It would be more than fair to say that Alfonso Gonzalez is of local renown?the owner and executive chef of La Riviera Restaurant won the Chef of the Year award from the Brazos Valley chapter of the Texas Chefs Association three years in a row, and he now reigns as their director.
With more than 30 years of experience, it's not surprising that Gonzalez uses only top-notch ingredients such as Angus beef, local produce, and fresh-caught seafood. He's also comfortable enough to dabble in an international lineup of culinary styles, stacking his menu with everything from chicken carbonara to Caribbean jerk tilapia, so named because it makes fun of other fish. The diversity of his food is matched by the wine list, which includes varietals from California, Oregon, and abroad.
Following a whim can sometimes change someone’s life, as the proprietor of Sugar Mommas knows well. A cake decorating class at a local craft store started her on a trajectory that led her to open her own bakery. She draws together wholesome ingredients such as sweet creamery butter and pure cane sugar to craft cupcakes with soft coronas of frosting. She also creates full-sized customized cakes and cake pops on sticks, which are convenient for eating as a snack or holding out of reach of a children’s basketball team. While baking her confections, she works to protect the environment by using green products, recycling, and minimizing her use of water whenever possible.
The staff at Orange Leaf rejects the oft-touted claim that Americans don’t care about nutrition. The problem, they say, has more to do with selection than anything else; most low-calorie sweets don’t hold a candle to a fudge brownie or a warm slice of apple pie. They kept this in mind when crafting their frozen-yogurt recipes, working tireless to develop a healthy—and equally delicious—alternative to the dessert status quo by turning to decadent confections and just-picked fruits for inspiration.
Their experiments thus far have yielded more than 60 frozen yogurt flavors, which take turns pumping through the self-serve machines that line their colorful shop’s wall. Before taking a seat in a bright orange chair, guests fill their dishes with cool, low-fat swirls of chocolate cheesecake, strawberry banana, and a classic tart that bites as pleasantly as a teething kitten. Juicy pears, crunchy granola, and gooey chocolate sauce headline a smorgasbord of at least 30 toppings ready to scooped or poured into cups before their final weigh-in.
Great Harvest Bread Company’s bakers craft a heart-healthy assortment of whole-grain breads and baked goods using freshly ground flour. Each month, a newly designed menu allows the team to employ the season's freshest ingredients and harvest the warmest loaves from bread-bearing trees, including cinnamon-raisin-walnut swirl, white chocolate cranberry swirl, and Mediterranean olive loaves.
Paul Bellow Jr. knows crawfish. For the past 32 years, the seasoned chef has been perfecting crawfish-cooking styles at his own restaurants, developing his recipe's signature blend of flavor and spice. To gauge the tastes of his diners, every year during crawfish season, Paul drives his trailer across town to conduct crawfish and shrimp boils for various special events.
At Cypress Station Grill—his latest restaurant conception—Paul pours the lessons of years of cooking into a menu of Cajun and American specialties. Live shipments of the plump crustaceans arrive at the kitchen during crawfish season, which Paul and his kitchen staff simmer and serve by the pound. As pots bubble with crawfish and shrimp, the kitchen crew grills thick steaks, fries seafood dishes, and weaves toupees out of hearty pastas. Behind the bar, mixters and mixtesses dole out colorful specialty cocktails, beer, and wine.
Housed in the historic Cypress Station building, the restaurant's towering ceilings and hardwood rafters still retain the grandeur of the former bustling railway hub. Hanging lanterns beam down on rows of wooden tabletops, and a towering outdoor brick fireplace crackles amid the two expansive outdoor patios. A separate game room keeps youngsters occupied, giving parents breaks from their kids' ceaseless rants about tax reform.
Every day, Tacoland dishes out more than 10 different tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some of the eatery's tacos are especially unique. Barbacoa tacos, for instance, feature slow-cooked beef tongue, and pastor tacos house pork marinated in an adobe sauce. Alongside many of its dishes, Tacoland includes authentic Mexican rice and refried beans.