One’s a Meal

A Houstonian culinary icon for almost 100 years, Once a Meal, formally known as Brooks System Sandwiches was
the first in Houston to be open 24-hrs and now resides at Westheimer and
Montrose next to the police station.

Today, Once a Meal, serves Mediterranean fair like stuffed grape leave, grilled octopus, pizzas, gyros,
mousaka and pastas.

Upon first glance, the restaurant looks like any plain eatery, but once the food began to
come to the table, “plain” would be the last thing on my mind.

I have had octopus in many times and always had more or less the same experience, a
slightly chewy and rubbery flesh with little flavor that relies heavily on some
kind of a sauce or is always accompanied by some other protien, but this was
something different.

The bright explosion of zesty lime juice and light olive oil combined with the soft
surprisingly tender flesh was amazing, paired with an assortment of tomato and
cucumber the only thing that could help one enjoy such a dish would be an ice
cold beer and an ocean view.

Though some may be hesitant to trying something from the sea that doesn’t have fins and
gills, trust me on this, this dish will get you hooked on octopus and for those
who have ever had it before will use Once a Meal’s as a standard from hear on

After the appetizer was said and done, I was brought the dish that drove me to try this
place, the Gyro Calzone, if stoners ever formed a nation, you will find the
Gyro Calzone on their flag.

Weighing in at over a pound of succulent lamb, fresh tomato, and onions all incased in a
pizza roll baked to a perfect crisp brown, this will put you into a food coma
unlike anything you have ever experienced and you will accept it with a smile.

With its greasy goodness and warm thick bread exterior makes it a meal all on its own,
while the flavorful lamb soaks into the bread and is accented by the fresh
tomato and onions, the infusion of Italian and Greek staples have never
complimented each other so well.

Some how after the onslaught I waged on the lining of my stomach, there was still some
room for dessert, unfortunately they were out of pie which was apparently
something they are known for, instead I went for the Baklava, an endless
layering of filo dough and honey with spiced chopped nuts.

The dessert wasn’t anything special but it was done right, something that most people take
for granted, while most of the world has become so jaded in search of incredibly complex
dishes with passion fruit liquor gastriques and vanilla flavored foams, when it’s the simple things that will always take us back to a simpler time when it was just about the enjoyment of the food and not about how many components you can throw together.

This is truly an establishment that has stood the test of time and yet still seems to
be an unsung hero among the Houston restaurant scene and something that must be
experienced at least once, maybe not a Michelin Star winner but a great place
never the less.

812 Westheimer Rd, Houston, Texas 77006


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