Let’s Dish. Or Not.

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I wanted to love this restaurant. I really did. But I just didn’t and here’s why.

Ever since my days in Toronto when I ate brunch as often as humanly possible at Lady Marmalade, I have been searching for a brunch spot in Houston that was even marginally as awesome, but without any luck. In fact, I was SURE I had blogged about the other-worldliness of Lady Marmalade’s eggs bennys on my beloved Canadian blog, but after a quick search, my blog tells me I’ve only made very brief mentions of it. I guess I’ve just been chatting with people about it IRL. Imagine that. No matter, though. Just know that Lady Marmalade’s mango and bacon eggs benedict was literally the only food group I ate for weekend brunch for nearly three years — I stood in line outside their teeny tiny digs in snow, ice, blizzards, thunder snow, heat waves, humidity1, and every other kind of weather situation just to have the mango eggs benny. I don’t know if this says more about me or the dish, but I’m going with the latter.

I first learned about Houston’s newest brunch spot on Instagram. My fingers nearly caught fire from googling it so fast. I liked the concept of Dish Society. I read a couple of articles about it and it sounded like the owner/proprietor had done his homework around what people, specifically Texans, wanted in their comfort food, so I had high hopes.

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First of all, Dish Society is on the ground level of an apartment complex. This is not uncommon in “walking” cities like New York, Chicago, and Toronto, where there were three restaurants in the bottom of my building. But as we all know, Houston is anything but a walking city (did I tell you about the time my friend drove from the Chick-fil-a at Richmond and 610 to a new parking spot at Best Buy at Richmond and 610?), so it felt odd to park in the parking garage of an apartment complex and enter the restaurant through the complex’s atrium area. The nice part about that, though, is that there is plenty of parking which is one of my main complaints about so many restaurants in Houston.

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Once inside, the build out is open and airy. Its look-and-feel is like so many other trendy farm-to-table restaurants — lots of concrete and metal finishes. And, my biggest restaurant pet peeve also makes an appearance at Dish Society in the form of lightweight aluminum chairs. I HATE THOSE CHAIRS! Granted, they are only used outside, but that is where I ate because there was no room inside. My other favorite brunch spot, Adair Kitchen, uses them too, and I re-loathe them every time I go. Those chairs are so cold and hard that I want to eat and leave as quickly as possible. Sidebar: obvs, not every one feels this way because every time I eat at Adair, we have to stand in the back and wait for people to stop their incessant chatting and GET UP SO THOSE OF US WHO HAVEN’T EATEN CAN SIT DOWN. But I digress. I just can’t imagine how a restaurant owner can test chairs and settle on those cold chairs? How can they say “ooooh, I like this one! It’s warm and inviting and comfortable!” They are anything but. So I was disappointed when I saw them repeated at Dish Society.

I fully acknowledge that these things are my own personal issues. It may not bother anyone else that they have to sit on those ding dang cold, hard chairs in their shorts they’ll end up wearing nine months out of the year in Houston’s godforsken heat after they’ve had to park in an apartment complex parking garage! Clearly, I have specific environmental needs when it comes to dining out that not everyone may have. I GET IT! But this is my blog and five — FIVE — of my readers demanded I write this review and what my readers want, my readers get. Please and thank you.

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Let’s move on to the reason we all go out anyway — le cuisine. I wanted to compare the breakfast I normally get at Adair to Dish, so I ordered migas and (tried to order) a bowl of granola and milk. Their menu referenced “house granola” as an oatmeal topping, so I asked if I could get it in a bowl with milk. Yes, they are newly open, but you would have thought I had asked if they could send me to the moon and back. Good lord, it was tough. The manager even had to come over to enter it into their system.

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The food was cold when it got to me. This was good for the granola and milk, but bad for the eggs. I am an adventurous eater, but I like my food to be temperature appropriate. I hate cold food that should be hot; hot food that should be cold; and, most of all, lukewarm food. Yuck. The migas were bland, although the salsa was tasty. In fact, I should have just gotten a bowl of salsa. The granola, which is pretty hard to mess up, was terrible. I kept chewing it trying to figure out what it was, but the best way I can describe it is that it was overly seedy and kind of overcooked. You know how overcooked pieces of rice get really hard and almost breaks your tooth? That’s how the granola was — as if I kept biting into rocks. The flavor was very date-ish2 and there were no chunks at all. I personally prefer chunky granola. I didn’t finish the bowl and I usually always finish a bowl of granola. #wompwomp

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The Cliff’s Notes version of what I liked about Dish Society are:

  • the yellow and white gingham shirts worn by the staff
  • and how said shirts matched the yellow coffee cups and yellow painted bar. Definitely a cheery touch.
  • they serve Maine Root soda. I like to mix the Mexican Diet Cola with the Mexican Cola and off to Heaven I go.
  • free wi-fi!

