Republic Grille – The Woodlands
The Republic Grille opened for business in late Spring 2014 in the far west end of the Panther Creek Shopping Center in The Woodlands, Texas. The space was previously held for more than 30 years by an Asian eatery, Ace Chinese Restaurant, who has plans to relocate to a new location just outside of The Woodlands.
The Woodlands Texas turns 40 in 2014 having first raised a flag on Saturday, October 19, 1974. Since then, we have seen a number of restaurants come and go, and The Republic Grille pays homage to The Woodlands with their interesting collection of historical photographs.
As we mentioned earlier, The Republic Grille recently opened (May 12, 2014) after including the finishing touches on the complete rebuild of the retail space at Panther Creek Shopping Center. The new eatery features an upscale interior with stone accents, combined with some comfortable outdoor seating for casual dining and/or drinks.
The dinner menu comes in at just under 40 items before you count the sides and desserts, adequately covering the basics. Overall pricing is about average of what you might expect to pay at other full service restaurants of similar caliber, while the ambiance and service at Republic Grille exceeds those same establishments. Adult entrées start at a modest $9 for an Angus burger, and top out at a mere $19 for shrimp or flounder.
Spinach & Artichoke Dip
We began with the Spinach & Artichoke Dip, $7. The blend of spinach, artichokes, a house blend of spices, Parmesan cheese, and sliced, toasted baguettes arrived piping hot, in short order. The diced tomato sitting on top adds a nice contrast in color, and compliments the fresh, whole leaf spinach.
Artichoke Spinach Dip
The sliced baguette was presented bathed in olive oil; in fact, ours was a bit saturated. At least there is a good trade-off of overall health benefits of extra virgin olive oil versus butter. It also would have been nice to have had two or four more slices of the bread, as we found ourselves finishing the dip with our forks.
Whole Leaf Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Our serving of the popular appetizer had a generous amount of spinach, and had it been diced a bit finer, it would likely have been easier to manage. The ‘rich and creamy’ part of the dish was lacking slightly on the creamy side, winding up with our giving an overall score of eight out of ten.
Before I talk about the sandwich, can I just point out – and commend – Republic Grille for not having an up-charge for the sweet potato fries? Thank you! Seriously, sweet potatoes can’t possible cost a restaurant twice as much as potatoes. Add to that, the sweet potato fries here were done just right; not too mushy, not fried to a crisp. Seasoned just right for me, with no need of a dipping sauce. Now – the grilled turkey club ($9) sandwich, for me, had it’s pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the bun option I went with when offered between white, wheat, and jalapeño cheddar, was the latter; and it was absolutely baked-that-day fresh, soft, and delicious. There was a generous amount of turkey and peppered bacon, and the lettuce and tomato were also very fresh. On the minus side, though, were a couple of thoughts. First of all, the turkey is clearly a deli-style, rolled turkey breast, not a roasted, carved bird. This, to me, makes grilling the meat rather – well, silly, really. It also seemed to make it kind of slimy. Or maybe that was the abundance of bacon grease. Or grease from the melting cheddar. Or possibly the melting chipotle mayo. My point is this – the sandwich is served good and hot, which caused for a lot of melting of ingredients to happen. This in turn left me with puddles in my hands, a very wet napkin, and, for the first half of my sandwich, anyway, a rather saturated bun. But because it is a very generous sandwich, I saved the second half for lunch the next day, and had more than enough to split between the two of us when I divvied up the fixings between new bread at home. All in all – I’d give it a seven out of 10, if I was scoring.
