By Stefan Modrich
Tucked into a cozy nook just north of Highway 90 in Sugar Land, Live Oak Grill has managed to adapt and retain its place as an integral part of the local restaurant scene, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The colorful watering hole serves classic American and Texas-style favorites and attracts nearby government and school district employees and blue-collar workers from the energy sector. A collage of signage on the walls reflects Live Oak’s character, along with a side of sass and Southern hospitality (for example, one sign warns that “if you have to ask if it’s too early to drink wine, you’re an amateur and we can’t be friends.” I’ll return to the beer and wine selection later.)
Live Oak has its lunch rush down to a science. Its large parking lot was nearly 75 percent full during a recent visit, but its servers were quite helpful (it was my first time at the restaurant) and polite, and I had my order not long after scouting out a place to sit.
Having ample seating has never been more important in the era of social distancing, and Live Oak delivers on all accounts, whether you prefer to dine solo on a barstool at counter-height, take a date to a booth or bring a family or group out to the picnic benches in the rear patio (sealed and air-conditioned) or the outdoor front patio — which is both pet and kid-friendly. The environment is inviting inside and out, and the quirky garden art and greenery are complements to the rustic, wooden interior.
Curbside pickup, takeout and DoorDash delivery is also available.
I had the shrimp po’boy and sweet potato fries and opted to pair it with a peach and mango iced tea from the fountain. It is served on a white bun, about 8 inches long, with lettuce, tomato and a spicy mayonnaise. I asked Live Oak to hold the mayo and was content with a healthy dose of lemon juice. The shrimp was lightly breaded and cooked perfectly. My only gripe was the flimsiness of the bread — a thicker foundation would better support the outstanding mix of flavors and textures between the bun.
Choosing a side will either be a no-brainer or perhaps your most difficult decision at Live Oak. You can stick with classic regular sides such as mac n’ cheese, mashed potatoes or collard greens, or mix it up with a premium side such as fried okra or onion rings.
The menu is extensive and should be able to satisfy both adventurous foodies and tried-and-true barbecue and seafood lovers.
Live Oak also offers a brunch menu from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
And now to the alcohol: If you’re a local beer aficionado, you’ll find a host of Texas brews like Lone Star, Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde, St. Arnold Lawnmower and Buffalo Bayou 1836.
Wine-lovers will have at their disposal a choice between Cabernet, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and White Zinfandel.
Happy hour specials run from 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and range from $2.50 for beer to $5 for a margarita or glass of wine.
An important note – alcohol orders are dine-in only at Live Oak. Masks or face coverings are required for entry.
Live Oak Grill
Address: 12935 Dairy Ashford Rd., Sugar Land
Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Entrée prices: $6.99-$24.99
Senior discount: No
Healthy options: None
Star of the show: Shrimp po’boy