You may have heard that Houston doesn’t really do seasons. Not like most other places, at least. What else explains a run of upper-80s-to-lower-90s heat in the first week of November? But lovers of all things autumn needn’t worry—cooler weather is on the way, and if you can’t wait until it arrives, you can already sample the flavors of the season at a charming neighborhood eatery that quietly serves some of the freshest food in town.
Benjy’s in The Village, located on Dunstan Road and Kelvin Drive near Rice University, is one of Houston’s best-kept secrets. When it opened 22 years ago, its focus on local, seasonal food served as a pleasant counterpoint to the steak-and-lava-cake richness of the mid-1990s. Since that time, the demand for fresh, healthy, and delicious food has overtaken the industry and benjy’s reaps the benefits that come with its first-on-the-scene status.
The fall dinner menu at benjy’s, overseen by Executive Chef Mike Potowski, shines with local, seasonal pride. Candied walnuts, bleu cheese, and Asian pears lend a tangy-sweet bite to the watercress-based Early Fall Salad; the Delicata Squash Salad, locally sourced and served over a bed of farro with cranberries and a citrusy vinaigrette, offers diners a heartier, warmer way to start their meal.
Larger plates include the San San Tofu, named for the Houston company that produces it. It’s an excellent dish, with the expertly-prepared tofu perched atop a pile of green beans, winter squash, sumac, and a ladleful of vadouvan curry sauce. The Grilled Scottish Salmon, replete with quinoa, fall vegetables, and bright notes of citrus and ginger, is another worthy companion for any fall day.
Even the bar menu swells with seasonal Texas pride. The Fall Sangria pairs merlot with pinot gris, alongside brandy, lychee, and orange essence. A new addition to the menu, the Love Potion No. 9, uses apricot vodka from Western Son Distillery in Pilot Point, Texas, and is finished with a Campari floater that adds an herbal flavor and autumnal color. Elsewhere on the menu, the popular Lemon Basil Gimlet utilizes Western Son yuzu vodka and an addictive lemon-basil simple syrup that diners can purchase for their very own bar carts.
Benjy’s in The Village offers dinner service seven days a week, starting at 5:00 p.m., and diners can choose among a number of chic lounge or patio areas. Reservations may be made online, or by calling the restaurant at (713) 522-7602.
Featured photo by Two Cats Communications