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First taste: Del Frisco's Grille expands beyond the steakhouse with a new take on comfort food

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Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, hamburger, burger, cheeseburger, french fries
The Grille Prime Cheeseburger comes with double patties, lettuce, tomato, sloppy sauce, frites and a pickle Photo courtesy of Del Frisco's Grille
Bottom's Up, Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, sign
The West Ave space that formerly houses Ava restaurant was completely gutted and the kitchen rolocated for the new Del Frisco's Grille. Photo by Joel Luks
Del Frisco's Grille, chef Jeff Taylor
Having been with the Del Frisco parent company for 12 years, Jeff Taylor has returned to Houston as Del Frisco's Grille chef. Photo by © Jack Opatrny
Bottom's Up, Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, interior, crowd
The main dining room includes contemporary “starlight-looking” lights that beckon from Kirby at night. Photo by Joel Luks
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, Ahi Tacos
Ahi tacos with tuna tartare, avocado and spicy citrus mayo Photo courtesy of Del Frisco's Grille
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, Pimento Cheese Fritters
Del Frisco's Grille serves up its pimento cheese fritters with chipotle ranch sauce. Photo courtesy of Del Frisco's Grille
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, Coconut Cream Pie
Del Frisco's Grille's coconut cream pie Photo courtesy of Del Frisco's Grille
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, hamburger, burger, cheeseburger, french fries
Bottom's Up, Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, sign
Del Frisco's Grille, chef Jeff Taylor
Bottom's Up, Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, interior, crowd
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, Ahi Tacos
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, Pimento Cheese Fritters
Del Frisco's Grille, March 2013, Coconut Cream Pie
Jodie Eisenhardt, head shot, column mug, January 2013

Del Frisco’s Grille, which opens Saturday at West Ave, should not be confused with Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in the Galleria. And for me, that’s a good thing.

As much as I enjoy a great steak every now and then, it’s not the kind of place I would frequent. However, the “Grill” incarnation is somewhat of a revelation – I can see myself eating here a couple of times a week (Did I just say that? Yes, I did. And I’m typically not into chains. At all.)

But this restaurant might as well be executive chef Jeff Taylor's own restaurant, with menu items he’s created that leave my taste buds clamoring for more.

 I can see myself eating here a couple of times a week. (Did I just say that? Yes, I did. And I’m typically not into chains. At all.) 

Having been with the company for 12 years (including stints at sibling restaurant Sullivan's Steakhouse as well as Del Frisco’s in other markets), Taylor has returned to his home where he’s especially proud of his new restaurant.

The space that formerly housed Ava restaurant isn’t quite as huge as one might imagine – seating 225 inside plus another 80 on two separate patios. It’s much more casual than the Double Eagle version, but with the same level of service.

It's also a sexy room, including contemporary “starlight-looking” lights that beckon from Kirby at night and a nice-sized bar — and private dining room, of course.

Taylor says he is  looking forward to collaborating with the whole kitchen staff to create an evolving menu with select items inspired and created by the folks putting it out - you know, allowing them to take ownership. Again, not what you’d expect from a chain.

Playful menu

The menu is large and the cuisine is playful with mostly “shareable” plates and just a couple of steak options (though there are daily steak and fish specials).

I was extremely happy with the “flatbreads” – the best pizza I’ve had in some time. The BBQ Beef had smoked gouda, red onion, and ribbons of crema, but it was the bread and butter jalapenos and fresh cilantro that brought everything together for a fantastic combination on an splendidly flavorful crispy crust. The garlic shrimp version with crumbles of chorizo, mozzarella, cilantro pesto and pickled red chili is pretty special, too.

  I know – everybody has an opinion about what makes a good burger but this one is definitely a contender. It reminded me of Shake Shack in NYC. 

From the “Food to Fight Over” section, the Ahi tacos, with incredibly fresh tuna tartare, avocado and a spicy citrus mayo on little curves of fried wonton, were instantly addicting as were the steamed edamame with Korean BBQ spice and lime salt.

From the “Two Fisted Sandwiches” part of the menu, I was blown away by the shaved prime steak sandwich. The luscious thin slices of beef are served on a perfectly chewy yet crispy Slow Dough baguette and then each whole diagonal half is dipped in au jus before being wrapped in thin paper. Delicious genius — you can re-dip and add a dab of the horseradish sauce. Seriously good.

I also must make note of the “Grille Prime” cheeseburger. I know – everybody has an opinion about what makes a good burger but this one is definitely a contender. It reminded me of Shake Shack in NYC.

It's includes two 4 oz. patties made from a fresh 80/20 mix (steak trimmings along w/ the 20% from prime brisket) cooked to order, of course, and served with lettuce, tomato and “sloppy sauce” – a Thousand Island-ish concoction that was perfect on the Slow Dough brioche bun. It’s served with hot, crispy frites, and a housemade pickle. It’s a steal for $12.

Chef "Beans"

One more thing. Beans. Yes, beans. Chef has a nickname of “Beans” for a reason. He’s a little obsessed with baked beans. The Cast Iron Pork & Beans he’s serving are off the charts.

The breakdown goes something like this: To beans cooked in pork stock made with hamhocks, he adds onions cooked in bacon fat, Tasso ham, mustard, apple cider vinegar and mesquite-smoked Granny Smith apples (folded in). You heard me right.

There’s all this and much more and the perfect time of year to enjoy noshing on both patios. Oh and there are yummy shots like the “Honey Badger” on tap along with a 500 label wine program so check it out — it's worth your attention.

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