Friday, February 25, 2005

Lunch Mob

Jury duty is “eating my lunch” in terms of freelance work schedules. The revenge plan: trying out some of the new downtown Houston restaurants.

Several other jury members agreed that none of us get downtown frequently enough to have experienced the much-touted downtown eateries, so we’ve made an informal arrangement for exploration. We only get 1.5 hours, so we can’t get to far away from the Federal courthouse; but there are now a lot of options nearby. Three of us made the first attempt yesterday.

We walked over to Artista – two blocks from the court building, 800 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002. Phone: (713) 278-4782.

It’s in the new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The Center’s gotten varied reviews, but the restaurant is quite nice for lunch. Artista is operated by Michael Cordua, locally famous for his Americas and Churrascos restaurants. It’s stylish white-table-cloth, a large, open dining room on the second floor that offers a terrific vista of the Theater District through big windows. From our table, we had a superb view from the west side of downtown. Because of the rainy day, the restaurant wasn’t crowded.

The setting, views, and décor are swell. Prior to the meal, we had Cordua’s signature fried plantain chips, with three sauces…this is definitely a nice touch. The lunch menu offers a number of options at a reasonable price, and we went with sandwiches: a tasty chicken salad on croissant for me, and hamburgers for my jury-mates. Good things: the sandwiches themselves, and the habanero pepper-based condiment to mix with our catsup for the French fries. (Habaneros are the hottest chili peppers, rating around 200,000 - 300,000
Scoville units.) The fries were tasty but seemed a bit overdone to me.

The service was not so good, especially for what was clearly a slow day. Our waiter was nice enough, but getting coffee and tea refills was a struggle. Reading the reviews on this morning confirms that table service is Artista’s weak point. Still, we had a good lunch for a reasonable price, in a setting that really separated us from our mind-dulling duty.

More reports as we fatten.

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