By Jim Ayres
Let’s step away from the new and trendy for a moment. Two of Houston’s biggest names in old school comfort classics are opening new locations. One makes me very happy. The other saddens me a little bit, but I understand completely.
A recent Sabbath saw me celebrating Sunday Funday in Montrose. That’s a rarity for me—I usually stay in on Sundays. But celebrate I did, and I was hungry afterward. For homestyle comfort food. The kind I used to count on at places like The Black-eyed Pea and Good Eats Café. A short drive West on I-10 and I found myself at Pappy’s.
Now, Pappy’s Café isn’t new to me. I’ve been before, and always left stuffed and satisfied. And this time was no different. Pappy’s is one of the few restaurants anywhere still serving Fried Mushrooms, that 1980s appetizer staple. I started with an order. Oh, how I missed biting into those crispy, juicy, earthy balls of batter with mushrooms hiding in there somewhere. Piping hot and served with a lilting horseradish cream sauce, each one seemed better than the one before it. I couldn’t finish the whole basket, but home reheating was easy the next day.
A dinner salad—chilled and sporting the usual lettuce, tomato, cheddar and croutons (Thousand Island, of course)—was a nice palate cleanser. The Chicken-Fried Steak that followed was a masterpiece. Crust bonded with meat in a way few other CFS dishes in town can match. Cream gravy brought just the right amount of salty, milky goodness.
I gathered my to-go boxes and left a happy guy, only to wake up on Monday to the news that Pappy’s is moving! Six miles further out! They explained that their lease was up, and they’d found a new location, a former Texas Land & Cattle. Will I drive the extra miles? I don’t know. Probably. Pappy’s is just that good.
But in happier news, I was thrilled when Christian’s Tailgate opened in the former Amazon Grill space on Kirby, just a few minutes from home. Count me among the few who had never had the pleasure of a Christian’s burger. Before last Friday, that is. Burger Friday!
This Christian’s is set up like the others. A large, imposing bar dominates the space, with tables strewn around the perimeter. I walked up and, burger purist that I am, ordered a “small” 1/3 pound one with cheese, and fries.
I nursed an iced tea as my burger was prepared. Sizzles from the kitchen, fragrant with beef and its juices, watered my mouth.
And this was a burger worth waiting for. Nothing new about this one. Flawlessly medium rare, I loved the thick patty, the fresh tomatoes, the tart pickles and good old yellow mustard. The bun was soft. That’s all I ask of a burger, and Christian’s delivered! Not to mention, the fries seemed fresh cut and were divine.
Sometimes it’s worth seeking out the old classics—in music, movies, and dining. Happy 200th issue, MONTROSE STAR! Like Pappy’s and Christian’s, you’re a classic that’s growing and getting better all the time!
9041 Katy Freeway (for now)
Houston, Texas 77024
5114 Kirby Drive (and other locations)
Houston, Texas 77098