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Truluck’s Seafood Steak and Crab House


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.

5350 Westheimer
713/783-7270
http:/www.trulucks.com

Pappas Brothers Steakhouse


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.

5839 Westheimer
713/780-7352
http://pappasbros.com/

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse

 

UPDATED:  FEBRUARY 2008

Four of us dined recently at the newest addition to the plethora of Houston steakhouses.  The place was packed, but our reservation was honored promptly (unlike a recent experience at Pappas Steakhouse).  We were seated in one of the booths upstairs.  The restaurant is beautiful, but we wouldn’t call the experience quiet and intimate.  Our waiter was a bit too enthusiastic and a little harried, but he was generally available.    

The menu lists typical steakhouse fare.  Nothing particularly unique.  But there appear to be a lot of cuts of meat, including Kobe beef, available off the menu.  Our waiter advised us of some of them when we were first handed the menus and then he kept telling us about special items as we were actually ordering, which didn’t seem particularly helpful to our decision making.  Although, in his defense, it wasn’t likely we were going to order the pricey Kobe beef or a 20 ounce special cut filet.

For starters, we tried the crab cake (very good, served on a rich sauce, but not a good value at $16), sliced tomato salad, and wedge salad.  The tomato salad was not listed as being served with blue cheese crumbles but, when we inquired, the waiter immediately said he could include them, almost as if you had to ask before the salad would be served in the typical fashion.  The wedge salad was initially a huge (literally) disappointment.   A big wedge of lettuce arrived covered with nothing but blue cheese dressing.  No tomatos, no bacon, no green onions.  Again, when we asked about these items, they were brought (relatively) quickly to the table.  It appears the food all comes from downstairs, so, if you need something extra, it takes a few moments to get it.   No extra charge for any of the additions we requested.

Two of us shared the Double Eagle Bone-In Strip (an off the menu item).  It was cooked as ordered and tasty enough.  Our waiter said he would bring the steak to the table and then slice it for us (he’s “licensed to use a knife”), but that never happened.  One person enjoyed the Filet Oscar (traditionally served topped with crab meat, asparagus, and bearnaise sauce).  The other diner ordered the peppercorn strip, which he felt was too heavily sauced and too fatty.  For sides, we tried the creamed spinach (deliciously creamy, one of the better versions in town) and the au gratin potatoes (good but nothing special).  For dessert, we shared the molten chocolate cake, which was disappointing and not as good as many; just not rich or hot enough, with limited melted chocolate.

The wine list was very extensive, particularly in the California red categories, and very pricey.  The sommelier stopped by the table quickly after our arrival as we were perusing the wine list, which was a nice touch as often you have to ask to talk to the expert.


FIRST REVIEWED:  NOVEMBER 2007

We were fortunate to have been invited to the grand opening reception of this new Galleria steakhouse.  Located in the former Lord & Taylor space next door to Oceanaire Room,  the place was hopping.  This is a lovely two-level space; we understand that many millions were spent on the decor of this new restaurant, and it shows.    Far from us to question whether Houston needs another steakhouse but, apparently, some smart marketing folks have concluded that it does.   And, judging by the bar area on each floor, it also appears they are seeking the bar crowd that seems to flock to many steakhouses.

We hadn’t planned on writing a review about this restaurant as we had assumed a reception wouldn’t give us a fair chance to sample the food.  But Del Frisco’s pulled out all the stops.  Starting with the huge chilled seafood spread in the downstairs area, continuing upstairs with beef tenderloin and lobster tails, the food flowed liked the beverages.  The beef tenderloin was beautifully cooked and quite delicious, as was the bacon-studded creamed spinach (a favorite of one of us and considered the measure of a steakhouse).  It was easy enough to overlook the overcooked lobster.  The waiters supplemented the buffets with passed trays of appetizers.  We particularly enjoyed the seared ahi tuna, creole crab cakes, and Kobe beef hot dogs.  The latter was a first for us and quite tasty.   There were also bountiful cheese buffets, as well as a dessert table.  And the band played some fun music.

If the hospitality Del Frisco’s extended to a multitude of Houstonians for this reception is any indication of its food and service, this restaurant will do well.

