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.
Now open on Shepherd Drive in the Heights, Piper's BBQ (from the folks behind Preslee's a few blocks over) offers a decent option for folks in the neighborhood, especially those folks who don't want to wait in line at nearby Pinkerton's, Gatlin's, or Truth BBQ. Bonus: There are several tables on an L-shaped patio for safer dining. I recommend the sausage (varieties include regular smoked, spicy, and boudin), which carries a nice bite, and pairing that up with the warm English-inspired potato salad made with yogurt. I found the brisket was a bit dry and tough, but that's the read from just one visit. Your impression may differ.
The anticipated collaboration from John Avila (El Burro & The Bull), Jean Philippe-Gaston (Kata Robata), and businessman Bruce Gingrich is now open on Navigation Boulevard, serving Creole fare inside an expansive, familiar space, plus on a large patio with room for live music. There are four kinds of grilled oysters available, such as Bienville—bread crumbs and mushrooms to add texture and a hit of umami—but I recommend heading right for the shrimp and cheesy grits. Here, the grits are creamy but not heavy, more firm than soupy (which I enjoy), and chock full of corn flavor. Quickly some of my favorite grits in town.
There's a new Tex-Mex spot in Oak Forest. Valencia's Tex-Mex Garage is owned by the siblings whose parents founded Texas chain Cyclone Anaya's, and it's serving up fare that's forcing me to return. I enjoyed Mama Valencia's soft tacos, which are served enchilada-style with homemade chili con carne and your choice of protein (I went with ground beef). The H-Town Queso is stellar, too—thick enough to coat a spoon and chock full of peppers.
One night recently I was craving peppercorns, so of course I made a play for Mala Sichuan. I opted for the popular cumin lamb and proudly munched on every red chile in between bites of the tender, dry-rubbed meat. A couple jalapeños brought the extra flames. The kids got dumplings, but not of the red chile oil variety, and whatever leftovers remained were perfect as a cool down from my meal. I even stole a few popcorn-style poultry pieces from my wife's basil crispy chicken. My cravings were well satisfied.
Looking for a sandwich that looks more challenging than a Saturday New York Times crossword? Try an Argentinian lomito, in which slices of filet mignon, plus ham, cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomato, rest in between bread slices. At Pampa, a comfy restaurant in Spring Branch, that bread is a harder, ciabatta-like loaf that makes it a touch more difficult to eat everything; still, there's a lot of indulging to do here. The beef and ham play off each other so well, and the garden stuff is welcome after all that meat. Bonus: A fried egg is always necessary to top it off. Let that yolk run down the sandwich. Good gravy.