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Visiting Houston for 3 days on business - need must-try recommendations

I'm visiting for work. Will be staying in the downtown area. Price not really an issue as I will be entertaining clients and expensing meals. I'm open to every type of cuisine but have never spent time in Houston and want to get a comprehensive taste of what it has to offer. I know that Mexican and BBQ are staples in TX. I'm also guessing that steak is big. But I'm in no way tied to these and am asking for your opinions on what places you definitely would not miss if this was your ONLY visit to H-town. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Immediately thought of Catalan (Spanish, some tapas-style), Reef (seafood), Hugo's (Mexican) and Voice (New American). All of those would work nice for someone without budget constraints.

    4 Replies
    1. re: air

      I'll second Reef, Voice, and Hugo's. Can't speak to Catalan personally, but have heard good things. A couple of other options are:

      Downtown....
      Hearsay (www.hearsayhouston.com) - good wine and excellent apps - a nice first stop or light meal
      Brennans(www.brennanshouston.com) - newly rebuilt after a fire during hurricane Ike, but food/service are still great

      Near downtown...
      Mark's (www.marks1658.com) - went back recently - food is still excellent and service attitude I experienced int he past was much improved.
      Sorrento (www.sorrentohouston.com) - has an awesome parm/truffle risotto scooped out tableside - ask for Serjio to serve you, he's great
      SoVino (www.sovinowines.com) - a wine bar, but has very good food too.

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      Sorrento
      415 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

      1. re: DaTulip

        Besides BBQ & Tex Mex, don't miss our great Gulf seafood -- shrimp and red snapper in particular -- so try Reef and Brennan's.

        1. re: DaTulip

          I've never had a good meal at Hugo's, Mark's, Sorrento, or SoVino despite multiple attempts - maybe I'm ordering wrong.

          For client dinners: try Brennan's, Feast, t'afia, Indika, Reef (I've not been to Reef, but hear good things). I'm going back to Da Marco this weekend after a year's absence - used to be quite good as well (we'll see if it's still good). There's a lot of buzz about Stella Sola these days -- you can cab it from downtown to that restaurant. I thought it was quite good but not unbelievable, for whatever that's worth.

          For time on your own: too many options to name. What do you like? Tex-Mex and Mex-Mex would be a must for me.

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          Da Marco
          1520 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

          Sorrento
          415 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

          t'afia
          3701 Travis Street, Houston, TX 77002

          Indika
          516 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

          Stella Sola
          1001 Studewood, Houston, TX 77008

          1. re: WtotheN

            I was thinking of mentioning Feast too but it might be a little adventurous for some, maybe the OP, maybe the OP's clients. Some people who aren't in to tail-to-snout fare might not even want to look at it at the next table.

      2. Thanks everyone for the very helpful feedback. Right now my lineup is:

        Reef
        Voice
        Hugo's (for lunch)
        Brennan's / Mark's / Sorrento

        I will be sure to report back assuming that I can make all of these happen. Thanks again.

        -----
        Sorrento
        415 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

        4 Replies
        1. re: chewbie

          Oh yeah, forgot to mention a steak place (if you were still looking). Vic and Anthony's is also downtown.

          1. re: air

            Being from NY, I can probably afford to pass on a steak place in favor of places that are more representative of the best local chefs and ingredients. But I have heard great things about Vic and Anthony's.

            1. re: chewbie

              if you are from NY there is no reason to put a steak place on the lineup you already have. I would make every effort to put Brennans on the list since that is so regional-specific and impressive, Sorrento would be disappointing to a NY person who regularly got Italian food. Houston has really nice people and if you had an especially important meal, when making the reservation make sure you communicate that it is for people from out of town and a very important meal and more likely than not they will bend over backwards.

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              Sorrento
              415 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

              1. re: superluckycat

                There are some things that Houston does better than New York, although steaks and Italian are not on that list. Houston has the second-largest Vietnamese population in the US, second only to Orange County, California. My suggestion is to focus on Asian and Mexican while you're here. And on fresh seafood from the Gulf.

        2. I had Reef on Tuesday. It was okay. The BEST part was the milkshake. I asked the waitress if it was a brandy freeze and she said yes. Yummmo!! Food was good but I was not so impressed. Frozen french fries? C'mon......... that's just too Burger King for me.

          I'd try El Tiempo on Washington for good food and a unique experience. I haven't been to Brennan's since the reopening but I am planning on getting there soon. I always liked the one here better than the one in New Orleans. In NO, I like Mr. B's a million times better than Brennan's.

