Valentino’s Italian Cafe

Zero ambience and a shallow wine list do not detract from seriously delicious Italian food. The flavors are bright and fresh, despite the American penchant for lots o’ cheese. The veal piccata proves as tasty as any Little Italy offering on either coast; the eggplant parmigiana is a luscious casserole of slightly breaded vegetables layered with mozzarella and bright marinara; manicotti comes stuffed with fluffy ricotta flecked with herbs.

Nour Mediterranean Cafe

Warm and inviting, with tin table lamps, wooden furniture, and curtained windows, this recently opened Lebanese-Greek restaurant serves up lemony-fresh hummus (traditional or spicy), tangy tabbouleh, and bowls of homemade lentil soup. The mixed grill kebab of kefta (spiced ground beef) and tawook (marinated chicken breast) arrives with hot pita bread and roasted onions and tomato. (5/12)

Bridge Bistro

When the planned rooftop space is finished, you’ll be able to see the namesake Calatrava bridge. Until then, just concentrate on the good food here at Kay Agnew’s new iteration of Margaux’s. The Pasta Chandelier (bowtie pasta with chicken, shrimp,and andouille sausage napped with basil cream sauce) was just right, especially when paired with field greens glistening with a refreshing Key lime vinaigrette and dotted with small slivers of dried apricot and spiced pecans. Don't pass up the warm bread pudding with rum sauce. (5/12)

International Bakery Cuban Dulceria

Hankering for a brunch that's just a little bit different? Look no further. This small, friendly, family-owned spot offers many delightful and exotic (for Dallas) items. To go with our El Cubano, a combo of ham, roasted pork, and pickles on Cuban bread, we chose a becerage made with lulo (an orange-like fruit with green pulp) and filtered water. But the stars here are the pastries. We actually ate three!

Mr. Mesero

Restaurateur Mico Rodriguez retains his magic touch with this new space, adorned with abstract art and filled with sunlight. Superlative chips and a fiery sauce, plus a “Micorita,” made a fine preamble to the rest of our meal, which included the fantastic Oaxaqueñas, two roasted chicken enchiladas drenched in mole, and two tasty tomatillosauced chicken enchiladas with red rice. Absolute perfection was chocoflan, a layer of moist chocolate cake topped with flan. (5/12)

The Village Downtown

While it’s a bit of a stretch to use the label “alternative” to describe the crowd here, this cafe is about as close to an Austin experience as you’re going to get in Bryan–College Station. The food comes primarily from local organic growers and businesses, and the menu features plenty of vegetarian fare.

The Noble Pig

The gods were smiling on us as we sighted this tiny storefront in a small strip center way north of town (our usually spot-on GPS had us continuing down the road a few more miles). We had to wait in line to order at the counter, but that gave us an opportunity to see what everyone else was having, like blueberry waffles; a fried-egg, potato, and cheddar sandwich; and a BLT with house-smoked bacon, to name a few. Everything looked scrumptious.

Hillside Farmacy

Chef-owner Sonya Cote, who formerly cooked at East Side Show Room, claims that here she is doing only “ food she really likes to eat.” Apparently, a lot of other people like her casual small-plates menu too. A lunchtime visit resulted in a generous spread of house-cured salmon (kissed with brown sugar and dill) sided by a fennel and carrot slaw. A friend was extremely happy with a peppery pork pâté and goat cheese sandwich on divine brioche-like bread.

Brasserie 19

When early reports on a restaurant sound like a train wreck, I tend to wait for the debris to be cleared. And Houston’s Brasserie 19—a project of two veteran restaurateurs, Charles Clark and Grant Cooper, of Ibiza and Catalan—had clearly jumped the tracks. In the first few weeks, the Brasserie’s chef left; the noise level at peak times was by all accounts earsplitting; and the service frequently resembled a Marx Brothers comedy.

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