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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Fearless Critic's 3rd Edition

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Nicholas Hall

Fearlessly honest, ruthlessly descriptive, and unflinchingly resolute in its assignment of merit in many forms, the Fearless Critic guide does exactly what it ought: it helps you decide where to eat or drink, whatever your purposes. Thoughtfully laid out with various best of sections for an array of categories ranging from Beer to Vegetarian along with neighborhood recs for boroughs as far-flung as Tomball, it's a virtual guided tour of Houston dining.

"We tell you exactly what we'd tell a good friend if she called us up and asked what we really thought of a place." You know, if you're really good friend was a Borg-like hive mind constructed of a panel of professional and semi-professional cooks, eaters, and writers. The recently released third edition of the Houston restaurant guide gives you the good, the bad, and the ugly, but absolutely no nonsense.

The Good—Where Fearless Critic stands on Da Marco, one of the best restaurants in the city: it is one of the highest ranking in the book, both in terms of food and feel. "We continue to have the best culinary experiences in Houston at this world-class restaurant," says the panel, praising the restaurant's treatment of Italian specialties from burrata to branzino, with a quick sidestep to mention Da Marco's wood-fired brick oven pizza, "whose balance of ripe, reduced tomato flavor with sharp, brick-seared ash approaches perfection."

The Bad—Last Concert Café gets a one-sided nod, and then some, with a review that splits its time between rhapsody and ridicule. "Call it a contact high," says the panel about this "psychedelic hula hoop show" of a restaurant, "but it's hard to stay grumpy inside this compound hidden on the edges of downtown." Going on to praise the restaurant in trippily inflated terms, the review builds to ecstasy, then comes crashing back down to reality. "Then again, maybe it's all just an illusion, man. In the harsh light of day, this food is actually pretty greasy and underwhelming." Sporting the second lowest rating for food, and one of the higher ratings for feel, the Fearless Critic review for Last Concert Café tells you exactly what you're going to get.

The Ugly—The assessment of Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q Visitor's-Bureau-Pamphlet take on barbecue, the most holy of Texas traditions, notes that the place is "full of boasts, from the self-congratulatory wall paraphernalia to the overuse of the Copperplate Gothic font to the larger than life banner of long-bearded Jim Goode, 'still at the reins since 1977.'"

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Critics continue, "it doesn't really live up to the hype." Few items are spared the Critics' pained disdain, and even those few (duck, sausage, and pecan pie) are grudging at best. Never willing to let things slide, Fearless Critic calls Goode Co. out in full, citing its loutish service as the proverbial last straw. "We could dismiss this as quirky charm at a world-class destination joint, or at a dirt-cheap hole-in-the-wall, but not at a just-okay place whose marketing concessions include a line of (those same bland) barbecue sauces and a glossy catalogue."

· Fearless Critic Houston [Official Site]

Da Marco

1520 Westheimer Road, , TX 77006 (713) 807-8857 Visit Website