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Jan 11, 2010 01:55 PM

Restaurants/BBQ near Houston Galleria - advice needed

Will be staying at the JW Marriott (Galleria) for an upcoming meeting and would greatly appreciate advice on decent places to eat. Would prefer local food, love bar-b-que, don't mind fancy but dives OK too. Would prefer places I can walk rather than cabbing.

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  1. There are two restaurants in the same parking lot on Richmond just inside the I-610 loop. Luling City Market has central Texas style bbq, not as good, but quite respectable on a good day. All Texas bbq varies from day to day, but go early for the best. Bayou City Seafood is very good. You might be lucky and get some crawfish, although it is early in the season and they are usually small. Texas bay oysters are at their peak now, especially with the cold weather we've had. I like the large, fat, salty ones.

    9 Replies
    1. re: James Cristinian

      Thanks James. Luling City Market looks great. Will also check out Bayou City. May also check out one of the steakhouses. There seem to be a lot of them around!

      1. re: James Cristinian

        As I recall from an earlier CH post ... the "Luling City Market" in Houston has NO RELATION to the Actual BBQ in Luling, TX ... they have appropriated the name in an attempt to benefit from the reputation of the separate Luling business. Their website effectively says so: "Luling City Market was founded in 1981 in Houston Texas in an attempt to bring the distinct Central Texas barbeque style to the city. "

        Folks who have been to both have been very disappointed by the Houston copycats. And ... FWIW ... I have friends in Luling who don't even go to the actual market in Luling ... they drive to Lockhart. So ... the Houston "Luling" City Market is a bad copy of 2nd rate BBQ. And, frankly, I don't like the low ethics of trying to profit on the good reputation of another business. Before I knew better, I let a friend drag me there & ... frankly ... Bill Miller's was better ... and that's the worst BBQ insult I have.
        But, as I've said before, there is a lot of disagreement over good BBQ in TX. And if the Houston copycats taste good to you ... then go for it (& take your prilosec).

        Rather than get bad BBQ, I'd rather go to Fadi's ... but that's not BBQ at all.
        8383 Westheimer #112 @ Dunvale (W of Galleria) 713-532-0666
        At very least, try their Zataar Pita ... after having it there, I've figured out how to get my Zataar fix at home. I can't say it's in walking distance ... pull up mapquest.

        For the closest "dive" I'd recommend Bubba's Texas Burger Shack 713-661-1622
        5230 Westpark (@IH-59 S @ Westpark Curve on Northbound Feeder
        )M-Sa 11-22, Su 0930-20 (when I was last there)
        Somebody else's review stated:
        "Every product sold represents some culinary road less traveled. There are buffalo burgers, Zapp's potato chips & hard-to-find Trappey's Chef-Magic jalapeƱo hot sauce. There's good ole Shiner Bock. Then there's Jones Sodas. There are Bubba's employees. "One time when I was eating at Bubba's, the guy who was working there pulled out a guitar, sat down at our table & started singing Willie Nelson songs." Too bad Corvette no longer works/hangs out there :-)
        It's your call ... you'd have to taxi there. But I only get my Bison patties there ... can't find better in TX (yet).

        There is SO MUCH excellent food in Houston, to limit yourself to "BBQ" ... and bad BBQ at that, would be a travesty. There's a big asian community down in the Bellaire Blvd/Loop 8 area ... and just E of the George R Brown Convention Center, There a marvelous Sicilian place just W of the Med Center on Bellaire/Holcombe. Then there's KL House just W of Sharpstown Mall on Bellaire (I think) ... KL = Kuala Lumpur
        When's the last time you had down home Kuala Lumpur food like momma used to make?

        Name an ethnicity of food (except Russian!) and Houston can probably accommodate you (needless to say, I haven't had great luck w/ Russian restaurants but haven't tried 'em all either


        Hope you find some great food (wherever you decide to go) & enjoy your visit.

