Mexican Cuisine...with a Special Surprise!
On Tuesday night I met my adventurous food friend Kristi for a unique dining experience in the Montrose area. I love this classy restaurant housed in an 88 year old building, with the luxuries of valet parking and world class recipes created by Chef Hugo Ortega. Kristi and I were eager to participate in Houston Restaurant Week, which supports the Houston Food Bank. It was all about enjoying a delicious feast, not a dining blog write up. Let 100 other bloggers write about Hugo's and I'll share about the places that don't usually get any attention. But... there was one curious dish that made me decide this outing was blog worthy.
It wasn't this platter of food that I'm talking about. My achiote rubbed ribs and cemita, which is a classic Mexican sandwich of braised pork, guajillo pineapple sauce and mango pico de gallo...was excellent.
It wasn't the Costilla de Borrego, wood-grilled rack of lamb in mole coloradito sauce. It wasn't the very cute yam tamale either. Although that was Kristi's favorite, even though it took a while before she realized eating the edible-looking green leaves was not a good idea.
Appetizers and Dessert?
It wasn't the crisp potato tacos or the dried Ancho pepper stuffed with housemade chorizo. They were both yummy. (however the pepper was pretty darn hot.)
The chocolate crepes with mousse and black berries were mighty tasty. And the corn flan with caramelized peaches was even tastier...but I still haven't gotten to the highlight!
It was this!
This was actually the first thing we ate. In truth, it is this dish that lured us to this dining night at Hugo's. We look pretty excited...or maybe nervous about what we're tasting.
We asked our server if she liked the pan-sautéed grasshoppers and she said no. She did remind us that it came with guacamole and chipotle salsa, so we could munch on that if we decided we didn't like the little insects. I was surprised at the salty, tangy flavor when I took my first bite. In the bowl it looked like chopped mushrooms. "Not bad!" I thought. Then I put on my glasses and had a closer look.
That thing has legs...and some antennae! We had a whole bowl of these tiny critters! I'd say we did a pretty good job, but we didn't finish the bowl.
A more scientific look...
I did have a moment of fretting when I felt a tiny leg perhaps, poking me far back in the gums. I shared this news with Kristi, since I wasn't sure how to gracefully remove it. Then I had a moment of relief when I realized all was good. "No problem." I told Kristi. "I'm having my teeth cleaned tomorrow at 9!" My grasshopper part finally came loose, but I did share the story
with my hygienist the next day. I waited until she was done cleaning!
Yea for grasshopper dining!
Lunch at the Library!
We've driven this stretch of Highway 71 between Houston and Austin at least 100 times in the past 4 years. But this was the first time we stopped at the cute little house-like café/library, sitting next to the road.
Hit the Spot Café
I'm not sure about the library, but the café serves food 7 days a week and the lot seems pretty packed no matter what time of day we drive by. It was a little warm on this summer day at noon to eat on the porch, but I do love a porch. And how often do you get to sit on stump-stools, pulled up to a spool-table?
When you walk in the front door, you're greeted by the peaceful hush of an old fashioned library.
I was impressed with the old white counter that reminded me of childhood library visits. I think I remember lugging my picture books and lifting them way high to the counter, where a librarian waited with her stamp pad. Of course this library had a soft clicking sound I don't remember...since there were quite a few locals stopping in to use the computers.
There were also a few tables with jig saw puzzles in progress. We never had that in our library. But best of all, near the front door I noticed a small bed for the library cat. I didn't spot the kitty, but I like the idea that there was one roaming around the books somewhere.
The atmosphere changed quite a bit as we stepped into the café section of the building. There was a happy murmur of voices and clanking dishes. We happily took the only open table near the front and had a good time watching the locals meet and greet from table to booth.
It made the job of our server a little tricky since the floor space was often clogged with a few chatting on their way in or out. I'm not sure where these "locals" are from because you can't see a real town from the café. But it was a treat to find out the place wasn't filled with road tourists.
I asked our server what was most popular and I wasn't too surprised when she said chicken fried chicken, since I'd watched a few steamy plates go by.
So I made a pig of myself with my crispy filet of chicken, topped with cream gravy, along with buttery beans, mashed potatoes and Texas toast. My feast for $8.49 and Don's good old American burger with fries for $6.49 left us more than able to afford dessert. But we didn't have room. This café definitely hit the spot for road side dining! We will be back.
I finally got to try a little barbeque that the Hinze family has been selling for over 40 years. My husband Don has dined numerous times at this busy spot just outside Wharton, Texas. I've heard stories about the delicious pecan smoked meats....and the curious trees that grow right up through the ceiling of the restaurant.
Mural in the Trees
The parking lot was jammed at 7 pm on a Thursday. We followed our noses to the front door, pausing to enjoy this cowboy mural above the roof. And then I saw the trees! You can see them poking right through the metal roof.
Greeted by the Squirrel
I had to take this photo later, when the line disappeared. Luckily we had time to view the big menu and study some framed photos and greet the squirrel before ordering at the counter. Don said the crowd was much more relaxed at dinner compared to the hurried, hungry lunch crowd...where you better know what you want by the time you reach the counter.
No Texas BBQ restaurant would feel quite right without a few animals staring down. But Hinze's has more than their share. The turkey fanned out on the wall was a funny one. And the rooster on the stove was the king of kitchen clutter. I'm all for having lots of junk to look at.
I've seen lots of stuffed animals in barbecue places, but never have I dined (inside) with trees. Here is one of the 2 huge trees growing up through the roof in their front room. Evidently these trees have caused a few problems with the roof over the years. Don talked with owner Jim Hinze a few years ago about some serious leaking. Luckily weather was good while we dined.
Curtains? You can't see them too well here, but you have to love some burlap window curtains...trimmed with a strip of bandana fabric and a giant button or two!
Where's the Meat?
These photos are ridiculous. You can't even see the sausage underneath the sauerkraut or the beef ribs and brisket underneath the white bread! If we hadn't been so hungry and the food so good, I might have noticed how useless this shot was and taken another photo. But let me just say, the baked potato stuffed with sausage, chives, cheese, sour cream and sauerkraut was darn good comfort food. It was scalding hot, which is a good thing. I hate barely warm potatoes. And Don's ribs were pretty amazing. He can be picky. He felt embarrassed to not make use of the barbecue sauce (since he requested 2) but the meat was too good to cover up!
This deer has nothing to do with my dessert, which has a wonderful name! But he watched me as I carried it from the counter to my seat. (mostly, the deer is replacing the dessert photo that I forgot to take) But I should mention dessert since many are big fans of pie. I was sort of talked into the sawdust pie by a very enthused young girl at the counter. She raved about the crushed Ritz crackers and pecans and the generous topping of whipped cream. She was so giddy with her description that I forgot I don't like whipped cream. Hopefully I can come back another time and try one of the other desserts...and visit my deer friend!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.