East to La Porte you’ll come across Main101 , my favorite restaurant around that area. Their carbonara is to die for and adding the home made hot Italian sausage to the Pasta Eva is a revelation.
A couple more worthy mentions are Phoenicia with its huge selection of deli items, fresh food, and olive bar. If you’re after Mediterranean food and drink (including plenty of bagged teas, coffee, other drinks and treats and a killer fresh-made Turkish Delight) or just a light lunch it’s one of my favorite downtown choices. Irma’s Original on North Chenevert is a great spot for dinner and relaxing for a while. There’s no menu so you get to choose from just a couple of things prepared each day but you won’t miss the choice once you taste the food.
I came home tonight to settle in and relax. Picked up a book and turned on some music and before I realize it I’m listening to Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” as I land at the chapter in After Dark where Mari and Kaoru are sitting at the late night bar and the bartender puts on “Sophisticated Lady”. They muse that it is music for the middle of the night and it stands out to me.
Sophisticated Lady – That’s music for the middle of the night
Sophisticated Lady – Pouring out of a downstairs bar like wedges of light
that spill as someone else slips into the night
Sophisticated Lady- The tap of our shoes as we walk,
each one could hide the spark of a match in the alley,
or the crack of a shot down the street,
or even the snick of ol’ Mack’s knife as he leaves them cooling on the street
Sophisticated Lady – A hard rain won’t make you change your pace
In your world there’s nothing but hearts that race
Sophisticated Lady – The music starts to fade
and again I’m sitting on this bar stool alone and wide awake
Sophisticated Lady – I wonder if we’ll get a second take
Tonight, as on most Tuesday nights, I had dinner and a few drinks at the Bluegrass Kitchen and listened to Blue Yonder play some of their “acoustic honky-tonk Americana”. Tonight was a bit different, though. The boys are releasing a new album called Rough and Ready Heart full of John Lilly’s originals and tonight was the pre-release party with all of the regulars and an indie film crew in attendance.
I can’t go on without giving the restaurant its praise. I’ve been coming to BGK since it opened years ago and the owners, Keeley and Jon Steele, are some of the finest people I know and a true credit to the East End. The exposed brick and ’20s pressed-tin ceilings mix perfectly with the loads of local artwork for sale and random bits of kitsch. Not to imply it is all style and no substance, the everyday menu has some really stand-out options like the hot-brown club sandwich, the organic tofu ‘wings’, and the stellar pork chop and meat loaf dinners. I can’t comment on the weekly special menu (coincidentally released on Tuesdays) since it’s constantly changing, but suffice it to say there is always a mix of novel and hearty options that are sure to please anyone, vegan or omnivore. And the drinks….whether it is Nick and John working during the week, or Lauren and Jeffrie working brunch or the weekends, you are in for something special. It’s a true sit-down craft bar, not the usual downtown hole that calls itself a cocktail bar because someone can make an Old Fashioned.
BGK is a special place, and Blue Yonder a special band, because they both do their utmost to bring people together over great food and great music. You may be sitting beside a coal baron, an organic tofu maker, or the maintenance guy having dinner and a few beers after fixing the compressor in the beer cooler, but everyone at the bar and at every table is cut from the same local sound and local taste loving cloth. The meals are as heavy on locally grown produce as the songs are on locally grown lyrics and they play off of each other wonderfully. Everyone, no matter where they come from, is a “walker of the high ridges” stepping in and looking for their next ramp feed, taste of corn liquor, or set of songs that makes them think of home.
What John, Robert, and Will bring to the stage is not just virtuoso musicianship but a feel for the human condition that is lacking in so much music these days. They can take you from the top with “Beats Walkin'” or “Hey Bartender” to the bottom with “Lonely Hour” then kick off the introspection with “Memories of Moonlight and You” or “Four Leaf Clover”. Every triumph and every stark failure is right there in the open and each is as valid as the other in the grand scheme of life.
To all that I say, “Hey bartender! Pull one, pull two, pull three more glasses of beer!”