Grilled Turkey Club Sandwich
The Southern-style Chicken Fried Steak ($12) is hand-battered and served with cream gravy. This was one of only four Chicken Fried Steaks that I have sampled in the past 15 months or so, but I have eaten so many more over the years, that’s like riding a bike. A lot of us can relate to the idea of ‘that one place’ that had the best Chicken Fried Steak, ever. Well, Republic Grille isn’t exactly that place for me, however, it may very well be the best in The Woodlands. The breading wasn’t three times larger than the steak like it is at some other places and the meat wasn’t beat down to paper thin levels. When it comes to chewy versus tender, my steak was comfortably in the middle of these two barometers. I wasn’t able to cut it with a fork, but had no problem with the help of my butter knife (the plate does not ship with a steak knife). We all know that cream of mushroom soup is great starter for making gravy, but you can also use good old fashioned milk, flour, black pepper (of course), and a splash of seasoned salt. The cream gravy at Republic Grille tastes suspiciously like cream of mushroom soup and little else aside from the course ground black pepper, which you can easily see. Definitely something about the Chicken Fried Steak, and Chicken Fried Chicken, that mushroom fans can appreciate. The contrast in the flavor between the gravy and steak is a good one, but it leans a bit too far in favor of the mushroom for me. A majority of my steak was a two on a five-point chewy scale (5 = lower jaw pain), while literally only one bite rated a zero on the chewy scale. This is far from a complaint of any kind – in fact, it’s a very good score.
Southern-style Chicken Fried Steak
The mashed potatoes scored nine out of 10 for great texture and flavor. Minus one due to a lack of black pepper, and the best I’ve had in The Woodlands. I like more pepper in my green beans as well, but I also prefer them to not be cooked to the extent that mine were. My grandfather once told me that “when you are cooking string beans, and they break apart, well, at that point you have cooked out all of the vitamins.” Seemed credible to me when I was five and learning to make fried bologna sandwiches. How many kids do you know that refuse to eat anything green?
Green Beans with Bacon Republic Grille – The Woodlands
The green beans at Republic Grille appear to be slow cooked and maybe even over-cooked, as they had the consistency of what you might call green bean stew; just mushy. Not that it really affected the flavor of the beans, the peppered bacon. Tasting food is more than just noticing the flavor; color and texture also play important roles.
The Bottom Line
The Republic Grille at Panther Creek brings a much-needed breath of fresh style and good food to The Woodlands. All things considered, it’s a great value for your dining dollars. The sleek interior is calm, modern, and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and attentive. We would like to suggest that management consider relocating the hostess stand a little further away from the front door – it’s close proximity to the entrance creates some congestion when either entering or exiting the establishment. Both times when we passed through the doorway, there were other guests lined up at the podium, which incidentally, places them directly in front of and blocking the doors. When we first arrived, an initial thought I had upon seeing people against the door was that there would be a wait. Fortunately for us, this was not the case.
Bonefish Grill – The Woodlands
Bonefish Grill has been open in The Woodlands for a while now, but we sometimes give new eateries time to work out the new-place kinks, so we thought it was about time to head over and check them out. The classy interior and the chef-jacket clad servers gave us an overall feeling of being high class, and with high class interiors, you typically expect high class pricing. However, this was not the case at Bonefish, as the pricing seemed to be about average on the (limited item) menu. Chef Ramsey would likely approve of the easy list of choices and perhaps even the decor, although we haven’t seen him re-do any interior space to this degree. The hostess was pleasant and courteous, seating us quickly, but as it was quite chilly inside, we moved to a patio table.
Our friendly, fast-talking server – who hails from Minnesota – hasn’t quite adopted any southern style in his speech yet, so we had to ask him to repeat one or two things as the words flew from his Minnesota mouth.
Overall, Terry was prompt, attentive, and friendly, which are always good things. But one interesting point he made as we perused the menu during our initial conversation, caused me a little concern in relation to how fresh the fish is at Bonefish. When I inquired about the Chilean Sea Bass, he responded with “It’s checked every day and…” I had to stop him there. “What do you mean by ‘checked every day’? Isn’t seafood delivered fresh every day?" I asked. “Yes,” he replied, "the seafood is delivered and checked every day." It may seem like a minor clarification, but the importance of this detail will become more apparent later.
Baked Bread with Pesto Olive Oil
The bread was warm and fresh, with a texture similar to Ciabatta. Unfortunately, it did not arrive until T-minus two minutes prior to our dinner plates. This was the first of several timing oddities we observed while we dined – though we all received bread at the same time, our dining neighbors actually got theirs a good ten minutes or more before their main entrees; while yet another neighbor table never received bread at all. An obvious explanation would be that was at that moment when fresh bread had become available from the kitchen, although it did not appear to be oven-fresh. Less obvious was why the kitchen apparently wouldn’t have bread more readily available during typical dinner hour(s).
