Inside each 59 Diner location, friendly chatter ripples from booth to booth and white-capped servers scurry around dishing out retro classics. Recognized by the Houston Press as among the city's best in 2009, 59 Diner's made-from-scratch milk shakes and malts slide across tables in old-fashioned glasses before coating tongues in such flavors as mocha, fudge, and Oreo. Sweet sips offset savory burgers, patty melts, and all-day breakfast specials, which can also be ordered in pint-size portions for younger patrons. Meals transport tongues to the past, and jukeboxes release vintage tunes into the air, inspiring guests to try to catch their favorite notes inside empty glasses.
Each day, the chefs at Pepperoni's Pizza's eight locations crush premium tomatoes into sauces, roll out homemade dough, then cover the freshly baked pies with natural mozzarella. Diners can build their own creations from more than 30 toppings, including bacon bits and pineapples, or opt for more than 10 specialty pizzas such as the New Yorker, smothered with heaping amounts of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Their menu also sates hearty appetites with more than 20 oven-baked subs, as well as local favorites such as calzones and smokey BBQ Buffalo wings.
Blu Water snatches piscine fare fresh from the water before transforming it into the dishes that populate its swiftly served menu. Veggie-centric selections star the grilled-salmon salad, in which strips of succulent salmon, surrounded by grape tomatoes and sweet peppers, lay upon field greens and spot familiar shapes in the clouds above. Pairs swap nibbles from a duet of tacos, made from grilled or panko-breaded fish or shrimp resting in the curves of corn and flour tortillas made in-house daily. Punch dishes with extra flavor from 14 scratch-made sauces, spanning the gamut of spiciness with flavors from mild southwest pesto to fiery mango habanero. A triumvirate of rice bowls blends salmon, cod, shrimp, or chicken into Asian or Cajun flavors. Any taco or sandwich selection, including the shrimp po boy, can transform into a combo meal by stepping into a phone booth, tearing off its business suit, and emerging with a drink and a side. Finally, triangular desserts such as lemon cheesecake play a sugary coda to the aquatic meal.
A former caterer for celebrities such as Beyoncé, Yao Ming, and Natalie Cole, Chef Reynold Darthard gives tongues the red-carpet treatment with Chef Rey’s savory brunch and dinner menus. The chicken and belgian waffle with creamy grits finds middle ground between warring breakfast and lunch factions ($15), and the vegetarian burger satisfies meat evaders with a heaping pile of grilled red onion, sautéed spinach, portabella mushrooms, zucchini, squash, leek, and tomato atop a whole-wheat bun with sweet-potato fries ($10). Nighttime diners can partake in a plate of smoked lamb chops with pecan-carrot rice and sautéed asparagus ($30) or double down on meat intake with an 8-ounce bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin ($28), served with elegant garlic potatoes that charm mouths with yachting anecdotes. The indulgent dessert menu delights in its all-day availability, charming diners with such sweets as crème brûlée ($7), red-velvet pound cake ($7), and Rey’s famous lineup of cheesecakes ($6), including strawberry, chocolate, raspberry swirl, cookies ‘n’ cream, and New York–style, complete with a baked-in subway map.
Considered a "pork-filled glory" by the Houston Press, Hoggs & Chicks’ Pig's Delight sandwich layers fried pork loin, shaved ham, and bacon between slices of fresh roll. The Pig's Delight moniker could apply to plenty of other items that Chef Frédéric Perrier dreams up, piling pulled pork, pork loin, pork belly, and bacon onto his OhMyGosh! sandwich and smothering fries and pizzas in heaps of pulled pork.
On the chicks end of the menu, the chef douses wings in buffalo or barbecue sauce, fries chicken in buttermilk, and stacks avocado, chipotle mayo, and provolone cheese atop slices of grilled chicken breast. To accompany these southern-style, made-from-scratch dishes, Chef Frédéric crafts classic sides such as collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet corn, a nicer alternative to corn that insults you when you bite it.
Truman's fleet of patty-flipping pros grills up 12 varieties of half-pound specialty burger, each of which sports custom ground beef or pork with eclectic and delightful toppings. The Italian Job burger plans a Venetian heist of pepperoni dimes and rich marinara sauce, while the Volcano burger charts a detour to Pompeii with a smothering of habanero barbecue sauce, jalapeños, and melted pepper jack cheese. The Harley with honeyed sauce and Hawaiian Big Kahuna sandwiches sing pork-filled variations on the barbecue theme with sugary aplomb. All burgers perch atop a king-size kaiser bun with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and royal velvet finery.