Downtown Houston Must Go
Chowhounder headed to Houston for the first time. We're staying
downtown without a car. Just for the weekend. My wife and I love
funky, fun and amazing with the flavor of the city. Old, new, affordable
or pricey...it matters not. Great food, Great service and Great memories
are what we're after. Breakfast, lunch and Dinner. Thanks!
You can take the train up and down Main Street to some good places. One of my favorites is t'afia, which is on Travis just a block off the rail line. They usually only have dinner (except on Friday, I think, sometimes they have lunch...maybe once a month) but there's a farmer's market there on Saturday you might enjoy. Nearby is a place called the Breakfast Klub that's supposed to be good for hearty breakfasts (I've never been, but it's very popular). Cava is a good place downtown on Main, and if you are beer drinkers you'll probably enjoy the Flying Saucer, also on Main.
Go to www.b4-u-eat.com for maps, directions, and reviews; you'll get a lot more ideas there.
i have been to both Irma's and the breakfast klub, and highly recommend both for their quality, originality, and what they say of houston...... irma's is open only for lunch and very early dinner, i think they are open to seven at the absolute latest. its best to go for lunch. they don't have a menu, they will let you know what they have for the day. its a must go for those who love funky. the breakfast klub is a very short train ride away, but wings, waffles, and jazz, need i say more. only open till two. dinner, for wine drinkers, three amazing options, reef, catalan, and ibiza. they are all about a five minute cab ride outside of downtown and well worth it. nothing in downtown compares to them.
Houston downtown is not known as the site of the best dining in town. There is mostly restaurants providing lunch for the office workers during the week. You may want to consider taking the train or a short cab ride to some of the best places in the Montrose neighborhood.
The few places downtown that I know to recommend are the following:
If you like Italian try Perbacco 700 Milam St Houston, TX 77002 (713) 224-2422. Their olive oil is really complex. I enjoyed their veal marsala and the seafood ravioli. They are willing to make the dish to your specifications if you wish.
I've read good things about Irma's but haven't eaten there. It's good for lunch weekdays. Supposed to be authentic Mexican but not a cheap lunch.
22 Chenevert St off Franklin Houston TX 77002 713.222.0767
Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel has an Italian brunch on Sundays.
1300 Lamar St Houston TX 77010 713.650.1300
Vietnamese - Les Givral's Kahve on Congress; good bahn mi
Tex-Mex/Cuban - El Ray on Main
Thai - Pad Thai on Louisiana
Italian - Perbacco on Milam
Tex-Mex Tacos A Go-Go on Main; excellent tacos, funky vibe, take the train from downtown
Tex-Mex Ninfa's on Navigation; a Houston institution, cab ride from downtown; avoid other locations
BBQ - Thelma's - behind George R. Brown; highly rated by some, quirky service
I live downtown and frequent these spots by rail and walking. Be aware a lot of places are closed on Sunday.
Downtown: El Rey (cuba/mex), 17 at the Alden hotel (upscale and new chef, open for breakfast too), Vic & Anthony's (15 - 20 minute walk; excellent steak), Les Givral's if you need a cafe sua da on a Saturday, La Carafe (oldest building in Houston, chilled mugs for beer, terrace open weekends), Flying Saucer (usually has the most people, lots of beer), Dean's Credit Clothing (mixed drinks, people watching), Sambuca for the music but I've found the food to be mediocre at best. And check out the new discovery green (http://www.discoverygreen.com/) for urban park and dining (the Grove).
Midtown: 13 Celcius (at Anita & Caroline) for a low-key wine bar walking distance from the rail. they also serve panini and meat/cheese plates. you will know you're close when you smell sweetness in the air from the (i think) fortune cookie factory next door. Open city (southern continental, good sangria and view of the downtown skyline from terrace, a bit of a walk from rail
)i second the other recommendations: Reef, T'afia, Breakfast Klub. (thelma's might be a disconcerting walk as a lot of the area around looks abandoned)
i second emdeef's rec for reef, catalan, and ibiza. reef and ibiza are accessible by the light rail. catalan will be a $10 cab ride. all their wine lists are amazing, prices are even more amazing.
tafia and breakfast klub are also wonderful experiences and easy accessible via the light rail. tafia emphasizes local, organic ingredients. it's the closest we come to california cuisine. dorothy and i were there last week and did the tasting menu. when we walked out, my brother and his gf were outside on their patio eating for free! they have a great happy hour on tue - thu where you order a drink and you get free apps off their lounge menu. what a deal!
breakfast klub is open for breakfast and lunch only. i think they close around 2 or 3. get the catfish and grits or wings and waffles -- a great soulful breakfast. i think they are closed on sundays.
i'm also going to throw in brennan's if you haven't been to one of their restaurants in new orleans and money is no object. brunch here is also a great option. short cab ride.
lastly, a new restaurant called voice just opened in the hotel icon. think fancy, chic, expensive. the reviews so far are amazing -- a local food blogger with cred compared the food to the french laundry. depending on where you are staying, you may be able to walk here from your hotel. this place is at the top of my list of restaurants to try.