Houston area restaurants
Hubby and I are going to be in Houston on a scouting trip next weekend for a few days and could use some pointers on where to eat so we're not stuck eating at our hotel for every meal. We're going to be at the Westin on 5060 W. Alabama. We're from the Seattle area, so we know very little about regional cuisine. Hubby and I prefer casual, quiet restaurants, we appreciate a good bottle of wine or decent beer selections and since my birthday will be in the middle of the trip, Hubby wants to find some place kinda romantic.
We're not afraid of spicy food, but I would prefer not to have my tongue return from the trip as a blackened, smoking stump! I've heard a lot about Texas barbecue, so I'd love to try it. Any suggestions would be very helpful!
Something interesting with the very best seafood. Mambo's on I45. Hole in the wall that is crowded all the time. Bills itself as a Hispanic seafood place but really just great seafood-fresh- with wonderful ceviche. The fried shrimp will melt in your mouth. No kidding. I passed this place for months before I finally stopped to see why it is always so crowded. Now I know.
All of these are around your hotel. Sorry for the repeats, but I'd advise using them to figure out what we are REALLY recommending...
Armadillo Palace on Kirby at Highway 59 is full of Texas memorabilia and serves chicken fried steak and other Texas things. Later in the week and later at night they have bands, so you might want to go there at lunch or before 8pm if you aren't into the nightclub thing. This is owned by the Goodes, who others have mentioned for the Goode Co. BBQ place; and there's a Goode Co Seafood and a Mexican/Burger place -- all four right in the same area.
The fancy, upscale, romantic restaurants are Cafe Annie, Tony's, Mark's and DaMarco (which has an Italian bent). Cafe Annie has a southwestern bent and is the most Houston/Texas.
The Ragin' Cajun is a fun place on Richmond about 2 miles east from your hotel. Very, very casual spot if you want to try crawfish right out of the cooker. You twist the tail off, pry the meat out... (they are like little lobsters). Gumbo, fried shrimp, etc.
Pappadeaux is another cajun seafood place (like Goode Co Seafood and Ragin Cajun), but more upscale, on Westheimer 2 miles west from your hotel. The Pappas are an (originally) Greek family that owns a lot of resturants in town -- steak houses, BBQ, seafood, etc.
Very simple grilled meats and a few pastas are at the very small, but polished, Divino on West Alabama, a little east of Shepherd (4-5 miles east of your hotel). Very personal wine list with prices maybe only 30% above retail (in other words, cheap!). But with wine this is a $100/couple place, not low-end. A great small, personal attention kind of place. Google "divino houston" to see their website (which is sometimes down).
Hugo's has interesting upscale Mexican food (more Mexico City, not Tex-Mex). On Westheimer close to downtown.
El Tiempo on Richmond near Buffalo Speedway has Tex-Mex, from an old Houston family that founded "Ninfa's" but lost it to bankruptcy.
That's enough from me!
Wow!! A big thank you to everyone who posted replies! I just got back from my trip and unfortunately was struck down by a stomach bug just prior to flying out, so I only got to go out for one night. The people trying to hire my husband took us to DeMarcos and we had some really lovely Italian food. We have since accepted the company's offer so we'll be coming back to Houston on house hunting trips, so these suggestions will come in very handy - barring any more nights of puking of course!
I would try Cafe Annie, that's near your hotel and probably one of the best options for "what Houston is known for." It's Latin and Mexican and the very innovative. And a good Texas scene.
Another Texas place is Pappas Steakhouse which is very much a big fat steak house.
Quiet and casual is hard if you want favorite places or known-for places. You're also near Americas which is Latin and generally good. Upscale Mexican is very good at Hugos, also try El Tiempo for things like fajitas or enchiladas.
People tend to get in an uproar about which BBQ to go to, but Goode Co is good and next door is a restaurant bar with country bands that is surprisingly fun (look for huge armadillo outside).
I think Houston is known for Vietnamese, excellent choices in upcale casual, tex/mex, to a certain extent bbq and seafood.
Quite casual romantic? Well, maybe Lexington.? Its on Lexington near the corner of the SW freeway and Shepherd. Not a great wine list buit it will do, beer list not great but the service and atmosphere is great. The food is always solid. If you go tell Hussein that John Scarborough sent you. He is a gracious host and his main goal is to make sure you have a good experience at the restaurant.
For BBQ Goode is solid and easy to get to. I like Williams BBQ on Wheatley in north houston. Great brisket and ribs and wonderful sides.
Vietnamese Cna be standbys like Mais, Van Loc of Nga's near midtown or out on Bellaire Blvd to saigon pagaloc for beef done seven ways or a myriad of other great vietnamese hole in the walls. I can get more descriptive if you like but like you said Seattle has its share of asian.
Seafood-If you are willing to make a 45 minute drive I would say to hit Sdan Leon and hit Gilhuely's for some oysters and beer then over to Topwater Grill for shrimp, redfish or snapper. Both are great places!
If you don't want to drive down to San Leon then maybe the original captain benny's on Main near Reliant Stadium? If you do hit this place some ice cream just down the street at Hanks is a must!
I don't know that Houston has any particular food associated with it because there is such a wide variety available. Requests here on CH often are made for recommendations for Tex-Mex, BBQ, Chicken Fried Steak, Seafood and to a lesser extent, a bowl of Texas Red - chili. Those seem to be the typical Texas foods. We have a huge Asian community; even though you may not be interested in those types of eateries, if you're going to do any sightseeing you might want to take a drive out Bellaire Blvd from Gessner out past Beltway 8 through New Chinatown; even people from San Francisco have been known to be wowed by the diversity of what's available. We also have a very good representation of eateries representing the various cuisines of Mexico and most Central American and South American countries which you may not have access to in Seattle. If you're interested in any, just ask. And we have lots of Cajun places.
All the recs made so far are good and I don't think you'll have any problem with spiciness. There is bbq available closer to your hotel - Luling City Mkt -- see the current thread on Transcendant bbq. That would be my choice over Goode Co. provided you can get there before 1pm, but I would agree Williams is the best in town; it's kind of hard to find and closed Sunday and Monday, though.
On a recent thread about eateries in the Galleria area someone mentioned Piatta on Post Oak @ Alabama for good Italian. It was brand new news to me and I haven't gotten over there yet, but that would be within walking distance of your hotel. Getting around in Houston can often be confusing for newcomers.
Another place within walking distance, though a longer stroll, would be Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen on Post Oak, a very good NY style deli. Other casual places would include Nielsen's Delicatessen on Richmond, famous for over 50 years for their decadent potato salad, and Dimassi's Meditarannean buffet on Richmond.
For romantic, you mgiht consider Brennan's of Houston, run by the same family than runs Commander's Palace in NOLA for very upscale Creole cuisine.
Most of these places have websites. You can also check out b4-u-eat.com, a local restaurant review site. There seem to be lots of ringers posting over there and it's not discursive but you could select 'Galleria' for part of town and get a list of probably 60-70% of the restaurants in the area of your hotel and then come back to here to ask for the advice of CHers. The website offers the advantage of links to maps.
Capt. Benny's is very good but it's limited menu; you might want to consider Goode Co. Texas Seafood instead. But my first choice among the Goode Co. restaurants would be Armadillo Palace for a bowl of their venison chili, some Texas music, lots of Texas kitsch and maybe a little two-stepping on the dance floor. It won't be too spicy. It's right next to the bbq place on Kirby. If you opt for any of the Goode Co. recommendations, go to the Kirby Drive locations rather than the ones on I-10 because of construction hassles.