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It’s well known that restauranteur Johnny Carrabba named Mia’s Table after his beloved young daughter, but what’s less clear is whether the menu is supposed to be a collection of her favorite foods. I have a sneaking suspicion this is the case, given the kid-friendly albeit motley crew of entrees on offer. A varied menu is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing; however, when the three major entrée groups (burgers, barbeque, tacos) are themselves taken to an art form individually and successfully by many other local establishments, you tend to wonder whether one restaurant can maintain this hat trick.

In the case of Mia’s Table, they can’t.

But let’s start, first, with the good, of which there is much, manifested notably in the form of burgers. They appear in inventive iterations such as the Meatball burger, an oblong rather than circular juicy mixed meat patty served on soft ciabatta and topped with tomato, onions, lettuce, and Jaimie’s “secret sauce” (some variant of your standard remoulade). Also noteworthy is the Italian Sausage burger on pain au lait with mozzarella, peppers, onions, and dressed in a spicy vinegar tomato sauce. Both are well-constructed, satisfying sandwiches, though not particularly inexpensive ($12), and unfortunately, this elevated price tag raises your expectations for sophisticated flavor profiles the burgers simply don’t achieve.

From (Italian-) American burgers, Mia’s goes south of the border via its offering of decent but in no way spectacular flat-iron steak and red snapper tacos. Oddly, these heartier entrees are listed on the menu alongside far lighter entrees, like the chopped Asian salad (available with chicken, shrimp, or salmon meat). While I don’t think Mia’s is intentionally suggesting these disparate dishes be paired together (in courses? as sides?) their placement in the same menu section ultimately subtly highlights the hodgepodge quality of the restaurant’s fare. It doesn’t help that rounding out these strange bedfellows is a random collection of “from the smoker” entrees such as the St. Louis Ribs, pulled pork sandwich, and ½ BBQ chicken. They’re passable, but, like the tacos, tastier and cheaper versions can be found elsewhere.

Mia’s saving graces are its uber-accommodating waitstaff and its friendly, almost whimsical country home atmosphere. Servers won’t hesitate to offer you a complimentary freshly baked cookie or a beverage if you have to wait just a few extra minutes for your takeout. The dining room’s soft hues, green checkered tablecloths, and warm lighting approximates the (ideal) family dining space and a roaring fire that appears on some nights adds extra sentimentality. And, if you are dining with a large clan, you will gladly overlook the incongruous menu options in light of the FREE soft-serve ice cream available for dessert.

All this is to say that although Mia’s Table falls a bit short in culinary quality and consistency, its other virtues obscure these failings. Mia’s should consider lowering its prices by about 15% and streamlining its menu to become a truly great fast-casual restaurant. In the meantime, however, they’re doing just fine, judging by the dining room filled with relaxed parents and cheerful children. Mia should be proud.

Mia’s Table
3131 Argonne St
Houston, TX 77098

Joanna O'Leary

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