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coming to houston and need recs!!

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hi! philly hound will be in houston for a conference (wednesday - sunday) and need a few good recommendations. i found an old thread about tex-mex, so i am covered there (and can't wait for some pecan pralines!!), but what other hidden gems are there in houston? i am not interested in barbecue joints, but in any other random good eats, whether they are pakistani, thai, polish, american, seafood, whatever! i eat everything except for brain, eyes and tripe and i want to see what houston has to offer. i'll be staying in the museum district so please keep recommendations semi-local (within 8-10 miles and taxi-accessible is good).

and i am definitely planning on going to house of pies on kirby street at least once. yay!

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  1. Brasserie Max & Julie is on Montrose south of Richmond Ave (near museums)-- a fairly authentic French place, excelled steak au poivre, casual but prices aren't cheap (the wine is a great bargain for the high quality)

    Danton's is very authentic Texas and Louisiana seafood, fried, grilled; also very fresh oysters, a couple blocks further south on Montrose past Richmond and past the freeway

    a little cajun place, mostly gumbo and shrimp poboys called BBs just north of Westheimer on Montrose -- for lunch or late night

    a big cajun place called Ragin Cajun on Richmond near the 610 Loop

    Hue is an upscale, slightly Americanized Vietnamese place on Kirby and Richmond

    Breakfast Klub is on Travis and Alabama, on the south side of midtown, a bit east of Montrose -- waffles & wings, other Southern/Soul classics

    almost all agree that the best 4 star restaurant is Da Marco on Westheimer west of Montrose, Italian, very pricey

    Da Marco also owns a much cheaper pizza joint on (lower) Westheimer several blocks east of Montrose, called Dolce Vita

    5 Replies
    1. re: clutj

      Dolce Vita is close to the museum district and has authentic Italian food, great atmosphere, and the best pizza in Houston. I would also agree with Brasserie Max & Julie, or you can try it's little sister restaurant owned by the same people, Bistro Rabelais in The Village.

      For a splurge, especially if company pays, Da Marco owned by the same people of Dolce Vita is very also very nice.

      For a trendy place, with good food and atmosphere, Reef or Tafia in midtown are good.

      1. re: Sebskal

        i've heard that tafia is good from a houstonian too, but i always trust chowhounds. :) and i will probably try to swing da marco (work pays a per diem, so a small breakfast and lunch it is!), or at least dolce vita more than once. :)

      2. re: clutj

        thanks! everything looks great. i guess philly has gotten more expensive, none of those menus looked pricey at all (some individual dishes did). i am definitely interested in Danton's. YUM!

        1. re: mazza3

          I would recommend both Reef and T'afia as mentioned above. Reef has amazing seafood and an oustanding/well-priced wine list. T'afia has amazing cocktails. I like both Da Marco and Dolce Vita but you can eat as well if not better at Vetri's/Osteria in Philly. Indika is unique contemporary Indian restaurant that may be worth checking out. If you are into wine at all, I would recommend Ibiza in midtown.

          I would also suggest having some Vietnamese while in town. Houston's midtown (while maybe not the best Vietnamese in the city) is still unlike most any other city in the US. For bahn mi, check out Cali sandwiches or even Givral's. Pho is pretty good at Van Loc.

          1. re: Bhutani

            vetri and osteria = heaven on earth. i rarely eat italian when i travel (a) i am italian and b) philly has great italian food), but i saw artichokes alla giuda on the menu and got weak. hehe. we have great indian here too. t'afia is on my definite list now too and any place that serves good pho or bahn mi is always worth checking out! same with a wine-happy place (ibiza).

            clutj - hue is on my list too. :) it is right around the corner from a girlfriend's house, so perfect! thank you all for the recs! i am so much more excited for my next five days of meals than i am for the conference. who wouldn't be though?? and danton's is one of those out-of-towner must eat like a local kind of cravings. you do not get good gumbo up here (crawfish, good luck finding one). i need to scratch that itch. i like divey and classy, as long as the food is good.

      3. Reef that some people recommend is very nice. It is more upscale (a "cool" place, but not elegant) and more pan seared kind of treatments. Danton's is more downhome, fried seafood or grilled over wood; nice enough decor, but it is a dark wood, somewhat timeworn decor, old fishing photos place -- not a dive but not the upscale Reef. Ragin Cajun is closer to a dive; also fried seafood and boiled crawfish; long communal tables, stuff stapled and tacked and pasted all over the walls, beer signs...

