LOCAL Houston | The City Guide May 2017 - Page 30

OPEN | By Brian Tagtmeier BACKSTREET CAFE CUISINE: American Bistro 1103 Shepherd Dr. | 713.521.2239 | www.backstreetcafe.net Mon–Thur: 11am–10pm; Fri–11am–11pm; Sat–10am–11pm; Sun–10am–9pm As a food critic, it’s easy to praise Hugo Ortega. Since the mid-90s, he’s been a major part of Houston’s restaurant scene. At Backstreet Café, where he made the American dream come true by working hard, the path from dishwasher in the early 80s to executive chef in1995 is truly remarkable. Ortega’s food is as good as ever. He is constantly trying new recipes and refining the old ones. My favorite among the classics: Gulf Coast beignets, duck spring rolls, shrimp cheese grits. You can’t go wrong there. Backstreet hasn’t featured a seasonal menu in years. We should be grateful they are now. The Spring menu highlights two ingredients -- artichokes and crawfish. Ortega does well highlighting and combining both ingredients in exciting ways. I started with the Corn Cakes. Lightly fried corn cakes were topped with crawfish, avocado, tomatillo salsa and crema. The zesty and smoky salsa still let the sautéed crawfish be the focus. My waiter hinted that it might make the main menu, and I hope it does. For a main course, I had the crawfish and artichoke risotto, a fusion dish that I wish were available year round. The tender artichoke hearts complemented the spicy crawfish. The risotto was that perfect al dente that makes any chef proud. The crispy prosciutto on top provided the saltiness to bring out the bright flavors. For dessert, I had a nice pinot gris. Why? Well, I failed to mention I had a prime patio seat. One of the charms of Backstreet this time of year is the back patio. With just enough tree cover, it is a perfect option when the springtime weather beckons. If you've never dined on the patio, you need to rectify that immediately. Butterscotch Bread Pudding Overall, Backstreet Café provides a beautiful meal in a beautiful setting. Cel- ebrate the American dream with Hugo. I promise it is inspiring and filling. RED LION PUB CUISINE: British Pub 2316 Shepherd Dr. | 713.782.3030 |www.redlionhouston.com Mon–Fri 11:30am–2am; Sat–Sun 11am–2am In a city with a diverse restaurant scene, sometimes what we really crave is traditional comfort food that is as filling as it is delicious. Red Lion owner Craig Mallinson does just that for those who crave British pub fare. Generous portions of the classics served with a mound of English peas are where I tend to lie. I chose the Shepherd’s Pie this time. Ground lamb covered with broiled mashed potatoes and brown gravy is my favorite. My only pro