Definately skip Pappas. While it is a good steakhouse, it really isn't all that different from your standard upscale steakhouse that one could find in any major city. If you have time, other "nicer" restaurants to consider that don't serve run-of-the-mill fair would be Hugo's (great interior Mexican food) and Indika -- a high-end Indian restaurant serving food that you unique Indian dishes that wouldn't find anywhere outside of NYC or Chicago.
EVERYTIME I am in Houston, I stop by two places. Mark's (Westheimer near Montrose) and Niko Niko's (Just north of Westheimer on Montrose) My girlfriend and I go to Mark's for our birthdays and anniversaries, and we have always been floored with the fantastic food, service, and ambience. Entrees range from 20 to 40. I strongly recommend their seafood. They cook it perfectly every time I have had it whether it was salmon, tuna, soft shell crab, chilean seabass. Their regular menu is great, but the chefs reccomendations, which are seasonal have always knocked our socks off. For a cocktail, try their 1658 their signature drink which is a play on a mojito with grapefruit vodka and lavender sugar. Its amazing.
Niko Niko's is also a place that we always go to. Its delicious greek food at a great price. I think they have the best Chicken Avegolemono soup I have had. ( I haven't been to Greece though) Their Gyros, and dolmathes, etc are also very good. As a side, I recommend their roasted potatoes. They are sooooo lemony. I can't say enough good things about this place. Their deserts are great too. The only downside to the place is that it can get really crowded and loud really quickly, but thats nitpicking.
You should totally check these places out if you get a chance...
Tasty recommendations. Here are mine:
Greek: Niko Nikos (good pork chops and baby lamb shank)
Pizza: Star Pizza on Norfolk (awesome wheat crust; Starburst pizza really good)
BBQ: Thelmas BBQ (ribs)
Burgers: Lankfords Grocery also good chicken fried steak (really big portion)
Mexican: taco stand on Taft and W. Gray; 100% Taquito
Vietnamese/Chinese: Hong Kong Mall restaurants; they also have the best crawfish in town at Crawfish and Beignets inside the mall
Chicken: +1 for Frenchy's near University of Houston
There are many very excellent recommendations here by others; they'll keep you running around all over town. Actually a couple of Pearland places have been reviewed in the past year or so in the Chronicle. One was Central Texas Style BBQ which got a pretty good review. I just happened to have tried it a couple of weeks before the review appeared and I was not at all impressed. By all means, get into Houston for bbq at Williams, Thelma's, Luling City Mkt or Goode Co. (I prefer the Katy Fwy location).
There is a Kelley's Country Cooking in Pearland, good for down home Texas food and humongous portions. Chicken Fried Steak would be a good thing to get there -- oh, wait, you didn't want to limit this to healthy food, did you?
You might try this place, if it's in operation:
I've never been able to get to any of the places when open (you'd never know it from the website but the downtown locations are only open 11-2, MF). I was by the Pearland location once mid-afternoon on a Tuesday and it was closed up tight without a sign of life. The Houston Press has noted that Katrina evacuees took to the original downtown location on Pease for authentic Cajun food.
Pearland is a huge area now; depending on where you are in Pearland, you may be closer to Floyd's Cajun Kitchen on I-45 S @ Nasa Rd. 1 than to Mardi Gras Cafe in the Heights, which used to be Floyd's. Floyd Landry was one of the founders of the Landry's chain but has nothing to do with them now.
I wrote up a place just east of Pearland in December:
Excellent cheap eats; the patacone pictured is only $4.06 including tax. You might want to call ahead for hours, which have changed.
no one has mentioned upscale restaurants. these are not to be missed!
- mark's (new american) - montrose area
- da marco (italian) - montrose area
- brennan's (creole) - downtown
- bank by jean-georges (new french) - downtown, a must if you haven't been to one of his places and don't get to NY much
pappas bros steakhouse - galleria
vic and anthony's - downtown, crabcakes are amazing!
also, do not miss these cheap, divier places:
- lankford grocery (burgers) - midtown, open 7 am - 3 pm (closed sunday)
- frenchy's (fried chicken) - near U of H
- this is it soul food - midtown
- the breakfast klub (breakfast/soul food) - downtown
I would hit sandong noodle house on Bellaire in the new chinatown area. Best dumplings, beef noodle soup and dumpling soup in town.
