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Avoiding NASA

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Forget trying to do anything down Baybrook way this weekend. If the Gulf Freeway south’s seemed bad the past several weekends, it’s about to get worse. To demolish the overpass at NASA 1, the freeway will be shut down both north and south from 9pm this Friday through 5am next Monday. NASA 1 itself shuts down at the freeway beginning 9pm tonight and won’t reopen until May 4.

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Written by macheide

4 March 2009 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Tagged with

Messing with Texas

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1130081610

Houston Chronicle to lay off 10 pct of work force; also looking at other cost cutting measures to save as many jobs as possible.

BreakingNewsOn

Suggestion: Start by laying off Chronicle employees who litter Houston area streets with unrequested, unwanted trash. Suggestion: Better yet, cut your costs by ceasing to even produce the trash you litter our streets with. Suggestion: And recognize that there are thousands of citizens out here who won’t come remotely close to touching your product as long as you really don’t give a damn how much litter you leave in our streets. Or try this: Go bankrupt and quit publication entirely; Texas would be the better for it without having your litter flying around all over Houston.

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Written by macheide

4 March 2009 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Leaving Ike Behind

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Eleven days after Ike headed north out of Texas, it’s time for me to remove my central Hurricane Ike Aftermath post from its sticky position at the top of aftermath, and let it recede into our past.

We’re not yet completely finished with Ike, not by a long shot.

Allstate is working really hard to make sure of that. After we made repeated fruitless calls attempting to get some action moving somewhere with our homeowners’ insurer, we were finally told, “Well, you do have your claim adjuster’s name and number….” Ummm, somewhere I must have missed Allstate’s new ESP policy, whereby the insured is supposed to simply know these things when nobody at Allstate cares to pass the information along. Meanwhile, our local agent remains completely AWOL, and this alleged claims agent is said to be “driving to Houston,” probably from Alaska or Brazil or some other distant location, and apparently without a cell phone or anyplace to stop where he could return our calls. How much would you like to bet that Allstate’s “good hands” will work really really fast once it comes time to trying to deny claims on all the additional damage being suffered by all the Houston homes that their neglect has been leaving exposed.

We’ve got fence and roof repairs to have done. And I’m still not comfortable turning that upstairs bathroom light on without having it looked at by a qualified electrician. But we still have upwards of two thirds of a million of our neighbors who don’t even have electricity restored yet, thousands who don’t even have homes left to light up, and countless other problems mounting up higher by the day.

And I had other issues on which I had wanted to waste time ranting and rambling. Criticism, for one. Sometimes I could have strangled some of the news reporters at some of the press conferences, whose criticism would have led absolutely nowhere, no matter what the answer was. In most instances, however, criticism was another way of saying, “Something very crucial is not getting done. It needs attention.” Once numbskulls like the Harris County judge got out of the comfort zone of his insulated bunker and got out here on his own to see the criticism to be real, worth attention, then things that should have already been moving finally started to.

And how unhelpful far too many officials were. From the lowest, epitomized by UH officials who dangerously rushed the decision for having students return to classes, all the way up to the very top. Too easily, the press bought off on the PR that President Bush visited Houston and Galveston. He did not. He met with a few officials at Ellington Field and Galveston, took a quick flyby over Galveston, and quickly left without so much as a glance at the 4th largest city of the nation he so poorly pretends to lead. “Mayor Bill White met with Mr. Bush on the tarmac at Ellington Field before the president flew home,” stated the Dallas Morning News. Sketch that picture more accurately, please. After Bush returned from Galveston, he strode as quickly as a man can do without breaking into a sprint, obviously anxious to get to Air Force One to get the hell out of town, overall spending less time in the region than the super-fast hurricane itself had spent. Mayor White had to literally run after the President like an unwanted stray dog, otherwise even that brief on-the-fly tarmac “meeting” would not have taken place.

Later, perhaps, some reassessment and preparation for that inevitable next time. For now, though, so long Ike.

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

24 September 2008 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Houstonian

TX AWOL

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Perhaps the State of Texas is trying to make FEMA look good by excusing itself from doing much more than shrugging at the crisis still gripping its largest city? If anyone had any doubts, the state’s official website goes out of its way to make their lack of care obvious.

That “Hurricane Relief” thing at the northwest corner of the state’s home page? A curiously sick joke. It links nowhere, gives no information on how to contribute funds or efforts to any relief, points to nothing that the state itself might be daydreaming about doing for relief, gives absolutely no clue as to what it is even doing there. Just, “Hurricane Relief,” sitting there as impotent as the state’s own hurricane response has been.

