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“Mass market.” “Manufactured.” “Intellectually demanding.” Such are the common pithy definitions of the adjective lowbrow. But thanks to Houston’s eponymous thriving café, another less pejorative meaning can now be attached to this descriptor: “delicious.”

Tucked in on a side street in the Museum District, Lowbrow Bar & Grill one of many new casual coffee/sandwich shops that have popped up in 2014. Somewhere between shiny-fancy Common Bond and grungy oldie-but-goodie Brasil is Lowbrow, whose clientele usually are not and whose fare generally is…sort of. Perhaps the first clue that Lowbrow is all about subtle culinary fiat is the shrine to Yoda located just off the bar.

Glance too quickly over their menu and you may be prematurely bored by the ostensibly pedestrian dishes. Sandwiches? Omelets? Chicken wings? Quesadillas? I might as well be at Denny’s or Fuddruckers, you say with a snort. Look closer you must, young padawan.

The selection of sandwiches comprise simple gems with a twist, such as the chicken-fried black bean burger, whose flavorful soft interior and amazingly crispy coat make it rival the carnivorous Juicy Lucy, a plump longhorn beef patty with a spicy interior of melted Fontina and jalapenos, topped with arugula, crispy and pickled shallots, and served on a challah bun. Simple grilled cheese also becomes showy via the implementation of toad-in-a-hole cooking technique that gives to rise fried egg center and a cute pop-out mini sandwich.

Furthermore, that omelet (one of the many breakfast items served all day) is not your standard egg and sausage comb-over but rather an ejjeh, a deep-fried Middle Eastern egg pancake laced with leeks and garnished with tangy crème fraiche and a bloody sweet tomato jam. Standard chicken wings are similarly transformed at Lowbrow thanks to masala spices, whose application can be adjusted to make them “mild,” “spicy”, or “super spicy.” And the quesadillas? They’re stuffed with pecan-smoked duck breast, not chicken or beef.

You get the point. Not that every item on Lowbrow’s menu is funkified (rest assured, there’s a very good buttermilk waffle, pastrami sandwich, and cheeseboard) but what positively differentiates the restaurant from more straight-edge establishments are these dishes and daring rotating specials like Tuesday’s steak night platter, which combines a NY strip with a kale Caesar salad, garlic mashed potatoes, and (the kicker) “flamin’ hot” Cheetos-encrusted fried shrimp.

Pair most anything you order with a $10 pitcher of one of Lowbrow’s adult punches (recent flavors have included cranberry orange Campari and strawberry-basil margarita) or just a Vietnamese coffee and your happy hour or brunch becomes that much more fun if only due to a dash of atypicality. 

Lowbrow Houston
1601 W.Main Street
Houston, Texas 77006
(281) 501-8288

Joanna O'Leary

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