Bramble, The Del, Arturo Boada's - Houston, Texas

OK. BRAMBLE is Randy Rucker’s newish joint on S Voss next to Roegel’s.

Literally right behind that is THE DEL, from the folks that brought you Brooklyn Athletic Club and Glass Wall.

Literally right across the street from that is ARTURO BOADA’S CUISINE, by far the oldest of the three

They are less than a mile from my office and I’ve never been to any one of them. So why am I writing a review on three restaurants I’ve never eaten at? Good question. The answer is, “I’m not”.

I’m instead asking a question of my own: “Why should I eat there?”

The truth is, I’ve pulled up the menus for all three of those places several times since they’ve been opened and I honestly don’t find much that’s appealing to me for a solo lunch. I want to go there and love them - very badly. But scanning the menus just doesn’t do it for me. I really and truly just don’t see anything that pulls me out of my comfort zone. (Sidebar: My “Comfort Zone” is based on eating lunch in this immediate area for the last twenty plus years.)

So instead, I wind up at Far East, Roegel’s, Dumpling King, Biryani Pot, Ruchi’s, Buffalo Grille, Tan Tan, etc., etc., etc.

Help me. Tell me what I’m missing. Give me an excuse to dip my toe, so to speak. HELP ME HELP MYSELF!!!

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I haven’t been to any of Rucker’s restaurants but his menus are so innovative I sure want to go. At his Tomball place he was cooking locally grown frogs. And not just the legs I think!

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So I met the family at THE DEL yesterday, (a Saturday) for brunch. The space is bright, modern and sleek. There’s a nice patio that was full when we arrived so we sat inside with only a few other occupied tables. There’s also a separate playground for the kiddos and about half of the tables had little ones. It didn’t have any large equipment or anything just astroturf and blocks but it was being used the whole time we were there.

OBD was coming from the Galleria area and so I picked up the matriarch and we arrived around noon-fifteen. We beat OBD by about ten so we started with Bloody Marys. Given an option, we both chose “spicy” and they were good, but a bit too heavy on the chipotle flavor. I’m assuming they used chipotle tabasco, but wouldn’t swear to it. The parent only drank about a third of hers before forcing it on me and ordering a vodka tonic. As an aside, she’s fine with house vodka but is very picky about her tonic.

When OBD arrived he got creative and after perusing the cocktail menu ordered a “Monkey Martini”. It uses “Monkey 47 Gin”. He said it was very good but wouldn’t let me try it. [wink]

I queried our waiter and he said his favorite menu item was the Pretzel Cheeseburger. He called it “transcendent”. How could I not order that?!? It was slightly smaller than a standard hamburger but for that I was grateful. One of my hesitations about coming here for lunch during a workday was the volume of the portions. I will hesitate less going forward. Cooked a perfect medium rare, and accompanied by fresh hand-cut fries, it was excellent, if not quite “transcendent”.

Mom got the Standard Breakfast. She said it was good but the home fries were basically potato hash and of course had little chopped up onions because most people like them. As we’ve noted before, my mother abhors onions like starting pitchers hate rain delays. My brother correctly noted that her plate would have been radically enhanced with a biscuit or even a slice of toast.

Speaking of OBD, (usually done in hushed tones I should add), he ordered the Country Sausage Reuben. This was a curious little specimen. It was a fried patty of country sausage, (duh), on a hoagie roll with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, also served with the excellent fries. He liked the flavors well enough, but thought there was not enough sauerkraut and too much bread for the sandwich. He thought it would have been much better with another spoon of kraut and served on rye.

Skipped dessert.

Bottom line: We liked it and will return. Service was excellent.

Let’s eat!

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Sounds good! I was also intrigued by brunch at place on Allen Parkway called The Kitchen at The Dunlavy after a friend posted some pics and raved about the food. It looks so bright and inviting. They close at a very early 1:30 though.

The Kitchen at The Dunlavy menu

I bet the Mater would like the setting:

So the posse and I hit up Bramble this afternoon for lunch.

It’s a nice looking neighborhood type space that seems far louder and busier than it should. For example there were only four other tables of diners and maybe twice that many empty ones. And it was loud. In addition, I counted three servers, and about four cooks including Chef Rucker. That’s an important point because,

…it wasn’t great.

For Saturday libations we ordered a carafe of sangria. It was alright if a bit dry and tannic. I’ve made lots of sangria in my day, and believe me, “Mine’s better”.

Soup of the Day was Andouille Sausage Gumbo. I decided to try a bowl of gumbo and Mom and I decided t split the the hamburger. OBD asked if the gumbo was spicy as he has an allergy to capsaicin. The server assured it was not.

He also ordered some variation of Eggs Benedict.

So, the gumbo was spicy and OBD could not eat it and returned it to the kitchen. I like it spicy so I kept mine, but this was not a traditional roux thickened gumbo. The broth was quite thin and the most pronounced flavor profile was almost a demiglace. It had a few vegetables swimming around and about six or eight thin rounds of sausage doing the dog paddle. I’m gonna say I liked it pretty well. It’s not a traditional gumbo but there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re keeping score at home, we’ve now returned one bowl of soup.

The entrees arrived and right off the bat, we see purple onions spilling out of the burger. Remember, I’m splitting this with my mom so we requested it with onions only on the side so I could doctor my half. These weren’t a couple of large rings but finely chopped and impossible to scrape off. Strike Two!

