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First Time Visit to Houston!

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guseats Feb 26, 2008 05:24 PM

Two friends and I are visiting Houston for the first time (March 7-10) and I'm really excited! But I'm at a bit of a loss in trying to get my restaurant list together. Any suggestions are appreciated! Here's the essential information:

1. I've never been to Texas

2. I'm from Los Angeles and Sacramento so I'm familiar with west coast Mexican and our interpretation of Tex-Mex but I'm looking forward to trying the real deal.

3. I'm hoping to get some BBQ at some point but Tex-Mex is higher on my priority list (unless someone tells me it shouldn't be). A good steak house is something I'm also thinking about. Someone told me the beef quality in Texas is really superior to the stuff we get out in LA. Also burgers! We love a good burger.

4. The general areas we'll be in (but I'm willing to drive but not too far east) Generally, west of 59 and 288:

- IAH airport (of course)
- TC Jester Park
- Fairbanks/Hudson
- Spring Valley / Hunters Creek Village
- rodeo

5. We'd prefer local, places with unique to Houston/Texas/Southwest dishes, would rather avoid fast food chains, and price wise I'm open to anything from taquerias to nice lunch/dinner places. And any "must haves". We're also pretty adventurous!

6. We have 3 breakfasts, two lunches, and one dinner that we need to find places for, (and we're always open to snacks, desserts and Ice cream)

7. I'm particularly interested in a good breakfast place though. (Either Tex-Mex or otherwise.) Especially for the first day since we arrive at 6 am and we'd like a somewhat relaxing breakfast (but a crazy scene is worth it for great food),

8. Here's what my limited research on the boards has said I should try (but I have no real concept of geography, I'd rather go to the almost best that's closer over the best and deal with traffic for too long)

Taqueria Aranda's
Lankford's Grocery
Miller's Cafe
West U
Williams Smokehouse
Thelmas
Goode Company

Any other tips and thoughts are appreciated! Chowhounders are always the best tipsters! Thanks!

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  1. m
    maryanntex RE: guseats Feb 26, 2008 08:07 PM

    I'm totally confused by what part of Houston you're going to be in.

    Regardless, you can get good Tex-Mex breakfasts at Goode Company Mexican and Buffalo Grille. I also like breakfast at Empire Cafe. And drive-thru Mexican-Cuban breakfast at El Rey on Shepherd. El Rey has good fish tacos, ropa vieja--everything good.

    Goode Company BBQ is good.

    My favorite Mexican food is at Teotihuacan and Pico's. Teotihuacan is more Tex-Mex, and Pico's is Mex-Mex, and both have good fish, too. Pico's has great margaritas. I love their spinach enchiladas. Both places have good fajitas. Red Onion is more Central American, and I like it, too. The original Ninfa's on Navigation is another possibility.

    Check all these out on www.b4-u-eat.com. Also, you can put in the zip code where you are and/or type of food you're looking for, and you can get reviews and maps.

    Hope this helps.

    1. s
      soulslinger RE: guseats Feb 27, 2008 06:44 AM

      My brother lives in Houston and he took me to a place about 10+ years ago and we go there everytime I am in Houston, La Mexicana on Fairview @ Montrose. They have the best Jumbo Burrito filled with Beef or Chicken Fajita meat. It is enough burrito for two people but everything in it is fresh....sour cream, beans, cheese, fajita meat all in a fresh flour tortilla. They also happen to have a great powerful margarita!!
      http://www.lamexicanarestaurant.com/

      I would also recommend Thelmas...all I can say is awesome!

      Forget Goode Company (IMHO) and wait until you have time to go to Austin area on a second trip....that is where the best BBQ in Texas is!

      Ice Cream is a no brainer at Amy's Ice Cream off Shepard. Excellent flavors some alcoholic!!
      http://www.amysicecreams.com/

      If you pack light you can stop off at Phoenicia Specialty Foods (middle eastern market) and get all the spices you need for cheap also the Phoenicia Deli across the street has some awesome Shawarmas. Or stop in Cafe Caspian...perhaps the best Persian in Houston
      http://www.phoeniciafoods.com/
      http://www.phoenicia-deli.com/
      http://www.cafecaspian.com/

      I guess I could throw out the recomendation for House of Pies if you are in the mood for anytime pie (late night
      )http://www.houseofpies.com/

      I would go to Lankfords Grocery also....great burger

      1. danhole RE: guseats Feb 27, 2008 07:37 AM

        I live across the street from TC Jester Park, so I can tell you what zip codes to look in at the B4UEAT site: 77018, 77092, 77008. This area is just a tad past the loop, called Near Northwest, and is close to 610 & 290, the Heights, Garden Oaks, and has a lot of good places nearby.

