Houston (around Rice U)- need BBQ and more
We are coming to Houston (our first time) to do some college stuff with our very good friends who have a daughter at Rice. Our friends want some great BBQ but I really don't want to drive over to the Hill Country myself. Also anything that is quintessentially "Houston" or otherwise unique, including great Mexican (heard something about Irma's?), new American regional cooking, really anything good at any price and not afraid to travel (just not looking for a 5 hour roundtrip). Thanks.
For BBQ, try Papa's - not so close to Rice (615/Kirby/Buffalo Spwy) , but good ribs.
You gotta try the Original Carrabba's, NOT the chain but the original that is still run by the family - on Kirby just north of 59, gulf coast italian cuisine. Mexican - Hugo's on Westheimer, not typical tex-mex, just great mex.
Luling Market on Richmond Ave near Galleria is best close option for bbq.
Quintessential Texas is Armadillo Palace or Goode Co hamburger and taquaria. Not best food but not bad either.
Tampico Seafood on Airline is awesome. Its near the Heights but worth the drive, maybe 15 minutes. The whole grilled snapper is what you get.
Some really good choices near rice u would be Cafe Rebelais for french, Istanbul for Turkish, smashburger for a burger.
The closest place to Rice for BBQ is Goode Company. We love it--been eating there ever since it opened--and it's the first place my kids want to go when they're in town. We love their rice.
My favorite Mexican is Pico's. The kids all like El Tiempo, which is also good. Teotihuacan is great, but might be a little out of your way. I think Irma's is way overrated. It was fabulous 15 years ago, but in recent years, the prices have doubled but not the quality. Hugo's is upscale Mexican, and very good. Another favorite Mexican/Central American close to Rice is Seco's, which has a great Sunday brunch. (The atmosphere is not all that great, but the food is.) I also love Red Onion, which is on Kirby not far from Rice.
Other favorites: Nidda Thai, Shade, Cafe Rabelais, Benjy's. Raven, Mockingbird.
Houston has tons of good restaurants. It is also such an ethnically diverse city that it's hard for me to come up with something that is quintessentially "Houston."
Check out www.b4-u-eat.com for reviews. Put in 77005 or "West University" or "Rice" to see places nearby.
Maryann, can't agree on Goode Co. unless you want Texas kitsch, the bbq doesn't hold up. You mentioned the rice, what about the meat, way too dried out. I second Luling City Market as long as you don't go for dinner. Get there early, as in 11 am for the best bbq. I love Pico's, but not for Tex-Mex, the fajitas are pedestrian, try the chilorio, camarones al ajillo, or some of the Yucatan dishes. In my opinion, the margaritas are the best in the city, try the straight up with your favorite tequila. El Tiempo is also excellent, try sharing, the entrees are huge, think three entrees for four people. The margaritas can be very good, but tell them to lighten up on the sweet and sour. If you want griilled meat, they are unparalled, and the crab enchilads, in a light cream sauce, are incredible. No fake crab here, just sweet, delicious blue crab. I would not bother with Irma's, I went there exactly once, and was unimpressed to say the least.
re: James Cristinian
I, too, would steer you away from Goode Co. I can't help but notice that every time someone recommends it, what they talk about being good are the sides: rice, bread, pecan pie, etc. I agree that the BBQ meat itself is not worth recommending. I haven't been to the Luling City Market (the one in Houston, I mean - been to the "real" one many times), but it's got to be better than Goode Co.
Also, you said "anything good at any price." I've just moved here and haven't tried any of the high-end places, so maybe others can offer opinions as to what's good and what's not, but Houston certainly has its list of famous upscale eateries. The best-known of these is Cafe Annie, but I've also heard good things about the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel, and Reef. Houstonians, where would you go for a really special meal if cost were not an issue?
Two of my favorite high end special meal restaurants are Da Marco's and Charivari. There are many others that I would like to try (Mark's, Cafe Annie's, Hugo's and more) but I haven't yet. Catalan is an exceptional one that won't break the bank, but the food is good enough that you will feel like it should have. I stick to the small plates.