Since COVID-19 isn't going away any time soon and restaurants continue to stress alternative options to dining in, we'll bring you each week a roundup of takeout dinners recently enjoyed by dining editor Timothy Malcolm.
We have a new contender in the Houston fried chicken league. Wife and husband team Benchawan Jabthong and Graham Painter, who previously worked in joints like SaltAir Seafood Kitchen and Theodore Rex, opened their brick-and-mortar Street to Kitchen on August 3 at 6501 Harrisburg Blvd in the East End. Benchawan Jabthong Painter is the chef, and she concocts thrilling Thai street food like drunken noodles with a feisty burn, thanks in part to some sliced chiles, and favorites like pad Thai (shrimp only) and massaman curry (chicken and vegetarian available). But it's her fried chicken that steals the show. The salty, savory, and ultra-crispy bird is sprinkled with sliced, fried shallots for extra texture. Get the spicy chili cilantro sauce on the side; it's basically a green chutney and irresistible for dipping. I will definitely return.
On a weekend morning that included a trip to the Urban Harvest Saturday Farmers Market, I opted to pick up some of what I'm calling "dim sum express" via Bao Shi Yi, which opened its in-the-Loop location on Kirby Drive near Richmond Avenue last month (its first location is in Bellaire). Don't expect a gargantuan menu of savory breakfast treats, but you will get a list of buns (my little pork bun could've used more filling), potstickers (I got the nicely balanced chicken and corn), and a couple extras (the youtiao, or deep-fried "donut," is superb—crispy, airy, and lightly sweet). I need to try more of the buns (cha siu and beef onion especially) and its take on the flatbread burger known as rou jia mo. I'll return, but probably after one or two more classic dim sum experiences.
There should be eating competitions strictly based on how much of a Hubcap Grill burger you can devour. In my case, one and exactly one Hubcap Decker: two thick ground beef patties separated by a toasted slice of bread, plus American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mayo sauce. The meat overwhelms the bun (a good thing), and you'll need two hands and a wide-open mouth to start eating. Along with the creative burger options at Hubcap (the popular Philly cheese steak burger is essentially a cheesesteak in a burger bun), there are a bunch of different French fry options. My favorite should be the stinky fries with garlic salt and vinegar, but they get soggy quickly in takeout form. Instead I recommend the more composed bacon cheese fries with bacon bits.
One recent night I was craving Korean chicken, so I set out to pick up some grub from this spot that opened last summer in the Bellaire Food Street strip. The bird comes either fried or brushed in one of three flavors: spicy, soy garlic, and a special that claims both sweet and sour properties. I ordered the special but it didn't seem to be all that tart; nonetheless, it was delicious. The bulgogi cheese fries were a beefy, gluttonous textural masterwork that didn't benefit as a takeout item since the fries got a little soggy. Finally, the mandu—dumplings filled with meat; in my case, beef—were crispy, warm, and filling.
The Ford Fry restaurant in River Oaks helmed by chef Bobby Matos maintains a slim but power-packed menu for takeout. It's hard to resist appetizers like sliced Texas peaches atop grilled bread slathered in basil pesto and burrata, combining sweet with intensely herbal flavors, because you'll want to make room for big entrees like oak-roasted snapper with toasted chile vinaigrette and jumbo head-on Gulf shrimp with citrus chermoula. Or, you can do as I did, and opt for cacio e pepe tagliatelle with just a coating of grana padano sauce. As both are creamy and intensely peppery, it made for a tremendous midweek meal.