        Tony's Mexican Restaurant on Ella is very good Tex-Mex, but gets crazy busy, so you need to go early or be prepared to wait. Watch out for the margaritas! El Tiempo Cantina on Washington is also very good tex mex but more expensive than Tony's. Taqueria Arandas is a chain here, but they have good food that's pretty inexpensive. Try the Tacos Al Pastor, or a burrito with Pastor meat. It helps if you know a little Spanish ;-) We go to the one on Shepherd Drive. There is an El Rey on Ella, too.

        Miller's Cafe, on N. Shepherd is a good place, but not really outstanding in my opinion.

        Lankford serves breakfast, and have good burgers, and I have heard the daily specials are awesome, especially the Enchilada night. I have had a burger there, but no other items, but I know a lot of people that hang out there and love all meals. It's close to downtown, and a little tricky to find.

        West U is a neighborhood, and not in my area, so can't help you there.

        Williams burned down :-( Never been to Thelmas. Goode Co is a bit pricey for what they offer, so we don't go there much. It's okay, just not exceptional. We like Hickory Hollow, on Heights, but the big draw there is the Chicken Fried Steak. The ribs are very good too. My DH likes the Chopped brisket sandwich, but not if it has been sitting in a vat. Gabby's, on N. Shepherd has good BBQ, and live entertainment on weekends, if you are into Cowboy music.

        I would recommend Cafe Red Onion on Hwy 290 for some unusual South American/Mexican type food. People on this board either love it or hate it, but I have never been disappointed. Great food, beautiful presentation and a wide variety. The Chef is a local who started in a strip center at 290 and 43rd, and grew from there.

        I'm going to have to think about the steak. Nothing pops into my mind off hand.

        Have fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: danhole
          g
          guseats RE: danhole Feb 27, 2008 12:31 PM

          All these suggestions sound great! I'll definitely report back where we end up.

          Location wise, sorry for the confusion! I kind of just looked at a map to find our general areas.

          I've still got a week or so before the trip so any other thoughts would be great. I'll probably compile a nice neat address book of your suggestions and thoughts and take it along with me. I'm excited!

        2. g
          guseats RE: guseats Feb 27, 2008 12:54 PM

          Also, any suggestions fo a good place for chili?

          1. m
            maryanntex RE: guseats Feb 27, 2008 08:23 PM

            Can't help you with chili suggestions. I make my own chili or else buy it from Whole Foods. When you figure out your schedule, check back. The places you've said you'll be are very far apart. You mentioned the rodeo, and several of the places I mentioned earlier are not far from Reliant Park.

            1. j
              jscarbor RE: guseats Feb 28, 2008 03:57 AM

              BBQ-Burns is now probably my favorite bbq in town with Thelmas occasionlly trumping Burns. Pizzotolas on Shepherd for the Ribs only.
              Tex/Mex-It should either be El Tiempo or Ninfas on Navigation only. Its not what it once was but its a landmark. Oh yeah, Teotahuacan is very good as well.
              Tex/Mex seafood at Tampico on Airline near the Height(also near one of the Teotahuacan locations) is hands down one of my favorite places. The whole snapper is awesome. I say skip the add ons like shrimp because they aren't as good as the fish and they add to the bill.
              Why Taqueria Arandas?
              Ice cream-Amy's is good but I prefer Hanks ice cream on S Main(really close to rodeo). Banana pudding, butter pecan, apple pie...really good stuf.
              Chili-Armadillo Palace on Kirby(not far from rodeo) serves a mean bowl of red. Be warned, it will stick with you the whole day.
              Lankfords burger is really good, so is the breakfast.
              Villa Arcos on Navigation for great breakfast tacos. The super with bacon is my favorite.
              Breakfast Klub- for catfish and grits, chicken and waffles and much more.
              Brennans has an awesome sunday brunch. The foods good but the setting, music and really good mint julips, bloody marys are the reason to go. its pricey but worth the splurge if you have time for a long brunch.
              I love Himalaya for great pakistani food.
              There is a taco cart at the Houston farmers mkt on Airline that serves the best sweetbread tacos. I forget the name on the cart(there are a few out there) but it is white with a red band at the top. Looking from Airline it is on the right hand side of the market in near the back.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jscarbor
                g
                guseats RE: jscarbor Mar 2, 2008 10:19 PM

                oooh thanks! I also got some more information, apparently I'll be around the I-10 and Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Toll Road).

