18 JULY 2, 2004
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Surely it was a garage in a past life,but the
District 7 Grill in downtown Houston turns
out to be a great lunch spot with charm.
A gem in old downtown
On the southeast side of downtown,
hidden among a mixture of dilapidated
houses, empty warehouses and newly
built lofts, is a gem of a lunch spot, the
District 7 Grill.
The place radiates barbecue
joint ambience while looking
like it could have been a
garage in a former life,
complete with roll-up
doors. A large smoking
barbecue grill sits on
Rough wood paneled
walls line the main
room and a Formica
floor and wooden tables
add a certain rustic charm. It
even smells like a barbecue joint.
But barbecue isn't on the menu. Instead,
it's a simple, straightforward place to get
a salad, sandwich or a bowl of pasta.
Orders are taken at a brick counter
from the basic menu or from the daily
specials, which are on display up front.
The menu has a section called "Bowls",
which contains pasta dishes and salads.
On a recent visit, the crusted chicken
parmesan and linguine marinara ($8)
arrived in a huge white pasta bowl.
A serving of perfectly al dente linguine large enough for two was topped
with a pleasant homemade marinara
sauce and ribbons of fresh basil. More
sauce would have been welcome considering the amount of pasta, but the crunchy-
coated, oregano-infused parmesan chicken made up for it in flavor.
The special of the day was a catfish
sandwich ($8). The deep-fried, thick catfish fillet was tender and moist. Served on
a honey-wheat bun slathered with a
chunky homemade tartar sauce and
topped with cilantro and cabbage, this
sandwich really worked. Satisfying without being heavy, it's a good choice on a
The thick cut fries on the side were
hearty and clearly homemade.
District 7 Grill is known for its half-
pound District Burger ($7). Big enough to
share and served with the same chunky
fries, it definitely satisfies. A smaller version (one-third pound) is available, as is a
lower fat buffalo burger.
For something a little lighter, try the
spinach salad ($7). Baby spinach is
topped with feta, pecans, raisins and a
honey-tinged, garlicky balsamic vinaigrette. A wedge of crusty, parmesan
focaccia comes with it. For an extra dollar, you can add either crusted pork or
grilled chicken. I chose the chicken,
which was hot off the grill, and full of
smoky, rosemary goodness.
If you aren't low-carbing, you can also
order the spinach salad with penne pasta.
It's all served together in one large bowl. 1
wanted to try this, but a communications
mix-up resulted in my pasta being
served in a separate bowl. It was a
fortuitous mistake, however, as
the penne was tossed with
olive oil, a hint of marinara
sauce and caramelized
District 7 Grill is very laid
back. Drinks are self-serve,
and silverware is on the table.
Waiters, clad in T-shirts, serve
meals and check on customers from time to time.
Don't forget about dessert. District 7
offers cakes made by the same folks who
create those delicious Empire Cafe treats. A
slice of the decadent carrot cake ($4) made
with pineapple and walnuts and coated in
rich cream cheese frosting is more than
enough for two people. Brownies and other
goodies are also available.
District 7 is family owned and operated, and the staff couldn't be friendlier.
While the place does have a certain rustic
atmosphere, the ambience includes added
little touches like flowers in the corners
and French art prints on the walls. Black
and white photos of early Houston add
An old live-oak tree shades the restaurant. A large deck outside has plenty of
tables, as well as the two inside rooms.
The deck is surprisingly cool and breezy,
even on warm summer days, and it boasts
a great view of the downtown skyline.
District 7 Grill is a pleasant spot for
lunch in the middle of old Chinatown.
The service is quick, the food is good, and
the staff is friendly. It's hard to go wrong
at District 7 Grill.
District 7 Grill
"Q 1508 Hutchins
Houston, TX 77003
Comfort & Aesthetics: W W W W
Value: w w w w
v - Stay home and eat cereal
WW = Well, if you really must
WWW- Fine for all but the finicky
W W W W =Worth more than a
W W W W W =As good as you'll
find in this city