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.

My Favorite Meal of the Week

The brunch board at Tiny’s

Here’s the scene: you go out on Saturday night, binge on vodka sodas, slink home at 3 a.m., sleep off your hangover late, wake up, and go to brunch. Brunch is simply genius. It lets you take a few hours out from the everyday hundrum of life, chill at some cool little restaurant,  talk about the food, read the NY Times, have a drink, and catch up with friends. It may be loud, but it’s low-key.

In Toronto, brunch was an institution. I met friends at Lady Marmalade — my absolute FAVORITE brunch spot on the planet — nearly every single Sunday I lived in TO. Nothing on earth is as tasty as their cheddar and mango eggs bennie — nothing. I think Houston’s brunch scene is catching up to other big brunch cities and while brunch here may not yet be an institution, I’d definitely at least call it a statement; an opportunity. That notwithstanding, I have a few Houston brunch favorites including, but not limited to, the Migas at Tiny Boxwoods and the Fried Egg Sammie at Max’s Wine Dive. Yes, please!

Here are a few reasons why I basically want to marry brunch and have its first born child:

1) Combining foods normally served after noon with foods normally served at breakfast is my idea of a damn good time. 

2) Brunch is the one meal a week that lets me lollygag around and lie in bed for hours watching Sopranos re-runs while still ensuring I get to eat all my favorite breakfast foods. Which brings me to #3…

3) The vast array of foods you can eat at brunch that you probably wouldn’t eat on a normal day. For example, you can dump eggs and salsa down your groaning GI tract. Or you can wolf down pancakes, waffles and french toast to soak up all the liquor acids still in your belly, or more specifically the Reese’s Pancakes at Frank’s in Baton Rouge, the Pecan Waffle at Goode Co. Taqueria, and the Creme Brulee French Toast at Max’s Wine Dive. Dear god yes.

4) Brunch is the perfect excuse to day drink. Not that I normally need an excuse, but swilling a carafe (or three) of an alcoholic beverage at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday without any judgment is that for which I live. “Why yes, we’d like another round, please.”

Fried Egg Sammie at Max’s Wine Dive

5) Brunch is the one time of the week my friends and I can get together to discuss the haps and/or the gong show that was “about last night”. Basically, we gossip about boys, unless boys are present in which case we gossip about girls.

6) Brunch sets up the day for the perfect Sunday afternoon nap, while still giving you enough time to get your afternoon errands done. Full by 2 p.m., a nap until 3:30 p.m., and Nordstrom by 4 p.m.

7) But my most favorite thing about brunch can be summed up in two teeny little words: bottomless mimosas.

Weekend Shenanigans

What I did this weekend in the Cliff Notes version. You’re welcome!

1) Ate blue crabs. If you’ve ever eaten crabs, or any kind of shellfish for that matter, you know it’s a lot of work for a little bit of meat. On the off chance you were wondering, you can rest assured that blue crabs are no different. Nevertheless, we had a coupon for them at Ragin Cajun which hasn’t always been my favorite cajun food joint. I don’t hate it, but it’s always seemed like the “Joe’s Crab Shack” of Houston cajun food. I know that will annoy the entirety of the Houston food population, but before y’all fire up your Ford F-150’s and race off to the comment board, let me say that I’ve been eating there more often of late and am having a slight change of heart.

The service is great, the beer is cold, the food is growing on me, but the atmosphere gets me every time — I love their relaxed, laid-back attitude and all-around good time! But I digress.

The blue crabs were fifty thousand kinds of awesome! We had both boiled and barbecued crabs, some delicious Frenchman Street tacos (think cajun-style fish tacos) and my all-time fave dirty rice. I hadn’t cracked a crab claw since the Cretaceous period but it was the most fun I’ve had eating out in a long time. Swizzled some beers. Watched some Olympic swimming. Passed on the vegan cookies (wtf?). And had a damn good time!

Fun fact: I learned that Ragin Cajun’s new side bar, LA Bar, is actually not an abbreviation of “Louisiana”, which would be purely logical being that it’s a CAJUN restaurant and all. Instead, it’s actually a reference to Lake Arthur, Louisiana, a place I was certain did not exist. I mean, my people are from Baton Rouge and I cannot tell you how many thousands of miles I’ve traveled between Houston and Baton Rouge in my lifetime. THOUSANDS! And never once had I heard of “Lake Arthur”. I’d heard of Port Arthur and Lake Charles, but not Lake Arthur. However, after one swipe at the Google, I was proven wrong and learned that there is, in fact, a Lake Arthur, Louisiana, namesake of Ragin Cajun’s new bar. I guess I have to go now…and shouldn’t I get a free drink or something out of it?

2) Went to a first birthday party. The daughter of one of my best friends turned one last week and, as such, a party was required. My friend has amazing taste and, thankfully, she decorated in a fantastically tasteful fashion which was much appreciated, by me anyway. There were 55 adults and a slew of kids and, since it monsooned in Houston all weekend, there were 70+ people crammed into their house. Thankfully, there was alcohol which was also most appreciated by me. We ate,watched E put her hands in her little cake and wipe it all over her face, oohed and aahed, and called it a day. As first birthday parties go, it could have been a lot worse and I had a good time talking to all our friends I haven’t seen since the baby shower (i.e., in a year). I guess I’ll see y’all again next year! 😉

3) Ate at Olivette at the Houstonian to celebrate my mom’s 65th birthday. I refrained from photo taking for once, but all I can say is go. The petite filet with bacon jam was outstanding, as was the service. It might be one of my new favorite places in Houston.

4) Played Cranium and lost, but not without a fight! A bunch of my friends got together for game night and, being that the majority of them went to grad school at Rice and/or are attorneys, we ended up playing Cranium. I got there in the middle of the second game, but I can tell you with utmost certainty that it was a hard-fought night and our team did not go down without a fight, namely from my friend who’s an attorney and who I thought might file a petition with the US Supreme Court over one particular question. She was hyper-aggressive in her defense of our team and I decided then and there that, if and when I should ever need legal counsel, she is hired!

Despite our best efforts, we lost. And, as it was previously decided that the losing team would do the can-can on video, we danced. I would post the video here, but I’d be banished to eternal damnation and since I’m not a fan of the heat, I’m going to refrain. But it’s A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

We also hung out and drank beer on the best patio in Houston that is complete with a cow head with glowing red eyes. Fantastic.

5) Ate brunch. A few of my girlfriends and I have started a brunch club, mostly because the five of us love to get together for brunch and “no return” lunches, so we just said we were now an official brunch club. Members only. 🙂

Today we went to Max’s Wine Dive for the crack that is known as their Fried Egg Sandwich. I am a sucker for a good fried egg sammie and Max’s never disappoints. It’s served with truffle-oiled homemade potato chips and is pretty much the best thing I’ve had in my mouth in a long time. 😉 The best part of the day: one of my friends was carrying his work beeper and, needless to say, we razzed him mercilessly. Seriously, who still carries a pager?! “Hit me on the hip, yo!” I’m pretty sure his beeper needs its own Facebook page under the newly-created category “So 1992”.

Unlike most brunch places, Max’s features “make your own mimosas” where you buy the bottle of champagne and they give you little carafes of fresh orange and grapefruit juices. We plowed  through no fewer than six bottles and it probably goes without saying that we had a fabulous time! Fantastic food + fantastic people = the perfect end to a great weekend.