CLOSED AUGUST 2011
We were way past due getting our butts out to Tomball to try Bootsie’s Cafe. We’d heard such great things about the place and were already familiar with its chef, Randy Rucker, previously at Laidback Manor and a brief stint at the Rainbow Lodge. We ended up arriving the night that the just shuttered restaurant was having its staff and friends appreciation dinner. We had to write this review because we were welcomed so graciously and fed quite wonderfully, without any charge. And we didn’t know a soul in the place (and they didn’t know about this website); they were just being hospitable.
Given the circumstances, there’s no point commenting on the decor or service or how long it took us to drive out there. We’ll get straight to the food as we assume it’s indicative of what the chef (and his team) will bring out at the new place (see further details below). We loved everything we were served from the beef and vension tenderloin (both very well cooked) and served with some of the best tomatoes we have ever had in Houston, to the whole fried snapper and braised pork shoulder (nicely cooked, tender and well seasoned), the brisket en croute, the corkscrew pasta with ragu, the smoked trout mousse (which was amazing, served on a chilled spoon and cleverly accessorized), the watermelon/cucumber granita, and a liverwurst sausage (enjoyed by the one of us that doesn’t typically enjoy liver). And the sweets — a savory wholewheat shortbread cookie with lemon curd (just awesome, could not stop eating them), oatmeal/chocolate chip bar, lemon cake, and peach crisp (another great dessert, served piping hot).
We know this restaurant had a tough time making a go of it in Tomball (probably too ahead of its time for the clientele), and we sorely wish we’d make it out there sooner. (We understand that a different incarnation of Bootsie’s will be taking its place.) In the meantime, the chef, Randy Rucker, is teaming up with an investor to open a new restaurant in Houston’s Museum District. We’ll be eagerly awaiting the new restaurant and will make sure not to wait to get to it.
It’s difficult to characterize the menu at this recent dining addition to the West Ave complex from the RDG folks. There’s a little something for everybody — salads, grilled meats, pastas. (No pizza, that’s upstairs at its sister restaurant, Alto.) Most everything we’ve tried has been okay; nothing has knocked our socks off, and there have been a few disappointments.
Starting with the good parts — the restaurant is quite lovely with a warm, contemporary vibe. The floor to ceiling windows along Westheimer add light and a little drama. Like so many restaurants, there’s not a soft surface to be found, which lends to some noise. And the place has been quite busy on all our visits, so the noise level is high. Service has been friendly and attentive on every visit. And reservations have been honored on time. Prices are reasonable, with no entree over the low to mid $20’s. The menu is clearly designed for those wanting just a bite to eat or a full meal, and we’ve never felt uncomfortable just ordering an appetizer or salad.
Food highlights have included the crab meat cocktail, white bean soup (on one occasion, not so much the other), bacon roasted pork tenderloin, and a fruit tart. Well executed, but nothing extraordinary, items have been the cheeseburger (and somewhat soggy fries), wedge salad, marinated mushroom salad, and a couple pasta dishes (bolognese and duck & wild mushrooms). The lamb t-bone chops were thin and fatty, leaving not enough edible meat, and the roasted stuffed squid didn’t do it for us (too chewy).
If you’re looking for a fun, happening place with a wide menu choice, give Ava a try. If you’re more into great food than atmosphere, you may be disappointed, but you’ll still enjoy the experience.
2800 Kirby Drive