If the “Tortoise and the Hare” taught us anything, it’s that slow and steady wins the race. And at Tony's Barbecue & Steak House, slow and steady cooking has ordinary dinners beat with pork ribs and brisket that spend a good 12 hours sizzling over South Texas hickory. The barbecue meals are joined by hearty steaks, smoked ham and turkey plates, and quail dinners. Many of the menu items are cooked with one of founder Antonio Ruiz's secret recipes for dirty rice, barbecue sauce, and pork and brisket rubs. Before opening the first Tony’s Barbecue in Baytown, Ruiz spent 15 years developing his craft at a local barbecue restaurant in Houston.
When the slow-roasted prime rib is cooked to tender perfection, a chef comes over, carves into it with a knife, and sends freshly loaded plates out into the dining room. That’s the way things have worked at Peppers Restaurant since it opened in 1995. The establishment's homemade take on hearty eats is evident in not only the hand-carved prime rib, but also the house-concocted sauces and seasonings, such as the chicken florentine’s white-wine-mushroom cream and the blackened redfish’s Cajun spices. The steakhouse revolves around USDA Choice cut steaks and deep-fried seafood, although the menu also features a worldly mix of pastas, enchiladas, burgers, and salads harvested from the rainforest.
A lonely fire flickers in the night, punctuating the vast expanse of Brazil’s southern plains. A spitted side of Nelore beef roasts over the flames; from that famed beast and this timeless fireside scene, Nelore takes its name, recipes, and spirit.
Nelore’s chefs draw inspiration from the gauchos of South America, piling plates high with carvings of 16 spit-roasted meats. The spirit of the southern plains remains alive and well in the dining room, where wrought-iron chandeliers and a dark hardwood floor evoke rustic elegance as a warm breeze filters in through the front doors. Veggies, fine cheeses, and pastas fill more than 40 basins at the salad bar, whose glistening glass protects the trays from grazing cattle and errant horseshoe tosses.
Frank's Chop House has menus full of soulful offerings at both lunch and dinner, allowing the taste buds to nestle into flavors as familiar and enveloping as a well-worn beanbag chair. Do Frank proud with a lunchtime pork chop and potato, green beans, and a tomato salad ($15.95), or have the local favorite, a chicken-fried steak ($15.95). To start a dinner right, have a jumbo lump crab cake ($12) or ahi-tuna tartare ($15). Then dive into some home cookin' with fare such as the Chop House burger and fries ($12) or a fried gulf-shrimp and oyster platter ($24). Comfort food isn't complete without a side of green beans or mac ’n’ cheese ($7 each).
Fernando's menus showcase South American ingredients and flavors amid an elegant supper club atmosphere, where weekends herald live music and dance-floor tours. An appetizer sampler ($7 for one, $12 for two) relieves decision-making anxiety with a bundle of favorites: golden-fried battered shrimp, shredded yucca crab cake with black bean sauce, and ceviche de pescado (diced marinated snapper, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro lime). Make good on your promise to eat the entire ocean with Fernando's classic seafood paella (saffron rice, clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, fish, crawfish, calamari, chicken, and Spanish chorizo, $28), or dress your plate in a juicy steak Hickl, 12 ounces of char-grilled marinated rib eye served with mashed potato and asparagus ($28). For carb-fueled feeding, experience the signature mind-meld of European and American cuisine exemplified in the pasta Fernando's, which graces angel-hair pasta with tomatoes, black beans, garlic, basil, cilantro, and grilled chicken breast ($12.50).
An air of mystery, scented with garlic and herbs, fills Fuad's Restaurant, where head chef Joseph conjures recipes that are never listed on a menu. Instead, diners simply request the dishes they desire, such as Fuad's house specialties of lamb and duck, or recipes such as stuffed chicken breasts and fish fillets topped with crabmeat. Beneath twinkling chandeliers, Brenda, the head bartender, shakes cocktails or plumbs the vast wine cellar for bottles to match any entrée or diner's outfit—so long as that outfit is red, white, or aged in a barrel.