        1. re: EdLagniappe

          I don't know where you got that I said they were related. As for bad bbq, that is a matter of opinion. The original post stated bbq near the Galleria, and that is the best around. A Houston Chowhound bbq smackdown organized by Jenny Wang found Luling City Market's ribs #1 over Burns, Pierson's, the Swinging Door, Kozy Kitchen, and Goode Company, which, by the way I dislike intensely. In her research she found Luling's ribs gorgeous. You're calling City Market in Luling second rate. I think thousands will disagree with you, I've been to Luling and Lockhart, and found they vary day to day, but overall I like City Market. I assume next you will attack my opinion. I've also been to Bubba's, once, had the buffalo burger, and while it was decent, I wasn't compelled to go back. As for Zapp's chips, they're good, nothing earth shattering, and I want them I can get them at a deli on Hammerly that sells two dollar ham sandwiches, shall I send the poster, whom I believe is from San Francisco there. I believe they have some very good Asian, the Bellaire Chinatown is nowhere near the Galleria, the traffic on Bellaire is miserable. He asked about bbq, and what I've read on the California boards, anything resembling Texas bbq is is not to be found.

          1. re: James Cristinian


            In 2008 it is true that Luling City Mkt. (Houston) was #1 for ribs. In 2009 Luling was placed #5, out of 6, in brisket and ribs. The smackdown does mix it up, as far as contenders go, so the last place BBQ spots were eliminated and replaced. So, in 2009 Pierson's was #1 for brisket and #2 for ribs. Virgies was #1 for ribs and #2 for brisket. Of course none of this helps the OP, since neither is anywhere near the Galleria. I guess if you have to stick to that area, give Luling a shot. I guess it's better than nothing, and really better than Goode Co., IMO.

            1. re: danhole

              Dani, I don't go there often and haven't been in at least a year. I said it can be respectable on a good day, if anyone can come up with better bbq in the Galleria area, please post. I've seen no suggestions. Again, he's from San Francisco, and unless they're totally off their game, I think he'll like it. I went to Virgies not long ago and had brisket and ribs, and was not impressed. I will give them another shot, as well as I'm going back to Luling again soon to see if it's as terrible as everyone says it is. It's kinda like going to Galveston, ask most people what they think and all you hear about is dirty water. If you only go once a year, chances are that's what you see. I fish a lot and have literally seen crytal clear water. Makes for terrible fishing. Pierson's was wonderful when I went in the fall with a raging fever from a very nasty flu. I just had a craving and had to try it. Some people like soup and stuff when sick, I like food I don't eat much, like bbq and pizza.

          2. re: EdLagniappe

            Yes I do seem to recall that the OP asked about stuff close to the Galleria; the misleading name of the place in Houston is totally irrelevant anyway as the original owners who conned an employee of the Luling original into giving up the secret to their sauce are gone and I believe the place is now on their third set of owners who shouldn't be blamed for keeping an established name. It's not my first choice for BBQ in the city - the links in particular have been awful my last two visits - but it is close to the Galleria. I agree with James about City Mkt in Luling being second rate - that's laughable.

            You need to update your voluminous knowledge about the great eats in Houston: Kuala Lumper closed last year (as did a couple of other Malay restaurants). I imagine the OP can find Malay food in SF but if he wants to try a Houston take on it the place to go now is Banana Leaf, on the edge of the Bellaire China Town. The SIcilian place on Holcombe also closed last year.

            New York Bagel shop is undoubtedly the best bagel shop in town, possibly in the whole state or even several states, but the cafe next door, which is where the breakfasts and sandwiches are served, is above average for a neighborhood cafe but hardly destination dining.

            Bubba's was done by DD&D and Texas Burger Guy; I personally don't find bison burgers worth driving around the block for but to each his own. There are tons of places in town doing them now. If I remember correctly, Fieri went for a beef burger at Bubba's.

            There are tons of great places in Houston to recommend but the OP specifically asked for things close to the Galleria and some specific eats; there's tons more great stuff close to the Galleria to recommend, too.

