At one table, guests valiantly attempt to slay the fried catfish, pico de gallo, and red beans that burst from a Cajun burrito. At another, a mix-and-match platter of shrimp tacos and stuffed jalapeños draws reverence from passersby as its creator digs in elatedly. Scenes such as these have taken place at Fish Place locations across Houston since 2005, giving Texans a taste of New Orleans without the trouble of traveling or holding a bayou chef hostage. For gaggles of empty bellies, Fish Place offers family packs that range up to 100 pieces of a chosen fried meat along with classic sides such as coleslaw, onion rings, and jambalaya rice.
The Burger Bar stockpiles fine meats, cheeses, and toppings so that diners can create their own sandwich masterpieces. The menu promises hunger-fighters the ability to load a bun with such patties as ground beef ($6–$9), buffalo meat ($8–$13) and portobello ($5–$7). Like a sloppy nacho-loving James Bond, burgers dress in a neat tuxedo of cheese (one slice included, $.75/extra slice), including smoked cheddar, texas goat, and pepper jack. Toppings such as jalapeños, bacon, and avocado (one topping included, $1.50/extra topping) crown majestic meat towers, only to be rained upon by torrents of garlic or bacon aioli, violet-mustard cream, or smoked-chipotle ketchup. Diners can pair a sirloin sandwich with grilled vegetables ($3.50) for a dose of daily nutrients so they don’t have to get their vitamins by devouring old tapes of The Flintstones.
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.
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.
The original Ragin Cajun joint opened in 1974, treating visitors to hearty po' boys, spicy red beans and rice, and authentic boiled crawfish. Today, visitors make the pilgrimage to one of four area locations, plopping down at tables clad in red-checker cloth to sup on meals of Gulf shrimp and crab, grilled rib eye, and homemade bread pudding. The intense flavors and ocean-fresh cuisine of southwestern Louisiana unfold in a dining room decked with vintage signage, college-sports memorabilia, and buzzing neon. Ragin Cajun also keeps customers in the know with a Craw Club and can customize buffet catering packages for off-site Acadian feasts, filling banquet halls with food, DJs, live zydeco bands, and complimentary gift bags filled with silent Xs.
Southern Italian dishes adorn white linen tablecloths inside both locations of Little Napoli Italian Cuisine. Chefs plate casual classics such as baked ziti and calzones as well as more elaborate entrees such as linguine pescatore, loaded with shrimp, calamari, clams, and mussels. The downtown location heats up its griddles for breakfast on weekday mornings, and the Westheimer location dishes out brunch fare such as omelets, waffles, and Napoli pasta on Saturdays and Sundays. Also on Westheimer Road, Friday nights entertain patrons with karaoke, and both locations host a VIP private-dining section that can seat up to 40 people or one very hungry velociraptor.