The Cliff’s Notes version of what I didn’t like about Dish Society are:

  • pretty much everything else.

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I really wanted to like this place. I really wanted a new place to meet my girlfriends for brunch! But it was not to be…at least in week one. I will go back  because I am a helper and a lover, and I want Houston to have great brunch places! I am crossing my fingers and toes and legs and eyes that they do make some quick improvements. Quickly.

1Yes, Toronto has humidity. And tons of it, too. #lotsofbadhairdays

2The things you eat, not the things you go on.

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Dish. Or Not.

  1. Hi Carmen,

    First of all, thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive write up on Dish Society. Second, I’m sorry you had such a horrible experience. I have a few questions that would help me pinpoint some of the issues in question. First, what was the date and approximate time of your visit? We’ve only been open for 6 weeks and we quite honestly really struggled with brunch for the firs few weeks. So it wouldn’t surprise me if you had a less than stellar experience during that time. Since then, I feel like we’ve made some improvements, but we serve about 400 people for a typical brunch, so not everything is going to be on point for everyone. I’m not making excuses; I’m trying to find the root of the problem so it can be addressed. You said in your post “at least not in week one,” did you in fact come during our first week?

    Next, it seems as though, other than your eggs being cold and nothing to write home about, all of your other knocks on us were mostly deviations from your personal preferences. Am I far off on that observation? In regards to the location, we didn’t choose this location because of the “walkability,” we chose it because it’s a damn good location. We have over 100 dedicated reatial covered parking spaces, which I thought would be a plus given no direct sun and completely out of the elements. It’s actually quite a bit cooler in the summer time than an ordinary parking lot, as is our rear patio. Having a captive audience living an elevator away is a bonus as well.

    I would agree with you on the overuse of the aluminum chair. Fact is, building a restaurant is expensive and we were able to pick those suckers up for $23 a piece at an auction. I can’t afford to spend $200 a piece on decent patio chairs ($14,000.00)…at least not yet. Additionally, it’s very hard to find nice looking, sturdy, reasonable priced restaurant patio furniture, which is why I’m assuming a lot of restaurants use them.

    As far as the granola goes, we make it ourselves, and quite frankly the only thing we use it for is as a topping option for our oatmeal…because no one orders the power breakfast. You’re the only person to ever request it by itself, which is where the confusion came in with the staff etc. Making granola can be expensive and time consuming, so for what we use it for, ours serves its purpose. I don’t necessarily find it fair to be criticized on an off the menu item that you custom ordered, thats purpose is to supplement one or two rarely ordered dishes (oatmeal, power breakfast).

    Again, not sure when you came in, but if it was early on, we didn’t have a food warmer on our expo station, which could have accounted for your luke warm migas. If it was recently, there’s really no excuse and I apologize. We’ve also nearly doubled our staff since opening, so we’re constantly training new folks on how we do things, which has obviously led to some inconsistencies.

    Once more, I appreciate the time you invested in the review and hope you will return to give us another shot. I take pride in our menu, and when executed properly, would put it up against anyone’s in town.

    Cheers,

    Aaron

    • Hi Aaron! Thanks for your comment! I’d be happy to give you some specifics, as we need great food with cool concepts like yours. I have been twice now — the first was Feb. 23 around noon (I think the weekend after your opening?) and this past Saturday, March 1 at 11 am. I acknowledged that most of my issues were preferences, save the egg temp. I wish the granola was chunkier/syrupier (if that’s a word) because I’m a granola junkie, but it is what it is. I was going to write a post on my second visit, but will give you the 411 here. I sat inside this time and liked it much better. I had the sweet potato hash with wheat toast my second time around. The hash was cool, although not cold. It was definitely not hot. The avocado sauce was very good. The toast wasn’t buttered, which is fine, so I had to ask for some butter and when I got it, it was very, very cold; the toast was not hot and the very cold butter made it unspreadable. I ate it in chunks on my toast. The toast itself was delicious! I loved it. As I said in my post, I’ll be back, but will probably try lunch or dinner next time.Thanks so much for your time!

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