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Houston- Coming down from NYC. Your advice please!

p
plumtart Dec 11, 2008 01:34 PM

Coming down from NY for the Holidays and having never spent any real time in Houston I need your help in finding favorite spots. I tend to like very wellmade food but I'm not so into "sceney" spots. That said, if they have great food and it happens to be hip all the better.

I would love some recs (west of downtown if possible, but willing to roam) for the following:

Good tacos particularly with great chorizo,
yummy breakfast (either brunch style or just great pastries),
strong delicious margaritas,
best burger,
easygoing/young peoples restaurant serving locally raised foods
organic friendly eateries or markets
somewhere to get smoothies!

lastly is there a farmers market or culinary hot spot neighborhood worth visiting?

Really appreciate your help on all fronts!
Thank you
Plum

  1. j
    jeisenhardt Dec 28, 2008 02:59 PM

    So sorry for the late reply ... I hope you're still here! My blog is http://foodiehouston.blogspot.com.

    Tacos - love Tecate on Ella (awesome, inexpensive Mexican breakfast of all kinds).
    Also love Hugo's.

    Best Burger - I love Cahill's on Durham and Dry Creek Cafe on Yale

    Easygoing/Young/Local - T'afia, Shade, Bedford, Catalan, Ibiza (and yes, Max's Wine Dive is quite fun and has amazing "gourmet" fried chicken!). There is a wonderful farmer's market in midtown every Saturday at T'afia (www.tafia.com).

    Gelato Blu on Memorial has absolutely incredible gelato and wonderful smoothies.

    Hope you have a car and can travel inside the loop because that's where all the good food is! :) J

    1. c
      chartreuxmom Dec 24, 2008 11:11 AM

      Sorry if this is too late for your travel plans, but not too far away from Beltway/I-10 is a restaurant called "Otilias". They serve very good Mexican food (not tex-mex). It's located at 7710 Long Point Rd. I would say it's about halfway in between "the Heights" and Beltway/I-10. And, I would call it a "transition" neighborhood. Catalan, located in the Heights, is also wonderful.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chartreuxmom
        j
        James Cristinian Dec 24, 2008 12:30 PM

        I was at Otillia's one day and I overheard a woman on a cell phone telling a friend she was eating "in the hood". I wouldn't exactly call Long Point "the hood", I think transition explains it nicely. I guess going to Long Point was a big adventure. I love their salsa and their chile rellenos.

      2. j
        James Cristinian Dec 21, 2008 06:08 PM

        To address some of your needs: The best margarita I have ever had, outside of Mexico, is at Pico's on Bellaire Boulevard. (I would say Ninfa's Navigation but they have drasitcally cut back the tequila.) They are strong and not sweet like the usual nonsense served at most places, order straight up, it comes in a small shaker. They have queso flameado con chorizo, as jscarbor, it is relative, not my favorite but quite decent. I like two other appetizers, chilorio, and camarones al ajillo. Stay away from Tex-Mex and order off the Yucatan inspired menu. If you are in The Heights area, El Tiempo on Washington is outstanding. Order your margaritas no tan dulce, not so sweet, and they are quite potent.

        1. l
          lilvnhang Dec 12, 2008 03:06 PM

          If you're close to the heights, i suggest the following places on Washington

          For Tacos/Mexican food I suggest:
          El Tiempo - Good scene and really good, tender fajitas. A little pricey but well worth it.
          Laredo's - I think the sign got blown away during the storm but it's pink so you can't miss it if you're going east on Washington from the Westcott roundabout. Their tacos are super cheap and as I hear, it's as close as you can get to Authentic Mexican tacos. The locals are mostly hispanic and sometimes there is a line outside the door so that's a good sign as to how they taste.
          El Rey - Corner of Washington & Shepherd (it's blue) has some pretty cheap, good tacos as well and it's nice and quick.

          Breakfast
          Empire Cafe - Off of westheimer, REALLY good sunday brunch. everything is good
          Breakfast Klub - in downtown. Southern cooking, their chicken wings are to die for. I think it comes with waffles
          The Daily Grind off of Washington has fantastic jalapeno cheese grits. They are so good and not really that spicy

          Strong Margaritas - El Patio has some reallllly strong Blue Margaritas...They have two locations, one in midtown i think that opened this year and one on westheimer (outside the loop)

          Best burger - Christian's tailgate is pretty good and close to the heights.
          If you venture out to the galleria area there is Pappa Burger and my favorite hole in the wall Bubba Burger on sage and westpark tollway. It is pretty much a shack under the freeway but oh my, their buffalo burger is the best thing i've ever tasted.

          Organic markets:
          Central Market & whole foods.

          Yogurt like pinkberry:
          Swirll on westgray in the kroger complex. It's cheap, healthy and really good

          hot spots:
          Down washington you will find many places to go. Some cool places to go are Catalan, Soma Sushi, Star Pizza. Pearl Bar is a cool place to go afterwards. Its great for people watching and has a nice patio.

