The Skinny: Red Lion is a lot like a good woman. They serve you hearty food, good beer and, most importantly, they do the dishes.
The Fat: Alas, my fair feminists; The Fat Baby is, in fact, a female. So let's put our swords away and just enjoy the tag line.
Red Lion is a super-fine, UK inspired restaurant. While notions of English fare typically muster up thoughts of clumped potatoes, over cooked slices of blood sausage and oil drenched fillets of fried fish, Red Lion takes a cue from the best of the homeland and combines it with the things we all love on this side of the pond.
My friend and I decided to go to Red Lion after a long day at work and on, what ended up to be, a super chilly evening. The fact that this place is hidden along a crazy busy street like Shepherd is pretty amazing. While we had to wait for our table, the foliage laden patio shielded us from the hellacious traffic and made us feel like we were acres away from the city.
The temperature was a different story. For such a popular restaurant, you'd hope they would have had their adorable fire pit a-blazing on such a cold night, when the spillover of clientele was so likely. No such luck. The lot of us hungry folk had to wait on the frigid front porch for, what we were quoted was, a 45-50 minute wait. Grand design? Maybe they just wanted us to experience what it felt like, back in the day, to be waiting for rations of porridge on the streets of London? Naaah! The fire pit was just broken.
As it turns out, a table for two is far easier to get at this meeting place than a table for three or more. That was made abundantly clear when our 45 minute wait melted into 10 and we were privileged enough to take what amounted to “the walk of shame” past our hungry predecessors in parties of three or more. The scowls were kept to a minimum though; everyone’s pretty pleasant there.
Beers in hand, we were herded through a maze of tables into the back end of the pub-like restaurant, close to a huge, toasty fireplace. As many people as were seated, were standing around chatting and clinking glasses. I’d visited England before, but this felt more to me like the late night pubs I’d been to in Ireland – everyone just eating, drinking and laughing out loud. There were no bar fights about to break out, but the vibe was definitely playful…especially for a Thursday.
So…the food! Here it is. While their menu is pretty amazing, with everything from Pan Seared Chicken Breast to the Scotch Egg Dinner to all the Indian faves that are so indigenous to the UK culinary scene; Monday through Thursday they spotlight one killer menu item that makes you want to go every night because each is such a damn good deal.
Mondays: All Cheeseburgers and Mini Burgers, $5 for burger and fries – beat that Jack in the Box! – usually $11.
Tuesdays: Bowl of mussels, $7 for one pound of mussels doused in garlic, wine & butter sauce and served with crusty garlic bread - usually $12…and rightfully so!
Wednesdays: Curry Night, $14 for Curry and a Pint – usually $20 for both.
Thursdays: Steak Night, $18 for an 8oz filet mignon and two sides – usually $28.
My friend and I ordered a bowl of the mussels to share while we waited for our Filet Mignon, which we also shared. I’ve had mussels more times than I can count, but I’m fairly sure that Red Lion hit all the high points you’d expect from the garlic & white wine drenched dish. With beers, bread, our perfectly cooked stake and our sides of asparagus and super awesome bacon mashed potatoes, it was the perfect meal.
Our waitress, Dawn, was pretty much the coolest gal ever. She was handling a swarming room of people and we never wanted for a thing. She was friendly, sincere, and an all around flawless server. I just love it when a server seems more like an essential cog to the machine than an ornament on the face of an establishment. Dawn was essential and we loved her for it. She made it all work for us. And to be quite honest, great service sometimes just takes the cake, doesn’t it?
P.S.: So I returned to RL on mussel night and as it turned out the $12 bowl was far better than the $7 bowl. We had to return our first bowl because the mussels were shriveled, way overcooked and the sauce was a deep rust color...an indication that these babies had stayed on the stove far too long. I rarely return things, no matter how bad, but I was craving some of those yummy mussels and I knew this batch was a fluke. When the waitress finally checked on us, she swept up the old bowl and promised to return with a new one.
Luckily, I was right and the replacement bowl was much better and more like the mussels we'd had on Steak Night; plump and drenched in a light wine sauce. The only problem was that out of about 20 mussels, nine (yep, you heard me, NINE) shells were sealed shut and inedible. Now, I'm no math wiz, but that was about half of our order. Needless to say, I was a little heartbroken.
Our waitress (she was no Dawn) didn't check on us again until we were sitting there with half a bowl of unopened shells. As she picked up our bowl, she begrudgingly offered us another serving. We politely declined and just asked for the bill. She did take the mussels off the check, but that’s not really the point. While it was a nice gesture, I really don’t dine out expecting free food, I just expect good food.
I will return to RL because I love fun places, good beer and overall their food is quite tasty…plus I just adored those mussels on Steak Night too much to think I could never have them again. Always, hopeful!
Location: 2316 S Shepherd Dr 713.529.8390
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!
Whether I’m ordering a meal at a restaurant or cooking up something at home, enjoying what I eat brings me immense satisfaction. On the other hand, being disappointed in a meal sends me into tantrum mode.
I expect certain things out of a dining experience. I’m realistic about the standards I hold for each place, from the local taco bar to the five star steak house. What I've decided is that it's about a perfect balance between service, food quality, ambiance and price. That may seem like a lot to juggle, but Houston is a big city with a plethora of restaurants to choose from. There’s no reason to expect anything less than the best.
If you strip my needs down to the bare essentials, you'll find I'm very much like a baby; I love tasty food and I love to be happy. If an experience doesn't generate a sense of fulfillment for those two basic needs...you're gonna hear me cry.
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!