NYCer Needs Recs for Houston Dinner - BBQ vs Mexican?
I will be in Houston at the end of this week and need recommendations for dinner. I'm a huge BBQ fan and I love Mexican food. Any suggestions for either/both would be appreciated. Also, if you only had one dinner in Houston, would you go BBQ or Mexican or something completely different?? In terms of cost, I'm willing to go moderate-high and lower. I'm just looking for the best food!
The best BBQ in town is Williams Smokehouse on the NW side, open til 7 or 8pm, I think. Others that I would recommend would be Thelma's, east of the Convention Center if a rundown industrial area and Goode Co. on Kirby or I-10. Most tourists wind up going to Goode Co., certainly the safest of the 3 in terms of location but not the best. Any of them will probably be better than anything you can find in NYC.
As far as Mexican, why don't you tell us if you mean Tex-Mex or Mex-Mex and what part of town you'll be in. We can orient our recommendations to that -- they're all over the place!
As far as only one meal in Houston -- it makes my head hurt too much to try to think like that. Yours are among the most common requests we get here on the (HOU) Texas board but we do also have a huge Chinatown, large Viet community, notable Thai; virtuallly every region of Mexico is represented as well as most of the cuisines of Central and South America. Then there is Creole/Cajun which I read recently on another thread here on Chowhound is lacking in NYC. What's your pleasure?
One of my favorite restaurants right now is Himalaya, a Pakistani restaurant on the SW side with awesome food and very inexpensive.
For more on any of these and any other recommendations you will get, go to b4-u-eat.com which has links to maps. Many reviews there are obviously planted but you can at least get locations.
Thanks for the all the information. I'll be staying at the St. Regis but attending a conference at the convention center. You're definitely right, we are missing Creole/Cajun cuisine up here in NYC, but I'd like to stick to either BBQ or I guess Tex-Mex? I'll definitely check out the information for Thelma's & Williams Smokehouse, but if you could provide a couple of recs for the Tex-Mex, that'd be great. I obviously have a car, so I'm willing to drive a bit.
I'll defer to the Houstonites for the detailed local information (I haven't had much BBQ in Houston besides Goode Co., for example), but as a Texan living in NYC right now, I wanted to weigh in on priorities. I mean, as a New Yorker, you presumably already know this, but still...
There's precious little good BBQ in NYC (I think the LEAN brisket at Hill Country is decent), but there is absolutely no good Tex-Mex. None at all. Not even close. I don't know of any good Cajun food here, but I haven't made a point of searching it out. For Mex-mex, there are one or two upscale places, and then there are some decent places out in Jackson Heights. And those are the only 4 cuisines it would make sense for a New Yorker to eat in Houston, since they are so delicious and well represented in Houston and since NYC is so lacking therein (I realize that Houston has, for example, better Vietnamese food than NYC, but we've got good enough Vietnamese food up here to compete - but in those 4 arenas the difference in what is offered is immeasurably huge).
My order of priority would probably be Tex-Mex, then BBQ, then Cajun, then Mexican. Unless you get down there pretty often, if you only have one meal there, I implore you, for the sake of all us homesick Texans, get some Tex-Mex!
On the BBQ side of things, isn't there a branch of Luling City Market in Houston? Is it any good?
There is a Luling City Market, but it isn't the same as the original. The original is much better. We like Hickory Hollow, on Heights, for BBQ. A lot of people like Goode Co. but I don't care for it.
A really good Tex-Mex is Tony's on Ella Blvd. Very good with killer marguaritas. Also El Tiempo Cantina on Washington Ave. is really good. Lots of food and a very good quail fajita combo.
For Mexican (it's mostly mexican with a little tex-mex) I would go to Pico's on Bellaire Blvd. Very good food.
You can check all these out on b4-u-eat.com.
danhole is correct about Luling CM, they just stole the name and sauce recipe of the famous place in Central Texas and lots of bbq purists despise them for it. I actually prefer it over Goode Co. but don't go in the evening, it turns into a very small sports bar and the Q is off a steam table. I like Hickory Hollow for chicken fried steak and burgers, never had the bbq there.
For Mexican you could consider Irma's, just down the street from the convention center. I have not been in years.
Also the original Ninfa's on Navigation, east of downtown. Started in the front of a tortilla factory this was the place where the fajita craze took off in the early 70s. It's part of a chain now but the original place has a lot more charm than any of the other locations.
West of town, along Washington (towards Hickory Hollow and beyond) you might consider El Tiempo Cantina, run by family members of Ninfa Laurenzo and supposedly using her original recipes. They also run 1308 Cantina on Montrose, just south of Washington. You can access both of them on this website:
Before you get there you'll pass a new location of Molina's, a family operation that has been serving Tex-Mex since the 1940s and will be a bit older style Tex-Mex. This is my favorite place (diff location) for old style Tex-Mex, but mostly I go for Mex-Mex these days at taquerias, etc.
As you will see from the menus a lot of newer Tex Mex places include more authentic Mexican dishes along with the old Tex-Mex favorites.
Oh bruce, you have to have the ribs at Hickory Hollow. Very, very good last time I went. I always have the sauce served on the side, because most places put way too much on for my taste. I think you should taste the smokiness of the meat - not the sauce.
We went to Molina's on Washington awhile back and I was somewhat disappointed. I like El Tiempo a lot better. Tony's Mexican restaurant has really good combo plates, but fajitas are pretty average, IMO. Both of these places get really crowded early so be prepared.
I've heard of Tony's before and will have to try it sometime. Haven't been to the Molina's on Washington and probably won't, the one on Buffalo Spdwy is convenient to me. One local poster who I think is very good (doesn't post here, unfortunately) recently observed the best Tex Mex is usually the closest one or the cheapest one, to which I would add, or the one you've been going to for a long time. Tex-Mex is comfort food for most Texans, including me. I do it very infrequently and not as a chowish experience.
I've been to El Tiempo just once and was impressed, not yet to 1308, which is very new. I think the OP would be wowed by El Tiempo over Molinas but it's hard to judge tastes for someone who doesn't have a lot of Tex-Mex experiences to compare, so I just try to offer some options.