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.
After ordering at new Montrose dumpling bar Pling, I got to watch the workers make my food at the counter. As one worker fills the homemade gyoza skin with meat, seafood, and vegetables, another steams or fries until finished. It raised my expectation level for these unique dumplings influenced by Korean barbecue trends and modern Japanese cuisine; or in other words, I couldn't get home to devour my food fast enough.
But now I want to get back there just as fast. I tried two gyoza items—the ebi pling (pork and a large whole shrimp inside a soft-steamed dumpling with lovely folds) and the sweet and spicy pling (a treasure chest of fried chicken and vegetables inside a slightly more durable dumpling, topped with sweet and spicy sauce, plus peppers and sesame seeds). Both held together astoundingly well and were super fresh and tasty, quickly vaulting Pling toward the top of my go-to dumpling spots. One letdown: the cheesy bulgogi pling bun could've used more filling and less bun. Nonetheless, I'm all about going back here.
From the folks behind Cafe Abuja and Taste of Nigeria comes more of a fast-casual operation for jollof rice, quick Nigerian meals, and traditional soups like egusi and goat pepper.
Considering the name, I asked for a jollof plate with goat but was denied the meat. Why? I ordered late in the day for dinner. Since some of JRK's ingredients are prepared at Cafe Abuja and sent to JRK earlier in the day, there's only so much goat meat that reaches Upper Kirby, and it usually sells out during the lunch rush. So if you want goat (or oxtail, for that matter), order early.
Thus, I opted for chicken with my jollof, and since I wanted spicy, it was blanketed in a peppery red sauce that instantly cleared up my sinuses. The jollof was pretty standard, with a hint of smoke, perfect for a quick lunch or dinner. But if I'm in the Loop and want jollof for a slowed-down dinner, I'd probably visit Taste of Nigeria or Aria Suya close to Uptown.
When my neighbor mentioned he might do Blood Bros. for lunch one Friday, I was quick to ask for his Venmo. Then I went to the smokehouse's Instagram page to view the daily menu and decided on a smoked turkey banh mi with smoked gouda mac and cheese and cucumber salad. Around 12:30 p.m. on Friday I got my goods and enjoyed one heck of a lunch.
That turkey carries a real smoky blast, perfect in a hard baguette with fresh vegetables. But, as it always is when I order Blood Bros., the star was the gouda mac and cheese. Until anyone unseats it, this is the best macaroni and cheese in Houston.
Thank you, neighbor.
My election day fuel this year was the Big Tex Two Step from Tony Luhrman's West University brick-and-mortar. That's two tacos and a side, so I went with a Houston (44 Farms beef barbacoa, pickled onions, and epazote aioli) and a crispy beef (with shaved lettuce, cheese, and salsa), along with some street corn.
This isn't news to anyone who's had food from El Topo's taco truck, but these are among the best tacos in Houston. The Houston, specifically, was packed with juicy, smoky flavor, transporting me back to a vacation last year to West Texas and Big Bend.
I recommend anyone with a hankering for tacos to pull up to the El Topo window.