Thursday, February 15, 2007

Breakfast in Houston

My usual breakfast is a bowl of (non-instant) oatmeal. Somehow it makes up for all the dietary sins I commit later in the day.

But I eat breakfast out enough to have some strong opinions. These are my favorite breakfasts in Houston:

Omelet: "The Chicken and the Egg" -- 59 Diner. At the hands of an expert French chef, a delicate, subtly flavorful omelet is a glorious thing. But in the hands of a typical American fry cook, omelets are oily and bland. This 59 Diner omelet may be an oily, fry-cook omelet, but it is hardly bland. It is a spicy beast -- loaded with grilled chicken breast, cheese, and lots of jalapeno peppers. It would make a French chef cry.

Catfish and eggs -- Goode Co. Tacqueria. A lot better than it sounds, the catfish has a wonderfully smoky grill flavor that overcomes usually muddy taste of all catfish. It goes remarkably well with eggs and salsa.

Pork chops and eggs -- La Jalisciense. This little Mexican restaurant on Yale at 13th has the best salsa, and the best breakfast deals in town. My favorite is a plate of pork chops, eggs, refried beans, potatoes, and tortillas for $3.50. Most other breakfast plates are under $2.50.

Grits, biscuits -- Breakfast Klub. This soul food breakfast joint on Travis at W. Alabama is well known for some of its more exotic breakfasts like waffles & fried chicken and catfish & eggs. But I am happy just with a plate of eggs, biscuits, and grits. At most restaurants, grits are too bland. Not here. (It's probably the butter). The Klub's fluffy biscuits are also my favorites in town.

Huevos Rancheros -- Texas Cafeteria. This classic Tex-Mex breakfast comes on top of a pile of corn chips at this working class, small-town cafeteria on N. Shepherd at 24th Street. But the best part of the dish is the spicy, chili-heavy salsa they pour over the eggs. A strange side dish is their sweet biscuits. Although this is one of the most Southern restaurants in Houston, sweet biscuits are usually a Yankee dish.

Croissants -- Andre's. Most croissants in Houston are awful, soggy rolls of bread that don't deserve the name of France's famous bread. But the croissants at this wonderful little pastry shop on River Oaks Blvd. at Westheimer are like the croissants in Paris. Almost as good are the croissants at Croissant Brioche in the Rice Village and Epicure Cafe in the River Oaks Shopping Center.

Bagels -- The Hot Bagel Shop. I don't understand why people will pay twice as much at big chains for bagels that are half as good. A great bagel has the right texture and is hot. At this little shop on N. Shepherd, the bagels are cheap, they have the perfect texture of a New York bagel, and they are almost always hot out of the oven.

Breakfast tacos -- La Mexicana. I was turned on to this Montrose restaurant back when it was a convenience store with a small taco stand in one corner. Now it is a big restaurant, perhaps a bit too big for its britches. But it still has those great tacos. I love the huevos con papas y jamon taco (eggs, potatoes, and ham) on a flour tortilla with some salsa verde.

All-time best Breakfast -- Alfred's -- Alfred's deli closed over a decade ago, but damn I miss it. Alfred's had the best Eastern European kosher food in Houston. For breakfast, I loved their scrambled eggs with lox and onions and their fabulous potato pancakes. And their incredible bagels, dipped in egg batter, were unlike any other bagel I have had. Kahn's Deli is owned by Alfred's son, but it doesn't serve breakfast. Nothing has replaced Alfred's. Nothing ever will.

Some overrated breakfasts:

Starbucks -- I love the coffee, but their pre-fab bread products are far too sweet. Yuck.

Avalon Diner -- The old-fashioned Diner thing is cute. I wish the food was better.

Buffalo Grille -- As much as I want to like this quirky West U breakfast haunt, I just don't find any dish here to be all that special. I prefer the pancakes at IHOP and the egg dishes at more than a dozen other Houston restaurants.

Le Peep -- Bland, boring, uninventive. I cannot understand their huge weekend crowds.

La Madeleine -- Good coffee, horribly overpriced fast food. Their croissants don't hold a candle to Andre's.


Daniel Goldberg said...

Nothing special at Buffalo Grille, but everything is pretty good. I actually like the cinnamon coffee, which sounds gross but is quite tasty.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried the croissants at French Riviera bakery on Chimney Rock and Richmond? They are flaky and buttery, delicious!

Anonymous said...

So glad you're back to posting. I really enjoy reading your take on the food scene in Houston!

Albert said...

Give Baby Barnaby's a try -- classic bohemian American breakfast, but with very good ingredients.

anonymouseater said...

I have been to Baby Barnaby's many times. I like it. It has a basic breakfast menu, and every dish I have tried is quite good. But I did not mention it in this post because I have not found any dish there that stands out as the best of its class in town.

Is there a dish there you might want to nominate?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. I went to the French Riviera bakery last weekend. Really Really fabulous croissants and the best baguette this side of Paris. Also Baby Barnaby's is one of my favorites. Their green eggs ...that's the plate. Also, I like Buffalo Grille too. I think their pancakes are best in town, far superior than any box food out of Ihop.

Lauren said...

You should try Baby Barnaby's Green Eggs--a very flavorful spinach and artichoke dip swirled into a fluffy mound of scrambled eggs. I get it with the veggie sausage on the side and yummy breakfast potatoes.

Anonymous said...

have you tried the banana or peach (or banana AND peach) pancakes at Buffalo Grill? To. Die. For.

olsonsfoodemporium said...

It will not succeed as a matter of fact, that is what I consider.