It's tough to complain about the food at Big Eyed Fish: it's delicious, and comes in such huge portions that no one could possibly walk away from a meal here hungry. And at lunch, you can get two courses of those giant portions for $15 (along with an iced tea or soft drink), eliminating one of the few complaints I've heard about the new Sixth Ward restaurant that specializes in modern Southern cuisine—that it's too expensive at dinner. Happily, this leaves me with only one small caveat to disclose to diners heading to Big Eyed Fish for that $15 express lunch: make it a long one.
Big Eyed Fish
908 Henderson St.
I noticed that service was slow at Big Eyed Fish during my first meal there, a dinner with friends. But who rushes through dinner with friends? None of us cared. But in the cold light of day a few weeks later, I saw those same service issues impeding what would have otherwise been an exceptional express lunch if that lunch hadn't lasted nearly two hours. That's the point at which the word "express" begins to seem like it's mocking you.
Mercifully, the meal mostly distracted my dining companions, all of whom were confused as to why our waiter kept disappearing for long stretches of time, because it really does offer a terrific deal: your choice of turtle soup or bacon-stuffed deviled eggs to start, along with a full-sized portion of meatloaf and mashed potatoes; chicken pot pie; three slider-sized Porker burgers (that would be Big Eyed Fish's burger topped with country ham, smoked pork, bacon, cheddar, and mushrooms) with fries; or the OMG grilled cheese sandwich and fries that, like the Porker, comes with a thick slice of ham inside. Oh, and a couple of salads. But you can eat a salad anywhere; at Big Eyed Fish, you're here to go, well, big.
Having already tried and enjoyed the deviled eggs on that previous visit, I opted for the turtle soup. While it needed a dose of sherry, I was still suitably impressed by this thick, creamy version of the old Creole classic, filled with bits of turtle meat. My meatloaf was equally impressive, seemingly made with thick cuts of beef brisket and topped in a barely spicy tomato sauce that was tempered with a little sweetness and what I think was cinnamon. The creamy whipped potatoes underneath were so good, I ended up eating them all first, leaving the meatloaf to languish like I was five years old again.
Service issues are nothing new in Houston; in fact, the Houston Press reported today that a longtime restaurateur recently started a waitstaff school to train servers in the art of hospitality—though for a dear price of $625 for the program. Could Big Eyed Fish's servers benefit from a little more training themselves? Sure. But in the meantime, the food—and the homey, welcoming atmosphere—is already such a draw that even if you find yourself dawdling over a plate of meatloaf it'll likely be one of the best meatloaves you've had in a long time, and there are surely worse fates to befall you on a weekday afternoon.