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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

From 'Bus Rides to Flavorville' to 'The Bus Life'

I have decided that, for financial reasons, I need to change the Bus Rides to Flavorville blog from a food blog to something I can write by doing simple research and interviews.  Much as I love to eat out and tell people all about it, I cannot and have been unable to for some time justify the expense of dining out at (at least) four restaurants a month, which was my original goal and plan for this blog. 

I have decided to revamp this blog and call it 'The Bus Life.'  It will be geared to providing useful information about bus systems and alternate travel methods to people who regularly use public transportation in Houston, Texas.  Since I myself am a bus rider and live in Houston, much of the information on this blog will be concerned with the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Houston, as well as companies such as Greyhound, Megabus, Metrolift, Uber, and Lyft, and services including Harris County RIDES and UberEats.  My intent, however, is to branch out into bus systems in other US cities and, eventually, to bus systems internationally.  Just because we ride the bus doesn't mean we don't like to travel.

Flavorville Houston will become a 'department' of the new blog, which will talk about interesting restaurants to be found along Houston's local bus routes.  I will not write about that regularly until my financial situation improves to the point where I can visit new restaurants without guilt.

What qualifies me to write this blog?  First, I have ridden the Metro bus system for over thirty years as a student and then as a weekday commuter.  I have seen Metro grow from a system of local bus routes, to a system that included longer, express Park & Ride routes, to the current system, which includes light rail and an extensive network of transit centers.  I look forward to the proposed Texas Hyperloop, which will include the cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.  I am a current member of the Metro Accessibility Task Force and plan to join the Houston Commission on Disabilities as a volunteer on the Metro, Transportation, and Parking committee.  My intent is to provide the best information to Houston's bus riders that I can in a way that I hope will entertain as well as inform you.

The next post you see here will be a link to the new blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

True Neapolitan Pizza at Cane Rosso

This edition of my food blog features a review I wrote for a content site called Blasting News. Thus, it does not follow my usual format. I am inserting as much of the usual format here as possible and linking to the review.

Dallas Neapolitan Pizza Chain Comes to Houston and Serves Outstanding Food

Address: 1835 N. Shepherd Drive, Houston, Texas 77008
Website: Cane Rosso
Bus Routes: 26 Long Point/Cavalcade and 27 Shepherd
Vegetarian? Considerate. Most of their pizzas contain meat, but there are four vegetarian pizzas and salads available.

How did Cane Rosso get started?

When Cane Rosso founder Jay Jerrier traveled to Italy on his honeymoon, he fell in love with Neapolitan #Pizza. Jerrier, however, took his love one step further and learned how to make Neapolitan pizza himself, training in a 60-hour course with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in Italy under master pizza chefs (pizzaioli). He started with a mobile wood-burning oven in 2009 and opened his first restaurant in Dallas’ Deep Ellum district in 2011. There are now five Cane Rosso restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The first #Houston restaurant is located on N. Shepherd Drive, and another will open later this year (2016) on Yoakum Boulevard. Read more...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Old-School Awesome at Bernie's Burger Bus

Address:  (Bellaire) 5407 Bellaire Boulevard and 2643 Commercial Center Boulevard #320 in Katy
Website:  Bernie's Burger Bus
Bus Route(s):  2 Bellaire or 49 Chimney Rock/South Post Oak
Vegetarian?  Considerate.  Offers a veggie burger option, fries options, and a salad but is not a vegetarian restaurant.

What better way to start a new food blog about restaurants on Houston’s bus routes than with a restaurant that started out as a food bus?  Yes, you read that correctly.  Not a food truck, but a food bus—a school bus, to be exact, which gives this restaurant its theme.

Chef Justin Turner began his food ‘truck’ business in 2010, cooking food out of a school bus.  All of his food, including the breads and the condiments, is made from scratch, either by himself and his staff or by local people.  He has even begun bottling small batches of his condiments and selling them at Whole Foods.

In 2014, Bernie’s moved into its first brick and mortar restaurant, located on Bellaire Boulevard, and they have been serving scratch-made burgers and fries there, ever since.  They opened a second location in Katy in the fall of 2015 and plan to open a third location in The Heights.  In March of 2016, Turner won during an episode of Chopped on The Food Network that featured four contestants from Houston.  He hopes to someday open a restaurant that is not focused on burgers, but that’s a bit down the road.

The Ambience
Bernie’s Burger Bus honors its roots by using its original food bus as a kitchen in its restaurant.  So you enter the restaurant, which is on the south side of Bellaire, and the first thing you see is a big, yellow school bus behind the tables and chairs, parallel to the bar.

