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Critics’ Picks ‘14

Beef Short Ribs Brazos Bar & Bistro Hotel Indigo 211 Clay Avenue 754-7000

Our critics share some of their favorite local dishes By Gretchen Eichenberg, Mike Trozzo, Kevin Tankersley and Kathleen Seaman Photos by Christina Kuhlmann & Madeline Johnson

I don’t know how else to describe the short ribs at Hotel Indigo as anything other than delicious meaty chunks of beef. They’re braised perfectly to where the meat is tender and juicy and easily falls off the bone with just the slightest prodding from your fork. And the sauce … it’s thick and sweet, but not too sweet. If you don’t have a huge appetite, it’s a goodsize dish that can easily be shared, especially if your group also orders an appetizer. — KS

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Critics’ Picks 2014 Grilled Chicken Club

The Schmaltz

I’m not a member of Ridgewood Country Club, so I’m always excited for the chance to tag along with one of my co-workers that is. Usually, when I don’t go to a particular restaurant often, I try to mix it up and always get something different. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the dish I’m always drawn to at Ridgewood is its Grilled Chicken Club. It’s a grilled chicken breast served on a soft, brioche bun with a creamy chipotle mayo. It also has fresh avocado slices and bacon on it, which are always selling points for me. I remember the first time I ordered it. It was delivered to the table, and I was surprised by how huge it was, especially for a lunch item. But that’s just another plus for me — I love when I can get two meals for the price of one. — KS Ridgewood Country Club 7301 Fish Pond Road 772-0160

Chicken & Rice Soup One cold afternoon in early January, when most of America was stuck in something called a polar vortex, my wife and I had a late lunch at Cathay House, which, I learned, has been at its location on Wooded Acres Drive since 1979. It opened on the Circle in the 1950s and moved to Valley Mills Drive in the ‘70s. On most trips to Cathay House, my go-to lunch is Kung Pao Chicken, extra spicy, with fried rice and chicken & rice soup. On this particular day, however, I didn’t want that much food, so I asked if I could just order a bowl of the soup. Yep, it turns out, I could. A large bowl costs $3, and a medium bowl, $2. I ordered the medium and an egg roll, and it was a perfectly sized lunch. As always, the soup was served steaming hot and was rich and filling — just what I needed on that chilly day. — KT Cathay House 825 Wooded Acres Drive 776-1072

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Quick, tell me about a sandwich you enjoyed that didn’t have good bread. I couldn’t name one either — the bread makes the sandwich. And while starting at 5 a.m. is not my ideal morning, I am thankful Nelson Rue does it for us. The Schmaltz Original brings the thunder with an array of meats, cheeses and textures to its famous toasted sourdough bun. Start with the original bread then venture into wheat and other varieties. My good friend Chris McGowan would implore you to add the garlic butter when asked. — MT Schmaltz’s 1412 North Valley Mills Drive 776-3694 105 South Fifth Street 753-2332

Pad See Ew The Pad See Ew at Bangkok Royal is the perfect dish to ease young kids into the world of Asian cuisine. All it has in it is wide egg noodles, broccoli, a choice of chicken, beef or pork and Bangkok’s house sauce, which isn’t spicy or weird by kid standards. When my family starting taking my youngest nephew to eat Thai food, he would eat off of my sister’s plate of noodles. Well, now that he’s 9, he gets his own plate and scarfs it down every time. — KS Bangkok Royal 215 South University Parks Drive 757-2741

Cupps Cheeseburger This is my favorite burger in town. Cupps is an incredibly charming “drive inn” that thankfully hasn’t changed throughout its long history. While you should probably plan to nap afterward, you will not be disappointed. Freddie and Sherry use an iron press to make sure the patty’s sear gets crunchy. The bun is buttered and grilled on the same griddle; it provides a nice texture

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change up against the creamy, melted cheese. May I please have another? I add grilled onions when I know I don’t have an afternoon meeting but always go for onion rings on the side. — MT Cupps 1424 Speight Avenue 753-9364

Chocolate Chip Cookie I think all who have had this cookie remember their own first experience. I was at Art on Elm in 2013 when the LJ crew was walking around with trays of fresh cookies for $1. At a glance, the sheer height of the cookie had me worried about puffy, dry cakey-ness. If I’m honest, I also thought the chocolate MIGHT be cut in too large chunks. (I know, what does that mean?) But at first bite, I was dead wrong. This was one of the best cookies — second to my wife’s buttery version — I’ve ever had. Your bite starts with the taste of sweet vanilla and butter. Once your front teeth crack the top surface, you welcome the melty chocolate and pops of salt. The whole thing crumbles well, too. Seriously, it has everything. It’s soft, crunchy, salty, sweet, chocolate and vanilla. It’s shy and obnoxious all at the same time. — MT Lula Jane’s 406 Elm Avenue 366-0862

Muddle Pucker It’s a refreshing vodka fruit cooler made with muddled fresh strawberries and blueberries and a hand-crafted sweet and sour syrup. The drink was created by Muddle manager, Shawn Riesel, and named by one of the owners, Meredith Sutton, who, when she first sampled the new drink, couldn’t talk because her cheeks were puckered from the tart taste. — GE Muddle 727 Austin Avenue 753-0226


Shrimp Boil The Boudain Shack 705 South Robinson Drive 652-0155 www.theboudainshackwaco.com You can’t beat this spicy but not too spicy pile of shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn to share. It’s seasoned just right! Though it’s enough food, you won’t be able to resist sampling some of the other entrees and sides, like a smoked boudain link, crawfish étouffée, loaded mashed potatoes and red beans and rice. — GE


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Baris Pizza Baris 904 North Valley Mills Drive 772-2900 When we ask the kids where they want to eat, the answer is inevitably, “Miss Mary’s!” Most people know Miss Mary’s as Baris. At one point in our lives, we could order a large pizza and have enough to take home for lunch or dinner the next day. Alas, our kids are growing, and those days are gone. But for our (mostly) weekly Friday dinners out, more often than not, we’re up for Miss Mary’s and the pizza. — KT

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Lemon Drop 1424 Bistro 1424 Washington Avenue 752-7385 www.1424bistro.com

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I’m not much of a mixed-drink drinker, but the other adult in my house loves the Lemon Drop Martini at 1424. It’s a delicious, potent mixture of Absolut Citron vodka, Tuaca, triple sec and sweet and sour. It’s really good stuff. — KT

Southern Cappuccino Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits 508 Austin Avenue www.facebook.com/ DichotomyCoffeeSpirits It’s a cappuccino with a bit of Muscovado sugar stirred in, and it’s the drink I’ve had more than any other in town. For me, it’s the perfect mix of espresso and milk, allowing for both tastes to come through. With Dichotomy, you know you’ll get some of the world’s best coffee beans from any one of their various roasting partners and steamed milk from a talented, expertly trained barista. They obsess over those details, and you can taste the difference in the drink. (Quick disclaimer: I named this drink, and it definitely has not caught on. You may look like a goofball — like I do — to order it by name.) — MT

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Cheesecake One Thirty Five Prime 1201 Hewitt Drive, Suite 110 666-3100 www.135prime.com

One of my favorite desserts is good cheesecake. I emphasize good cheesecake, because sadly, it is hard to find. Cheesecake is often and easily screwed up. A lot of places overcook it, leaving it dense, short and dry. But not at One Thirty Five Prime. Its original-style cheesecake is a mile high and so smooth and creamy. Cheesecake perfection. — KS

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Critics' Picks 2014