            1. re: dexmat

              I absolutely agree with Ed's "disdain for the questionable ethics of a company that was trading on another company's good name" and personally, I will never, ever set foot in such a place or recommend that others do. I don't think such behavior should be rewarded.

              And you say they're on their third set of owners? Are you saying that none of that parade of owners is aware of the intentional deception? And of luring away an employee and then basically bribing him to part with trade secrets? And using that to capitalize on somebody else's imagination and skill and efforts? Because I find that impossible to believe. And if for some reason I decided to become the fourth owner, or fifth, or sixteenth, the first thing I'd do is try to come up with a name that doesn't attempt to dupe customers by stealing goodwill from somebody else that has worked generations to earn it.

              Not to mention the risk to the actual City Market in Luling when the product that the copy turns out is subpar. I have, and more than once, heard people say, "I don't think Luling City Market is all that good. I went to the one in Houston, and didn't care for it at all, so I sure wouldn't recommend that anybody drive to Luling for the same thing." I have heard that and I'm sure all of you have, too. A bad review from people that actually believe they're gone to a branch of the original. So not only are they stealing from City Market; in many instances, they're hurting them.

              And frankly, I don't think that Ed and I are the only two folks in the world with enough appreciation for integrity to find that despicable (at least I sincerely hope not) and refuse to patronize the joint because of it. Perhaps if one of these owners used enough imagination to come up with a name and identity of their own for the restaurant, they might be surprised at the resulting increase in business.

              But even if not, at least it would be theirs.

              And not a blatant cheating ripoff of somebody else's.

              1. re: Jaymes

                I agree that the weak imitation has the potential to hurt the City Market in Luling. Here's an old review from Robb Walsh that clears up some details:


                Bottom line though, the OP may just looking to experience BBQ while he/she is in Texas. I would wager a guess that he/she is willing to give it a try regardlesss of it being "bad" as Central TX style BBQ isn't something readily available within the Bay area.

                I also don't see the logic behind sending someone from SF to get Asian food in Houston - reminds me of sending a New Yorker to get Italian in San Antonio.

                1. re: air

                  Regarding "Asian food" - I agree that there's not much logic in sending someone from San Francisco to get Chinese food in Houston.

                  But our Vietnamese community is bigger than San Francisco's and, speaking as someone that visits San Francisco often, I personally think the Vietnamese food here is better and would have no hesitation in recommending it.

        2. You can get almost anything you want in the Galleria area except dives; it's a pretty pricey part of town and the main pedestrian activity is walking from one upscale retailer to another (if it's not more than 50 feet away - lol). Seriously, I agree with James on Luling, the only bbq anywhere close; by get there early he means before noon if possible I think. I've never been to Bayou City.

          Another Cajun (Cajun is 'local' in SE Texas), Big Woodrow's on Chimney Rock is a possibility. For upscale Mexican Brisa Cocina on San Felipe and for Tex-Mex Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen on Woodway. Sylvia's would be the only one you'd absolutely need a cab for. You should be able to find websites with menus for all of these. The only steak house in the area that isn't a chain I think is Pappas Brothers.

          If you're up for Jewish Kenny & Ziggy's is right across from the Galleria on Post Oak and was recently profiled on Diner's Drive-ins and Dives and is a very good deli.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dexmat

            For an authentic Bagel place & a good eggs, lox & onions breakfast, I'd recommend


            Not some chain franchise ... this is the real thing in Houston. (Not as good as Canter's in LA, but what outside of NYC is? For those who haven't been there: )

          2. Five miles west at 9705 Westheimer you will find Churrascos. This is a favorite restaurant of mine. It's a South American (not Mexican), elegant / casual style restaurant. The complimentary plantains with chimmichurri are delicious and different. The steak has always been perfectly done and delicious with different sauce / crab / mushroom options. Grilled asparagus is tender with tasty grill marks. This is where I enjoyed tres leches cake for the first time... I have yet to taste one that compares.