But ok, at least that “Hurricane Ike Aftermath Information” links through to something, right? Well, yes, but don’t expect it to take you much of anywhere you could not have gotten to more quickly simply by bypassing the Texas state website entirely, as fitting a metaphor for the state’s Ike response as could be drawn. Must be intentional on the part of the website managers, one could easily think.

Ah, but we can always show that we side with our governor, showing that we empathize with Hurricane Ike victims who have lost their homes, their jobs, and their lives by contributing to the governor’s mansion restoration fund. We must remember to keep our priorities straight, must we not?

[Additional Ike-related aftermath content: Hurricane Ike Aftermath]

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

22 September 2008 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Post-Ike Supply and Demand

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South of the Beltway down the Gulf Freeway toward Galveston, you don’t get much busier than Bay Area Boulevard, especially on a Sunday afternoon when the mall and just about everything else is opening back up post-Ike.

Still, I had to blink twice to realize what I was not seeing past that tanker: gas pumps in operation with no lines of cars waiting to top up. Not a single solitary auto fuel customer!

I didn’t notice, but the presence of extra gas supplies along with the absence of any demand may have been related to the price of their gas. Too many gas stations around Houston seem to think they can walk a tightrope just shy of price gouging, still charging some 40-50 cents more than can easily be found, in some instances at a competing gas station just across the street.

Whereas just 3 days ago the south side of Houston was pedaling on fumes, that quickly we’re back to driving on plenty enough to be price-conscious.

[Additional Ike-related aftermath content: Hurricane Ike Aftermath]

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

21 September 2008 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Signs of Recovery from Ike

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Signs we’re getting over Ike:

  • Soap operas return to daytime TV. (Which just means we stop watching TV once again. It also means it gets that much more difficult to get good information about Ike recovery, since most of us remain without power, Internet access, some of us even without access to our homes; and for many, TV had been the only source of what little information there was to be had about Ike recovery.)
  • The front page of the Houston Chronicle covers non-Ike news. (Yes, apparently some do seem more worried about the hurricane-force winds ripping into Wall Street. At least McCain and Obama continue to remain off the front page, we do have Ike to thank for that, at least.)
  • The USPS shows up at the mailbox. (With as much junk mail as ever. The postman’s presence also reiterates that we are in one of the neighborhoods that was not completely devastated by Ike – in too many other neighborhoods, he would find no mailbox to deliver mail to.)

Still no word, good hand, or any other sign from our Allstate agent, claims adjuster, or any other Allstate rep. Then again, Allstate is making it quite clear they’re not going to be worth using as a sign of Ike recovery.

[Additional Ike-related aftermath content: Hurricane Ike Aftermath]

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

20 September 2008 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Houstonian

How Not To Feel Your Pain

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“I absolutely understand they want to get back to their homes. … I’d like to get back to the mansion.”

– Texas Governor Rick Perry
(who has been living in temporary quarters
since the governor’s official residence burned down in June)

Mansion? Nice way to show how poorly you understand your constituents’ plight, gov. You’ve been shacking it up on a cot under a borrowed blanket in a Red Cross center since you “lost” your home, then?

You absolutely don’t get it, do you. Yes, thousands here no longer have a roof over their heads. But as important as is the stark contrast between their current day-to-day temporary housing versus your taxpayer-given alternative quarters, bound to be quite comfy even for you, that’s far from being all there is to losing one’s home to Ike.