Hit hong kong mall food court and some vietnamese style louisiana crawfish.
Taco truck at farmers market called tacambaro with superb sweetbread tacos and the best tacos d tripas in town.
Tampico for the snapper al la plancha, one of the best dishes in town. Skip the side seafoood items, they are good but get your bill up in the $30 per person range.
Cafe Rebalais in rice village area for very good french bistro food.
Dolce Vita on westheimer for incredible pizzas. My personal favs are the pancetta, rubiola and leek pizza and the tellagio, arugula and truffle oil pizza.
Himalaya at sw frwy and hilcroft for pakistani food. Kaiser is the jolly owner. If you go with a group ask him to put something good together for you. If I go alone for dinner I will ask him to put together a good spread for me and he will do it.
Marys lebanese for very good mezzs, the baby ganoush is outstanding.
Pearland has a lot of chain outlets. The locally-owned places will likely not be known by anyone on this board, and also highly unlikely to be reviewed by the Houston newspapers or blogs. Sorry about that. I did run across this:
Here's a few more elsewhere in Houston for when you are sightseeing. I like almost all of the places listed above by JJC as well (except I hear Kim Son has fallen way off).
Downtown -- cajun food at Treebeards on Market Square
Warehouse district -- northeast side of downtown, Irma's for Mexican food
South of downtown in Midtown is Specs, a must-visit if you are a wine lover
Also in Midtown is Ibiza, American food with a bit of a Mediterranean twist; this is a more upscale place than all the others mentioned, but it isn't in the most expensive ranks
Ninfa's on Navigation is classic houston Tex-Mex -- just east of downtown
Vietnam Restaurant if you get to the Heights
Vietopia if you are around West U/Greenway Plaza (Goode Co BBQ and Seafood places are around there
)Also near West U, Armadillo Palace is another Goode Co restaurant on Kirby that has tons of Texas atmosphere and a very good chicken fried steak.
These West U places are easy to get to from the Galleria -- huge shopping area I assume you will tour. West U is between Galleria and Rice University.
Galleria has a pretty authentic big New York deli, Kenny & Ziggy's on Post Oak.
Also near the Galleria is Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Westheimer; they've also expanded around the country, but the Pappas family is very actively owning and managing and I think this is the first one they opened.
Small, hole in the wall, deli sandwich place is Kahn's Deli on Rice Blvd in Rice Village (which happens to be right by Rice Univ!)
James Coney Island are in many places. Houston's own hot dog place, since the 1920s.
Carrabba's is an Italian chain now around the country, but the original is on Kirby and is far better than any of the chain locations I've tried (2 or 3); the original owners still manage it.
Lastly, Ragin' Cajun is probably the best cajun in town; on Richmond between Galleria and West U; great atmosphere.
I am not familiar with Pearland, but here are some of my Houston favorites. Go to www.b4-u-eat.com for reviews and locations.
BBQ- Goode Company, William's Smoke House
Vietnamese - Kim Son this is Viet/Chinese, the one on the Southwest Frwy has good dim sum on weekends. There are many good Pho places my favorite is Pho Saigon.
Chinese - Fung's Kitchen, also has very good dim sum.
Seafood - Goode Company Seafood, must get Campechana
Tampico Seafood on Airline, must get Red Snapper a la plancha
Cafe Red Onion seafod y mas- cheviches frescos
Capt'n benny's- oysters
Magnolia bar and grill - Cajun seafood
Latin fusion - Churasscos, Americas, Cafe Red Onion
Tex-Mex - Chuy's, El Tiempo, Escalantes, Papasitos
Berryhill's for Baja Fish Tacos
If your downtown siteseeing go to Spec's liquor Warehouse. Much more than a liquor store this place is 80,000 square feet of food, beer and wine.