Distinctively named Mary’z is a popular, earnest and friendly Lebanese restaurant west of the Galleria. The portions are large, the kitchen is competent, and the value is quickly evident. And, it has a couple patios that are draws for a club-hopping younger crowd at night to smoke hookahs (filled with tobacco, of course), and most everyone else on nice days and evenings.
There’s a very good chance that you won’t be wowed here, but it’s tough not to appreciate at least some of its charms. Well-suited for groups or lingering, Mary’z has nearly two dozen different appetizers. A combination mezze plate with eight different items might be a good way to start with a table of several people. There are all of the expected Middle Eastern appetizers plus the Armenian stuffed cabbage and local favorites, oysters and quail, boiled and sauteed, respectively.
The hummus and baba ganoush are decent, though not helped much by store-bought pita bread that might be a little gummy. The best thing about each is that these are served in good-sized portions. The half-portion might be enough to split for a couple. The deep-fried kibbe balls filled with ground beef, and the flaky stuffed pies (empanadas from the Levant) are probably more reliably done. One of the nearly ten salads can also help start a meal; tabouli, fatoush (pita bread with parsley, tomato, onions and cucumber), leafy spinach, Greek and Caesar salads, and a refreshing one with yogurt, cucumber and mint.
Somewhat unusual for a Middle Eastern restaurant, Mary’z doesn’t serve lamb at dinner, just chicken and beef, though that might change. Snapper is the only other protein that makes it as an entree. The kabobs, with moist and slightly charred beef or chicken, might be things to order here. These are also available as large pita-wrapped sandwiches. The shawarmas are decent, if not quite ready for Hillcroft. These can feature meat that is little dry, and not helped by the lack of much juice from the somewhat underripe tomato slices. These can also be under-seasoned, even with the lauded garlic sauce that, at times, is not applied liberally enough.
Service is seemingly unfailingly cheerful, if not terribly polished. You are often greeted by one of the family when entering and leaving, which helps to make you feel some more at home, and root for this place to grow.
5825 Richmond (between Chimney Rock & Fountain View)
Houston, Texas 77057
Copyright Mike Riccetti. Adapted from Houston Dining on the Cheap, and used with permission.
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