  • Chores – It’s not just having that roof over your head; it’s day-to-day life under that roof. Thousands of your constituents not only have no home that will remain standing after condemnation; they can’t even get back to start the clean-up process. Losing your mansion didn’t even force you to make those incessant phone calls trying to reach that suddenly absent Allstate agent. Getting back into your mansion is something your staff is busy working on, not something that is consuming your every waking moment and stealing your sleep every night.
  • Food – You’re not back home when you’re still living hand-to-mouth off of FEMA deliveries of MREs. Families left homeless by Ike want their own refrigerators, their own stoves, to do their own grocery shopping. Losing your mansion may have changed where you eat some of your meals, but no doubt didn’t make you miss a single one, nor altered the quality of your diet.
  • Schools – Countless of your constituents’ children are now officially classified as “homeless,” making it possible for them to be enrolled in public schools hundreds of miles from their own homes, with strange teachers and strange co-students in strange classrooms. Losing your mansion didn’t even touch any of your staff’s families that way, not even remotely.
  • Mail (Yes, Including Bills) – Being put out on the street by Ike has left thousands with no mailbox for USPS delivery, and arrangements for having mail forwarded to temporary quarters are slow, painful, and unreliable. Losing your mansion did nothing to your staffs’ abilities to continue getting your mail in your inbox.
  • Clothes – So terribly many of your constituents have little more than the clothes on their backs, and desperately wish they had so much as a local laundromat with power in which to get those clothes clean. No doubt you lost a fancy suit or two in your mansion’s blaze, but just as doubtless you never had to wear the same underwear unlaundered for a week without promise of when or from where your new wardrobe might magically appear.
  • Furnishings – Probably you lost some personal items when the governor’s mansion went up in smoke, but almost everything in the place was there when you got there, belonged to the state; and the mansion will be refurnished for you before you return, without you needing to trouble yourself. Many of your constituents lost their own beds, their own sofas, their kitchenware and lawn mowers, all of their personal belongings. When they finally return to their homes, it will be to scenes of ruin you absolutely show no sign of understanding.
  • Car – Thousands of your constituents will be returning to their wrecked houses in the one car they used for evacuation. After authorities publicly chided evacuees, blaming them for contributing to the Rita fiasco by taking too many cars, this time more evacuees were “responsible” enough to car-pool, leaving behind vehicles that are now ruined. Losing your mansion hasn’t affected your travel whatsoever.
  • Work – Thousands of your constituents will not be able to return to work for weeks, maybe even months. Many of those will never have a job to return to. Unfortunately, you’ll have no such luck until voters have another chance to express themselves at the polls.

Yes, your constituents who have lost their homes to Ike want that roof over their heads once again. But what they want far more is what they have lost infinitely more: they want their life back. While you whine about your mansion.

[Additional Ike-related aftermath content: Hurricane Ike Aftermath]

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

20 September 2008 at 7:30 am

Posted in Houstonian

Ike Recovery Order

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Assuming that you have lost all public services due to Ike, rank in order (“1” being first, of course, then successively on) your personal preference for the order by which you would want restoration of services (with the order listed here not intended to suggest any particular desired preference):

___ Electricity
___ Water / Sewage
___ Home Gas (e.g., for stove, water heater, backyard grill, etc.)
___ Automobile Gas
___ Satellite/Cable TV
___ Landline Phone Access
___ Cell Phone Network Access
___ Internet Access
___ Trash Pickup
___ Grocery Store (with all basics available)
___ Postal Delivery
___ Airport
___ Mass Transit (bus, light rail, etc.)
___ Other (Identify) ___________________
___ Other (Identify) ___________________
___ Other (Identify) ___________________
___ Other (Identify) ___________________
___ Other (Identify) ___________________
___ Other (Identify) ___________________

[Additional Ike-related aftermath content: Hurricane Ike Aftermath]

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

15 September 2008 at 10:09 am

Posted in Houstonian

Inland Damage from Ike

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Compared to the utter devastation down at Gilchrist and Crystal Beach and Port Bolivar, it feels almost petty to show some of what Ike did inland, near us. Even so, this video walk along several streets in the Kirkwood South neighborhood near Beamer and Beltway 8, taken about 12 hours after Ike made landfall in Galveston, is pretty much what you will see step after step after step, mile after mile, if you walk around here perpendicular to Ike’s path. Turn and walk the 20+ miles from here down to Galveston, and it only gets worse the closer you get to the Gulf.

[And I can’t resist adding a side comment about YouTube’s practice of selecting one frame from any video to represent what you can expect to see once you hit play. I challenge any viewer: Is it possible to find any frame in this clip with any less damage than the one picked out by YouTube editors??? Like, you can’t be any less representative than YouTube must have strained to be on this one. (Maybe they work as insurance adjusters on the side?)]

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

13 September 2008 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Hurricane Ike Preparations

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* * * At midnight moving into Saturday, 9/13,
Ike’s eye should pass over our roof within about 4 hours
still at hurricane strength when it does.
* * *

Subscribe to aftermath’s Hurricane Ike Map RSS feed.

Most of my blogging on Hurricane Ike from here on out will be contained on notes under the markers on my personal tracking map. And I’ll keep this aftermath post sticky until the storm is history, building it through then.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by macheide

10 September 2008 at 7:45 am

Local Pothole

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Three days ago when I took this short clip, that pothole was almost getting big enough to show up on the next update of those satellite pics of our local streets. This afternoon, it was “fixed.” As seems typical around here, filled in poorly enough to pretty much guarantee that traffic will have to swerve dangerously around the crater once again within a month.

The snapshot to the right is Google Street View’s image for the same spot on the road, that pic obviously taken earlier, but probably by no more than 6-8 weeks.

[Irrelevant Side Note: Not until this ultra-brief video did it occur to me that when YouTube posts a video I’ve uploaded, their reviewers choose a representative frame from that video to act as the “teaser.” I know – duh me. I’m slow in that department.]