5061 Westheimer
713/355-2600
http://www.delfriscos.com/locations.asp

Killens


Some may not consider Pearland an Out of Town Destination, but we do.  It’s outside the Beltway, and in an area not yet annexed by the City of Houston.  Accompanied by four friends on a recent Saturday evening, we road tripped to check out this new steakhouse that received a rave review from the Houston Chronicle’s Alison Cook.  The chef/owner, Ronnie Killen, is Cordon Bleu trained.

Reportedly an icehouse in its previous incarnation, Killen’s decor is more Bonanza than Flemings, although there are white tablecloths and some artwork that we don’t recall including farm animals.  Low ceilings and small windowless rooms lend to a somewhat cramped and noisy setting.  But the place was packed.  Reservations are definitely required.  No need to dress up, although shorts wouldn’t be advisable.

Service was good even though we were probably asked a few too many times whether we were ready to order, and it took a while to get the cocktails.  Although the restaurant appears to have a full bar (no seating), it’s not designed for turning out drinks quickly.  No problem, we also ordered wine.  The list was fairly extensive, not too heavy on the really high end stuff, and oddly missing vintages for all but a few of the listings.   But we enjoyed a reasonably priced 2001 Rutherford Hill.  Prices seemed to be about twice retail.

The restaurant likes to use lump crab meat, so we tried the crab cakes and fried asparagus starters.  The crab cakes were excellent, not much breading and topped with even more crab and a large grilled shrimp.  The asparagus, sauced with the same stuff as the crab cakes, were fine but not as good as Piatto’s version.  We tried three classic steakhouse salads — caesar, wedge, and sliced tomatos with blue cheese.  All were more than acceptable, although the caesar stood out (nice and garlicky/anchovy’y) but for being overdressed.  The wedge’s creamy blue cheese was too sweet for our taste. 

We all ordered steak except one person who tried the chicken fried sirloin steak.  The steaks were just fine, comparable to Houston’s other steakhouses.  The overdone t-bone was promptly replaced. There wasn’t much chicken fried steak left on the plate.  The onion rings (crispy and grease free) stood out from the other two sides of creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin.  Although probably healthier, the potatoes lacked the gooey decadence of other steakhouse versions.  We finished with the creme brulee bread pudding.  We aren’t big bread pudding fans, but Alison Cook steered us well when she raved over this version.

If you live in Pearland or the surrounding area, this is a must try restaurant.  It’s likely one of your best options for great food.  Would we drive from Houston again?  Probably not, but one never knows.  

2804 Main Street, Pearland, Texas
281/485-0844
http://www.killenssteakhouse.com/

 

Bob’s Steak & Chop House [Closed]


UPDATE:  CLOSED EARLY 2008

To suggest that this restaurant exudes testosterone is an understatement — start with the name, the dark wood interior, and the bar that seems to have usurped The Remington (f/k/a/ Ritz Carlton) as the place to hang for the over sixty guy looking for some action.  (And there’s some to be had judging by the young women we observed.)  If J. Howard Marshall and Anna Nicole decided to return to earth for another meal, they’d likely pick Bob’s.
 
Bob’s has been a Dallas institution for years.  In Houston, it has taken over the old Tony’s location on Post Oak.  Other than the front door being in the same place, you wouldn’t recognize the restaurant from the Tony’s days.  Gone are the rich velvety tones, replaced by the aforementioned dark wood and muted colors.  The bar features prominently when you walk in the door; the ubiquitous televisions and attractive bartenders continue the guy theme. 

We’d heard that the service could be shaky, but our reservation was honored right on time, and everyone from the waitress, sommelier, and busguys was very attentive.  We were seated in a very comfortable booth with a great view for people watching.  And for those who have trouble seeing, the rooms are well lit.  Don’t expect the sexy warmth of Flemings or Capital Grille; this place feels more like a country club grill room.  The very large jar of pickled red peppers and cucumbers on each table is an interesting, somewhat odd touch that one can only assume has been a Bob’s tradition for many years.

