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The SCENE Magazine

South Shore Grille: Braised and Infused

Jan 07, 2011 12:35PM ● By Sue

Latin & American Flavors Make South Shore Grille a Memorable Dining Experience

Mickey Wooten has not personally been to Havana, but you wouldn’t know it from dining at his South Shore Grille where fusion reigns supreme.

Wooten’s fascination with Cuba and his life-long experience with Latin cooking (as well as his vast collection of Cuban and South American cookbooks) presented itself threefold when Wooten’s first chef came on board in 2004. “He was from Argentina,” says Wooten, “plus we worked together creating the popular recipes that are on our menu today.”

Although the Latin influence was important—“I  wanted to have some character in the menu and not be just another American grille”—it was a great way for Wooten to have some fun in the kitchen and experiment with fusion-style cooking by playing around with sauces, soups and introducing dishes like Cuban black beans and Cuban bread pudding.

A native Houstonian, much of Wooten’s youth was spent on Galveston Bay where his grandfather (a charter member of Lakewood Yacht Club) kept a 44-foot Chris Craft yacht. With childhood memories of the old Seabrook draw bridge and Muecke’s fish market, Wooten got a taste of the salt air and it stuck. (Sadly, the Chris Craft got washed away with Hurricane Carla in 1961.)

With a constant yearning to live coastal, Wooten finally got his wish when the bay area grew big enough to make the move feasible. The year was 1988 and he took a job at Jimmy Walker’s in Kemah. Having worked previously at various Houston restaurants like Bud Bigelow’s, Bordman’s, and the Lantern Inn, Wooten was no stranger to the food business.

Now in his South Shore Grille kitchen six days a week, Wooten doesn’t do much cooking or tasting due to his kitchen staff’s keen talent, but he likes to stay on top of things. “I sort of post myself here, “he says, “just to make sure everything is consistent.”

From Angus steaks to hamburgers and Cuban sandwiches, the menu is quite versatile with over 30 items under $10. Also, there is no extra charge for sharing plate items. Wooten says his main objective is to not only keep his customer base steady, but to also keep them happy.

Popular dishes include: prime rib, rainbow trout, crab cakes, stuffed jalapenos, and the tasty daily lunch specials: steak and cheese enchiladas (Monday), crawfish etouffee (Tuesday), prime rib salad (Wednesday), Cuban fish tacos (Thursday), fried catfish (Friday) and omelets (Saturday) where you have five appetizing choices, like the aptly-named Outstanding Omelet – three eggs, red potato, red bell pepper, onion, tomato, mushrooms, prime rib, bacon and cheddar.

Nightly dinner specials include fried shrimp (Monday), prime rib (Tuesday/ Wednesday/ Saturday), fish tacos (Thursday) and fried catfish (Friday). Veggies arrive fresh daily, and all sauces are created from scratch.

Signature dishes (like Seafood Salad Louie and Cuban Chicken Melt) demand that you top them off with the Cuban bread pudding (rich, creamy, and deliciously intoxicating). Key lime pie and the Island brownie are just as inviting.

Wonderful salads – loaded with avocados and tomatoes – are a lunchtime fave, but do try the Hemingway-inspired Cuban sandwich (roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, and Creole mustard grilled on a French roll).

Got a picky eater? Kid-friendly dishes like chicken strips, pizza, and mac-and-cheese are always available.

Don’t be shy about trying those famous Cuban black beans. A well-guarded secret recipe (as are all the recipes), many were taken from Wooten’s cookbook collection infused with his own creative ingredients.

South Shore Grille is for all family members during every economy, says Wooten, because a restaurant should not become unaffordable due to a recession. “We never overprice ourselves here because you never know what tomorrow will bring,” he says. “When I develop a menu, I make sure that I’ve got items for every member of the family in every economy that we could possibly face.”

Deeply community minded, Wooten has supported Salute to Heroes (a CCISD scholarship fundraiser) since its inception. It began on a corner table at South Shore Grille with $400 and now hitting $60,000 yearly in donations. Wooten also participates in Men Who Cook and supports a number of other charitable organizations.

As Hurricane Ike was approaching in 2008, the owner of Eagle’s Nest in Kemah needed a place to store some of his inventory. Wooten offered his private/group dining area, which has remained a permanent showplace for the items, as well as a cozy spot for patrons to dine (and even peruse or purchase some art and home decor).

People come here because of South Shore Grille’s hospitality, says Wooten. “We live it and breathe it every day,” he says. “We have a comfortable atmosphere (lots of natural light and dark wooden booths) and our tini-time bar offers up martinis from the classic to melon to raspberry, plus four types of mojitos and sangria (made at your table).”

“We know half of all our customers by name,” says Wooten, “and want to know the other half as well.” So, stop by and tell Mickey your name. You’ll likely find him in the kitchen.

South Shore Grille is located 2800 Marina Bay Drive, League City TX • 281-334-7700

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