With the dinner menu having only five categories and 25 items (33 if you count each of the types of grilled fish separately) save for sides and desserts, the menu seems a bit underwhelming. But a small menu keeps expenses low, and can make life in the kitchen a little easier for all. But then, it helps if your kitchen staff knows what they are doing. Based on the rest of our meals, we aren’t so sure that this kitchen staff does.
Full disclosure: I love me a good crab cake. And one of the options on the menu is a Maryland crab cake dinner that has two crab cakes. But for just a few more dollars, an option that allows for a bit more variety on your plate is the Sirloin + Crab Cake dinner (6 oz "center cut" sirloin + Maryland style crab cake $19.90), then upgrade to filet mignon (add $6). Either way, the crab cake comes with red remoulade, and all entrées (except pasta), are served with a fresh seasonal vegetable (we had the current selectin of zucchini in tomato sauce), plus your choice of one side item – I went with the garlic whipped potatoes. Because garlic.
Imagine if you will, the Filet Mignon. How thick is it? Inch and a half? Somewhere between two and three inches? Me, too! I think of a beautiful, thick cut of beef like this one. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a filet mignon less than an inch thick. Have you? Good, so I’m not the only one then. So you can imagine my surprise when my meal was delivered with what appeared to be a rounded-off strip steak, no more than 3/4" thick. Adding to my surprise was our server stating that he was certain this was in fact, a filet mignon, because, "all the filets are that thin. I know, it surprises me, too," he said, confidently. Adding that sometimes they are a little thicker. I was 99.95% sure it was actually the sirloin. After cutting into the steak and finding it to be bordering on well done (I’d ordered medium rare, as one does with a filet) the plate was returned to the kitchen for replacement.
Sirloin + Crab Cake dinner at Bonefish Grill – The Woodlands
And then a curious thing happened. A nicely dressed young woman appeared (who never introduced herself, incidentally), and was very apologetic as she delivered my replacement filet – ta-da! The kitchen sent out a lovely, nearly two inch thick, beautiful filet. Beautiful, that is, until I cut into it. Because as you can see below, it nearly uttered a final "moo" it was so rare. I could tell by the look on her face, and the way she asked me – no less than three times – if I was sure it was alright, she thought it was too rare. And to be honest, the center was a little under done. But while all this was going on with my meal, his meal was having it’s own set of Snafus occurring, so I wasn’t going to send this one back, only to have it come back, possibly re-grilled and now over-done. It’s really disappointing when the two of you have to take turns watching each other eat while one or both of you await replacement plate(s) rather than enjoying a nice meal, together.
As for the crab cake, it was pretty good, though a bit on the small side – closer to an appetizer portion than a main dish. The crab tasted fresh, not canned, and definitely not fishy. The breadcrumbs were soft in the center with a toast-like crispy exterior, a pleasant effect of having been baked, as opposed to being fried. Personally, I prefer a baked crab cake, not only is it (usually) healthier, but you get a better flavor and texture from the crab. I think if anyone were considering the crab cake dinner as a meal, though it comes with two, may find themselves still hungry after having finished the entree. But, this could also be construed as having room for dessert. Also of note was the extreme saltiness of, well, everything, really. A good crab cake recipe shouldn’t need any salt at all, as a nice blend of seasonings should definitely provide plenty of flavor. The same goes for the garlic whipped potatoes, and the zucchini in tomato sauce. But everything on my plate was extremely salty. To me, this shows a lack of either imagination or knowledge in the kitchen, relying too heavily on salt to add flavor to everything. Of course, based on our experience, I’m leaning more toward a lack of knowledge in the kitchen. One final observation: I know Bonefish is quite proud of their wood-burning grill, but any chef worth his toque will tell you the grill is no place for a filet mignon – a cut of beef that should be pan-seared and finished in the oven, or sautéed.
Crab Cake and Steak
I ordered the Wood-Fired, Grilled Chilean Sea Bass a.k.a., the Patagonian toothfish* with a Steamed Vegetable Medley as the side ($27.30). The steamed vegetables tasted fresh and flavorful, and the zesty tomato sauce worked very well with the zucchini. The mango salsa was about average in taste and the fish… the fish wasn’t at all what I expected.