        The Vietnamese places mentioned are more dive-like than the upscale Hue I recommended. I like those dives as well; more authentic than Hue. You can't go wrong with either type (or with the various seafood places), but I wanted to clarify so that you can decide what you are looking for.

        4 Replies
        1. re: clutj

          I just called Ragin Cajun and the do not have crawfish. This is probably a good thing as it is not crawfish season until after the New Year at the very least. I had some crawfish there a few years ago about this time of year, they were supposed to be from California, and the taste was described as very clean. Needless to say, they were terrible.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            good point; I forgot the crawfish season

            1. re: clutj

              now that definitely goes above and beyond the call of duty....thank you james! unfortunately i did not get to have any cajun food, the one day where i had penciled in it my dining companions had cajun for lunch. BOO! but...i did enjoy all other recs but one:

              cafe red onion, went on my first night and LOVED IT! so good and the waitstaff was great.

              la dolce vita, went my second night and it was definitely good. a friend and i had salads and split a clam pizza and it was definitely satisfying. the only funny thing about this place was that a waiter filled up my cocktail with iced tea by mistake (it was served in a highball glass and was tannish in color (i ordered the negroni with the prosecco instead of gin, yummy!), but it was fine.

              third night was t'afia and t'afia = boo! the food here was not good at all and the waiter was smug. two bad points in anyone's book. mac and cheese = farfalle in a cream sauce and crispy chicken = soggy chicken. add all that to the fact that my greens were very sandy and my scallops were very mediocre and you have a disgruntled diner.

              last night there went to el tiempo on kirby i think (maybe richmond) and my meal was awesome. the sides were meh but i ordered the beef tenderloin fajitas and they were insanely tasty. the chili con queso was also delicious and i have some pralines tucked in my purse back in philly now. :)

              and finally, the house of pies.....heaven on earth. a friend recommended this place and i went three times in five days (twice for dessert, once for breakfast/brunch). so good! i tasted six different pies i think? hehe. my favorites were the strawberry rhubarb and the pecan. ooh, and the buttermilk. YUM! this is the place (actually, and cafe red onion too) that i will have to revisit if i ever come back to houston.

              thank you everyone for the advice! i had a great eating-portion of the trip. :)

              1. re: mazza3

                Thanks for reposting back. Sorry about T'afia, but I didn't recommend it. I have never eaten there because it seems to always be on the "must try" list but I never hear anything good about it. There are a few things that I have heard are good, but not enough.

                Now you have eaten at 3 of my personal favorites, and there are a lot of conflicting opinions about 2 of them. Cafe Red Onion is one that I love (the one on NW Fwy) but lots of people seem to put it down. Every time I go I have something different and have enjoyed all of it. Also El tiempo is one of our favorites (on Washington Ave.) Those fajitas and the quail are so delicious. The House of Pies is a favorite from way back. When I was a teenager, a long time ago, my dad and I would sneak away and have coffee and coconut cream pie whenever we could. It;s good anytime day or night. Great people watching place, too.

        2. The Blue Nile on Richmond Ave. I've been there a few times. Friendly service. Tastey food. It's Ethiopian cuisine with a great tasting flat bread used as your utensil since they you'll have none. Cuisine is family style and comes out in a platter. Very tastey!

          1. You should check out Feast on Westheimer. It is a very good restaurant with European fare, and close to Da Marco's. The menu changes but they have some things that stay the same. It is a must try. Hue has been getting some mixed reviews lately, but as I have not gone, I can't say anything.

            1. raven grill on bissonnet isnt far at all from where you are staying, a nice hidden restaurant thats excellent.

              if you like pakistani, you cant go wrong with himalaya on 59 and hillcroft. its a 5-6 mile taxi ride, but worth it.

              youre from philly, so theres a good chance you like big nasty sandwiches. go to tortas el angel on shepherd in the heights and try a tex-mex sandwich.

              i would stay away from house of pies. no reason at all to go there, even in the middle of the night. despite the name, their pies are rank.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bpdhlbrg

                Too late - this ship has sailed! Read upthread about where she ate and what she liked. House of Pies was one of her favorites.

                1. re: danhole

                  then im glad she didnt take my advice. to each his own.