As close as you get to a neighborhood restaurant for the Southampton-West U crowd, Raven Grill has been steadily busy since it first opened. Nothing about the food dazzles, but it’s consistently good, with a large variety of options served in a comfortable, casual setting. And Bill Clinton lunched here on a recent swing through Houston. Although it’s a toss up who is more of a celebrity — Bill or the Raven Grill’s resident chicken. The chicken would likely get more votes, particularly if he ran on a “Stop Ashby High Rise” platform. We drove by the other day and saw someone rush out to scoop up the chicken who had waddled dangerously near the street curb. Move over Secret Service.
The large menu leans toward comfort food — everything from grilled fish and steaks to sandwiches to salads. Not to mention Mexican plates. Nightly specials include meat loaf and chicken fried steak. Unless you just ate Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll find something to your liking on this menu. On a recent visit, a group of us enjoyed the pecan crusted chicken breast, the hamburger, and the flautas. One of us has fond feelings for Raven Grill’s hamburger, finding the patty generously portioned, with a choice of wheat or onion bun. The roasted sweet potato wedges were a nice option to fries, although the hamburger eater found the substitution only yielded 3 wedges, a sacrifice for the sake of health. The pecan crusted chicken breast had a nice overall flavor but nothing about which to write home to mom. (Unless you count the fact that Mom reads this blog.) On prior visits, the fried oysters were crisp and tasty. Prices are quite affordable. The burger with fries is only $6.95. There’s a low key bar area, but also a kids menu. Sunday brunch is served. Attire is museum area casual.
We were racking our brain for somewhere new to go when we realized that, while we’d both eaten dinner at Shade separately, we hadn’t gone there together. Bingo. We’ll give this popular Houston Heights restaurant a go. When we arrived on a recent Saturday evening (with a reservation which was a good thing), the place was full, generating a lively eclectic vibe synonymous with the neighborhood.
We were seated promptly and service was great throughout the evening. The wine list was limited but reasonably priced. And we were pleased the waiter offered to decant our red bordeaux. After, of course, signing us up as members of the Shade Club — Shade’s no charge private drinking club in its dry location.
We appreciated not feeling rushed as we like to order an appetizer and then take some time before ordering our entrees, a practice not encouraged at some restaurants. We tend to feel that restaurants bring the food too quickly, particularly when you’re out on a Saturday evening and don’t want to eat in 45 minutes. Of course, in defense of the restaurant, erring on the side of speed is less likely to upset diners than a wait for the food.
For a starter, we tried the mussels with chorizo, which was a welcome spicy addition to the dish, reminiscent of the cockles at Catalan. And we sopped up the sauce. We moved on to two entrees — halibut and pork chop. The pan seared fish was quite good, appropriately cooked, served atop crushed purple potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes. It was sided by a disappointing, in need of seasoning lump of fried calamari stuffed with crab meat. The pork chop was also nicely cooked, served with onion bread pudding (tasty, but a little dense), sauteed kale (a very healthy green enjoyed by only one of us), and a tomato cucumber salsa that didn’t seem to add much to the dish. We don’t normally eat dessert but were drawn to the bing cherry lemon tart, which was a delicious end to the meal.
Shade continues to prosper with good food in a contemporary, casual setting.
250 West 19th Street