HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 10,1999
OUT ON THE BAYOU
No place to count calories
by TRAYCE DISKIN
A loyal, suburbanite friend once tried to
convince me that if one dared to venture
outside the 610 loop, you might find some
of the most original and quality food this
sprawling city has to offer.
After putting this dubious hypothesis to
the test one evening and winding up at
CAFE RED ONION in Oak Forest, this theory proved truthful. Cafe Red Onion is a
casual, family-run restaurant specializing in
Honduran dishes, with a bit of Tex Mex
The empty restaurant can look like a
"Honduran Luby's" as one friend put it.
The cafeteria-style tables, and bright lights
may not be as cozy as this kind of food
deserves, but it was the canary yellow walls
that did me in.
With the gradual appearance of a
bustling crowd, potent and fruity margari-
tas and some wonderful food, the place
transformed into a festive, neighborhood
joint where one could eat for hours
The complimentary chips are bumpy
and crumbly, but the pineapple salsa would
be excellent even on chunks of cardboard.
To start, we ordered soup—Black Bean
($1.95) and Chicken Pepper ($1.95). The
black bean soup was fairly runny. I prefer
the creamy, pureed style, but the thick
chunks of peppers and onions made this a
lighter, seemingly healthier version.
The chicken soup was not too spicy, and
the texture is almost perfectly creamy—just
the right viscosity. The shredded pepper
and diced chicken were ample and hearty.
Although an order of nachos is simply
gratuitous with such a variety of choices,
we indulged much to our disappointment.
Using the same bumpy chips, the Black
Cafe Red Onion
2041 Northwest Freeway
(at 43rd Street) • 713-957-0957
Service: £^> ^& £
iZOpt for bread, water at home
OK, if you really must
Fine for most
. Worth the drive, so live a little
. As good as it gets
The empty restaurant
can look like a Honduran
Luby's, but the gradual
appearance of a bustling
crowd, potent margaritas
and wonderful food
transformed it into a festive,
Bean and Chicken Nachos ($5.95) consisted
of an inaccessible mass of fixings, all
lumped together above a pungent, liquidy
queso. But the Plantains and Sour Cream
($3.95) were a delight. The thick, meaty flavor mingled gently with the burnt-sugar
glaze, and the sour cream countered the
sweetness so perfectly that a minuscule dipping did the trick.
I had the Seafood Enchiladas ($9.95) as
an entree. Part of me wanted to mourn the
overly greasy sauce these stewed in, but the
peppery bite and twice-baked texture found
me sopping up whatever liquid I could.
The seafood, mostly shrimp and cod,
was light and flaky, and seemed to remain
intact inside the bubbling red tortillas. This
dish could have been a little lighter on the
cheese, but the light and fluffy rice on the
The corn and pepper tossed into the rice
seemed incredibly fresh, and I liked the confetti-like presentation. The black beans on
the side were the same as the black bean
soup I was served earlier, now masquerading as a side dish.
The Mayan Chicken ($10.95) was too
bready and lacked a substantial amount
of meat, although the accompanying mango
salsa was delicious. One friend lamented the
fact that the serving of the salsa was so meager since the only way she wanted to eat this
dish was to smother it in condiments.
Another friend commented that it was fine
as fried chicken, but she expected more.
The dessert list offered a tempting
Mango and Papaya Cheesecake, but
unfortunately, the restaurant was out, perhaps a blessing considering the evening's
calorie count. Our server recommended
some other choices, but none seemed
It would have been nice to end with a
tropical, native dish, since so much of Red
Onion's strength seems to be in its
Honduran dishes, as opposed to the more
Tex Mex influenced ones.
The restaurant we left, still filled with
families, couples and office colleagues, was
not the same sparse, oddly unambient one
we entered. And although dishes must be
selected carefully, there are many winners.
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