The Mint-mule and glass of Pinot Grigio at Bradley's Fine Diner.

Image: Megha Tejpal

Thanks to Guy Fieri's hit Food Network show, fans all around the country want to venture into their local diners, drive-ins and dives for a taste of good, old-fashioned home cooking in a cozy setting. Bradley's Fine Diner, one of Houston's newest diners—and I use the term loosely for this charming, upscale eatery off of Washington Avenue—offers Houstonians a casual dining experience while still churning out farm-to-table dishes with a bold, Southern flair.

The attractive restaurant filled with oversized booths and a spacious bar invites guests to stay awhile, though the best part is that BFD doesn't take itself too seriously, even displaying the word FINE up on the wall in bright lights. While it's not full-tilt fine dining, you can still expect fantastic food here from newly appointed executive chef Greg Lowry and his team, all of whom place a heavy focus on quality meats and fresh, seasonal vegetables, even spotlighting a unique craft cocktail of the day. In searching for my super star dishes featuring fresh produce, I could never have imagined I would come across a fragrant and colorful salad using watermelon as a star ingredient...at a fine diner of all places.

Star Ingredient of the Season: Watermelon

While it may not be at the top of the superfood chain, watermelon does top the list of fruits you just want to sink your teeth into during the summer months. As we race our way into June, Houstonians are looking to beat the heat with more than just a snowcone and a smile. I always consider cold fruit as a natural refresher with its sweet, juicy bite and versatile uses in juices, snacks and desserts. Watermelon, despite being made up largely of water and sugar, is also rich in nutrients providing both Vitams A and C and more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable (lycopene is the red pigment which gives watermelons and tomatoes their color and is considered a powerful antioxidant.)

Watermelon has long been synonymous with summertime due to the simple fact it is a delicious and fun snack for both adults and children, low-maintenance and low in calories (hello, swimsuit season!) The bright red color and chunky pieces make a stunning addition to a fruit salad or garnish to a summer cocktail. While it is typically enjoyed as a sweet snack, its subtle flavor lends a hand in creating marvelous summer salads.

The seasonal beet and watermelon salad topped with citrus and goat cheese.

Image: Megha Tejpal

In a Starring Role at: Bradley's Fine Diner

While beet salads are a dime a dozen these days at Houston restaurants, the seasonal beet and watermelon salad at Bradley's Fine Diner allows watermelon to play a starring role and take this dish to another level. The beet and watermelon salad is gorgeous on the plate, with eye-catching shades of pink contrasting against leafy greens and juicy oranges, and packs a serious punch of flavor. The even portions of citrus, beets and goat cheese rest atop a bed of sweet, juicy watermelon keeping each bite consistent no matter how you slice it. With this brilliant use of our star ingredient of the week, Bradley's Fine Diner has successfully combined the popularity and deliciousness of a typical beet salad with the refreshing flavors of the summer.

Bradley's Fine Diner
191 Heights Blvd.
832-831-5939
bradleysfinediner.com

A phenomenal starter, the beet and watermelon salad will no doubt be just the beginning of a hearty food journey for you at BFD. Other tempting options include the "poutine" made with hand-cut fries and smothered with cheese curds and gravy or BFD's insanely decadent s'mores brownie topped with melted marshmallows and salted caramel ice-cream.

With an adventurous menu from chef Lowry and a down-home atmosphere, owner Bradley Ogden has a winner with his casual-fine diner, a concept not lost on the casual Houston foodie. The opening of Ogden's Pour Society at Gateway Memorial City is just around the corner, and after having gotten a sneak peek of the dishes to come, I can tell you those creations are bigger, bolder, and include more of the bounty of the season, stay tuned!

The s'mores brownie dessert topped with melted marshmallow and salted caramel ice-cream

Image: Megha Tejpal

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