There are times when you want to go big, such as this: “Doughnut Breakfast Sliders” for brunch, on a Sunday following a night of celebration. Order a Cajun Bloody Mary, let the restorative powers of the tomato juice do its work, and relax. You’re at Tony Mandola’s, and there’s a new brunch menu to tackle.
I ordered the sliders recently for Sunday brunch at the popular Houston restaurant, and was glad I made that decision. The doughnuts were moist and warm, their sweetness contrasting with the spice of the chorizo patty they encased in sublime manner. And there were also a breakfast sausage, thick-cut ham, bacon, and a fried egg between those doughnut buns.
Lest you think it was overload, it definitely was not, and I write that as a diner who prefers a number of small plates, a dégustation, for a meal, as opposed to a 24-ounce steak or a big slab of ribs. Taken as a whole, this dish is a full tasting menu, and if you are looking for a satisfying way to brunch, you should put it on your list. The eggs are soft, so that their yolk, when cut, oozes out of and down the doughnut halves; the chorizo (and the other meats here) is cooked well, tender, and when the yolk mingles with them and you taste it all in one bite, your brunch will be complete.
One of my dining companions was extolling the qualities of the biscuits she had ordered; she’s a connoisseur of biscuits and gravy, and eats them with relish, but is quick to call out those of inferior quality. (She’s also a petite eater, and is never one to overindulge, but here was a vision of satiation.) Yes, she was fully approving of the biscuits and gravy and the fried chicken and eggs that came with them. I, too, love a good Deep South-style gravy, so gave it a try, and it was peppery and had the right texture, neither too thin nor too loose. Salt was in the right proportions, and the gravy paired well with the crispy-skinned chicken and the moist biscuits.
Other items on the brunch menu included French toast, which to my taste was more like a bread pudding, too thick and not possessing the proper amount of crispiness on its exterior. It would perhaps make a better dessert, because if you want a bread pudding with a poached pear and some good walnut ice cream, this is it.
Mama Mandola’s Sunday Fried Chicken Dinner, on there other hand, was definitely no dessert, but it was great chicken. You get a leg and a thigh, with some of the thickest (yet light) skin I’ve ever had. The batter here is full of umami… spice and herbs star here. Mashed potatoes and green beans with bacon round out this large offering.
There are, of course, the obligatory Benedicts — “Beni” on the menu” — and they include crab cakes, carnitas, and lobster tail. Omelets come in these variations: fried oyster, beef al carbon, wild mushroom, spinach and crab, and crawfish Creole.
My Bloody Mary was just one of the new featured drink items — it is served in a tall glass with pickled okra, celery, and lime, and packs a spicy punch — and you could also order frozen Hurricanes or Mimosas (try the bottlemless option for $11), plus Bellinis.
Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen is celebrating its 35th year of business, and brunch there is one reason for the restaurant’s longevity. My tip: Show up at 11, because the place gets crowded a little after 1 p.m.