“Get yourself a gimmick…and you too can be a star.” Veteran burlesque performers sang this showstopper in Gypsy for a skeptical Louise as she learned the finer points of striptease.
But in the restaurant world? Not if you’re spending the kind of money you’ll spend at Ritual, one of the most expensive restaurants in Houston.
Yet gimmickry is precisely what I’d call myself a victim of at a recent lunch.
Now, Ritual doesn’t look expensive. The building at White Oak and Studewood has been a number of restaurants in prior lives, and they haven’t done much to spruce it up. (To its credit, the patio shields diners from traffic beautifully with ferns and other greenery.)
I saw the words “Wedge Salad” on the menu and immediately ordered it. I always do. Perhaps I missed the parts about pork belly and buffalo sauce. Pork belly is even fattier than bacon, and I abhor buffalo sauce. Why couldn’t they have made a classic steakhouse wedge?
Well, Ritual does try to be everything to everyone who can afford it. There’s a Butcher Room steakhouse menu. There’s a small plates section, and entrees, too. It was there I spied a Chicken Fried Ribeye, and I had to try it. It was a nicely sized CFS, served with green beans and “Whipped Mashers.”
It was also richer than most of the patrons. It tasted good, sure, but the gravy was lavish with drippings (probably from that pork belly). The breading seemed like corn flakes (not so uncommon, I guess). The meat itself? Was it really ribeye? Hard to tell. It was pounded so thinly, with no marbling to speak of. I could only eat about a third of it before asking for a to-go box.
That wedge salad was $14. The entrée was $29. Gulp! I give Ritual points for trying, but I think I would have enjoyed less high-end versions of these dishes just as much, if not more, in a less pricey environment.
What a relief it was, then, to meet a friend for breakfast the next Saturday at Dish Society. There are five locations in Houston; this one was on San Felipe going west beyond the Galleria. It’s in a mixed-use development flanked by flashier restaurants, but breakfast was solid and gimmick-free.
My BLT Sandwich was all I could ask it to be. With plenty of bacon, organic greens, tomato, an over easy egg and garlic aioli on toasted whole grain bread, it was breakfast sandwich nirvana. I wished the side order of skillet potatoes had been diced a little larger, but the flavor was on point.
As was my friend’s Brisket N’ Eggs bowl. The smoked brisket was tender and sprightly with tomatillo relish. Eggs and grits completed the ensemble, with a buttermilk biscuit added for good measure. A carafe of mimosas was perfectly mixed, and perfectly classic.