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Written by macheide

22 August 2008 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Local Accident Zone

When they write up the report and file charges on this one, they seriously ought to place a fair share of the blame on the local police. It is impossible to drive down this stretch of road without encountering numerous drivers ignoring every single local traffic law, frequently quite recklessly, sometimes even when police are obviously present, sometimes with the police themselves leading the parade of scofflaws. Scenes such as this are all but inevitable when everyone knows this to be the only law that rules this road.

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Written by macheide

4 July 2008 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Cool Cloud Cover

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cool cloud cover

Houston skyline from the window outside my office, under two banks of morning clouds in on the heels of cool weather.

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Written by macheide

12 May 2008 at 8:28 am

Posted in Houstonian

Some Old Houston Trivia

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According to the Grateful Dead, what’s wrong with Houston?

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Written by macheide

2 April 2008 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Rocketing to 21 Straight!!

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tickets to rockets' 21st straight
Tonight the Houston Rockets became only the second team in NBA history to win 21 straight games, and we were there to see it! I’ve been to several Astros games since moving to Houston nearly a decade ago, but this is my first Rockets game. No better time to do so than when they’re making NBA history, even without the services of Yao, sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot after the first 12 games of the streak.
toyota center
Huge thanks to Susan for navigating evening rush hour traffic to drive us downtown to the Toyota Center. Tonight the streak will boost the Rockets into a tie with the Lakers for first place in the NBA’s Western Conference, so the arena is sold out. We’re up in section 414 (the section of the Internal Revenue Code with definitions and special rules for pensions, such as the rule for service with a predecessor employer, a rule through which I very recently did a little streaking of my own). Seated almost directly across from us are Nat with Brandon, who is celebrating his 22nd birthday today.
streak in jeopardy
I’ll hazard a guess that whoever is my new twitter follower may have turned notifications off on me tonight, since I was spamming twitter with score updates throughout the game. After building a comfy lead of 14-7, the Rockets allowed the Bobcats to climb from 11 points to 29 while we remained stuck at 18. Not to worry. The Rockets blasted back from a 7-point first half deficit to grab a 9-point lead at one point during the quarter, took control of the game to start the final quarter, then pretty much coasted home.
clutch
Memento from a memorable basketball game: in honor of Clutch, born 9 years after Brandon, the Rockets’ mascot, the team was handing out free soap dispensers. I’m thinking of filling mine up with Kahlúa to set on my nightstand for spicing up my coffee.
bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - houstonian

Written by macheide

14 March 2008 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Tagged with

Our Dinner with Bill

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Waiting for BillBill doesn’t roll his eyes at the mention of one of my fave films, My Dinner With Andre!! We may not agree on all our politics, and he seems to just now be learning that Texas is not part of the U.S., but we’re not that far apart when it comes to good cinema!

Bill had business in Austin, but an inconvenient flight schedule back to Philadelphia combined with wanting to see us, so he came in through Houston and arranged to meet Susan and me for dinner tonight back at IAH after his drive back from Austin.

Bill made the reservation for 8 at CK’s Revolving Restaurant (which revolved in the wrong direction, by the way) atop Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental. We remained open through Friday afternoon in case he made it back earlier, but didn’t want to dine too far if at all from the airport Marriott, since his flight out tomorrow morning is before 7am, ahead of Saturday afternoon’s tornado warnings. We encountered light rain on the drive up, surprisingly cooperative downtown traffic lights, but incomprehensible HOV-to-IAH road design (more on that complaint later), so in the end made it to the restaurant about 10 minutes early, where here we sit waiting while Bill returns his rental car.

Bill and I shared a bottle of white wine – sorry, I neglected to note what he ordered for us, but as always it was good – Susan deciding to decline sharing more than a sip. Great menu – I would absolutely recommend this for any airport meetings, and it’s worth a visit even if you’re not meeting a traveler or traveling yourself. Susan had the wedge salad and the roasted chicken. Bill had the roasted chicken, then the mixed berries from their dessert menu. I can never resist a good lobster bisque, and CK’s was very good. I then had the day’s special – sole with crab meat and shrimp – and of course added their creamed spinach, another menu item I can seldom resist. I finished off with a coffee with Bailey’s. Bill and I debated briefly over the tab, then split it down the middle. And I completely forgot to take a snapshot of the food!

Dinner conversation was maybe not as memorable as if Andre Gregory had kept us to closing time, but was fine for us, even with our mutual admission that all politicians lie and that there are no good choices for this coming November’s election and that Roger Clemens was probably lying too and so on, leaving the whole world in the sorry state where its only remaining heroes are the actuaries . . . who may at times encounter what others might call “actuarial error,” but never lie.