                1. re: jscarbor
                  j
                  jscarbor RE: jscarbor Mar 3, 2008 11:43 AM

                  The cart is Tacambaro that I mentioned in the post above.

                  I 10 and beltway 8 puts you close to Cafe Pita, a great lieel bosnian restaurant that has great breads especially the burek.
                  You would also not be far from Bellarie Ave which boasts a lot of great asian places but coming from LA ou probably don't need that.

                2. t
                  tlegray RE: guseats Mar 3, 2008 08:10 AM

                  I'm originally from CA and have only lived in Houston for the past 6 years.

                  Try a kolache. As far as I know you can't find them in CA though I'm sure if one looked you might. These are unique to the Houston and areas south west. It's a sweet yeast bread. Authentic kolache's hold fruit or cream cheese. They are similar to a danish. Here in Houston they also fill them with breakfast links, bbq, jalapenos, eggs and bacon. Cheese can be added to any of the above ingredients. They are served for breakfast and you'll find them at donut shops like Shippley's Donuts. If you find a Morning Kolache's shop these are my favorites. We make sure our out of town guests get theM at least one morning of their visit.

                  As for a steak house. Texas Monthly a few months ago had an article that named Pappa's Steakhouse the number one steak house in Texas. There were others named in Houston. Here's the link to the article. You can see which of the many listed in Houston would be to your taste. http://www.texasmonthly.com/2007-12-0...

                  As for tex-mex; get the beef fajitas for sure. Share if you'd like to try other things. Ninfas on Navigation would be the best place to try them but you can also get good fajitas at other places. Ask at your hotel.

                  At the rodeo you will find local bbq. I'm not sure which of the restaurants will be there. It will cost more at the rodeo then if you went to the establishment but if your time is limited you could at least get a taste.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tlegray
                    Cheflambo RE: tlegray Mar 3, 2008 10:02 AM

                    ALL the local restaurants will be represented at the Rodeo, so if you want more BBQ than you can stand, that's the place to go. Luthers used to be very reliable, but (and danhole will agree with me) now that they are Pappa's, its just not the same.

                    If you're staying out near I-10 and Beltway 8, be sure to visit Taste of Texas. Its got great food, knowledgeable servers, and a good wine list. Right next door is Pappasito's, with some of the best fajitas north of the border. There is also a Pappasitos (and Pappadeauxs - great cajun & seafood) on the 610 Loop near the rodeo venue. They'll be busy with the rodeo crowd, but you should be able to get in without too much trouble.

                    I'll second the suggestion for Ninfa's on Navigation, but also suggest Spanish Flower on No. Main. Fresh, consistently good, and the wait, even at the busy times, is minimal.

                    1. re: tlegray
                      LewisvilleHounder RE: tlegray Mar 4, 2008 02:27 PM

                      The kolaches in Houston will suffice but if you have time to visit the Austin area they are better

                      Actually the kolache is native to the Czech/Slovak settlements of Texas...predominately the area between Waco and just south of College Station and a few scattered settlements here and there. I would suggest ordering them online at Czech Stop or Zamykals.....but if you are ever on Texas Higway 6 that runs from Houston to the Panhandle...stop in Calvert at Zamykals...they have the best I have had in Texas!

                      http://www.zamykalkolaches.com/catalo...

                      http://www.czechstop.net/home.php

                      For kolaches this thread is probably the best
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/388243

                    2. j
                      j95tt RE: guseats Mar 3, 2008 12:36 PM

                      Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen on Westheimer and Dairy Ashford has very good Tex-Mex. As the name implies, the enchiladas are the best things there. For beef fajitas, I really like Lupe's Tortillas (I-10 and Hwy 6 or SW Fwy near Kirby/Shepherd). Have a good time in Houston!

                      1. d
                        debkassy RE: guseats Mar 4, 2008 02:04 PM

                        Years ago I went to Sam Houston State University and we would go to Houston...Westheimer to a place called "the empanada house". It was kinda run down but the empanadas were delicious. Does this place still exist?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: debkassy
                          zorra RE: debkassy Mar 4, 2008 05:14 PM

                          Marini's Empanada House is now on Mason Road in Katy, and according to b4-u-eat there is a second location at Westheimer and Briarpark.

                        2. zorra RE: guseats Mar 4, 2008 05:16 PM

                          If you're around I-10 and the beltway, you'll be pretty close to the Goode Co. BBQ that's on I-10. Not the original location, but still it will be better BBQ than you're likely to find at home.

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