By Joanna O’Leary
Even if you’re not a Dave Mathews fan, you will be enchanted by Big-Eyed Fish (so named for the eponymous band’s famous ballad). Located in a bright turquoise cottage in the heart of the Heights, this recently opened Southern eatery has already charmed the pants off many Houston diners with its whimsically decorated interior, friendly services, and well-executed down-house classics such as shrimp and grits, chicken-fried venison, and meat loaf with layered mashed potatoes.
Visiting Big-Eyed Fish on weekdays between three and seven p.m., however, holds special incentives, for during those “happy hours” patrons can enjoy the restaurant’s innovative cocktails and signature appetizers at a discount. Those really pinching their pennies will be satisfied with the straightforward $4 well drinks, $3 beers from rotating breweries, and fragrant $3 house-made sangria. But for just a few more shekels, you can enjoy BEF’s classic prohibition cocktails at $6 each (Blackberry Bramble, Bee’s Knees, Twelve Mile Limit) or their remarkable line of signature drinks, all of which are $3 off during happy hour. The best of the best of the latter group are the “Fixin’ To,” whose collaboration between ginger bourbon, jasmine, lillet blanc, apple and lavender bitters is evocative of a Southern orchard at sunset, and the “Down South,” a sweet, earthy concoction of bourbon, mint, blackberry syrup, and lime juice. Dessert in a glass can be found in the truly unique Banana Wafer Martini, made with vanilla vodka, rich rumchata, whipped cream, and actual banana pudding.
And though drinking your dinner is easy to do with aforementioned keen selection of libations, save stomach space for Big-Eyed Fish’s small plates. These include southern mainstays such as chunky, piquant guacamole and tortilla chips ($6), fried pickles with chipotle ranch dip ($6), and a particularly addictive smoke pimento cheese dip. The absolute star of the appetizers is the Pigs in a Blanket, a most familiar dish turned wonderfully unfamiliar. Big-Eyed Fish’s version has full-size beef frankfurters ensconced in crescent roll dough and served with sides of spicy mustard and maple syrup. This genius contrast between botanical sweet and savory in conjunction with the unctuous battered hot dogs makes for one of the best bar snacks I have tasted to date in Houston. A few orders of pigs in the blanket or crab beignets, a few cocktails, and you may find yourself under the table and dreaming at Big-Eyed Fish.