Additionally, although I hadn’t been asked for a preference, the burger arrived well done. This place advertises their relationships with local farms and ranches. I feel confident that Chef Rucker appreciates a rare or medium rare grass fed burger every bit as much as I do. That’s a long way from what I ate. (I DID eat it tho’!!)

So mom gave me her half of the burger as well and the server explained that the kitchen misread his instruction of “Onions on the side” as “EXTRA Onions on the side”. He offered to recook the burger but instead she ordered the Cheesy Grits which arrived quickly sprinkled over with a lovely dusting of finely chopped chives.

Chives.

You know, “Baby Onions”.

I don’t think I’ll get mom back in there.

Additionally, OBD’s eggs weren’t quite done and his egg whites not close to fully set.

Strike… what? Five? Six?

They comped OBD’s soup and Mom’s grits. Seems fair since they went uneaten. To be completely fair, I ate all of mine as well as mom’s half of the burger. I’m not so picky that I won’t eat stuff, but I usually find somewhere else to eat next time.

Sorry, Lambsy. I hope you have a better experience than we did. I’ve read the raves, but unfortunately I can’t concur.

And sorry Chef, but all of this came out of your kitchen while you were standing right there.

Good to know, Doobs. I hope they get it worked out.

Same here. I was very excited about having all these new and nouveau type places opening just a few hundred yards from where I eat lunch almost every day.

As I stated elsewhere, I “want” to love them. It was just disappointing and of course had been my suggestion, so…

Okay a little late in my report, but better late than never, I guess.
DoobieWah hit the jest but here is my full take. Poor mum.
The “Gumbo” not, it was Brown Demi with a few slices of sausage, cayenne, topped with poached kale. To me uneatable, this being the, it’s not spicy, version, I sent it back… I ordered their version of Eggs Benedict. Poached Eggs, Oxtails a hollandaise (spiced with?) on Texas Toast. The eggs were underdone (whites not quite set, which is a yuck) the Oxtails had white fat un-rendered. That smacks of a pressure cooker, I’m guessing, (I add oxtails to my slow cooked roasts so I know a good oxtail). I had to ask for salt which came out as a small pile on a white plate, I guess I insulted someone in the kitchen. Mum ask for some to put on her grits but I had used it all, that’s how much they brought. So overall our experience was not a big hit, I am sorry to say, we had such high expectations. The music was loud and hard rock for a Sunday Brunch. Just attention to detail and it would have been a much better visit.
OBD

I feel bad for poor mum. As to the salt, I understand this chef is not known for his even temper.

My better half ordered gumbo at Willie G’s at Pier 21 in Galveston last week (I know I know, but when in Rome…). The waiter (from the Ukraine, a new employment trend in Galveston) insisted that he try the roux first because it is “different than Louisiana gumbo.” So natch I had to try it too. It was different and very pungent, but not bad.

My favorite gumbos are at Danton’s and a little place called Segari’s on Shepherd. They are very different and excel in their categories.

Segari’s is deserving of its own thread.

I’ve only been a few times, the last about six or seven years ago. Did you ever meet Sam? He was quite the character and it seems that just about anyone who had ever eaten there had a “Sam story”.

I’ve never been to Danton’s; (also should have a thread). That should be a meetup place some time. What are your favorite dishes?

I can start a gumbo thread or just two restaurant threads. I go to Segari’s pretty frequently due to a co-worker who loves the place. No prices on the menu always makes me nervous.

I think some of our cohorts here have dropped off the forum. But I see a couple of new ones are posting.

According to numerous bloggers, Twitter feeds and the Press and Chronicle, Randy Rucker announced this morning Bramble has closed and dinner service for tonight was canceled. Bramble had been slated to participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks starting next week.

Rucker cited the downfall of the economy due to oil and the election year, said the space would be available for special events and that he has future plans but is not ready to discuss them.

In the Press

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I’m sorry to hear that. Truly.

I had hoped to wander back in there sometime to find a totally different experience.

Hopefully he’ll get it together.

bad economy/ election year? huh?

This excuse should be filed in the tab folder labeled ‘CYA.’

We’ll see. It seems there have been several notable closures explained as ‘for repairs’ or ‘for remodeling’ only to have the For Lease signs go up a couple of weeks later.

Given the guy’s reputation, I’m not too surprised but I did still have it on my list to try to get around to sometime, just to see what all the buzz about this guy is all about.

I was under the impression that Rucker had a great reputation. At least as a chef.

Lambsy made a reference to his temperament, is that what you mean? I hadn’t been aware of that facet, but as I reported above, we had a less than stellar experience while it was not busy at all. And he was definitely in charge of the kitchen.

I can’t comment on his temperament, but his cooking was pretty poor the day we visited. In fact, I lost my restaurant recommending credentials for a short period. They’ve since been restored thankfully.

His temper reportedly rivals the owner of Hubcap:

http://www.dallasobserver.com/restaurants/two-hot-head-chefs-pair-up-for-lost-in-the-woods-dinner-7041920

A new lunch spot for Doobie :yum:.

Ronnie Killen to take over Bramble space for steaks and Q.

Thanks for the info. Looks intriguing.

He’s been talking about opening in Houston for years now. I hope this works out.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold