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Culture / Restaurants

Last-Chance Houston Restaurant Weeks’ Picks

The Spots You Need to Hit Labor Day Weekend

BY // 09.04.15

Each year, Houston Restaurant Weeks grows in size. What began as a one-week fund-raiser with fewer than 20 participating restaurants has grown to a five-week affair involving more than 200 local restaurants. The many new venues can be overwhelming, so each week I will share a few of my favorites to help you navigate the HRW waters. Flip through the dishes above for some of the highlights and read below to get specifics on each restaurant’s menu. 

CHURRASCOS RIVER OAKS 
2055 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77098
HRW Dinner Menu, $35

If you’re in the mood for big, bold flavors, you have to make a stop at Churrascos. Their Houston Restaurant Weeks menu continues to be one of my favorites from year to year because the flavors remain consistent; plus, I can never turn down South American cuisine. Since I’ve visited my fair share of times during restaurant weeks, I’ve managed to taste most of the featured menu items. However, I decided to switch it up this visit and opted for two new dishes, starting with the albondiga. This was my favorite bite of the night. It was not at all what I was expecting, but it was a welcome surprise. If I hadn’t been saving room for the rest of the meal, I definitely would have ordered another plate. I also tried their carnitas for the first time (I normally order a steak dish). While the dish had great flavor, you just can’t beat Churrascos’ steak.

Don’t leave without trying their namesake steak, a center cut beef tenderloin, chargrilled, and served with cracked new potato, grilled vegetables & béarnaise sauce. Another menu favorite is the bacon-wrapped filet and shrimp brochette served over chorizo Caribbean rice and garlic salsa ajillo. If you’re a first-time visitor to Churrascos, the tres leches is also a must.

First course: Albondiga: beef and pork meatball served with crisp yuca cups, spicy black bean and queso idiazábal fondu• Second course: crispy pork carnitas, avocado, radish, criollo peppers and onion in a tomatillo sauce • Third Course: the original tres leches

etoile-coq-au-vin
Etoile’s classic coq au vin is braised in red wine and served with creamy potatoes and summer vegetables.

ETOILE CUISINE ET BAR 
1101-11 Uptown Park Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
HRW Lunch Menu, $20

French cuisine may not be the first thing that jumps to mind during Houston Restaurant Weeks, but it should be when you’re eating at Etoile. Led by Master Chef of France Philippe Verpiand, the Uptown Park eatery specializes in French classics. HRW is a great way to sample a bit of everything, especially if you’re a newcomer to the cuisine. Seeing that I’m no expert in French fare, I stuck with a classic— the coq au vin. All of the dish’s components were pleasing, but my favorite part was the summer vegetables. The braising liquid really brought out the flavor the vegetables. 

Lunch differs at each of the participating restaurants, as some offer two courses and others offer three. Etoile serves two, which in my opinion is more than enough for a lunch portion. While all of the dessert selections sounded appealing, I went for the brownie “tout chocolat.” There was no way I was passing up a brownie covered in caramel and ice cream. Two words: chocolate bliss.

Etoile will also be one of the few restaurants open on Labor Day, which means you can get your final Houston Restaurant Weeks fix in during dinner service on Monday, September 7, from 5 – 10 pm.

First course: Coq au vin, chicken braised in red wine, creamy potatoes and summer vegetables • Second course: brownie “tout chocolat”, dark chocolate brownie served with chocolate custard, salty caramel sauce and espresso ice cream

white-oak-kitchen-lamb-burger
White Oak’s lamb burger is ground in-house and served on a slow dough whole wheat challah bun with goat cheese, arugula and rosemary shoestring fries. The dish is a second-course option on the HRW lunch menu.

WHITE OAK KITCHEN + DRINKS 
Houston Galleria, 5011 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77056
HRW Lunch Menu, $20

As Houston’s restaurant scene continues to expand, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep track of the city’s numerous culinary offerings. That’s why I love Houston Restaurant Weeks. It showcases Houston’s array of choices in one forum. Without HRW, I would have never stumbled upon White Oak Kitchen + Drinks, which is nestled in the Houston Galleria. I was browsing HRW lunch menus and spotted a Cap’n Crunch ice cream sandwich on their menu. From there it was a no-brainer.

Aside from the ice cream sandwich (which was impossible not to like), my favorite dish was the chicken fried chicken. I was a bit worried that the dish would be too heavy for lunch, but the crust was very light and the gravy was just right. It was also a larger portion, so I was able to take some home. I’m definitely going to try to make it back to sample their dinner menu as well.

First course: Chinese pot stickers stuffed with vegetables, served with plum sauce • Second course: chicken fried chicken served with jalapeño and pork belly gravy, corn fritters and Yukon Gold smashed potatoes • Third course: Cap’n Crunch ice cream sandwich filled with Amy’s Blueberry Ice Cream.

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