* The name "Chilean Seabass" was invented by fish wholesaler, Lee Lantz in 1977. Lantz wanted a name that would make it attractive to the American market. Considering "Pacific sea bass" and "South American sea bass", he settled on "Chilean Sea bass." In 1994, the FDA accepted "Chilean Sea bass" as an "alternative market name" for Patagonian toothfish, and in 2013 for Antarctic toothfish.
My serving of Chilean Sea Bass was (although reportedly safe to eat) woefully under-cooked, arriving in a gelatinous, or oddly squishy state, similar to past unpleasant experiences I’ve had with scallops. When asked, our server said it was supposed to be like that, and tried to explain that it was ‘buttery’ along with some additional adjectives that only served to illustrate his lack of knowledge of the sea bass. He departed and subsequently, the same, well-dressed woman arrived to investigate further and possibly explain how the fish was indeed cooked properly; adding that she found that people either ‘like it’ or ‘don’t like it’ going along with the premise that the fish was cooked properly. Sea bass, Chilean or otherwise when cooked, is an oil-rich fish that doesn’t taste oily, and is noted for its large, thick flake and melt-in-your-mouth texture. She was happy and quick to offer me a replacement, suggesting the lobster tails and I agreed.
The two lobster tails and steamed vegetables ($13.90) arrived promptly delivered by our well-dressed, smiling young woman, who made some small talk and then quickly disappeared. And here is where that previous quality check/fresh delivered concern from earlier comes into play. I don’t recall seeing anything stating how fresh the lobster is or was supposed to be. Live lobster will respond to being cooked by curling it’s tail and as you can see, these tails are quite flat. For those who don’t know, lobsters are a decapod crustacean that live in saltwater. Like most crustaceans, they must be cooked shortly after they die as their meat rots quickly. As you can see, the meat was primarily white but did have some black spots (looks like black pepper) [see larger photos] both of these indicators lead me to believe that the tails I was served were not entirely fresh. When cooked properly, the meat should be white, opaque and firm to the touch. Mine was a dull white, quite firm to the touch, and easier to cut with a butter knife than a fork. The meat was not flaky or juicy, so simply stated, it was not properly prepared. The second tail was very salty, and when asked, our friendly young woman stated that Bonefish does not add salt to their foods and that it might have been because it lived in the ocean. Really?
After all of the back and forth with our meals, coupled with neither of us actually finishing them, we had plenty of room to take the manager up on her suggestion that we have dessert. For variety (and posterity!) we ordered the Key lime pie, and the Macadamia nut brownie. The Key lime pie could easily be re-named the Pucker lime pie, as that is what we did after taking a bite. Whether or not the limes were truly Keys or a standard variety, there was plenty of that tangy and tart lime flavor going on in that pie. It didn’t hurt it either being nestled between a hand-pressed, roasted pecan and graham crust and a generous dollop of house-made whipped cream ($6.50).
Key Lime Pie at Bonefish Grill – The Woodlands
The macadamia nut brownie is a flour-less brownie, served warm atop a raspberry sauce, along with vanilla ice cream, and sprinkled with macadamia nuts ($6.50). Though it looks very thick and rich in the photo, it was surprisingly light in consistency, and not overwhelmingly sweet. We found both desserts to be a pleasant finish to an otherwise disappointing meal.
The Bottom Line
We’ve said it before, and it’s still holds true today – It’s a shame when the side items outshine the main entree(s). For all the mistakes and mishaps that happened during our visit to Bonefish Grill, we will say this: Every member of staff that we interacted with was very polite, smiling, and pleasant. Though we would have liked to have seen all of them possess a bit more knowledge of the foods they were serving, they can’t be faulted for the mistakes happening behind the pass. Also to their credit, the faulty plates were removed, leaving us with a minimal bill – an unspoken apology that was neither asked for nor pointed out. Due to those facts, then, we have decided to not write off Bonefish Grill altogether, and plan on returning to give them at least one more try… It just might be some time before we do, while we wait for some further training or possible turnover to happen at Bonefish Grill, The Woodlands.
RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta
As Etta James once famously sang… at last.
