Wednesday, August 22, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 1


Ruggles Grill tantalizes with satisfying dishes 

By Maurice Bobb

Well, here we are. Fall semester is upon us. Time to put away the Bermuda shorts and Coronas and focus once again on how we'll manage to juggle studies, dates, parties and
jobs in the same week. 

With a full plate like that, it's no wonder we're prone to mild stress attacks. But never fear, your food critic is here once again to take all the guesswork out of your dining
dilemmas so as to allow you to flood the halls of fraternities, sororities and glee clubs with a clear head.

My first foray into the world of cuisine led me to the Ruggles Grill located at 903 Westheimer Road. 

This trendy spot has owners Bruce and Susan Molzan looking like pioneers in the now complex maze of restaurants springing up all over town. 

Ruggles came to prominence in June 1986 when Bruce Molzan brought his magic apron and recipes in as part owner and chef. After incorporating his philosophy of preparing
the freshest ingredients, using innovative techniques and moving away from heavy sauces that mask flavors and enhancing his food with the light, flavorful, and natural sauces
and herbs of the Southwest, Ruggles Grill more than tripled its business.

In December 1987, Molzan became sole proprietor of the restaurant and has since become a "who's who" in the Texas food and wine industry. 

It's no wonder that some of the most recognizable faces in the nation have stopped by to taste Bruce's fine vittles and Susan's to-die-for desserts. With a track record like this,
you'd expect the Molzans to be temperamental or, at the very least, pompous. 

But they are both surprisingly affable and make most regulars feel as though everyone knows their name.

I began with the coconut shrimp with spicy curried mango sauce. The shrimp were so big they probably had nicknames like "Tiny" and "Ox" back on the shrimp schoolyard. The
spicy curried mango sauce added a delicious, not quite familiar flavor that had my taste buds bouncing between sweet and sour.

Ruggles Grill, located at 903 Westheimer Road, blows customers away with its Southwestern-style foods, amiable atmosphere and Texas-sized desserts. Two other locations, one at Enron Field and one in the Galleria area, make Ruggles a neighborhood restaurant for many Houstonians.

Second, in light of my quest for greater health, I opted for a bit of roughage and chose the grilled chicken salad with apples, roquefort cheese and walnuts with honey-dijon
vinaigrette. This refreshing take on rabbit food made my self-imposed health kick incredibly more satisfying.

My main course, red snapper with shrimp, avocado, fontina cheese and cilantro, was so beautifully presented that had it not been for the bellowing that originated from my
midsection, I'd have certainly made it the centerpiece for my dining table at home.

The fusion of snapper and shrimp made my mouth water and, not surprisingly, begin to resemble a buzz saw ready to slice a big oak. It's easy to see why the Molzans' casual,
moderately priced grill has become a favorite with Houstonians. 

Next, only in the spirit of tasting, I braved the chocolate créme brulée cheesecake, which has been designated as "Best Houston Dessert."

It was so rich and sinfully good that I wanted to run 10 miles and sign on for 100 hours of community service all in the same motion.

Susan, the mad scientist behind all of Ruggles' famous desserts, has a very simple philosophy: "If you enjoy desserts, do it in moderation, but when you do it, do it big." 

Needless to say, I did it big. It's a good thing I have to park in Siberia ­ the walk to all my classes should work off my binge.

With the success of Ruggles, the Molzans have ventured out with two additional venues of vittles. One, located in Saks Fifth Avenue in the Galleria, has plenty of elbow room
and a stunning decor. 

The second, located at 711 Main St., is a trip to Houston's booming downtown scene with salsified dining and dancing. If you elect to eat like Henry VIII, you can shake your
money maker and work it off.

This is your food critic with a small toast to the new school year: May it be all that you expect and beyond. 

'Til next time, bon appetit.

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