Quick Bites is about places I’ve visited only once or twice, discoveries I want to share with others without a full review.
Restaurante Dona Tere, 9808 Beechnut just inside Beltway 8, in the same center with Panaderia Tierre Caliente and Supermercado Teloloapan.
This is a nice sit-down restaurant that is related to the Tamales Dona Tere places around town. There’s sit-down service, a counter for take-out, even a drive-thru window, although I’m not sure it’s actually used. I first went here several months ago when I got started exploring the regional specialties of Mexico. The menu includes some of the same tamales you’ll find on the menu at the tamalerias; there are dishes labeled Mayan, Aztecan, Pueblan, Chiapan, Oaxacan, and either Veracruzan or Tampiquenan (can’t remember) plus from Distrito Federal.
On my first visit I tried the Molcajete Mixto, for twelve dollars one of the most expensive items on the menu. It included a section of skirt steak, a portion of chicken breast, a section of a very good longaniza, a green onion, cilantro sprigs and a cactus pad in a moderately spicy, green broth, all served in a hot molcajete. The skirt steak was a little tough and had a little gristle but except for that the meal was very good. I loved the longaniza.
The chips are house made, thick, warm, slightly oily. The salsa is not very remarkable but I’ve grown to like this style of chip as opposed to the thin, salty ones of the bet-you-can’t-eat-just-one persuasion served at most places. I’m sure I’m in the minority in that but here they have an additional value here since portions are rather modest and sides are extra.
On a second visit a couple of months later I tried one of the dishes labeled Mayan, Cochinita Pibil, roast pig in achiote sauce with a habanero pepper on the side, so the menu said, but it was included in the sauce. This is probably my favorite Mexican dish of all and this was the hottest version of this dish I’ve ever had but not the best. I first had Cochinta Pibil back in the 70s at Merida on Navigation and it was one of the most sublime pork dishes I’ve ever had. I've also had it at Pico’s, Otilia’s, Jarro’s and Merida more recently (not as impressive) plus Durango’s reviewed recently on this blog and I’d rate all of those versions better than this. However I’ve never had the dish in the Yucatan so I don’t know which is the most authentic version.
I do plan to return to this restaurant more times and may post another review after some more visits; I just haven’t had much craving for those big tamales.
Crawfish City of Texas
Houston Catfish Station
New Orleans Style Sno-Balls
The Whole Sha-Bang
14090 Bellaire Blvd. at Sugar Land - Howell Road.
NOT ALL OF THESE VENDORS ARE STILL IN OPERATION AT THIS LOCATION. THE WHOLE SHA-BANG HAS NOT BEEN SEEN HERE MANY TIMES.
I was out on the far west side the other day and spotted this cluster on the corner. I had just been contemplating Howard Rushing’s picture of the boudin at Boogie’s but Boogie’s wasn’t going to be open for several days so I pulled in to sample the wares here. Crawfish City is a shack with a small covered deck, a drive thru window and drive thru ramp but the corner is a virtual food park; the other eateries all operate from trailers on the site.
Crawfish City offers boiled crawfish, shrimp and crab, plus live crawfish and crabs, raw shrimp, potatoes and corn for sides, fresh homemade lemonade and smoked and steamed boudin. I didn’t see any of the crawfish offerings; I just picked up a smoked boudin link. It was very, very smoky and very good. I like a boudin with the rice still a little firm and distinct and this was perhaps just a little past prime but good nonetheless. It had a mild heat level. UPDATE: After several visits, the texture of the boudin has been pretty consistently more mushy than I like.
I looked over the other menus. Houston Catfish Station offers catfish and shrimp plus gumbo, there are about 2 dozen flavors listed on the Sno-Ball trailer, and the Whole Sha Bang offers burgers, barbecue, chili pie and more sno-balls.
I got a Catfish Snack for $5 bucks from Catfish Station, three thick, sweet pieces of catfish in a cornmeal coating with a small side of nicely seasoned fries and a buttermilk hushpuppy that had a nice tartness to it and was moist and flavorful inside. Catfish Station has a deck but the cover is missing; it was starting to rain so I retreated to the car.
I thought both the boudin and catfish were very good bargains.
A few days later, back in the same neighborhood, I stopped in again. Crawfish City was closed (Monday) and I think the Whole Sha Bang was too; I tried another Catfish Snack. This time the pieces were much larger, almost twice as large as those pictured, but the fries were of the frozen, extruded, crinkle-cut persuasion and not very good. I tried a cup of the homemade gumbo ($2.75) and it was excellent, with shrimp, crawfish and sausage and ‘homemade Cajun seasoning.’ I’ve had gumbo three times in the last couple of months from Burt’s, Capt. Benny’s and Capt. Tom's and this was definitely better than the last two. I’m not ready to pronounce it better than Burt’s outstanding chicken and sausage gumbo but this is seafood. The shrimp were probably frozen but the gumbo is very thick and rich and has a nice heat level. I won’t hesitate to stop off again on this corner to pick up some gumbo whenever I’m in the neighborhood.
UPDATE: CRAWFISH CITY IS OPEN THE MOST RELIABLY. WHEN HOUSTON CATFISH STATION IS CLOSED THEIR MENU IS SERVED BY CRAWFISH CITY, ALTHOUGH IT'S NOT AS WELL PREPARED.
8349 SW Fwy @ Gessner (northbound feeder)
I relied on Christy’s for a few years for my donut fixes although it never was as satisfying as the original in Midtown. Now that Christy’s has closed I’ve been checking out other donut shops on the southwest side and this is the best I’ve found so far. It’s a small shop and there’s not a lot of variety. As a long time Houstonian I love Shipley’s; it’s a true Houston institution and a signature Houston taste, but in the last several years I’ve developed a fondness for cake donuts as opposed to the yeast-raised and Shipley’s cake donuts are not that good, I think. That’s the big thing I like about BB’s; the cake donuts are very good, maybe the best I’ve ever had in the city. They are light but they’re also a bit smaller than others. Some may not like them because of that but I’m into smaller portions in everything these days. Their old-fashioned donuts are good too; I get both with a light glaze, not icing. I haven’t even tried the yeast-raised.
Besides donuts (and excellent fritters), they have pre-made breakfast burritos, sausage kolaches and croissants and they serve Community Coffee. I have tried the sausage kolache and while it’s not bad I have to admit I’m addicted to the sausage/cheese kolaches at Shipleys and have never found any I like better.
The place also has a small lunch menu including fried rice and burgers but I haven’t tried them. The lady at the counter has always been cheerful and pleasant