Houston: Montrose/Richmond area
We are off to visit my father-in-law and haven't been to Houston in a couple of years. My husband grew up there but so much has changed. So we are looking for recommendations. I have done some searches on the website and Indika looks good as does Hugo, but not sure if fits criteria below. We would like at least one fine dining restaurant and some other mid-range or hole-in-the walls. My FIL has suggested the chain Capital Grille.
We are coming from Bay Area California and would love to try things that reflect the specialties of the area. Atmosphere can be negotiable, as long as it isn't a bar or smokey (do they allow smoking in Texas restaurants?). Good food is most important. We enjoy flavorful cuisine, are adventurous in our eating, and I prefer to have veggies with my meal.
In the past we have enjoyed Red Onion, but they couldn't deal with the allergy issues last time we went (very sad).
1. My son and I have Celiac so we have to be able to communicate with the waitstaff and they need to know what is in the food. Read - good customer service! So, that often rules out chains and sometimes ethnic restaurants where nobody speaks even broken English, but we love the latter and can sometimes work around it. We often eat at taquerias here and get by.
2. Because of the Celiac, nothing that is only good at pasta, pizza, wheat based things, or uses a ton of soy sauce (e.g. Chinese and Island cuisine).
3. Will accept two well behaved and culinary adventuresome kids (6 and almost 4) - no need to have a kids menu, but it is nice if they will let us order something off menu for the kids if necessary.
4. Price is not an issue.
5. My FIL sometimes gets annoyed at overly precious presentations, but we love good food and presentation, and he likes to see us happy, so he will probably survive.
6. Somewhat close to his house in the Montrose/Richmond area or the Medical Center. I hate spending every vacation there in Houston traffic! We might also be near the galleria.
I personally would avoid Capital Grill because it is a chain and it isn't even from Houston. Unless it is on someone else's dime, I wouldn't bother because the menu is the same as you would find in any large American city.
Both Indika and Hugo's are faves of mine and you and your son should be able to find something gluten free there. One friend of mine has sprue and often eats at Carraba's which is a local Italian chain. She often takes her own pasta to the restaurant and they cook it for her there.
Another suggestion would be T'afia in midtown which is very much locally driven in terms of the food and wine. There is even a farmers market there on the weekends where there is quite a bit of gluten free food. I also like Reef, also in Midtown. It focuses on seafood so you should have multiple choices.
I remember reading somewhere, maybe in the Press or on another local food discussion board, that Capital Grill in Houston doesn't serve prime, only choice (some cities, they do serve prime) - if that's what you're seeking. I agree w/Bhutani that there are better steak options in Houston.
The Carraba's on Kirby (near your location) is the original and is still operated by the Mandola-Carraba families; would be better than the chain locations. Those families operate several other restos in the Houston area, all of which happen to be convenient to your location: Damian's on Smith (Damian Mandola was the older guy on the PBS cooking show - he is no longer associated with the resto but it's run by another member of the large family), Vincent's and Nino's on W. Dallas, and Tony Mandola's on W. Gray. Plus there is Pronto Cucino, their quick-casual (upscale fast food) concept, one on Montrose and one on Holcombe. I have never eaten at Damian's or PC; used to work in the Montrose and had friends in the neighborhood and have dined at Vincent's and Nino's but not in several years so will not make a recommendation; Used to eat at Tony Mandola's Blue Oyster bars (named for the band) but they are closed and I've never eaten at the present, much more upscale place in River Oaks. Your FIL will have no trouble finding any of these.
I might also mention Churrasco's, on Westheimer @ Shepherd for South American fare, including excellent beef.
All of these have websites with menus on line.
As far as unique, I'd recommend Himalaya, a Pakistani restaurant on US 59 @ Hillcroft, about 5 miles outside Loop 610. A little farther than any of the others but a very amazing place. (is there a problem with gluten intolerance with curries?) Your FIL will have no problems with fussy presentation - the owner's desk and computer are in the dining room, the lunch special ($7.99) usually consists of 3 portions of entrees with a big serving of basmati rice and a small Pakistani salad (thinly sliced cucumber and onion in a creamy garlic dressing) served on a plastic school lunch tray! There's a link to a menu (somewhat dated) on b4-u-eat.com.
