Alice's Latest Obsession

Roumanian Steak at Kenny & Ziggy's

Houston's only version of the Jewish skirt steak classic is double the pleasure.

By Alice Levitt December 7, 2015

I am a really bad Jew. Like, milk-braised pork bad. But something about being away from my family for the first time on Hannukah made me feel more religious, at least culinarily. Lucky for me, I was already in the Galleria area and had easy access to all this:

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So many knishes...

Image: Alice Levitt

But I skipped one of Kenny & Ziggy's famous jaw-challenging deli sandwiches in favor of what I was really craving: Roumanian steak. No, I don't mean Romanian steak. It's Roumanian. And you won't find it anywhere else in Houston.

According to food writer Michael Gebert, "Roumanian" is simply Borscht Belt-era "transparent code" for "Jewish." The dish is skirt steak, a cheap cut, marinated into sweet submission. It's easy to find in New York City, at specialists such as Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse, but also at Greek diners and culturally blurry chains like Jackson Hole

In all my years of Roumanian steak eating, I had never seen a more expensive version than the $32.95 plate of beef at Kenny & Ziggy's. Every semitic cell in my body balked. Until, that is, I was presented with the plate.

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My grandma would see this and say, "You think that's enough?"

Image: Alice Levitt

It held not one but two plate-spanning skirt steaks. It was enough for four meals, which in the end, averages out to $8 a meal. (Yes, that's actually how I think.) Not bad, especially given the large salad and extra-fat pickles included in the deal.

The beef itself was so perfect, I very nearly shed a tear. The sweet, garlicky marinade was just like up north. And given the Texan way with a fryer, the tobacco onions on top were even better than back home.  A side of kasha varnishkes, a combination of farfalle and buckwheat groats, was ribboned with sweet caramelized onions. Its texture was by turns sandy and slippery, a varied delight. It was the right choice among the dozen possible sides, though next time, I'll pair my crunchy slaw (for roughage, sigh) with sweet kugel.

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My math applies to the cake, too. A slice will last you several desserts

Image: Alice Levitt

After a gigantic egg cream with dinner, I didn't have room for dessert, but in the future, I'll be sure to save room for seven-layer cake. And Ukrainian meatballs. And a brisket sandwich with two potato pancakes in place of bread... Until then, I'll be eating that steak for meal after meal.


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