Ice House

Houston Restaurant Menus Got You Experiencing Déjà Food?

You're not alone—though who can argue against the merits of fancy chicken-fried steak or red velvet pancakes?

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen April 17, 2017 Published in the May 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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So. Many. Restaurants. Serve. Brussels. Sprouts.

Image: Megha Tejpal

Is it us, or are a lot of menus starting to blend into one giant Ameri-Gulf-Fusion concept? We’ve even coined a phrase to cover that feeling when you’re trying to remember if you’ve had the [insert dish here] at a certain restaurant before: déja food.

But if we’ve learned anything from tasting and re-tasting these faves on offer at Houston restaurants (some currently, some recently), it’s that Mae West was right: Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

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Image: Shutterstock

Kale Caesar 

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Image: Alice Levitt

Whole Fried Snapper

  • As seen at: Holley's, Peska, Songkran, Tampico
  • Evolved from: Whole snapper living in the ocean
  • Where to eat it: Tampico's old-school snapper a la plancha is a must-try.
  • Points for creativity: The version at Holley's masterfully blends Thai flavors and Southern technique.
  • To be replaced by: Whole fried tuna, recommended to feed 12.
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Image: Amber Ambrose

Fried Cauliflower

  • As seen at: Coltivare, Edison, Fat Bao, Riel, Roost, Uchi
  • Evolved from: Corn fritters? Asparagus tempura? There's just too many fried vegetable dishes to say.
  • Where to eat it: Uchi and Roost have both made this dish a signature for the past five years.
  • Points for creativity: The similar, but slightly different, cauliflower steak at Backstreet Café
  • To be replaced by: Fancy fried okra 

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

  • As seen at: Eddie V's, Edison, Eloise Nichols, Liberty Kitchen, One Fifth Steak, State of Grace, Urban Eats
  • Evolved from: Roasted butternut squash
  • Where to eat it: There's a reason this is the most popular side at Eloise Nichols.
  • Points for creativity: Edison's version has a tangy vinaigrette, mint and pork belly — need we say more?
  • To be replaced by: Brussels sprouts with ... brisket? Why the hell not. 
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Never change, chicken-fried steak, never change.

Image: Shutterstock

Fancy Chicken-fried Steak

  • As seen at: B&B Butchers, Frank's Americana, Killen's STQ, Kitchen 713, Southern Goods, State Fare
  • Evolved from: CFS made from humble round steak, as God intended
  • Where to eat it: Want to go crazy? Try the CFS at Killen's STQ, made with wagyu ribeye.
  • Points for creativity: The bone-in CFS at Southern Goods, a surprising (and delicious) take
  • To be replaced by: Nothing. Ever.
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Image: Alice Levitt

Korean Chicken Wings

  • As seen at: Dak & Bop, Fat Bao, Hoodadak, Izakaya, Republic Diner + Sojubang, Plucker's (pick the gochujang sauce)
  • Evolved from: Fish sauce wings à la Portland's Pok Pok
  • Where to eat it: Katy's Hoodadak — Korean chicken wings are basically its reason for existence.
  • Points for creativity: Not ready to commit to K-wings? Order Plucker's wings and specify how many you want with their gochujang sauce.
  • To be replaced byKaraage, the Japanese version of popcorn chicken

Red Velvet Pancakes

  • As seen at: Barnaby's, Liberty Kitchen, Max's Wine DiveSnooze
  • Evolved from: The equally over-the-top bananas foster French toast
  • Where to eat it: If you're going to brunch this hard, you should be at Liberty Kitchen.
  • Points for creativity: Barnaby's version comes with cream cheese icing.
  • To be replaced by: Red velvet churros like Bosscat's
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Image: Shutterstock

Grilled Octopus

Sticky Toffee Pudding

  • As seen at: Canopy, Hunky Dory, Peli Peli, Queen Vic, Riel, State of Grace
  • Evolved from: Molten lava cake — just puts the gooey sauce on the exterior
  • Where to eat it: People can't get enough of Peli Peli's classic take.
  • Points for creativity: Riel's version features non-standard ingredients like a foie gras torchon and blood toffee sauce.
  • To be replaced by: Something similarly retro, like baked Alaska or floating islands
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