Another regional food would be bbq and I'd recommend Williams Smokehouse in Acres Homes (go for lunch, not dinner). Again, a bit more of a drive but well worth it.
Also Cajun/Creole. The former may be a problem because of the flour in the ubiquitous roux but for upscale Creole you could consider Brennan's of Houston, also on Smith and very near your location. Run by the same family that owns Commander's Palace in NOLA. There is a website for this one, too.
Niko-Niko's is on Montrose near Richmond and is really good. Not at all fancy and you stand in line to order, but everything is very fresh and good. There are tables outdoors as well as inside, and it's a good place for children. They have fish, shrimp, salads, gyros, as well as traditional Greeks dishes. I also like the Raven Grill, especially the spinach and sweet potato enchiladas. It's more mid-range and a neighborhood place, so the kids would be fine. Mockingbird Grill is fancier, but has really good food. Check these out for reviews on www.b4-u-eat.com.
Thanks for all the suggestions:
Some places my FIL also suggested that might work are:
Churroscos, Strip House, Arturo's, Chez Georges, The Bank at the Hotel Icon
We love tasting menus, so might try those. I am not so big on steakhouses, but the rest of the family likes them. I am better if they do good seafood, but can't have raw seafood right now.
Opinions on these places. Menu wise I prefer some of the recommendations from Chowhound, but want to see if any of these are good.
Another great Pakistani restaurant is La Sani Restaurant, 9621 Bissonnet. The average dish will cost $8 to $11. It’s not a complete hole in the wall, although its surroundings are a bit shabby. I like their curried-stewed mutton, red-curried goat, and the Biriyani Rice is addictive! Fried and spiced onion cakes/clusters for appetizers…cannot remember what those are called on the menu but they are excellent. Never had a bad experience there. Have been 4 times. Don’t be alarmed if you show up at 7:30 p.m. for dinner and the place is empty. Around 9:30, the place fills up with tons of Pakistani and Indian families. This place is the real deal. The spices they use are deliciously warm and robust - definitely not bland or toned down for American palettes.
As for Niko Niko’s, I’d skip that place and try the near-by Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine (corner of Montrose & Westheimer), or even better try Istanbul Grill, 5613 Morningside, in the Rice Village. Their lamb and beef kabobs are always grilled to perfection. Their bread is also delicious. That’s more than I can say for Niko Niko’s. I used to be a loyal costumer (ate there at least once a week), but lately I’ve had too many over-cooked lamb and beef dishes/kababs that are too tough to eat – also had bland, dry chicken. The Gyro meat is still pretty good though. If you are in the mood for Greek-Mediterranean there are better places than Niko Niko’s. Darband is a great little hole-in-the-wall place for shish kabobs. It’s not as close to you though. Darband is located at 5670 Hilcroft.
For Mex-Mex and Tex-Mex try Pico’s, 5941 Bellaire Blvd. Always packed with families, but never a long wait. Their “Nachoes George” with tender pork and pickled red onion is amazing. They make some tasty margaritas that actually have real lime juice instead of a super sweet mixer (but they have those too if you are trying to keep your bar tab within reason). Their chicken mole enchilada plate is tasty, but the mole is not as good as Hugo’s. Definitely try Hugo’s. I have never had a bad experience there. Everything I’ve tried was good. I especially enjoyed the salads made with nopalitos – I don’t recall the exact name on the menu. The pork and rabbit dishes were also excellent. We also love their Margaritas. A bit expensive for Houston, but worth the price.
You may also want to check out this Chow Hound post. It mentions tons of Houston places to try, many in the location you specified:
It's me again... Also, I forgot to mention that one of my relatives suffers from Celiac. She has good luck with the Ruggles Cafe located in the Rice Village, which is close to the Medical Center and Montrose area. She also does well at 100% Taquito which is also not that far from The Kirby/Rice Village area.
