100 Favorite Dishes: No. 9, Shrimp and Grits at Brennan's

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Photo by Troy Fields

​This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

 

While some may argue that the strongest showing at Brennan's is the Creole bread pudding or the classic turtle soup, it's the decadent shrimp and grits here that I feel best represents the restaurant's effortless combination of Southern and Cajun aesthetic into one of Houston's finest restaurants, going on 40 years now.

Brennan's was the first restaurant that I reviewed as the full-time food critic for the Houston Press, and although I wasn't enamored of every dish, the shrimp and grits ultimately won me over. And it's no surprise, really, as Brennan's takes this standard dish and elevates it without delving into overly complicated, baroque territory as is often seen in other restaurants. There's no gilding of this lily.

The base of the dish is stone-ground yellow grits, coarse and clumping together in thick knots. They look as if they'd be gritty, but your spoon careens through them: Brennan's makes these grits impossibly creamy without losing any of that important texture. Corn kernels on top harken back to the grits's origins, and provide a pleasantly sweet contrast against the salty grits. And on top, sweet in that briny ocean way, are plump Gulf shrimp and shreds of earthy parsnip to ground it all.

The shrimp and grits are best enjoyed ladies-who-lunch-style in one of Brennan's sunny dining rooms (there are many) with a 25-cent martini. But if you make plans for dinner, there's an added bonus: The Midtown restaurant runs a complimentary shuttle to downtown and the Theater District so you don't have to battle parking garages after your elegant meal.