Bernie's Bus

The hostess at the front door will offer you the choice of sitting inside the restaurant at a table, in the screened-in, open-air patio, or at the bar.  In the summer, you will naturally want to sit inside.  If you sit at the bar, the bus/kitchen will be to your back. Along the far wall you will see a row of school lockers, covered with stickers.  There are also stickers all over what would be the front door of the bus, most of them related to food in some way.

School lockers at Bernie's

Door stickers on Bernie's Bus

You’ll get a laminated menu that looks like the black and white cover of one of those school essay notebooks that are now in vogue, and then it’s drool to your heart’s content.  This place sells burgers, one sandwich, and eight varieties of French fries.  Note—The French fries alone can comprise a meal.  The burgers and fries served here have been voted among the best in Houston.  I came here because I had to try that out.

I was served by the lovely and friendly lady who works behind the bar.  She took my order, and I was promptly brought a plate of Lunch Lady Fries and a Recess (grilled cheese) sandwich with two Electives (additional fillings), along with a Coke.  

I was so hungry that I dived into my food before remembering to take a picture of it, but the next time I visit Bernie's, I will photograph my meal and add it here.

What I Ate
Lunch Lady Fries come smothered in brown gravy and are topped with aged white Cheddar cheese, green onions, cheese curds, and bits of roast beef.  The first thing I tasted was the brown gravy, and it was perfect—with that browned-buttery, slightly peppery taste that makes your mouth water.  The cheese curds were Cheddar, and larger than I expected.  I had figured they would be like cheese crumbles.  No, these were gobs of cheese about the size of my thumbs.  Delicious!

The Recess was made with substantial sourdough bread—larger bread than your usual store-bought kind—and Swiss cheese, filled with caramelized onions that had been braised in Jack Daniels, and burgundy mushrooms.  The bread is made by Slow Dough, a local bakery known for its breads.

Hint:  Be careful of what kind of Electives you order.  While the tipsy onions and burgundy mushrooms I ordered were delicious and added to the sandwich, they also made the sandwich very heavy and, after a few minutes, a bit soggy.  I would recommend ordering these two Electives, at least, on the side and eating them with bites of your sandwich or burger.  To each their own, though.

This is very filling food, and I could only eat half of my meal.  I plan to return here, and when I do, I will probably just order fries, because I like to nibble.  I’ve also found that I prefer grilled cheese sandwiches made with plain old, store-bought toasted white bread with American cheese to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches anywhere.

House Specialties
Frankly, most of the items on the menu are house specialties.  Bernie’s is known for its Lunch Lady Fries, Honor Roll Fries, and for its Detention Burger, which consists of two patties covered in Cheddar cheese, with caramelized onions and normal hamburger fixings, between two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches.  This whole enormous thing is served with a knife stuck in it to hold it together.  It costs $17.00 and is a real Dagwood sandwich.  Also check out their Mascot, a bison burger topped with goat cheese, arugula, and pickled red onions.

Bernie’s offers only one salad, to which you are invited to add electives.

The beverages offered at Bernie’s primarily consist of typical soft drinks, specialty lemonades, and wine or beer.  Their draft and canned beers are all local.  If you prefer imported beers or domestic beers from more distant places, they offer those in bottles.  Their happy hour is held every day, from 3:00pm-6:00pm.

Primarily, Bernie’s desserts are shakes, which cost between $5.00 and $7.00.  They also do an ice cream sandwich and a root beer float.  They are fond of adding mix-ins to their shakes, something that I’m not a fan of.  But I suppose I shouldn't knock it until I try it.

Bernie's is somewhat pricey.  A meal for two people could easily cost in the range of $45.00-$50.00 if they both order the full beverage, burger, and fries.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Because Bus Riders Like Good Food, Too!

What possessed me to create this blog?

First and foremost, because I love food.  Diners, Drive-ins,and Dives is one of my favorite shows on television, and I think Guy Fieri has one of the best jobs in the world.  I love eating interesting food, visiting new places, and writing about the fun I've had.  But I don't just like to eat Guy FIeri's kind of food.  I also like to eat gourmet, ethnic, and anything else that strikes my fancy.  Some of what I like is from chain restaurants, and some of what I like is from individual, hole-in-the-wall places.  At least one place that I will cover here in the future is not a restaurant, at all.

Why just write about restaurants that can be reached by bus?

The quick answer:  I had to find a niche somewhere, and I didn't want to limit myself to writing about just wine or just desserts or just Italian food, etc.   But bus riders?  Serious niche market, there.

The longer answer:  Houston is a very spread-out city, in which it is all but necessary to use a car to travel anywhere in a reasonable amount of time if you don't live inside Loop 610.  Despite this, many Houstonians use the bus and light rail system as their primary means of transportation, and they too like to eat tasty food.  I am one of those people.  Ergo, here's my food blog, and welcome to my world.