          1. From a Northeasterner Foodie.

            Downtown:
            The Grove (best local ingredients in the area)

            Cab ride from Downtown:
            T' Afia (Monica Pope - went very far in Top Chef Masters)
            Reef (I think this was my favorite restauraunt in Houston)
            Adventurous Eating, but also was a top 10 restauraunt in the country: Feast,
            BBQ: Goode Company (Not a tourist trap, but quite popular)
            Tex Mex: Chuys in River Oaks (Best Tex Mex)

            Other things that are unique to area:
            Brennans (of NOLA fame, Cajun/Creole).
            Gulf Coast Oysters (I love the dive restauraunt Ragin Cajun)

            1. Goode Company BBQ - ask for moist brisket...its the bomb. Morton's the Steakhouse has great steaks. Ffloyds Cajun Seafood is great too.

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              Goode Company Restaurants
              2511 Bartlett St, Houston, TX 77098

              2 Replies
              1. re: loves food

                But if you must go to Goode Co, please be aware that a great many Houstonians, most definitely including me, think it's pretty awful. In fact, it came in DAL (dead-ass last) in a recent Chowhound BBQ taste-off.

                All I ask if that if you go and you don't like it either, you don't go home and tell everybody you had "what's supposed to be great Texas barbecue, and I didn't like it so I don't think Texas barbecue is all it's cracked up to be."

                Great Texas barbecue IS "all it's cracked up to be."

                Just not there.

                1. re: loves food

                  Agreed - Goode Company BBQ is awful. As a matter of fact, it is hard to find good BBQ in Houston. In Houston, Pierson's is the best that I have found.

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                  Goode Company Restaurants
                  2511 Bartlett St, Houston, TX 77098

                2. Ruchi's for tex mex
                  Tan Tan is worth a visit. Shaking Beef with Ketchup Rice
                  Best Viet Rice Dishes - Hue Huong on beechnut
                  Best Pho - Pho Tai Binh Duong on Bellaire they also specialize in Pho Kho (pho without soup, it's very good)
                  Best Banh Mi - Nguyen Ngo on Bellaire, friendly service
                  Best Cafe Sua Da - Le Bakery

                  Catalan - Street cart tapas, gumbo, dessert is a must ie icecream
                  Sorrento - my favorite in houston wild mushroom ravioli, risotto
                  Voice - mushroom cappuccino
                  Max's Wine Dive - best fries and mac and cheese ever! some southern food
                  Cajun Kitchen - Yummy poboys, crawfish, gumbo, red beans and rice

                  -----
                  Sorrento
                  415 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

                  Boiling Crab
                  8300 W Sam Houston Pkwy S Ste 268, Houston, TX 77072

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: littlebig

                    An interesting looking list and welcome to CH. I'd never noticed Nguyen Ngo and will have to check it out.

                    Which Cajun Kitchen are you referring to? I don't find any with just that name on b4.

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                    Cajun Kitchen
                    11900 Bellaire Blvd Ste D, Houston, TX 77072

                    1. re: dexmat

                      Nguyen Ngo is a chinatown gem. They make half size banh mi sandwiches for 1.50, the chicken with pate is my favorite. Cajun Kitchen is on Bellaire and Kirkwood (chinatown)

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                      Cajun Kitchen
                      11900 Bellaire Blvd Ste D, Houston, TX 77072

                      1. re: littlebig

                        I am going to Houston on business for the week and this is the list of places I am going to try while in town, thoughts?

                        Que Huong Restaurant
                        Sorrento Ristorante Itliano
                        Nippon Japanese Restaurant
                        Shawarma King
                        Jeannine's Bistro
                        Vieng Thai

                        1. re: emperor_lange

                          I'm not familiar with most of those. What part of town? What are your interests? Houston is not known for Italian food but I've never been to that one. Jeannine's BIstro (Belgian) is probably a very good choice but I haven't been yet. You might consider V's Thai instead of Vieng - both are good, however. Sharwarma King is good but unless you're real close you don't need to go out of your way unless you're just craving sharwarma. Houston has a huge Middle Eastern community so there will be lots of choices.

                          -----
                          V's Thai Restaurant & Bar
                          2575 S Dairy Ashford St, Houston, TX 77077

                          1. re: emperor_lange

                            Sorrento has excellent food - as another posting commented, the parmesan truffle risoto is to die for!

                            Jeannine's Bistro has top notch Belgian classics. Good frites and sandwiches, as well as hot specialities like Flemish stew and Waterzoi.

                            Nippon - haven't been in over 6 months, but was doing nice things the last time I was there.

                            Don't know the others - sorry.

                            -----
                            Sorrento
                            415 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

                          2. re: littlebig

                            I was going to go to Cajun Kitchen yesterday but there was absolutely no place to park, a good sign. Hope to try it soon.

                            -----
                            Cajun Kitchen
                            11900 Bellaire Blvd Ste D, Houston, TX 77072