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PaperCity Houston November 2021

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By Laurann Claridge TAKING IT TO THE STREETS everything at Urbe will be made from scratch, from the salsas and moles to the house-roasted and ground masa for the tamales and chips, the tortillas, and the breads, pastries, and desserts created in the on-site bakery. Inside, the space is bright, light, and open with a mod, playful mix of patterns designed by architects Rudy Colby (Colby Design) and Anthony Vu (2X Studio) and designer Whitney Jahnke (Nest & Cot). Houston artist Carlos Hernandez was commissioned to create four large-scale paintings that depict Mexican masks representing taste, smell, hearing, and sight. With 260 seats and a full bar, the street fare can be partaken indoors or out, or packaged to go. True to tradition, you'll find classic street fare served as sides (Al Lado), such as Mexican street corn (Elote Asado, $6), a whole cob slathered in mayo with cotija cheese and Tajín pepper, and a wood-roasted sweet potato topped with crema agridulce and sweet pepita crumbled brittle (Camote, $7). The oven-roasted plantain (Platanos Rostizados, $8) is brought to the table steaming hot with crema dulce, queso fresco, and crumbles of crisp plantain chips. At breakfast, the chefs serve traditional Mexican pastries, cuernitos, trenzas, orejas, chilindrinas, ochos, brindis, and berlinese (five for $18). Those who dine on the savory side will find breakfast tacos and combo plates such as Huevos Rancheros ($12; $15 with brisket) and Mollete de Aguacate, Ortega's answer to avocado toast, topped here with refried beans, Chihuahua cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg ($11). The Fresco offerings include chilled seafood and salads. Dine on Diablitos de Ostiones, a half- dozen raw oysters topped with cold, boiled chipotle-spiced shrimp ($17) or chilled Campechana Estilo D.F.: shrimp, oysters, octopus, tomato, onion, jalapeño, and Fanta orange soda ($18). Open Tuesday through Saturday, breakfast and lunch; brunch on Sunday. Urbe, 1101 Uptown Park, 713.726.8723, H ouston restaurateur Tracy Vaught and her James Beard award-winning husband, chef Hugo Ortega, have debuted a casual concept from their H Town Restaurant Group (Hugo's, Backstreet Cafe, Xochi, Caracol, Origen, Prego) in the former Café Express space in Uptown Park. Urbe, Spanish for "city," is an homage to the street foods of Mexico. Ortega recalls selling gelatinas and flan from a neighborhood stand as a kid in Mexico; he and his brother, pastry chef Ruben Ortega, wrote a cookbook several years ago where they traveled to every state of their homeland to document the humble fare they found there. "Street food is 'fast food' at its finest," Hugo says. "The only thing fast about it is how it's served. Mexican street food is actually 'slow food,' prepared in someone's home kitchen without shortcuts from family recipes handed down through the ages." He calls street food the purest form of authentic Mexican cuisine — and it's why he pledges that HUGO ORTEGA AND TRACY VAUGHT'S NEW URBE Camote (sweet potato) with crema agridulce and pepita brittle Tacos al pastor Diablitos de Ostiones 100

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