Sunday, September 12, 2010

Alcohol Munchies

Late night in Houston has found me once again at the club. A few too many doubles brings on a bad case of alcohol munchies. I’m not necessarily starving so much as I’d like to have something to make the walk home a little more bearable. There’s lots of late-night dining options here in the inner loop. I’ve been to at least four of them and the experience at each of them is unique.
My first after club dining experience was at Charlie’s, long since closed, but still very vivid in my mind. Another time was at the House of Pies at 3112 Kirby, known locally as House of Guys. I found that to be the most fun dining experience because it’s busy, it’s loud, and sometimes a little raucous because of the patrons who’ve overindulged. The wait staff was always patient, kind, and sometimes a little perturbed, but still a lot of fun.
Even though there’s almost always a wait for a table at peak times, it’s worth it. Just remember if you’re not ordering, you’re still going to have to pay for that seat. Most of the action’s in the front dining room, formerly the smoking area. It’s nothing to see six or seven people jammed into a booth, and the people sitting elbow to elbow at the counter. The back dining room is more subdued, a little quieter, probably more conducive to studying or just clearing your head after a crazy night.
House of Pies is that one constant along the ever evolving Kirby Drive. It’s the one restaurant that’s refused to leave its circa 1980 time warp, and that’s a good thing. Even with all the development that’s cropped up around it, the restaurant refuses to fade away. The food is legendary, and some of the stories surrounding the restaurant even more so. There’s huge platters of food if the munchies are really bad, or just a piece of pie or cake with coffee to settle the stomach.
Once I moved to Houston, I found out about other late-night spots. Most recently I went to Chapultepec Lupita at 813Richmond Avenue. I sat in the patio area with my friends and someone had cranked up the jukebox. There was a drunken girl dancing around to Michael Jackson as she prepared to make more selections. She mentioned that Wild Horses was the Rolling Stones only greatest song, and I gave her a go to hell look. That led to a discussion at the table about some of the Stones’ other great hits as we dined on chips and salsa.
I’m an omnivore, but it’s still worth noting the veggie chimichanga and the veggie burger. On this visit I ordered a fully loaded burrito and a hibiscus tea. The burrito was way better than one I’d had at another local spot a few months earlier. The prices aren’t too astronomical, and there’s plenty to choose from on the menu. Breakfast also is available, but it isn’t served until four in the morning.
As we ate I realized that the jukebox had gone silent. Then as we were about to get up and leave, someone had selected Latin music. I remembered looking at the jukebox in the past and the selection varied from classic rock to Latin to country. Maybe next time I come I’ll bring some change and rock out the jukebox a little.
One of the other late night spots I’ve enjoyed is Bibas Ones a Meal at 612 Westheimer. Originally located at 607 West Gray, they recently opened on Westheimer a block west of Katz’s. I always liked the West Gray location, but it was good to have them a little closer to home now. There’s plenty of the traditional options to choose from like Gyros, but my favorite are the calzones and the pizzas.
The last time I went I split a pizza with my friends. I ordered the Aphrodite, which was mostly meat. It was great, right up there with a couple of other local places I’d tried before. The one thing I enjoyed about Bibas is the service. They’re always prompt, even when I’m on my own, and glasses almost never go empty. There’s almost never a wait for a table, and even when there is one, it isn’t long.
Even with the new location on Westheimer, the Bibas on Gray is still going strong. I remember the Gray location was always busy, the service a little slow, but hopefully that’s changed. This location opened in what had once been Rouge restaurant and the Plant House. With this location there’s even room for a banquet space upstairs without disrupting the service downstairs. What’s more is the HPD substation is next door, so you’ll feel safe because officers are always in and out of the place.
East of Bibas is Katz’s Deli – no relation to the one in New York – so don’t expect anyone faking orgasms here. What you’ll find is chain restaurant décor as this is the second Katz’s in Texas. The original location is in Austin with a satellite location in the Woodlands. Others have told me the Woodlands spot isn’t as good as this one, and I’ve read that the one in Austin is just as popular.
This location when I moved to Houston was nothing more than an empty shell. It had sat exposed to the elements for years it appeared. I read that it once housed Tila’s, which now sits on the curve on South Shepherd. Ten years ago Katz’s Deli took over the spot and it’s since remained a staple along lower Westheimer. Word of mouth has kept this place going, and hopefully it’ll be here to stay.
This is a New York style deli and the sandwiches are the place to start. There’s the downtown size, which is huge, but still manageable, but the uptown might require a to go box. Besides sandwiches there’s entrees and even pasta. The one thing that separates this deli from others is the fact that they have a full bar, and there’s milkshakes on the menu.
Most notable is the cheesecake shake, which is huge like the sandwiches. Depending on what time you visit, it can be split between a group of friends, or it’s enough for one person. This place is especially busy after the clubs let out, and a table can be hard to come by. Expect to wait up to ten minutes or better at peak times, but once you’re seated, service is prompt unless of course you’re by yourself.
I have had some great dining experiences in the past at Katz’s, even by myself. Lately though I’ve noticed the service has declined a little. If you’re at a table by yourself, don’t be surprised if you’re largely ignored. I went by myself around the beginning of August and the service was terrible. First I was seated in a corner of the dining room near the restroom hallway. On top of that my waiter appeared randomly, and then again when it was time to settle the bill. I hate when servers stand around and expect a good tip for bad service.
Other than that one experience, the service has been fairly consistent. I can say that no matter what I order, the food’s always good. Whether it be just a hot dog, or a full entrée, it’s always warm. Another must try on the menu is the fried pickles appetizer. I haven’t had the cocktails, but I’ve heard they’re good and strong. The one thing on the menu I haven’t tried is their breakfast, but the waffles looked really good on one visit.
After I’ve eaten, there’s a heavy feeling on my stomach and my wallet feels a little lighter. Walking home I don’t weave as much or list to one side the way I did when I walked into the place. The night air is thick with humidity, but the walk does me some good in that it gives me time to think. I can look back on all that’s happened now and go home with a clear conscience. The bed beckons me home, and the sounds of the urban jungle subside once I’m safely locked in my apartment. There’s more to do and see, but for the time being, it’s time to catch a nap and rest up for the next adventure.

No comments: