Food for Thought
For real comfort food, Bistro Calais is a tried-and-true favorite
What with the glut of new chef-driven eateries popping up — Branch Water Tavern, Haven (love the yeast pull-a-parts and fried green tomato croutons here), The Rockwood Room and Stella Sola — being a food writer these days is all about new, new, new.
That’s why when I decided to eat out the other night, I went sans PR people and chose a place I haven’t been to in awhile: Bistro Calais. And I remembered why I used to love this place.
For one thing, it’s in the 1880-era, 3,166-square-foot De Chamues Cottage nestled in The Gardens of Bammel Lane, a little lush historic square on the edge of River Oaks. The hardwoods, the cozy interior, the wall of glass overlooking the gardens and the bandstand all create a warm and friendly ambience. It’s like visiting old relatives after a long absence.
But there are a few new things going on at the BC. Executive Chef Phillip Mitchell recently bought out his founding partners and is now running the ship as well as the kitchen, which means the menu is changing up a bit. What began as a French bistro is now more of a Bourbon Street eatery.
“There’s a lot of folks in River Oaks from New Orleans and Lafayette,” Mitchell says. “So the food is more Creole and Cajun now.”
Think seafood crepes, spicy shrimp beignets, po-boys and cornbread muffins. Mitchell has dumped his food distributers and prowls the markets each morning seeking fresh foods for his changing menu. He’s adding a budget-friendly Tuesday night all-you-can-eat comfort buffet for $12.
“Chicken pot pies, poor man’s gumbo and New York strip roast are some items you’ll see,” Mitchell says.
Another change is that you can now BYOB. The restaurant is mixing up wine-based cocktails, along with the wine and beer offerings it has always stocked, which should make the crowds who come for cabaret nights with the likes of Sharon Montgomery very happy. As will the new bar menu items like fried sweet potatoes with truffle oil.
Tucking into the delicate seafood crepe and sipping a glass of Mommesin Macon-Village Chardonnay among the twinkling Christmas lights, I had to wonder why I hadn’t been here in so long. And I began to wonder what other old favorites I’d been neglecting lately. And, Lord help me, I thought of Whataburger. Are their burgers, fries and chicken fingers with gravy still as good as I remember from my Corpus Christi days? I wonder.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? As Robert Burns wrote so long ago, now is the time to remember some of those meals that we’ve forgotten and revisit some of those restaurants we haven’t been to in awhile.
Which reminds me, I haven’t had the Molinaboys' José dip in a long time either.