Category Archives: Cajun

Kitchen 713

There’s no shortage of Southern-cooking inspired restaurants in Houston. They run the gambit from drive-thru to sit-down, white tablecloth. No matter what your budget, time restrictions or personal tastes happen to be, you will find some venue to suit.

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What makes Kitchen 713 different? Its menu is small and focused on a handful of items which they prepare extremely well. They are located deep into the new, scruffy IT neighbourhood of EaDo. In fact, they are so far into EaDo, it might be considered East Houston. They are extremely casual in atmosphere while serving items you could order from a much schmancier venue for half the cost. They are located in leased space from the adjoining church. This last bit you will want to know if you are thinking about alcohol. They don’t serve it and you cannot bring it; its part of the lease agreement.

Atmosphere
Very casual; you’ll find most patrons are in shorts and flops.  Order at the counter, table delivery. Don’t forget to pickup your silverware and self-service tea or lemonade at the counter in the back. Its basic, small (about 6  4-tops) and insanely popular, therefore it can be loud and chaotic but in a fun way. My advice is to try it on a week night but check their hours online before heading out; they are closed Monday and Tuesday, they also roll up at 9p.

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Food
Some of the best in the city. Breakfast Club has been the defacto Southern venue in Houston for a while now but Kitchen 713 is going to give them some competition. All items were extreme wins.

Boudin Balls: I’ve seen these made any number of ways in Louisiana but here they are chopped Boudin sausage mixed with breading then rolled in cornmeal then deep-fried and served with toast points. Of course they’re good, like a hush puppy with a sausage bonus. There was no accompanying sauce but you can roll your own from the large collection of hot sauces on the back counter.

Shrimp and Grits: Depending on who you ask ‘what is the most southern dish?’ in Houston you’ll likely hear Fried Chicken or this dish, Shrimp and Grits. Like Boudin Balls, Shrimp and Grits is prepared differently everywhere you go. Kitchen 713 prepares theirs with a lemon-cream sauce with a hint of garlic bite, which considerably brightens up a typically heavy bite. Grits are forced to share the bowl with a half-dozen or so squeaky fresh 11-count shrimp and the occasional boudin sausage round. Highly recommended for those seeking to escape the bacon-cheesy renditions.

Also featured in the photos, Lamb Belly with Potato Cake – a definite win for the birthday boy who ordered it. Will try next time.

Service
You can steal a look at the kitchen as you walk by the front since its all glass front. You’ll see the two chefs who work tirelessly in the small space; usually they will briefly stop to flash a smile and wave. Considering the heavy traffic at Kitchen 713, the orders are up quickly, 20 minutes or less. For a no-frills venue, the service here exceeds expectations and the staff will ask you many questions about how often you’ve been, what was your favourite, how can they improve. They will also fill you in on any upcoming specials and they will be sure to note their hallmark fried-chicken lunch served only on Sunday – its a whole fried chicken, so bring a friend.

Price
Frankly, given the quality of the dishes here, I think the prices are low – app, drink and entree will hover about $20-ish.

If you’re an urban pioneer willing to brave the what most Houstonians still consider a ‘bad neighborhood’ (it isn’t and ironically it has the lowest crime stats of any inner city zipcode) and you’re up for some classic Southern dishes spun with care and creativity, Kitchen 713 should be high on your culinary to-do list.

 

Dinner: June 2015

Kitchen 713 | 4515 Canal | HTX 77011

Shrimp and Grits

Parents lived in New Orleans three times, so I had plenty of occasions to visit the city and sample the deep south version of this dish.  While ingredients varied, the grits were consistently just a convenient mechanism to hold together obscene amounts of butter and cream. For this rendition, I took inspiration from Tasty Eats to find a balance between healthy and classic.

Topping

  • 1/2 lb Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 links Boudin sausage, sliced (Andouille is also nice)
  • 1/4 C Smoked Ham, chopped
  • 1 Purple Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 t Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 t Hot Pepper Sauce
  • 2 t Lemon Juice, fresh
  • 1 t Cajun Seasoning
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1 T Butter