The menu is standard steakhouse fare.  The calamari was disappointing, as were the two salads that we tried — tomato, red onion, and blue cheese and a mixed greens salad with a creamy blue cheese dressing.    The main culprit —  blue cheese crumbles that rivaled those you’d find in bulk at Costco.  The restaurant redeemed itself with the steaks and sides.  We tried the NY strip and the filet — both were great, as good as we can recall at any steakhouse in Houston.  A nice touch is that every entrée comes with a potato dish — either baked, (s)mashed, or pan fried with onions and green peppercorn sauce.  Although the latter is a signature item, the smashed potatoes were delicious, and the largest portion we’ve ever seen.   The creamed spinach was as good as most, as were the onion rings.  And we can’t fail but mention perhaps the coup de grace in continuing the men’s club theme–the signature whole glazed carrot that adorns every entrée.  The men at the table felt weird eating it–need we say more?   Bigger sometimes is better, so it’s a good thing there were four of us as the warm brownie with peanut butter ice cream was definitely a dessert to be shared, and share we did with spoons a flying.

It doesn’t seem this town can have too many steakhouses and, judging by the packed dining room, Bob’s will likely be around for awhile, particularly with the aging of the baby boomers.

1801 Post Oak Boulevard
713/877-8325

http://www.bobs-steakandchop.com/

Steakhouses

UPDATED:  AUGUST 2007

Given the proliferation of steakhouses in Houston (and they keep coming), we feel obliged to weigh in on these amazingly popular dining venues.  A recent trip out to the westside to try Brenner’s, a Houston institution since the 1930’s that is now owned by the Fertitta conglomerate, has prompted us to give this meaty issue further consideration.  We haven’t been recently to at least a couple of the well known steakhouses (Ruth Chris, Sullivans) to provide any rankings.  In many ways, they are all so similar that it would be hard to rank in any event.   We haven’t had a bad experience at any Houston steakhouse.  There isn’t  much difference in the high quality steaks served at most places, so we distinguish based on starters, sides, and atmosphere.

Some random observations —

      —   Pappas:  Great place; right up there with Vic & Anthony’s; see our separate review.

      —   Bob’s Steak and Chophouse:  Clubby, old school, testosterone laden atmosphere; great steaks and sides; not so impressed with the starters and salads; see our separate review.

     —   Morton’s:  Recently tried the new downtown location and wasn’t particularly impressed; seafood starters were very good; wedge salad was huge, but not the best in town; steak was overcooked and sides were marginal, particularly the creamed spinach and overcooked wild mushrooms; service was attentive although our waiter seemed to be going through the motions and not particularly friendly; it would be fine with us if they cut out the shtick of having the waiter verbally relay the menu items and bringing the raw steaks and live lobster to the table

      —   Vic & Anthony’s:  This is one of our favorites.  The place is always packed and has a great clubby feel.  The calamari (as usual, one of our tests) is very good, as are the crab cake and wedge salad.  The creamed spinach (a steakhouse stalwart) and sautéed mushrooms are also well done.  The service is always consistently good.

      —   Flemings:  A similar atmosphere to Vic & Anthony’s — dark woods and brass.  One of the better versions of the wedge salad — full of creamy dressing and chunks of bleu cheese.  The creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin are great.  We have a friend who considers Flemings’ version of chocolate molten lava cake to be one of the better in town.  This place also has great service.

      —   Brenner’s:   We liked the retro, old house atmosphere at Brenner’s.  The starters are consistent with the retro decor — we were not impressed by the signature wedge salad with a sweet, pink colored blue cheese vinaigrette.  The french onion soup was delicious.  Although quite good, we weren’t bowled over by the signature german fried potatoes.   We also did not like the style of serving the steaks in a puddle of au jus — it sogged up the sides.  The wine steward was very helpful but the rest of the service was spotty (e.g., soup served with a teaspoon).

      —   Strip House:  The decor, a red burlesque motif complete with flocked wallpaper of nudes, is quite urban, as is the somewhat uninviting location — the first floor of a downtown office/retail building.  The lobster bisque is great; the clam appetizer is tiny and overpriced.  The truffled creamed spinach is over the top rich.  A recent special of creamed corn was wonderful.  One of these days we’re going to try the baked potato topped with caviar.

      —   Capital Grille:  We ate in the bar recently and enjoyed calamari and oysters rockefeller.  The atmosphere is clubby and sophisticated.