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Vegetables Take the Stage at Backstreet Cafe; Shepherd Park Draught House Rocks it, Sort Of

An upstairs dining room at Backstreet.
An upstairs dining room at Backstreet.

The Chronicle's Alison Cook visited Backstreet Cafe from 2012 James Beard finalist Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught and finds it is the "most vegetarian-friendly mainstream restaurant in the city," giving it two stars, or omegas, or whatever they're supposed to be referred to since they switched up the symbols.

The great:
On quinoa: It was "roasted to a deep, pitch-perfect nuttiness," and "made a compelling backdrop for shaved cauliflower, soft sweet leeks and smoked mushrooms, all from area farms."
On their beverage director: "Sean Beck has made the beverage program a model of excellence."

The not-as-great:
An artichoke pot pie was "flabby-crusted and bland," and a half artichoke was "stuffed with whole grilled shrimp and (undetectable) bread crumbs seemed unfocussed and gloppy with butter sauce."

The verdict:
Backstreet is "one of those classic institutions that evolves rather than sliding into comfortable stasis." And even when "it is bad it is just sort of meh."

Houston Press' Katharine Shilcutt visited Garden Oaks' Shepherd Park Draught House with interior decor reminiscent of "New York City rock and roll circa 1978."

The positives:
She compared it to a "Grand Prize Bar for grownups," with "late-night hours" and a "relaxed Sunday brunch."
The menu consists mainly of "above-average pub grub" and "eye-winking dishes."
In which the world is introduced to the Donut Waffle, where a "Belgian waffle is topped with chopped bacon, whipped cream and a Shipley's glazed donut."
The burger enticed Shilcutt not to write off the place after a dismal first visit with its "rugged-looking patty," and "a golden-brown mess of caramelized pears and onions" on top.

The negatives:
Eww. The Bloody Marys are "made with sake," causing them to taste like "watered-down, Diet V8."
The Shepherd Park Pie, the restaurant's own version of the classic shepherd's pie had a "viscous pool of grease underneath it."
A dish of goat cheese ravioli was "grease-sodden."

The verdict:
It's a "grown-up pub" where the trick to enjoying the meal is "finding land mines like these [listed above] and navigating around them."

· At Backstreet Cafe It's Not the Same-Old Same Old [29-95]
· Draught House of Rock [Houston Press]

Backstreet Cafe

1103 South Shepherd Drive, , TX 77019 (713) 521-2239 Visit Website