RC Gallegos, best known in these parts for his first RC’s Pizza & Pasta out in Kingwood, has finally opened up his new location, RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta on Sawdust Road – having gutted and remodeled what was Steel City Pizza. We sat down with RC on this, the night before his official opening, to sample some of his award winning pizzas and welcome him to the neighborhood.
One of the first things RC will tell you about his pizzas is that they are New York, Street pizza. Which is good to know; because anyone that loves a good pizza (and who doesn’t?) and has tried a lot of them, knows that there are many different styles. In fact, to be fair, there’s probably several dozen types just across New York City. But what makes RC’s pizza NYC Pizza are these three things: a thinner crust (which has an edge, not just flat all the way out), thinner sauce (so as not to overwhelm the crust and leave it soggy), and thinner (or less thick) cheese (for the same reason as the sauce). RC refers to this as an authentic New York City Street Pizza. And he would know, having grown up there and learning his craft in famous pizzerias such as Bleecker Street Pizza, the three-time winner of “Best Pizza in New York by Food Network.
This was a private event, meant to help the staff work a few more kinks out – so this isn’t a full review. But we know you want to know about RC’s, especially if you haven’t been to his Kingwood location, so here’s a little peek at some of the pizzas & sides he’s got cooking up:
We started out with some garlic knots (four of them for $2.75), served with ranch dressing and RC’s own traditional pizza sauce. We could definitely detect the sweetness of the hand-made dough (RC’s own, secret recipe), and appreciated the amount of garlic and butter both in and on each knot.
Our first of four pies on which to feast our eyes (see what I did there?) was the Sicilian Pie (a massive 18″ x 13″ for $18.75). This feat of gastro-engineering is twice-proofed and twice-baked. To ensure all 1/2-3/4″ of that wonderful crust gets baked all the way through, the dough is proofed twice, then baked, then turned over, topped, and baked again. The result was a very nice, baked-all-the-way-through, crisp-but-chewy crust, with just the right amounts of sauce, cheese, and fresh basil. For the carb-hound of us (*cough*her*cough*) it could easily be a stand-alone meal. But we’re told you can actually add toppings should you so desire.
Next up, we sampled one of RC’s signature pies, the Kennedy Pie (14″ for $18.50), made with RC’s “Great White” sauce, chicken, baby spinach, garlic, and fresh tomatoes, this pizza had a unique mix of flavors that blended together nicely. What’s more, that nice, thin crust didn’t suffer under the toppings, maintaining it’s composure from the first bites to the “bones,” which made for the thin crust lover of us (read: him) to be happy.
Our third sampling (and just to clarify – the two of us most certainly did not eat four whole pizzas on our own!) was The Godfather (14″ for $18.50), to which we did a little altering of the toppings. The norm is traditional sauce, cheese, pepperoni, smoked ham, mushrooms, bell peppers and red onions. We omitted the mushrooms and added black olives, banana peppers and jalapeños. In hindsight, we should have left well enough alone, or just switched out the mushrooms for one other topping – the black olives, perhaps. With a NYC Street-style pizza, too many toppings overwhelm the crust; especially those which expel any amount of water, like vegetables. So if you go for The Godfather – leave the meats, take away the (extra) veggies (okay, okay, bad pun-work. So sue me.).
Our final adventure for the night was a Grandma Pie (a massive 18″ x 13″ for $16.75). In looking for a way to describe what exactly a Grandma Pie is, I came across the following description: “If a brownie was a pizza it would be the grandma slice.” This seems altogether accurate. The Grandma Pie is a nice, 1/2″ thick crust, made upside-down – which is to say cheese first, then sauce – and with a generous sprinkling of fresh basil. Like the Sicilian, the monstrosity is also baked all the way through (though not twice), ensuring a good, even amount of crusty-chewy texture and no raw, stretchy dough.
RC’s opens Friday, September 20, starting with a semi-limited menu which will include all of their award-winning pizzas, as well as most all of their appetizers, calzones, Strombolis, and a few other items. As training wraps up over the next couple of weeks, they’ll be adding in the remainder of the full menu, which includes a little something for everyone – from salads to subs, baked and traditional pastas, and of course desserts – as well as offering catering and delivery.
RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta
501 Sawdust Road
Spring, Texas 77380
Fielding’s Wood Grill
Fielding’s Wood Grill is not just another beer and burgers joint – it’s a Cary Attar Gastropub – and his 33rd restaurant to date. It’s also not a bar, though they do serve alcoholic beverages (or will when the TABC license process is completed). Named for Cary’s great-great-great-grandfather Fielding Hudson, their fresh-ground Angus burgers tops the menu along with their alternative burgers, salads, awesome milk shakes, and fresh cut French fries. Everything is made from scratch, so it’s all fresh and full of flavor… and calories. The 100% Black Angus, all-natural, Texas beef comes from 44 Farms in Cameron, Texas. The goat cheese and meat comes from a goat ranch near Conroe, the low temperature pasteurized, non-homogenized milk and cream (for those fantastic milkshakes) comes from the Mill-King dairy, just outside of Waco, the bacon is cured and the breads are all baked fresh in house.
The sleek interior has a casual yet crisp feel to it along with a modern flair. Experience comfortable booths along the walls while tall tables and chairs fill the main floor space. A center aisle is lined with iPads connected to the available WI-Fi, where you can hop on a stool and surf the web, check your email or even play a game before and during your meal at Fielding’s. We found the staff to be knowledgeable, friendly and eager to please.
So, what about the food? With chef Edel Goncalves (previously of Hubbell & Hudson Bistro) heading up the kitchen, the opportunity to be disappointed is pretty well non-existent. The menu with its interesting choices is not overwhelmingly complicated; Chef Ramsey would likely approve. As we were there on the first day, we’re not quite ready to write a full review. But we sampled a few items, and what we can say is that we enjoyed what we have eaten at this boutique type restaurant so far.
There are a few special items you won’t find at other restaurants in The Woodlands. One of them being the “Baked Fried Potato.” Yes, I said that correctly, the Baked. Fried. Potato. Just what the name describes, this Idaho baker potato has first been baked, then broken apart and deep fried. It’s the new French fry for those of us who like our fries crispy on the outside while being soft and tender on the inside. Both the Baked Fried Potato and the “regular” &rench fries ares served up in a warm, 6″ cast iron skillet. A very unique presentation, and it keeps the potatoes warm for longer, giving you more time to enjoy them with your main entrée. The house-made Truffle Bacon Mustard sauce works well on both versions of the potato.
As we mentioned, we were there the first night, so the liquor license had yet to be issued to Fielding’s, and the very cool looking beer tap wasn’t completely set up – so we weren’t able to taste any of their specialty drinks yet. But if the $5 milk shakes are any indication, they should be something special. Cary says they plan to offer then different varieties of milk shakes for everyone, and an additional nine more for the 21-and-over crowd.
The Spicy Baja Burger (mole spices, poblano, avocado, habanero ketchup, pickled jalapeños, and salsa cruda, on a milk bun [$9.50]) will make the carnivore in you very happy. The Black Angus Beef is served up warm, juicy, and tender, the jalapeños aren’t too hot, and when they combine with the avocado and salsa you get an excellent Tex-Mex style burger. The milk bun(s) are baked fresh and melt in your mouth (not on your hands), creating a very interesting sensation of flavor that is definitely worth a return visit.
Texas Blue Burger
This burger comes with some really high quality formaggio – and you all know how much I love me a bacon cheese burger. This brings all those flavors I love together beautifully; Point Reyes Blue Cheese (from a dairy not three hours from where I grew up) – which was soft and moist with a sharp, but not overwhelming, saltiness that was exceptional. Though I removed the red onion, I noticed they, along with the lettuce, were crisp. I was hesitant that I would like the fig jam, but like so many things Cary and Edel do, it just works.
So will we be back? Of course we will. Sooner rather than later? Absolutely. And we’ll give you a full report when we do. In the meantime, do we think you should stop in, even before we get there again, even be they start serving breakfast (oh, Heavens, didn’t we tell you? They’re going to serve breakfast!!)? Yes. You really should. Fielding’s is not Gluten-free but, they do offer a Gluten-free bun.