            1. What a thread! There are a lot of hot tempers on here. Well sfdoc, as you can see by now Texans are very passionate about their BBQ. It's a shame that you are limited to the Galleria. It has, probably, more chain restaurants than any other part of town (sans the burbs) & the places that are not chains are plagued with mediocrity. The only places I would recommend going in the Galleria would be in the upscale market & would both be Italian:

              1.) Ristorante Cavour at the hotel Granduca. This is David Denis'(chef/owner/magician of Le Mistral, my pick for the best French in town) Italian place and should be tried.

              2.) Arcodoro is good, but I will not rave on & on a bout it. This place is owned by Efisio Farris & gets the "interesting" nod because it is specifically traditional Sardinian food. It's right next door to your hotel, but it is pretty pricey & Chef Farris opened another Arcodoro in Dallas, so I think it now counts as a chain.

              I know that you want to stay around the Galleria, and at risk of being attacked by the message board ; ), I feel that you should do yourself a favor & rent a car. The downtown area has the more interesting of the food scenes in Houston. If you do decide to drive into town here are my rec's:

              1.) Thelma's BBQ @ Live Oak & Lamar. It's just a shack, but that shack is where the BBQ is at, sir.

              2.) Beaver BBQ on Decatur. This is Monica Pope's take on BBQ , albeit not a traditional one, but very interesting & fun. Monica Pope is the pioneer of sustainable foods in our city and has made it standard practice to use farm to market foods in most great restaurants in Houston. I believe that she worked in San Francisco for a long while as well. The bartenders are gifted too. Beaver's is just plain fun.

              3.) Catalan if you looking for a GREAT meal. I am not fond of the menu, but the tasting is insane & I go for one about once a month. Chris Shepard is another sustainable food dude and has a particular affinity to offal. He also keeps the Texas spirit alive with local favorites done outside of the box, along with "street foods" from his country de jour. His tasting's are inventive & heavy (in a good way). He loves lipids that's for sure. Chef Shepard was the Sous Chef at Brennan's of Houston for what seemed like forever. Catalan allows him the chance to kick ass on his own terms.

              4.) Da Marco. Best place in town for anything. It's Italian & the only other thing you need to know is that you need to go there. Really............

              5.) Poscol for Marco Wiles' (Da Marco) casual Venetian restaurant. It's amazing & cheap. Bacalao manicando, risotto's, etc.

              6.) Reef is very good for fish and is another farm to market place that, if memory serves me right, won an award for sustainability in Gourmet mag a couple of years ago. The owners just opened an Italian/Texan place a couple of months ago called Stella Sola. I have been once and am going again this weekend. It's wonderful.

              There is so much more to add, but I will bow out now. I agree with the whole "Luling City BBQ is terrible" thing by the way. Don't go there.

              3 Replies
              1. re: diego90per

                Did Thelma's reopen? Last I heard they closed because of a fire.

                1. re: air

                  they reopened early Summer, but it's down the road.

                  1. re: Bulldozer

                    Thelma's is now at Southmore&Scott. Got BBQ there last week. The chopped beef and sliced beef sandwiches are now $4.50 and still packing a whalop of beef.

              2. No one has mentioned the Hickory Pit in Bellaire. It is five minutes for the Galleria and has good barbeque. They have been around since the 1950's. I grew up in the area and they were the consistent barbeque go to place. My dad still goes every week. The original owners had deep Texas roots and hailed from the Moulton/Shiner area. It's not fancy and is definitely more of a dive. In my opinion, good basic barbeque.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Lily Dale

                  Thanks all!! We have an abundance of great food and great ethnic food in SF but not much BBQ, southwest etc. The joy of traveling for me is eating regional food and I try to find good local eats as much as possible. These ideas and info are a big help.

                  1. re: sfdoc

                    Try some Tex-Mex at La Tiempo. The one on Richmond is about 3 miles from the Galleria.

