ABOVE: Food Critic Keith Lee visited Houston’s Breakfast Klub during Houston food tour
A Few Thoughts on Keith Lee, The Breakfast Klub, and Devin The Dude
This week Keith Lee continues his tour of the Houston food scene. The prominent food critic has made a name for himself giving no nonsense reviews of local businesses and has struck a note with fans for being overwhelmingly positive. If your food is good, a simple post from him can propel a business into profitability. This is especially important for those restaurants that have the ingredients correct but are missing some elements of marketability. Up and coming establishments make sure to request a visit when Keith Lee comes to town.
Even though Keith is positive, the response is not always returned which was seen when he touched down in Atlanta. While there were plenty of heartwarming interactions with small businesses, the large media focus rested on Keith either not getting food because of the restaurants’ logistics or his skipping rating a place because he didn’t want to receive special service. Social media lit up with jokes and commentary as stories of Keith Lee visiting Atlanta hot spots went viral. So when Keith Lee announced he was coming to Houston, the initial responses online basically hovered between “Houston needs to stay on its toes” and “Keith Lee coming!” Even I assumed the experience he received in Atlanta was probably going to be the same here.
After being here a week, the results have been largely positive. Overwhelmingly positive. Keith has hit small spots and established brands and has given glowing reviews, even saying that Houston might be on par with New Orleans as being one of the better cities he’s stopped to tour. After a few posts, the sentiment emerging from many Houstonians online became “We already knew that.”
“You went to the Breakfast Klub. Of course, it got a good score. It’s good. We already knew that.”
What does any of this have to do with a music column? Not much… I just happen to be hungry, but also, the Houston food scene is a lot like the music scene. The ingredients are correct but there is a marketability problem. There is a lot of good stuff here and we already know about it. Maybe already knowing about it makes us appreciate it less. How many times has someone come in from out of town and asked you to take them to the Breakfast Klub? They’re excited to try this restaurant that offers great food; meanwhile you’re not because you can get it anytime. Maybe familiarity does breed contempt (maybe you just wanted to avoid the line…who knows?) and just because we have access to really great food, we forget that every other city doesn’t have the same culinary culture.
In 2016 James Beard award-winning chef David Chang wrote an article in GQ declaring Houston to be “the next global food mecca.” It was a sentiment he reiterated on his Netflix show Ugly Delicious in front of prominent Houston Chefs. Their response was pretty much the same as when people champion music here. At best, humbly dismissive and at worst tepid. Lots of, “it’s good…but I don’t know if it’s that good.”
Much like David Chang and Keith Lee singing the praises of Houston food, I’m here to sing the praises of Houston music…one artist at a time. And like Keith Lee I’m going to start out by highlighting one established brand like the classic Breakfast Klub and one up and coming Pearland banana pudding restaurant, The Puddery.
There’s not much more that can be said that hasn’t already been said about the first artist. Devin The Dude has been dropping classic material since his 1998 debut The Dude. I know the inclination is to say “We already know Devin the Dude is good” but do we really appreciate Devin? In Hip-Hop he’s known as your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. He blends rap, R&B, and funk into a melodic mix that has earned the praises of Dr. Dre, Snoop, Andre 3000, Curren$y, and more. He’s often credited for helping pioneer “stoner rap,” but he should be equally credited for incorporating singing with his wordplay. He raps about weed and women but uses those topics to just talk about life. While the sing-song flow is almost the standard now, that wasn’t always the case and artists like Devin helped make it the norm. His latest album, 2021’s Soulful Distance, still displays his ability to ponder about the everyday struggle over soulful beats. I know you know he’s good, but it never hurts to be reminded.
My up-and-coming artist is Dende. Like Devin he has a penchant for singing as well as rapping and has been slowly building up a following for the last few years. My only problem with Dende is his name. A quick Google search will pop up a green character from the anime Dragon Ball Z. It’s not the best for marketing. But that is my ONLY problem with Dende. The singing and rapping Katy native has shown his abilities in multiple genres since his debut DrkMttr. That debut displayed his musicality through an eclectic collection of songs but as he has continued to drop projects, his singing has gained him traction online. Dende’s two most recent projects Before We Crash and ’95 Civic display his vocal abilities. The cover of Before We Crash has Dende with a young woman sitting on a car and the 6-track EP describes the beginnings of a relationship. ’95 Civic, however, has a cover with a bloodied and bruised Dende sitting behind that same white car after an accident. That full album has Dende singing about heartbreak with a passion of old R&B and the accompanying video for the lead single “Nightmares” had people asking “Who hurt this man?” People also posted comments like “and they said R&B is dead.” Dende makes sure that you know it’s more than alive. With that much praise of his singing ability, please don’t forget about the raps. It’s a skill that Dende is equally good at and one that I hope to hear more from him soon. The skill has him opening up for festivals, continuing to get his name on more and more playlists, and getting mentioned by notable media outlets like the Joe Budden Podcast.
These are just two artists of many coming out of Houston. Please don’t wait for a Keith Lee of the music world to come here to tell you the city is special. Go listen for yourself.