Since Covid-19 is still here and restaurants continue to stress alternative options to dining in, we’ll bring you each week a roundup of takeout (and in this case, one al fresco) meals recently enjoyed by dining editor Timothy Malcolm.
January 14 is National Hot Pastrami Day, if you're keeping track. To get the sandwich, in which the warm meat is put between slices of rye with Russian dressing, Swiss, and coleslaw, I recommend asking your favorite deli ahead of time. Maybe Katz's in Montrose (or the Heights) will do one? They make a pretty good, traditional Reuben stacked with layers of corned beef (or pastrami) and coleslaw on rye with melted Swiss, a sandwich I enjoyed recently. You know, just prod 'em. Maybe they'll steam up that meat. Whether or not it's possible, it's a big meal, and if you're getting it for lunch, you'd better arrange yourself a salad for dinner.
Since I've known my wife, I've eaten black-eyed peas every year on New Year's Day. Well, not this year. After the outrageousness of 2020, I felt just asking for luck wasn't enough; instead, I needed a whole mood of calm with a touch of sweetness. Enter Pho 21's beautiful, light broth. I opted for a four-meat pho of brisket, flank, eye round steak, and tripe; added a bit of hoisin and sriracha; ate most of it on New Year's night; and finished it off the next day. It was dreamy. Some of the best pho I've had in the city.
As a relative Newstonian (when does that change, when you get to five years here?), I'm still visiting a number of stalwart restaurants for the first time. Tony Thai, occupying a strip mall corner spot out in Asia Town, was next on my list recently and ... you know, it's just fine. I had the chicken in peanut sauce, which had a good, strong nutty zip. The panang curry was a touch too spicy and lacked the nuance I like and expect in it. The pad see ew passed muster. For a last-minute weekday option, I can dig it.
My wife and I ran an important errand on Sunday (don't tell the kids—we met something that rhymes with fog), and on the way back we stopped at this family owned barbecue restaurant on Spring Cypress Road in Tomball. We ordered at the counter and took our food to one of the tables out front; pretty quickly, a platter of "moist" brisket, pork ribs, regular sausage, and chicken came out with a couple sides. The ribs, aggressively rubbed with some big black peppercorns, were a hit. Good chicken, too, keeping some seriously smoky skin with juicy meat. The sour-cream-laden potato salad was a lot of fun, if just a bit too rich.
I wasn't so keen on the brisket on the first try, which was a lot drier than I had expected, but it did achieve a nice smoke ring and nevertheless tasted fine. (I'll give it a whirl again; it's always a good idea to revisit barbecue joints.) Also, the green beans soaking in juices with ham had that sharp canned bean flavor that might be off-putting for some. (Editor's note: For transparency purposes, a co-owner informed me via email, after this piece was published, that I was mistakenly given lean brisket.)
Just as important, 2 Guys 1 Pit was very friendly and had beer from Bearded Fox (which is on the other end of the strip mall). For everyday 'cue, it's a good option, especially if the lines at nearby Tejas Chocolate & BBQ are a bit too long.
The biggest score of my week happened over Instagram and Venmo. I ordered a sheet of focaccia from the Fierce Chef Alimentari, also known as Sasha Grumman (most recently Rosalie), arranging a pickup on New Year's Day. On that day, she messaged me when she finished baking the focaccia, and I drove to the pickup spot. She met me at my car, gave me a box, and I paid over the phone. Later, I'd cook a Sunday gravy (oxtail and beef rib base) and spaghetti, but that focaccia—crispy on the outside, airy on the inside, and perfectly salty and sweet—stole the show. "This is really good bread," said my 4-year-old Evie. "Have we had this before?" Nope. First time. Probably not the last.