Grits

  • 1 C Grits
  • 2 C Shrimp or Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 -1 C Milk
  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 1 t Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 t Hot Pepper Sauce
  • 3 T Parmesan, grated
  • 3 T White Cheddar, grated
  • Chives
  • Black Pepper
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To make the topping, heat oil and butter in a large pan over medium high heat. Add onions and saute for 5-6 minutes until almost golden. Add garlic, sautee for another minute. Add bell peppers, saute for a few more minutes. Don’t over cook the peppers, you want them to crunch a little. Add lemon, pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce, saute for another minute. Remove mixture to a plate. In the same pan add Boudin and sautee until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Add shrimp, ham and Cajun seasoning, saute for another minute. Return mixture to the pan and stir to blend for another minute. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

In a medium stockpot, heat the stock to boiling then whisk in the grits a little at a time. After all IMG_1745grits are added continue to whisk for 5-6 minutes. Add oil and slowly add the milk while whisking continuously, about 5 minutes. Add pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce, whisk some more. Depending on how you like your grits you might add more milk to make them soupy. If you like your grits to stand up and sass back, you might cook them less.

For assembly, put 3/4 -1 C grits in a wide bowl, top with 1/2 – 3/4 C Shrimp/Boudin mixture, black pepper and chives. Almost every table is New Orleans is equipped with Tabasco and most natives apply it liberally; its not actually Cajun hot until you sweat, see stars or simply pass out.

Gumbo Bar

In all the times I’ve lived in Houston, I’ve never traveled the entire hour south to the island of Galveston. Today some friends were leaving from the port of Galveston for a cruise so I thought why not see them off and spend a little time exploring. Glad about that. I had bookmarked another restaurant but it was not open so I poked Trip Advisor and found Gumbo Bar. Glad about that too.

Gumbo Bar is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike but if you are a table for one you will find no wait and better service at the bar. Its also easier to see the selection of beers in the glass front cooler at the bar and you’ll definitely want one or four of those to cool down.

Atmosphere
Galveston is terminally casual and tourism has quite the large presence so the atmosphere everywhere is extremely relaxed. Gumbo Bar is upscale diner with a mixed bag patronage. I saw an elderly couple with walkers seated next to a couple of scary-looking biker dudes (who ironically would later help the elderly couple out of their booth and into their walkers).

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Beer
I was surprised by the variety of local-ish beers, most of which were from Texas and Louisiana. I tried one from each state; Southern Star’s Bombshell Blonde Ale and Abitas Amber Lager. Abitas is a small brewery north of Lake Pontchartrain, LA. Their Amber Lager is smooth, malty with a light caramel flavor and pairs surprisingly well with peppery-hot and salty. Southern Star is a small brewery from Conroe, TX, which used to be a separate town but has now been sucked into the gravitational pull of the HTX (aka Houston, for non-locals). Their Bombshell Blonde is blunt and squeaky clean with a slight “biscuit” flavor, it did not stand up to the hot-pepper as well as the Abitas but it was great with salty.

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Food

All wins.

Fried Pickles with Ranch. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a state law in Texas that anything fried must be served with Ranch dressing. Fried Pickles are something I had never tried but I’m a fan now. The pickles must have been partially dried before frying since there wasn’t a drop of pickle juice when I bit into these. The casing was a grease-less cornmeal mix; pleasantly crunchy giving way to an even crunchier pickle. The combination of creamy ranch and salty pickle is surprisingly good, even if your blood pressure will hate you for your sodium-intake indiscretion.

Seafood Gumbo. But can she make a roux? The most common quip I heard from boys about girls when I was partaking of New Orleans nightlife. Not sure who is making the roux at Gumbo Bar but they can make a serious roux, which you might know, is the flour and butter fry up serving  as a foundation for all things gumbo. Surprisingly, the gumbo, while super rich, dark and ridiculously dense with seafood (oysters, shrimp, fish and crab) was not the least bit salty. I had a choice of four hot sauces, so I tried them all in succession. Alas, my favourite was the least interesting – Tabasco – straight up, no Jalapeno, Garlic or Chipotle distractions.

Service
Outstanding. Again, there is very little wait at the bar. I was seated immediately, the bartender was on the spot with beers, actually talking me out of a couple of choices which would have been too heavy for my meal. My food order started coming out in 10 minutes. I  felt neither rushed nor overlooked.

PriceIMG_1302
Moderate and worthy

  • Beers, $5 a pop
  • Fried Pickles, $5
  • Seafood Gumbo, $10

I’ll be making more trips to Galveston; I like the casual, leisurely beach culture, the surprising 10×10 block of well-kept Victorian houses and the food scene seems good for a town of only 50,000.

Lunch: 3 August 2013

Gumbo Bar | 2105 Post Office St. | Galveston, TX 77550