We hadn’t been inspired to try this longtime Houston restaurant. Perhaps because it is a chain or it was outside our geographic comfort zone, too far out on Westheimer. In recent years, Truluck’s has moved closer in, now housing opposite Capital Grille on Westheimer near Yorktown. We love stone crabs and had heard about the all you can eat Monday special. A new year’s resolution to limit carbs made this a good candidate for a recent birthday that happened to fall on a Monday.
The place was packed, with most diners appearing to have the evening special. For $49.95, you get all the stone crab (medium size) you want, together with as many soups, salads and sides as you desire. Although not overtly pushing the starters and sides, it makes sense to encourage one to fill up on these less costly items. We sampled the wedge salad (classic version with blue cheese dressing, blue cheese chunks, bacon, and tomatos) and the crab bisque (nothing special). We avoided the bread basket. The stone crabs, served cold on cracked ice, with a remoulade sauce, were quite good and nicely cracked by the kitchen. (No special utensils were required to access any of the meat, thus, sparing one’s manicure.) The waiter kept the plates coming, and we had no trouble going through quite a few of the tasty appendages. We tried two sides — cheese grits (delicious and rich) and creamed leaks (o’kay). We broke the no-carb rule big time with dessert (it was a birthday, after all) — a huge piece of chocolate layer cake, topped with chocolate sauce. Quite tasty and, for the most part, ending up in a doggy bag. Alas, for obvious reasons, no stone crabs were allowed to sneak into the bag.
For stone crab lovers, the Monday special is a great deal. The regular menu price for 8 medium crab claws with mashed potatos and asparagus (no soup or salad) is $45.95.
UPDATED REVIEW — JANUARY 2009
We made our annual new year’s celebration trek to this wildly popular steakhouse. Same great service and food makes this one of our favorite Houston steakhouses. Although we don’t appreciate that our reservations have never been honored on time, and we’re always sent to the bar for at least a half hour wait. To the waitress’s credit, we got no dirty looks when we sat without ordering a drink.
Pappas Brothers has a very deep wine list, with more older vintages than most restaurants. This is our annual wine splurge. With the help of the sommelier, we picked a 1990 Bordeaux with the decidedly deep, earthy flavor that we enjoy.
We tried a couple appetizers this time — crab cakes and shrimp remoulade. The crab cakes were chock full of crab with a tasty lemon butter caper sauce, topped with a mass of fried potato strings. The highlight of the shrimp remoulade, other than the large, fresh shrimp, was the delectable sauce, spicy with caper overtones. We tried to resist the hot sourdough bread, so we’d have room for the New York strip that we shared. One of the things that Pappas does just a notch better than the other steakhouses is the sides. We have the same ones every year. At least one of us cannot resist that old steakhouse standby — creamed spinach — loaded with cream with the added benefit of bits of smoked ham. And the potatos au gratin are even richer and cheesier than you could imagine, also benefitting from the addition of bacon. The Pappas folks agree with Emeril that “pork fat rules.” We’ll be back again in about a year.
FIRST REVIEWED — JANUARY 2007
We celebrated New Year’s Eve a night early at Pappas Brothers Steakhouse, well-recognized as one of the top steakhouses in town. As usual, the place was hopping; surprisingly to us, given the prices, there were a lot of families with (fortunately, well-behaved) children. Seems like Pappas is quite popular with the out of town crowd, in Houston over the holidays to shop at the nearby Galleria.
We begin this review by noting that we really splurged on both the wine and food. While the service at Pappas has always been very good, our server, Adam, was particularly gracious this evening, as were the sommeliers. We started by sharing the Australian lobster tail, which Adam nicely cut in pieces. It was delicious but not value dining at $100. Our only gripe is that the melted butter could have been warmer. The ceramic warming dish with a votive candle didn’t really do the trick.
We shared the 18 ounce New York Strip which was appropriately cooked (medium-rare) and presented sliced by Adam on a serving plate. We had two sides — creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin. Both were fabulous and decadent. Even the sourdough bread, served warm and crispy, was great.
We didn’t indulge in dessert. After offering us after-dinner drinks and hearing at least one of us note that she isn’t a big fan of dessert wines, even the priciest versions, the head sommelier brought over a couple of his favorites for us to try — a 1948 Madeira and a slightly bubbly Italian dessert wine. The Madeira still didn’t work for Ms. Anti-d’Yquem, but the Italian wine was surprisingly good and not too sweet.
We had a great meal, with wonderful service. Although we may have been particularly well treated this evening, we’ve never had indifferent service or a disappointing meal at Pappas. We also like Vic & Anthony’s and Flemings, but something about Pappas, one of the first of the now many steakhouses in Houston, has special appeal.
UPDATED REVIEW — JANUARY 2009
We dropped by Mockingbird Bistro one recent Sunday for Brunch. We’ve enjoyed dinner and lunch there on a number of occasions since our first review. Notwithstanding the $5 mimosas, we were disappointed in the menu offerrings as the brunch (versus lunch) options were limited. There were probably only four or five dishes that we would categorize as brunch — a few poached egg dishes and steak and eggs. We continue to succumb to the calamari, although this time the pieces seemed smaller and a little chewy. The breading and remoulade sauce were the same as ever. We enjoyed the poached eggs with crab cakes (filled with crab, not alot of breading) although the jalapeno hollandaise was disappointingly bland. Our other entree was the charcuterie plate, which was nothing special and overpriced at $16. We particularly didn’t care for the dull country pate. We’ll stick to dinner or the regular lunch items next time around.
FIRST REVIEWED — AUGUST 2006
We’ve always enjoyed our visits to this restaurant in the past and a recent experience was no different. Judging by the packed house on a Saturday night, this place is one of the more popular restaurants in Houston. And justifiably so — the food and service were great. John Sheely is in charge and hitting on all cylinders, offerring diners great food in a warm, inviting setting. The high ceilings (decorated with large baroque chandeliers) allow you to actually have a conversation without needing to yell or strain to hear — a novelty for Houston’s trendy casual eateries. We still prefer the front room with all the windows, but the back room, which could be clausterphobic without windows, has been beautifully decorated as a wine cellar.
Our evening started out with a well executed tuna tartare amuse bouche, served on seaweed salad. We could not resist continuing with Sheely’s incredible calamari (ranked # 3 in our calamari ratings but probably worthy of moving up to # 2). It was delicious — tender and lightly breaded with a slightly sweet flavor that went well with the spicy remoulade sauce. (We weren’t as excited about the sweet and sour sauce.)
We greatly enjoyed the pork chop and sweetbreads as entrees. The sweetbreads are normally an appetizer, but they were gladly prepared as an entree, served with a wonderful wild mushroom and mustard cream sauce. We substituted the white truffle pomme frites for the mashed potatos with the pork chop and were richly rewarded by this decadent treat. To be fair, the sweetbreads and frites were only lukewarm, but the kitchen quickly replaced them with hot versions.
Despite a few minor glitches, on balance, the service was very good. The hostess kept a watchful eye on the dining room, clearing plates and checking on our replaced frites. Our waiter was very attendant, not bugging us when we lingered over the calamari before placing our entree orders. (One miss — a forgotten sauteed spinach side dish.) We also appreciated and enjoyed the half-bottle of Spanish red wine that was recommended by Marcy, the wine steward.
Overall a great dining experience and one that we would highly recommend.