          Midtown - has so many resturants and bars.

          10 Replies
          1. re: lilvnhang
            p
            Pirate Paul Dec 20, 2008 03:40 PM

            Best old world traditional Mexican: Felix, 901 Westheimer (chile relleno and queso).
            Best fajitas: Pappasitos.
            Best Greek: Niko Niko, not far west of Felix, on Montrose.
            Best Cajun: Ragin' Cajun, Zydeco.
            Still a damned good steak: Steak and Ale.
            Chicken fried: Kelley's.
            Good burger: Fuddruckers.
            Seafood: Baytown Seafood.
            Best pubs: The Flying Saucer, Two Rows, BJ's

            1. re: Pirate Paul
              danhole Dec 21, 2008 08:26 AM

              All the Steak 'n Ale's shut down a few months back.

              1. re: danhole
                j
                James Cristinian Dec 21, 2008 10:45 AM

                Felix also bit the dust, an old dog that had to be put down.

                1. re: James Cristinian
                  v
                  vwgto Dec 21, 2008 03:52 PM

                  Can't miss with any of the Goode Company spots off Kirby around Hwy 59. For breakfast, Baby Barnaby. Breakfast Klub is so/so.

                  1. re: James Cristinian
                    danhole Dec 22, 2008 10:14 AM

                    Forgot about that one! Good catch!

                    1. re: James Cristinian
                      p
                      Pirate Paul Dec 22, 2008 01:40 PM

                      Warning: Nostalgia Alert.
                      First the original Ninfa's, and now Felix and Steak & Ale are gone too?
                      Anybody remember Sonny Look's, Railhead, Victoria Station, Bonanza and Sizzler, Night Hawk, Mason Jar, Jalapeno Tree, Steak N Shake, Pig Stands, Furr's and Wyatt's, Chico's, Monterrey House, Pancho's, Shakeys Pizza Parlors, H. Salt Esquire and...?
                      Then there was Marie Callendar and Tony Roma, who snuck into Houston while I was in LA, and then went out the back way as soon as I came back. Hmmmf!
                      Why not just shoot me now?

                      1. re: Pirate Paul
                        j
                        James Cristinian Dec 22, 2008 02:47 PM

                        You forgot Alfie's Fish and Chips, although there is still one in Texas City, it didn't compare to the original. I was a Sizzler guy over Bonanza, Sizzler is back I saw it on b4ueat, but to mixed reviews. How about Angelo's Fisherman's Wharf, all you can eat boiled shrimp and raw oysters in winter, plus their incrdible oysters rockefeller, and fried shrimp and a pretty good fried chicken. Mason Jar is still open, I ate there last Thursday.

                        1. re: James Cristinian
                          danhole Dec 23, 2008 06:35 AM

                          Pancho's Mexican Buffet is still around. Marie Callendars was just too California for Texas, or that's what they said (my daughter worked there.) The original Ninfa's is still there on Navigation, also, but Ninfa herself sold it. She is involved with her grandson's business, El Tiempo, and you can see her there from time to time. I do miss all the great cafeteria's that Paul mentioned as well as Piccadilly. I also miss Hamburgers by Gourmet, and Trader Vic's. On the other hand there are TONS of new ones! Some really good, some not so much.

                          1. re: danhole
                            j
                            James Cristinian Dec 23, 2008 01:17 PM

                            Dani, Pirate Paul, and myself included, I think our collective memories are gettimg a bit fuzzy. Ninfa passed away in 2001, however, her portrait is behind the cash register at the Washington Avenue location. I was there today, and one of her sons was talking to some of the staff. Hamburgers By Gourmet, I hadn't thought of them in years. I worked a retail location near the on one the Katy Freeway, when I'd go to lunch people would ask where I was going, and I told them Gourmet, they'd roll their eyes and say never mind. They couldn't comprehend the fact that I was willing to pay an extra buck fifty or two for a burger chargrilled to order with real cheddar and real, not frozen fries. They only wanted the slop served by the burger three headed monster of McDonalds and..... never mind. I always hated getting food for other people. I liked to eat in my car and listen to the radio, if I had to get food for someone else, I felt rushed as I didn't want to bring them cold food. Gourmet always insured me of a relaxed lunch, plus it was so much better. I do miss them.

                            1. re: James Cristinian
                              danhole Dec 24, 2008 07:39 AM

                              Oops! Well I knew she hung out at the Washington location. LOL! I had a girlfriend that worked at Hamburgers by Gourmet, and she would treat me after school to a chili burger! I weighed more back then than I do now, but it was so good. When they closed down, I think that was the beginning of my quest for a perfect cheeseburger in Houston.

              2. m
                montroseguys23 Dec 12, 2008 09:42 AM

                I would second the nomination of the Tacambaro truck (literally a truck) behind the Canino's Market. In fact, you could get a Houston taste of three things on your list, on Airline, just south of loop 610.