                    It's my new favorite Mexican food restaurant in Houston. The crab quesadillas are to die for. Filet fajitas are very good, made with tenderloin, They are a little more than the regular beef fajitas but well worth it. I haven't had anything there I didn't love. It's a little pricey but I don't mind paying more if the food is really good and so far, it's been worth every penny.

                    1. re: sfdoc

                      Go to Hugo's for sure. If you're not really accustomed to authentic Mexican food, and think only of the usual cheese-laden TexMex, then Hugo's will be revelatory. If they have Chiles en Nogada on the menu (which it seems that sometimes they do and sometimes they don't), you'd probably love that. They have a wonderful Sunday Brunch Buffet where you can sample bits of this and that, so if you're going to be here over a Sunday, you might consider that. And, BTW, the last time I was there for the buffet, the Chiles en Nogada was not on offer. I expressed my disappointment to the waiter, and he arranged for the kitchen to prepare me one at no additional cost.

                      Also, as good as fajitas can be, I'd suggest you don't order that. Fajitas don't really require much skill from the kitchen, so they're not particularly representative of what the kitchen can do. For someone interested in trying good Mexican, you get much better examples of flavors, sauces, methods, etc. with other dishes. Get one of the stews - carne guisada, perhaps, or enchiladas verdes, or something else that is constructed, flavored, sauced, etc.

                      1. re: Jaymes

                        I don't care for the authentic Mexican food at all. I find it bland and greasy. I have never eaten any in Mexico or Texas that I liked - ever. I am not a cheese fan either. The most cheese I get eating Tex-Mex would be some monterey jack on a quesadilla. I'm very happy with the Tex-Mex versions that are so common here. It's all just a matter of personal preference.

                        On fajitas..... have you tried the tenderloin fajitas at El Tiempo? Oh my! They are so delicious. I would NEVER desecrate them with cheese. And the cheese they put on the crab quesadilla is very subtle. The crab comes through loud and clear.

                        1. re: texasredtop

                          Right. And because you live here, you have had lots of opportunities to eat a wide variety of southwestern food and determine what you prefer.

                          Unlike sfdoc, who is visiting here, and to whom I was giving this advice, and who specifically requested samples of "great ethnic food" because, as he explained, in San Francisco, he has "not much BBQ, southwest etc. The joy of traveling for me is eating regional food and I try to find good local eats as much as possible."

                          And I repeat to sfdoc that my personal opinion is that anyone that wishes to learn more about Mexican, and TexMex, and "southwest" food, as he indicated he does, might consider ordering something that is a better representation of the skills and preparations and ingredients and traditional flavors of the ethnic Mexican and Mexican-influenced kitchen than fajitas. Which, by the way, I'm sure he has no trouble whatsoever finding in San Francisco Mexican-themed chain restaurants.

                          And I might add that my friends that, like you, "don't care for the authentic Mexican food at all," usually, again like you, order fajitas.

                          Judging just from his posts, I get the distinct impression that sfdoc would prefer to try the "authentic Mexican food" so that he can make up his own mind as to whether or not he likes it. Or if he would rather have fajitas.

                          That's just my advice. I'm free to give it. And everybody else is free to give theirs as well.

                          And he's free to accept or ignore it.


                        2. re: Jaymes

                          We are visiting Houston and have a question re: El Tiempo. Having read several of these Houston food threads, we decided to try El Tiempo on Washington for lunch today. We parked behind the El Tiempo Market, then noticed that there was an El Tiempo Cantina next door. We decided to look into the market first and ended up having a delicious meal of Plate #3.

                          My questions are, are the market and the cantina related, and is the cantina as good/better?

                          1. re: MrSlippery

                            Yes, both owned by the Laurenzo family. There is also an El Tiempo Cantina on Richmond. Most of the comments on this board have probably been about the cantina, not the market. Different ktichens but presumably the same recipes. You can find a website for the Cantinas online which will have a menu which will be much more extensive than what you had to choose from at the Market. As to good/better I can't say but should be comparable.