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Houston for two days - What should I not miss?

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I’ll be in Houston for the first time this Sunday – Tuesday for business and working/staying downtown (near Texas Ave/Main St). I’m looking for something good. I’m open for anything but would prefer to stay away from steak as I’m from the Texas of Canada (Alberta) where we ate a lot of excellent steak often. I’d also mention that I’m not looking for anything terribly expensive ($40 under for main) or formal but preferably with a good wine list. I really appreciate any advice! Thanks.

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  1. I am so jealous! I want to go back to Houston just to eat at Mark's. I had one meal there a few years ago and it remains the standard for food and service by which I judge all other restaurants. It was fabulous. The service was attentive without being fussy or intrusive - completely top-notch. The food? Oh, the food.... I just went and looked and I'd written a friend about the experience. Here's (edited slightly) what I wrote:

    Cocktail. One of the best martinis I've ever had. Ever.

    1st Course - Caramelized Texas Sweet Onion Chowder with Crabmeat and Rock Shrimp. It was absolutely delicious and I had a lovely glass of Gruner Veltliner with it. My date had the Roasted Corn Chowder with Smoked Applewood Bacon, Potatoes and Thyme. This was magnificent. I have the recipe and will be making this.

    2nd Course - Autumn Heirloom Lettuce with Gala Apple, Comice Pear, Pecorino Pepato Cheese, Roasted Almonds and a Champagne Tangerine Vinaigrette. This was fantastic. The dressing was perfect. Not heavy but the perfect match for the salad. Date had the Mark's Caesar Salad with Hearts of Romaine, California Endive, Bacon Lardons, and Sonoma Valley Aged Jack Cheese. Very good.

    Entree - Study of Kurobuta Pork featuring Bacon Crusted Roasted Loin, Five Hour Boneless Spare Rib and Fresh Bacon served wtih a Gratin of Sweet Potatoes, Apple Jam and a Natural Sauce. There was also a patty of some sort of ground pork. I don't know where that fits in the description but it was delicious. The entree was excellent. I had a glass of the Starry Night Lodi Zinfandel and it was perfect with it. My date had Seared Tenderloin of Beef with Grilled Portabellini Mushrooms and Chantilly Potatoes. Wow.

    Dessert - I had the Chocolate Hazelnut Torte served with a White Chocolate Coconut Cream and a Frangelico Sauce (and I had a snifter of Frangelico and coffee, too). Party on my tongue. Heaven. My date had the Banana & Roasted Pineapple Split Macadamia Brittle and Coconut Ice Cream, Glazed Marshmallow and a Pina Colada Sauce. ~drool~

    Around the table we also tried a raspberry dessert that was fantastic but I don't have a description of it. Food and drink were shared and tasted all around and it was all superb.

    Heck... it's only a day's drive from here. I think I might have to make a road trip.

    I don't know if you can tell but I really liked this place. ;-)

    Here's the link:
    http://www.marks1658.com

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

      Wow,, how do u top the above!! In that $40 range and near-by you stay,, go to Irma's Southwestern Grill on Texas Ave, during the lunch hour (closed for dinner unless when the Astro's are playing-best to call ahead for dinner). Irma's serves up terrific Tex/Mex..
      In Mid-Town,, ck out Reef restaurant for seafood.. The chef has been written up as one of the best chef's in the country. Wonderful wine selection. Sunday night (closed on Monday) head to Dolce Vita (lower Westheimer) for authentic Italian pizza and/or pasta dishes. Or directly next door,,, Indika's,, one of the best Indian restaurants in the city.. Nice affordable wine list at both.. Enjoy your stay!

      1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

        Here are some cheaper places not to miss- but require a car:
        Thelma's BBQ (very close to downtown). Vieng Thai (best Thai I've had anywhere in this country). For great inexpensive mexican breakfast, Teotihuacan.

        Definitely don't miss Hugo's

        1. re: gromada

          Thelma's moved this spring after the fire at the place on Live Oak. She is now at Scott and Southmore. Same food, staff, and unique "atmosphere".

        2. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

          Although I agree with a fabulous meal at Mark's, I can assure you that you will pay upwards of $40 for the menu quoted above.

          1. re: stwilhelm

            The menu above was, indeed, more than $40 but most of the mains are under $40.

            This thread has ruined me. I keep thinking about how I need to get back to Houston so I can go to Mark's. I love the other recommendations, too. Who thought Houston would be a desired vacation location.

            ~drooling~

        3. Hugo's. Fabulous interior-Mexico cuisine. You can't get anything like it in Alberta, for sure. In fact, it's hard to find anything like it anywhere outside of Mexico City.

          Depending upon what time on Sunday you arrive in Houston, you should try to go to Hugo's Sunday Brunch. Revelatory.

          1. Catalan on Washington, and get the pork belly. Along with Reef, it has the best priced wine list in town.

            1. I would suggest Hugo's and a cocktail before or after at Anvil Bar & Refuge (classic cocktails/craft brews) two blocks away...a good way to hit two great Houston places on one night.

              Beyond Hugo's, Mark's and Mockingbird Bistro are both great, but similar in their "finer dining" atmosphere. Feast is a bit more edgy, with more European-hearty fare. Hugo's and Feast are both open Sunday and Monday. Some places may not be open those nights.

              Let us know where you go.

              2 Replies
              1. re: montroseguys23

                My colleague and I had amazing food enlightening experiences at Hugo's and Reef.
                Hugo's was truly the best Mexican I have ever eaten - including places I had been in Mexico. We ordered about 5 small dishes and shared. My favourite were the chicken tacos which I think I could eat every day. We both over ate in a good way…
                Reef was excellent - food, atmosphere, wine.... The wine list was difficult to choose or even narrow it down to a few. I couldn't take my eyes off the wall of wine – very impressive. I had the crispy snapper with chard and it was delicious! The snapper was perfectly cooked and the chard was so flavourful. I’ve already begun trying to recreate the chard… but sadly unsuccessfully.
                I’ll definitely be back to both restaurants and try out the rest from the list I’m in town next. Thank you for the excellent recommendations.

                1. re: katericht

                  Thanks for getting back with us. I'm particularly pleased you enjoyed Hugo's. I've never tried the chicken tacos - a situation I plan to remedy the next time I'm there.

              2. i love to take people from out of town to tony mandola's on west gray, which is just a short cab ride away from downtown if you don't have a car. the food and service are both great there, and to me it feels like a real neighborhood place (even if that neighborhood is river oaks!) i am not a fan of irma's--i think it is over-priced and not that good, but tex/mex can be an intensely personal thing!

                1 Reply
                1. re: carriebwc

                  Agree: De Marco's, Mark's, Reef, Feast, Hugos

                2. I would also recommend the Glass Wall in the Heights if you want to get out of downtown. Casual, creative - local, seasonal menu in a fun neighborhood.