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Written by macheide

15 February 2008 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Adrien, Houstonian

Tagged with

Sweetly Melts Away Any Resistance

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Current location: 6100 Westheimer, Suite 146, Houston TX 77057

The Melting PotAsked where he wanted us to celebrate his 24th birthday over dinner, Kelly took us out last night to The Melting Pot out on Westheimer.

Thumbs up all around, from everyone at the table. Even from Susan, who took care of the tab.

Let’s get that pricey tab off the table here first. Yes, The Melting Pot is expensive. We went what would probably be mid-range – not the bare bones basic cellar, but not running up the bill with a bottle or two of wine either (although by all accounts, their wine selection would be worth praise) – and the bill for the 4 of us, after taking off $18 for a coupon Kelly had, but including gratuity and taxes, was $177. Which is probably why so many of the comments at sites like b4-u-eat either recommend it or criticize it as merely a special occasions restaurant. Also, why Kelly was joking when he suggested that this might become a frequent lunch spot for me by being just down the street from my office building – this place would eat my weekly lunch budget straight into next week in a single lunch!

But in our opinion, you do get what you pay for. For one thing, The Melting Pot got top marks from all of us for ambiance and atmosphere and all. My mind goes back to a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan that was at least as pricey if not more (not Windows on the World, where you got every single cent’s worth of the experience you paid for, and then some), yet shrugged at having boisterous customers who behaved like they were in a barroom brawl, disturbing most of the remaining customers in the entire restaurant. To me, dining out is a hell of a lot more than just sticking some piece of food in the mouth and swallowing. If a restaurant doesn’t care to create an entire pleasant experience out of dining, then they ought not expect to charge anything above barroom snack prices. And put The Melting Pot at the best end of the spectrum on that aspect. If the food itself here had been worth as little as half what we paid – and it was certainly more than that – then frankly I would have paid the rest of it for the pleasure of having the meal where we had it and how we had it.

For the three of us who were first-timers, the menu was ever so mildly daunting. But some of the best table waiting I’ve ever seen quickly got us over any timidity, and soon we were merrily sharing the fondue experience over a double of their 3-course entrée Signature Selection. First course: the Cheddar Cheese Fondue, over bread cubes, veggies (carrots, celery, and cauliflower), and apple wedges. Second course: excellent salads – the featured Athenian Salad for Kelly, Caesar Salad for Nat, House Salad for Susan, and Spinach Mushroom Salad (followed by the cucumbers from Susan’s salad) for me. Our main course: filet mignon, shrimp, teriyaki-marinated sirloin, boneless breast of chicken, and salmon, cooked by each of us at the table in their Court Bouillon, with tasty sauces (my personal favorite of course being a mild, but very well seasoned, curry); with additional veggies, including potatoes, mushrooms, and broccoli.

But although that certainly would have left any of us more than amply satisfied (particularly since the restaurant welcomed resupplying us with any of the food items for fonduing or cooking when we ran low), this was a birthday dinner, so we couldn’t just leave it at that. So to our dinner we then added their Yin & Yang Chocolate Fondue (picture coming as soon as I download my camera). Strawberries, bananas, two kinds of marshmallows, rice krispie treats, pound cake, brownie bites, and very delicious light-as-air cheese cake, all incredibly delicious in that hot pot of dark and white chocolate in the center of our table.

I don’t know of a single complaint or even mild so-so reaction that any in our party had. None whatsoever. Hearty applause from all. Sure, at that price, we won’t be back there tonight; but we will most definitely be back, and would readily recommend it. Let me put it this way: if The Melting Pot is to be characterized as a “special occasions restaurant,” then it’s the kind of restaurant that makes a diner want to make any evening a special occasion, just for the opportunity to go dine there.

P.S. – I noted that Kelly had a discount coupon? Actually, it was for a different Melting Pot location. Since each separate Melting Pot location is separately owned, the Houston one was not compelled to honor this coupon. But from the time Kelly questioned the restaurant about that issue during our call to make reservations, to the reservations person getting approval from the store manager, to the moment where our waiter remembered that we had a coupon before Kelly did, to paying the bill, The Melting Pot displayed the highest quality of service, very openly making sure we knew they appreciated our business and wanted us back. As exceptional as we found that, it was by no means any exception to the rule the entire establishment obviously holds to as ordinary practice – you simply won’t find better service at any comparable restaurant, period.

We will most definitely return, with or without discount coupon. And would heartily recommend it to the best of our friends, clients, and others.

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Written by macheide

14 January 2008 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Houstonian