- And please stay away from The Galleria area if you are worried about Houston traffic. That place gets even worse around the holidays. I noticed another post mentioned unique restaurant options out on Hilcroft and US 59. Really, the traffic on 59 is not that bad if you venture out after 7:15..7:30pm for dinner. A lot of Houston's great "ethnic/exotic" restaurants are found outside of the inner-loop Montrose area.
hope you enjoy your visit here.
Ok, I grew up with a friend whose mother was a Celiac and in fact is very big in a Celiac group in Houston. She loved this one chef who now runs Mockingbird Bistro. I think that place is very good, and I believe if you bring up the Celiac issue, you will be easily accomodated since the chef has delt with it in the past.
A little update, since we only have one meal left...
We ate at County Line when we first landed because my kids wanted BBQ (not so many BBQ places in the Bay Area). I only had the brisket dry and a dinner salad and it was fine. Everyone else seemed to really like their food - my husband is nostalgic about this place because of having the beef ribs there growing up. The beef ribs looked like they had mostly fat and connective tissue to me, but it's his memories!
We tried the buffet at Shiva's in Rice Village. Overall pretty good. Most everything tasted good, but we have fantastic Indian where we live. My biggest complaint is that they rely too much on cream to flavor the dishes instead of the Indian spices. It tastes good, but I just like the more complex flavors. The chana masala was very good.
We had dinner at Churroscos. Overall the meal was good. My husband's steak was great and the raspberry dressing they made for our salad because I couldn't have the regular dressing was great. Pan-fried plantains are of course tastey. The ceviche was a bit one dimensional for me, but the beet garnish was fun because I love raw beets. I am not an experienced ceviche eater, so perhaps that is just the way it is. My son had grilled shrimp, which he didn't like because of the char, but I htought were good. A bit too done, but still good. I had the tilapia and shrimp. I ordered it on a whim because of the aji pepper sauce, but then they served it without the pepper sauce because it had flour. I wished they had asked me to reorder instead of just assuming leaving it out would be fine. They did bring me black bean sauce, which tasted good, but I was sad not to try the aji pepper sauce. I often find tilapia to taste like dirt and this was no exception, but it was my fault for falling for the sauce!
Last night was Maggiano's. Actually better than our's close to home. My tomato sauce was special made and flavorful. The salad was plain and not so exciting (the house salad), but I was nicely suprised because we had bad experiences there before.
Went to Hugo's tonight. Had the masa boats to begin with - good, but tasted like masa harina instead of masa. The broiled cheese appetizer was good and came with quite a bit of food. The tortillas were great (and I am very picky about my corn tortillas). I enjoyed the rabbit with guajillo sauce. It was a typical guajillo sauce, which my husband doesn't like, but the jicama salad and especially the Mexican sweet potatoes were fantastic. My husband had a stuffed beef dish (stuffed with corn, huitoloche, cheese) topped with a very nice verde sauce. Overall good. Rice was well cooked, but bland (both the red and white). My FIL and his girlfriend don't like Mexican food at all, so they didn't like it at all. Overall, I really liked it.
Also got to experience Central market this evening. Looks like a fun place to spend far too much money. Haven't tried anything yet, but picked up some burrata for later.
Thanks for getting back to us. This board, like I'm sure most CH boards, sometimes seems like nothing more than a tourist guide and the worst part of it is the tourists almost never get back to us on what they found. I appreciate your taking the time to report both the good and the bad.
One last meal at Yia Yia Mary's (Pappas greek restaurant). Overall pretty good. My in-laws raved about the lemon potatoes. I thought they were good, but not great, but I did like the rice and souvlaki. The salad (cucumber, tomato, feta, onion, olive) was good, of course the tomatoes were out of season - tis the season for that though. The dolmades were very good. The gigantes were a disappointment - overdone, small beans, and bland sauce. Pistachio ice cream was good - didn't blow me away, but this isn't the type of restaurant that I hold to that standard. Thanks for sharing your recs!