Whenever a customer orders a side of hush puppies, Seafood Cafe manager Asad Jawad likes to joke with them a bit. "Ma'am, there is a little problem," he'll say. "When I got these puppies, they were little, and now they are grown dogs." Whether or not this elicits a chuckle, it only takes a glance at the eatery's portion sizes to see what Asad means. At Seafood Cafe, helpings of Cajun-style seafood are as generous as the staff is friendly.
That should be no surprise, since Seafood Cafe is built on a foundation of friendship. Asad and his friends John Herpin and Misael Cortez, also known as The Three Amigos, started the restaurant after they met working at another eatery five years ago. Bringing together traditional recipes from Louisiana with their restaurant-industry experience, they mix up each recipe with their own twist. The cuisine blends classic Cajun dishes such as blackened catfish and gumbo with Mexican-inflected meals including tilapia tacos. The trio only cooks up food they feel passionate about, and will even distribute free samples to convert people to the menu's more unique flavors. They also plan to encourage big appetites with a wall of fame that will honor those patrons who have made the most of the menu's all-you-can-eat catfish option. And on the weekends, jazz and reggae bands play, filling the dining room with jaunty melodies to match spicy Cajun scents.
A lengthy lineup of traditional game-day fare and a sports atmosphere captivate fans at Fox and Hound - Bailey's, where the kitchen remains open as late as its neighboring fully stocked bar. Chefs cook until the wee hours of the morning and always until the bar closes, baking Bavarian pretzel starters, crafting towers of onion rings, and preparing hand-battered chicken tenders that are cooked until they are golden brown. They blend their own seasonings to sprinkle over grilled-to-order burgers, and draw from a diverse roster of cheeses and toppings to crown their wood-oven-inspired flatbreads.
While manning the bars, bartenders tap into a stash of libations, such as UV Whipped vodka and Patron Silver tequila, to mix their specialty cocktails. To further foster a sporting ambiance, high-definition TVs glow with sports games and custom music-video playlists, and guests partake in pastimes of ump bashing, billiards, or competitive people watching.
In 1998, the clack of billiards balls met the clink of cold beers at the first Fast Eddie’s Sports Tavern and Social Clubs in Amarillo. Since then, 17 more Fast Eddie's locations have sprung up across Texas and Louisiana, each letting guests sink corner shots at 8- and 9-foot Olhausen pool tables while sharing a few drinks and snacks such as deep-fried hot dogs. Beyond the felt, home runs and touchdowns play out on multiple big-screen TVs as darts fly into targets and foosball tables re-create the exciting theatrics of gymnasts struggling to play soccer.
Though John Ly grew up helping out in the kitchen of his family's restaurants, his parents never wanted him to become a chef. The restaurant industry is competitive, they warned him—a lot of hard work with little recognition. Heeding their advice, Ly began pursuing a degree in computer science at the University of Texas, but soon realized that he longed for the creativity and chaos of the kitchen. Propelled by his passion for food and cooking, Ly renounced his degree and enrolled in culinary school. After years spent working his way up through scrubbing floors, washing dishes, and absorbing his managing chef's techniques, Ly finally spearheaded Strata—naming the restaurant after the word for "different layers" to reflect the diverse international influences of his cooking.
As executive chef, Ly captains his kitchen crew as they artfully plate innovative, contemporary American dishes using seasonal ingredients, earning the restaurant Hungry in Houston's Best Restaurant award in 2010. His pan-seared sea bass, cinnamon-rubbed rib eye, and spicy habanero-infused sausage dishes have also enticed the taste buds of reporters from the Houston Press. Ly staffs his modern dining room with a friendly team of servers, while offering up an expansive outdoor patio, an ideal spot for a date night or celebrating recent acquisitions of rival rent-a-bobcat businesses.
Outdoor Homescapes of Houston's designers transform the classic picket fenced yard into luxurious living space. They dream up outdoor living spaces, covered outdoor kitchens, porches and patios, and fireplaces, all tailored to work in harmony with the pre-existing home. The designers visit homes and consult with owners to get the juices flowing, then deliver 3D-renderings of what a remodeled yard could look like. To help convey their full vision, they even set up an online, graphical tour with live blue prints. Keeping homeowners from feeling overwhelmed, the designers break down their drawings into practical steps, allowing clients to complete their ideal backyard through a series of smaller projects.
Though sandwiches are versatile by nature, 4 Girls Deli takes that versatility to a whole new level with a huge menu of hot and cold favorites. The sandwich creators—who founded their own shop after taking a pass on the franchise route—craft such specialties as Kristin's turkey cranberry on sourdough and Kylie's reuben with corned beef or pastrami. The handhelds also take the form of hot-pressed buffalo-chicken paninis, meatball and provolone poboys, and falafel pita pockets.