                Go to El Bolillo for pastries, empananas and 100 other kinds of breads
                Walk across the street to the Canino's market (go toward the back for the more interesting stuff) after browsing, find the Tacambaro (red) taco truck for the Mojella tacos...

                For a relaxed but nicer meal: I'd suggest Hugo's for authentic Mexican cuisine, or Glass Wall

                1. m
                  mgovshteyn Dec 11, 2008 08:08 PM

                  Here's what I would do:

                  1. La Mexicana on Fairview has particularly good tacos (the rest of the food is bleh). Try the chicharrones/eggs, chorizo/eggs and barbacoa specifically. Guadajara Bakery is another great choice and a very unique experience. There are a number of blog posts about both if you search.

                  2. If you really want to get something special, head for the farmers market on Airline and go to the Tacambaro taco truck. You'll have to eat standing up, but the sweetbreads (called mollejas) are better than any French preparation I have ever come across.

                  3. Best Mexican breakfast in town may be at Gorditas Aguascalientes. Clientele is almost 100% Hispanic. Maybe the best chilaquiles in town.

                  4. Breakfast Klub has great Southern dishes you are unlikely to find well executed in NY. If you want to go Southern but more upscale, try Ouisie's Table. Both are great for people watching.

                  5. Don't leave town without doing a Tex-Mex tour. I'd recommend Ninfa's on Navigation, Lupe Tortillas, El Tiempo and maybe Chuys just to get all the bases covered.

                  Stay away from sushi or Japanese in general. You can do much better in NYC. Seafood and cajun/creole is a much better bet, especially if you stick to Gulf coast specialties. Vietnamese restaurants in Houston are some of the best in the country. Houston Press has a good number of reviews as do the local food blogs. Go check out the massive Asian grocery stores while you are at it.

                  If you want to go upscale I would head for Textile and beg for a dessert tasting. If you have never been able to score a reservation at Momofuku Ko, I would go to the Rainbow Lodge. Randy Rucker has a style similar to David Chang and would be my personal pick out of the two.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mgovshteyn
                    m
                    mgovshteyn Dec 11, 2008 08:10 PM

                    Oh, go to Tornado Burger if you want to try something really unique and try the spicy burger. Only in Texas.

                    1. re: mgovshteyn
                      p
                      plumtart Dec 12, 2008 07:20 AM

                      You are a DREAM.

                      Sweetbread tacos: please.
                      Southern breakfast: pretty please.
                      Dessert tasting: please and thank you.
                      And Rainbow Lodge? well lets keep our fingers crossed I'll have the spare change to swing it after all my earlier eatings.... I am really hoping so!

                      Love all the recs and so excited to try!

                    2. j
                      jscarbor Dec 11, 2008 07:09 PM

                      Good tacos is easy, great chorizo is relative. The breakfast tacos at Villa Arcos are awesome. I would go with a chorizo super if I were you. Im not a fan of the barbacoa.
                      I have renently been eating at Sunrise tacos on Memorial next to a shell gas station. The barbacoa is very good as is the machacado taco(Dried Beef) and the migas taco.
                      Breakfast Klub is good southern style joint in midtown.
                      For burger and very good breakfast as well Lankfords on dennis is great.
                      Easy going and local? Tafia...not my favorite though. Maybe gravitas or glass wall?

                      1. m
                        maryanntex Dec 11, 2008 05:35 PM

                        Where are you going to be staying? "West of downtown" goes on for miles and miles.

                        My favorite places for breakfast:
                        Empire Cafe
                        Goode Company Mexican
                        Buffalo Grille
                        Seco's
                        Brasil

                        My favorite margaritas--and favorite Mexican food:
                        Pico's
                        Cafe Red Onion is also really good.

                        I love Nidda for Thai.

                        We always go to Smoothie Island on Woodway for smoothies, but I don't know that they're worth going out of your way for.

                        Why don't you check these and other places out on www.b4-u-eat.com and post again if you have questions.

                        I never hear about locally grown foods that much. Also not sure what you mean by young people's restaurant. Maybe someone else can help you with that. Max's Wine Dive is popular with young people and serves really good bar food, but I wouldn't really characterize it as a restaurant.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: maryanntex
                          p
                          plumtart Dec 12, 2008 07:15 AM

                          I think the closest major intersection is I-10 and beltway 8. I've also been told that we're near the heights.

                          I don't really have any idea what that means but it's all I've got!

                          Thanks for the thoughts. I feel like the wine bar could be great, with all the holiday eating a few small plates will be be a welcome change :)

                          1. re: plumtart
                            danhole Dec 12, 2008 08:36 AM

                            For a young scene, great wine selection and small plates check out Catalan on Washington Ave. in the Heights. Local food, very innovative, and delicious. Can get very loud the later you go, though. Also Beaver's on Sawyer off of Washington. Local foods, smokehouse, interesting drink selection and good food. Very hip, but not "sceney."

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