We’ve had people ask if Fielding’s is “kid friendly.” We think it really all depends on what your definition of kid friendly is. While there isn’t a kids menu (*NOTE), with burgers, fries and shakes on the menu, plus the newfangled Coke Remix machine, we’re sure most any kid will be thrilled to be there. Plus that iPad bar could entertain the more tech-savvy of the youngsters. But there is no playground, and no crayons. And with the soon-to-be-available adult beverage service at the bar, it’s likely to be more “kid friendly” in the mornings (when breakfast service begins later this month), at lunchtime and in the early evenings, as Fielding’s is a great place for date night, girls’ night out, and dinner with friends, too.
* Update: Fielding’s does in fact have a kids menu, you simply have to ask for it at the register until the new menus are printed. High chairs are also planned, however, they are simply on backorder as of the date of this post.
Those of you familiar with the flagship location of Crust Pizza in Panther Creek may or may not be aware of their second location in the Village of Alden Bridge. The Alden Bridge Store is at the west end of the Alden Bridge Shopping Center, on the corner which faces Research Forest Drive and Alden Bridge Drive. There is another pizza (national chain) vendor located in the eastern end of the same retail center, but we aren’t talking about… his pizza. In fact, we weren’t actually there for the pizza at all. We’ve sampled the pies from Crust Pizza many times before and as hard as it was to resist the urge, we did just that. This location has been open for a couple of months or more and we went in for something off the sandwich side of the menu.
Crust Pizza is so much more than a pizza joint. These full-service Italian restaurants offers calzones, salads, pasta, our favorite Garlic Knots of course, and hot sub sandwiches along with those wonderous hand-tossed-crust pizza pies. And at just 8-10 minutes up the road from most of the Research Forest offices, Crust is in a prime location for a lunch-hour run when you’re looking for something different.
I can’t help it, I’m a die-hard pizza fan at Crust Pizza. But he’s right, we gotta try more of the menu, so I decided on the Baked Italian Sub ($7.50), made with pepperoni, ham, salami, mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes and Italian dressing. After I ordered, though, I went off to wash my hands, trusting the men-folk (chatting at the register while he decided) to get it right, and somehow (as you can see above) I ended up with the Muffaletta Sub ($7.50). There’s actually very little difference in the two subs, though the Muffaletta swaps out the fresh veggies and Italian dressing for olive relish.
As I wasn’t sure where the mix-up occured, and I’m actually a fan of a good olive relish, I just rolled with it. I’m glad I did. The sub rolls are a soft, Italian bread, without the over-chewiness of a Chibatta roll. There is a generous amount of each of the high-quality meats Crust has become known for, folded with care into the sandwich. Those meats are tucked between slices of mild, melty mozzarella, helping to hold it all together. And right down the middle of that warm and toasty submarine of goodness was a fantastic blended olive relish. I detected green and black olives, celery, cauliflower and carrot, oregano and garlic, some basil and a mild olive oil. All-in-all, a near-perfect blend for a Muffaletta.
Spicy Link Sub
While we waited for our subs to be brought to the table, we also enjoyed some of those infamous garlic knots. We may not have been there for pizza but, we always wind up getting some of those excellent bow-tied, garlicy tidbits.
I like a sandwich with substance, so I went with the Spicy Link Sub ($7.50). The Spicy Link Sub comes with caramelized onions, mixed bell peppers, mozzarella, pizza sauce, ricotta, and spicy link sausage, along with a handful of kettle-cooked potato chips. Don’t worry, the sausage isn’t what I would consider as being too spicy, it actually adds just the right amount of kick to it. I am also a fan of the bell pepper trio, red, yellow, and green, I like all of them and can almost never have too much so, I would have liked to see a bit more on my sandwich in addtion to having the veggies spread a little more evenly throughout. The lightly toasted crust on the bread was the perfect wrapper for an otherwise excellent sandwich.
So while there’s three dozen or so restaurants along the Research Forest Drive corridor, a majority of them are concentrated up near “the front” – that is, between I-45 and Grogan’s Mill. The addition of Crust Pizza to the Alden Bridge Village Center helps to expand the dining horizons beyond fast food for the western end of The Woodlands – something we’re sure a great many residents of Alden Bridge can attest to. Tell us what you think in the comment section below. And remember, you don’t have to take our word for it – give them a try for yourself and you decide! Maybe we will see you there as we plan to return for more.