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Anything Goes Restaurants

Anything goes restaurants: The best places to eat at when you don't know what the hell you want

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Nara Houston shashimi cooking on hot black rock
The menu at Nara ranges from sushi to hot rock grills to bao, little flap buns stuffed with grilled meats and veggies that resemble nothing more than Korean tacos. NaraHouston.com
Grace's on Kirby chicken pot pie
Grace’s is another new favorite of mine. The menu has everything from enchiladas to Chinese to chicken potpie.  Photo courtesy of © Todd Parker Photography/STP Images
Frank's Americana Revival pan-roasted chicken with wine
Frank’s Americana Revival is another place that offers a variety of food, like the pan-roasted chicken with veggies. Frank's Americana Revival/Facebook
giacomo’s cibo e vino pasta tortellini
Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino has Italian small plates, including of pasta dishes, many of which can be ordered as half orders, so you can try several things. Giacomo's Cibo e Vino/Facebook
Nara Houston shashimi cooking on hot black rock
Grace's on Kirby chicken pot pie
Frank's Americana Revival pan-roasted chicken with wine
giacomo’s cibo e vino pasta tortellini
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

Some days I know exactly what I want to eat and where I want to go to eat it.

Then there are days when I really have no idea what I want, but I’m hungry. Luckily, there are restaurants that have varied menus. One such place is Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino where Lynette Hawkins has an extensive Italian menu. But, if you’ve ever been to Italy and dined out, you know that restaurants there offer more than just pasta. Just like American restaurants offer more than just burgers and fries.

Giacomo’s has Italian small plates (chicken skewers with green goddess dipping sauce, Longhorn meatballs and spicy shrimp) as well as big salads, a delicious stuffed chicken breast, a hangar steak and a whole grilled trout. And plenty of pasta dishes, many of which can be ordered as half orders, so you can try several things.

I like appetizers — I can make a meal of just appetizers and small plates. It’s like grazing in different fields, a little of this, a little of that.

Grace’s is another new favorite of mine. It has a lovely, comfy dining room (actually three) and the menu has everything from enchiladas to Chinese to chicken potpie. But, like any Carrabba’s eatery, the portions are huge. Even the appetizers!

But if you do want something light, try the yellowtail carpaccio, so thinly sliced it’s translucent, plated with figs, pomegranate seeds and micro arugula.

 I like appetizers — I can make a meal of just appetizers and small plates. It’s like grazing in different fields, a little of this, a little of that. 

And now I’ve discovered Nara. Chef Donald Chang’s modern Korean/Japanese restaurant in West Ave opened this month for lunch service. The first time I went there was hardly any one there, the second time (they were offering half priced lunch menus for March) the place was packed. Nara can seem a little too fancy, but it’s still comfortable and easy to like. And the menu ranges from sushi to hot rock grills to bao — little flap buns stuffed with grilled meats and veggies that resemble nothing more than Korean tacos.

In fact, there is one called a Korean fajita filled with garlic sauce, cucumber kimchi and what they call Texas Kobe beef. It is delicious.

(Side rant: Can we all agree to stop calling American beef from Japanese breeds Kobe? If we must, let’s lowercase it to kobe, like champagne that does not come from the Champagne region in France. There are some local restaurants that import real A5 Kobe beef from Japan, as does Nara for the chef’s tasting menus at dinner. But Texas Kobe? It’s not real Kobe.)

OK, back to this theme. If you want real Tex-Mex or true French food you need to go to restaurants that specialize in those cuisines. But more and more you can find Houston restaurants that offer very different types of foods.

Frank’s Americana Revival is another place that offers a variety of food from huge chicken fried steaks to smoked salmon crostini, burgers and Ahi tuna. It’s nice to have choices when you aren’t sure what you’re hungry for, but sometimes you just crave cheesy enchiladas.

And that’s when it’s best to hit up the nearest Tex-Mex spot.

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