For those of you paying attention, I’ve been out of town for a week. Not basking in the sun on a sandy beach or climbing some exotic mountain range – but visiting Houston, Texas. If you’re thinking “what the hell..” don’t worry, I understand. What you need to know is that I had a conference in town, and yes, presumably someone consulted the climate charts before they made that decision. Aside from conferencing, I joined my best friend and fellow foodie Thao for a week of gluttony. So for those of you feeling sinful, pay close attention.
Most of these restaurants span the Houston area from the suburbs (Montrose, the Heights) to downtown to the further reaches of civilization. Yes, I did have a car at my disposal. For lodging purposes during the week, I camped out at the Magnolia Hotel on Fannin and Texas. This hotel was positively brilliant – spacious, clean, modern. Add that to a rooftop pool, bedtime cookie and complimentary breakfast and I’m a happy camper.
BRC – 519 Shepherd – http://www.brcgastropub.com – If you want to know what BRC stands for, consider the brightly painted rooster on the corner of the property and consult a thesaurus. What jumped out on the menu? Ten dollar pitchers of sangria or mimosas .. and chicken fried spam. How could we say no? *
Fadi’s Mediterannean – various locations – http://www.fadiscuisine.com/ – This place was a bit overwhelming for a first timer. A long and winding line of cold and hot choices flank the side of the restaurant and chefs dish out whatever you point to. The fattoush was perfect for me, and more than six kinds of hummus dotted the line toward chicken, lamb and fish entrees.
Christy’s Donuts – 1103 W Gray (Montrose) – A recent review on Yelp says “If you blink, you could miss this place.” So, don’t. This tiny postage stamp of a shop reminds me of Bryant’s in Memphis – simple, quick, and possibly the best breakfast to go in this ten gallon state. Grab yourself a kolache, and chow down.
Pappasito’s – various locations – http://pappasitos.com/home/ – Nine times out of ten, I make a request to go here. I’ve been lucky to have friends pointing me toward several epic Tex Mex places, but this one never disappoints. Queso is the name of the game. This time I also had shrimp broschette and pulled pork tacos. Believe it.
Irma’s Southwest Grill – 1314 Texas (downtown) – http://www.irmassouthwest.com/ – walkable from the GRB Convention Center and thank goodness, because I was stuffed with tilapia tacos and spicy white queso when the lunch hour came to a close. An interesting note – this place doesn’t have menus, and your waiter will tell you everything you need to know.
Max’s Wine Dive – 4 Texas locations – http://www.maxswinedive.com – Recommended by Thao and reserved for seven, we cabbed it to this wine bar and we were not disappointed. With a glass of cava in hand, Morgan and I split pan borracho (you read that right, drunk bread) and fried chicken. Also gracing the menu were favorites like “max” & cheese and strangers like roasted bone marrow.*
Mai’s Restaurant – 3403 Milam (fourth ward) – http://maishouston.com/– A little known fact about Houston is that it houses the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam. What does this mean? Residents can stand the heat, and there is damn good cooking on every corner. Despite the fact the waiter forgot to put in our order and we were stranded for over 90 minutes … the lemongrass beef sandwich and coconut bubble tea made it worth the wait.
Andalucia – 1201 San Jacinto (downtown) – http://www.andaluciatapas.com/ – hay que pasar la casa de Blues y sentarse aqui. If you’ve never had tapas, please start here. The small appetizer plates made famous in Spanish culture will make their way to your table at this cozy corner restaurant. Gazpacho, shrimp aioli, tortilla española, patatas bravas, tres leches cake .. you would swear my señora herself was in the kitchen.
Chocolate Bar – two locations – http://www.theoriginalchocolatebar.com/ – I may never recover from this place. The amount of sugar we consumed here gave me heart palpitations. A sweet talking salesman got us to go for the “Trinity” – cake, ice cream, chocolate covered fruit. I realize this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but get a load of that cake. This is a religion I could subscribe to.*
Sambuca – several locations in the South – http://www.sambucarestaurant.com/ – packed wall to wall during happy hour, we grabbed a seat at the bar to pick at shrimp & crab dip and chicken & beef satay. Perfect for the bar crawlers, as evidenced by the overly friendly lawyer at my elbow. A loud location, with prices up several octaves as well.
Liberty Kitchen – 1050 Studewood (Heights) – http://libertykitchenoysterbar.com/ – A haven for oyster lovers and new roost for hipster Heights dwellers. Our foursome sat down to quality cocktails and a serious quantity of food. Two sandwiches larger than the plates they were served on (open faced tuna melt, reuben with brisket); half a dozen oysters on the half shell; and a generous serving of mac and cheese. Go here, go hungry.*
Dacapo’s Pastry Cafe – 1141 E 11th at Studewood (Heights) – http://www.dacapospastrycafe.com – the perfect light lunch stop. Somehow we resisted the piles of baked goods (!) and settled on a pick two option – gorgeous Adam & Eve salad and half a chicken salad sandwich made me long for a Northeastern deli. Or any deli, if you’re coming from a midwestern index.. ok, and we did have a cookie.
Fung’s Kitchen – 7320 Southwest Freeway (Chinatown) – http://www.eatatfungs.com – My first introduction to dim sum, which Wing tells me stands for “anything your heart desires.” Paying homage to it’s namesake, little carts are pushed around by the waitstaff, bringing you exactly that. My heart doesn’t typically desire chicken’s feet or duck tongue, but those are available as well.
Miller Outdoor Theater at Hermann Park – great shows in the great outdoors – http://milleroutdoortheatre.com/
Agora – 712 Westheimer – a small cafe / coffeehouse with character and a liquor license – http://www.agorahouston.com
Minute Maid park – 501 Crawford (downtown) – Home to the Houston Astros .. and as a result of their poor rankings, some really sweet ticket deals abound – http://houston.astros.mlb.com/hou/ballpark/index.jsp
* Kudos to local HTX tweeters:
@BRCgastropub, @LibertyKitchen, @winediveMAX, @ChocolateBarHTX