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Why are so many restaurants now scorning lunch? The best lunch spots left still rock

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 So back we go for lunch last week to Sorrel, and I’m happy to report that there was a nice crowd and some fabulous food. Sorrel Urban Bistro/Facebook
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Sorrel's juicy pulled-pork sandwich with creamy coleslaw on crispy bread plated with fries Photo by Marene Gustin
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The lunch special at Churrrascos that day was a $24-plate deal including a 4-ounce Churrascos steak, three grilled shrimp on mashed potatoes and a crispy yucca cake topped with pickled onions and a dollop of Béarnaise sauce. Photo by Marene Gustin
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River Oaks’ Churrascos. The food and service here is just as I remembered it. And for a lunch spot, it’s great. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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OK, you can eat lunch in this town again, but some of my fave eateries are doing away with noontime meals.

Phil & Derek’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, a favorite haunt for Dad and me, is no longer serving lunch. We liked it because it was a three-minute walk from home and they always treated us well. Co-owner/chef Phillip Mitchell is going more toward a nightly wine bar and Cajun restaurant with live entertainment.

When deciding to drop the lunch service he says he asked his team, “But where will Marene and her father eat lunch?”

 The highly touted Roost and Uchi? Neither of these hot new places are doing lunch. Dinner only. 

Oh, but fans of their carvery Sunday brunch need not worry, that is still on in full force.

And then Haven stopped doing its Saturday brunch.

So OK, I need to find some new places for lunch, since lunch is my favorite time to eat out.

No one likes change but I must be brave. Certainly there are some new places I could try. Right?

Like the highly touted Roost and Uchi?

Um, no. Neither of these hot new places are doing lunch. Dinner only. What?

So it looks like I’m back to some old favorites I’ve neglected. 

Not that Sorrel Urban Bistro is an old spot. It only opened last summer, but I haven’t been there in months. So, back we go for lunch last week and I’m happy to report that there was a nice crowd and some fabulous food. Owner Ray Salti stopped by the table to say hi, as did executive chef Soren Pedersen who also brought us his fish chops off his new Sunday super chops and frites menu.

And, yes, you can actually make a chop out of Gulf Coast fish. Who knew?

But for lunch I’d have to say that the best bet is the trio of little seafood tacos, lovingly plated with a vial of warm housemade red salsa or the juicy pulled pork sandwich with creamy coleslaw on crispy bread plated with fries. Both were more than enough along with a glass of Houston’s Vintners Own wine.

The menu here changes daily; depending on what local ingredients chef can source for his farm-to-table dishes. And, on a side note, I enjoy the fact the paper menu gives you a little historical fact for the day. I’m sure a lot of folks don’t even notice this so look closely at the top of the menu where today’s date is. Kinda cool to get a fun fact with your food.

Eating lunch out every day is as much about good food and checking out the local restaurant scene as it is about entertaining my 82-year-old father. He just loves to get out of the apartment and people watch. Dinner isn’t really an option as he goes to bed early. I’m pretty sure the only dinners he went out to in Florida were the early bird specials. Heh, old folks.

Wait, I go bed early, too these days . . . ?

New Options, Old Friends

OK, so where else can we go for lunch?

One day I needed to hit up the Randalls at Shepherd Square. And guess what’s right there in the strip mall? That’s right, the River Oaks’ Churrascos.

 Eating lunch out every day is as much about good food and checking out the local restaurant scene as it is about entertaining my 82-year-old father. 

Last summer when my sister was visiting, she who has lived in South America, really, really wanted to go there for Houston Restaurant Week. But somehow we never made it.

So I’m thinking I’ll take Dad there for lunch. Something different. Right? Only I realized when we walked in that I hadn’t been there in five or six years. Which is what happens in Houston where the restaurant scene is so huge, so diverse, that sometimes you forget about places that are right down the street. Places you used to go to a lot.

And it’s really nice to know that sometimes you can go home again. The food and service here is just as I remembered it. And for a lunch spot, it’s great.

People watching: A+. Churrascos really draws a good lunch crowd. There were tables of retired seniors, several tables of local office guys in polo shirts and chinos with photo badges attached to their belts, a few tables of girlfriends out for the day and even a family with a small child in tow. Apparently, I was the only one who had forgotten that this was a great lunch spot.

Service: Rocks it. Our waiter was a 20-year veteran of the Cordúa Restaurants. He was always there when needed, without ever hovering, and recommended a lunch special that was great (see below). Another server came by with two bottles of water. She uncapped one and poured two glasses. Then left the second uncapped bottle on the table.

When we ordered two glasses of an Argentine white, the waiter left the wine bottle on the table “in case we wanted another glass.” I thought that was sweet, but then we would end up drinking the entire bottle. OK, I get it that was the purpose, but still. Nice gesture.

Food: Delicious +. I thought I remembered the signature Churrascos steak as a wonderful cut of meat, a char-grilled center cut beef tenderloin, seasoned with chimichurri but I wasn’t sure if Dad would like it because he likes his cows brown. Well done. Cooked until they are like leather. But the waiter and I convinced him to go with medium well and he liked it!

The lunch special that day was a $24 plate (actually it was two plates) including a four-ounce Churrascos steak, three grilled shrimp on mashed potatoes and a crispy yucca cake topped with pickled onions and a dollop of Béarnaise sauce.

And that was only the first plate. The second plate was veggies: Baked yams, something else I can’t quite remember and a wonderful sweet, vinegary rice.

Which brought up the conversation about how as a child we used to eat white rice with butter and sugar on it. Dad can’t remember why he liked it that way so if anyone can lend some insight to this I would appreciate it. Was it a Depression Era dish? A Yankee thing? (Yes, sadly Dad is from up north originally.)

Anyway, the lunch was fun, it was delicious and we had a great time. We’ll be back.

So what’s your favorite lunch spot?

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