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May 8, 2010 06:21 AM

I Love Living in Houston!

Houston's culinary scene may very well be the best kept secret in the country.

We're at Main and Main for many of the best cuisines in the region, from Texas style BBQ, to Cajun, to Gulf Coast seafood, to Tex-Mex, to country cookin', (think CFS), to Vietnamese, (we have a huge SE Asian population in Houston who love to work hard and eat well).

I happen to live in far west Houston near Westheimer and the West Belt. There are so many great, family run restaurants in this area that I have always wanted to tell someone about. I guess you get to be that someone.

Today, I want to tell you about Mexico's Deli. Alex Garcia owns and operates Mexico's Deli. At one time, he ran a small chain in Mexico City. Fortunately for us, he decided to open a new restaurant in a space that was once occupied, (for decades), by Hot Dogs by Harlan. (RIP.) This is in a typical thirty year-old Houston strip center, just south of Westheimer on the west side of Dairy Ashford. What it lacks in ambiance, is more than compensated in quality and value.

Not long after HbH closed, my son and I noticed a new place opened there called Mexico's Deli. Serving a huge variety of tortas, (Mexican style sandwiches, so named because of the tortoise shaped bread used), tacos, burritos, and even breakfast.

My son and I usually each have a bowl of the poblano cream soup. It's sublime, but be forewarned the heat varies with the peppers. Then we split the Lomito Chipotle, a torta made with pork loin, ham and a fried egg.

Other times I simply can't resist the pastor tacos. The authentic pastor is browned and cut from the vertical spit, but then griddle-grilled to conform to local health laws. The tacos are served three to the order and are the smallish style tortillas. Just incredible.

They also make several fresh liquados daily. My personal favorites are the watermelon and jamaica, (hibiscus), but the horchata usually disappears first.

The Houston Press has given Mexico's Deli several (well-deserved) awards including Best Authentic Mexican Restaurant, but don't take their word for it. Take mine!

Go. Try. Thank me later.

Mexico's Deli
2374 S Dairy Ashford St, Houston, TX 77077

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  1. Tejas bills itself as the Oldest Mexican Restaurant in Downtown Alief, and who am I to doubt?

    What appears to be a converted house on Alief Clodine just west Old Westheimer/West Center Blvd, Tejas is serving up some of the best Tex-Mex/Gulf Mex in the city. As soon as you walk in, you can't help but realize that Joe would rather be fishing. Fortunately, he took the day off to cook.

    All of the standards are there, cheese enchiladas, crispy tacos, rice and beans...

    But you'll also have some more interesting choices as well, like crawfish enchiladas, grilled quail and the best stuffed, blackened snapper you've ever had.

    Serving beer and wine only from the adult beverage department, the focus here, (unlike many Tex-Mex joints in the city), is on the food. It is consistently good.

    It's a funky little joint that appears to enjoy its relative anonymity. The regulars keep it crowded enough, but there's usually a parking space around back. (The one right in front of the door is mine.)

    Tejas Restaurant
    12219 Alief Rd, Houston, TX 77082

    2 Replies
    1. re: DoobieWah

      Thank you for your wonderful comment about our Restaurant.

    2. Pho One is a small mom and pop shop in a relatively non-descript strip center at the NW corner of Westheimer and Wilcrest. Hard core foodies might know the center as the home of Bistro le Cep and Daido Japanese Market.

      Serving a variety of authentic Vietnamese noodle soups, (pho), as well as numerous other delicacies, the Mrs. Owner is the scion of a famous Saigon noodle dynasty, (if I understood the story correctly!).

      The Vietnamese egg rolls are the best I've ever had. The Banh Mi are my son's favorite and such a value that he occasionally orders two. Also served are traditional noodle/salad bowls with grilled pork or chicken, lemongrass beef, etc.

      It's not fancy, but it has a loyal and devoted clientele. It's easy to imagine that it might get lost in the crowd just a few miles south in the new "ChinaTown" along Bellaire, but if you look hard enough to find this gem, you won't be disappointed.

      See you there.

      Pho One
      11148 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77042

      15 Replies
      1. re: DoobieWah

        We had a late lunch there the other night and it was good. I had the Bun (Vermicelli bowl) and my dining companion had a dish that looked like skinless chicken+coleslaw (Vietnamese chicken salad maybe) that was very good. Their fish sauce appears to be homemade and is good but unlike other restaurants they don't accessorize the fish sauce with carrot curls or pepper flakes like other Vietnamese restaurants -- its the color of a diluted urine sample - but once you get past the look of it and put it on your food --you'll ask for some more.

        1. re: Nata Tariko

          Good call!

          My son loves the fish sauce and after we order egg rolls, he hoards whatever sauce is left for his sandwich.

          (But I never would have thought to compare it to pee! Let's say "weak tea", instead, OK?)

        2. re: DoobieWah

          I've eaten at Pho One and found it to be only average. I dont know what all the ballhyhoo is about this place. I've eaten at over 50 Pho places in Houston, Dallas and other cities and Pho One is not even in the top 20. Their broth and beef are not as flavorful or tender as many other places. Try Pho 24 on Bellaire in Chinatown. Their broth and beef is luscious.

          Pho One
          11148 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77042

          Pho 24 Cafe
          9750 Bellaire Blvd Ste 108, Houston, TX 77036

          1. re: andygellis

            Thanks for your input, (although I'll continue to like it, if you don't mind), but other than Pho 24, (which I have been to, btw, and I agree it is good), what other places do YOU like?

            I'm always eager to try a new place.


            1. re: DoobieWah

              Hi Tia

              Pho Danh and Pho Ngon on Bellaire are also good. I have eaten at 6 Pho places in the cinatown area and those 2 and Pho 24 are my faves... and yes I've eaten at Pho Pasteur in Arlington... one of the best. But I've yet to try Pho Binh or some of the other top rated Houston Pho places.......... so much Pho, so little time.

              Pho Binh
              2021 Mangum Rd, Houston, TX 77092

              Pho Pasteur
              12345 Bellaire Blvd Ste B6, Houston, TX 77072

              Pho 24 Cafe
              9750 Bellaire Blvd Ste 108, Houston, TX 77036

              Pho Danh
              11211 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77072

            2. re: andygellis

              Everyone has a different idea of what makes a great bowl of pho. To me Pho One strives for a simpler, cleaner, balanced bowl of pho. I'm talking about balance in the sense that there is no one dominating part (broth, beef, noodles), and it all comes together quite nicely. I like them for that style of broth versus something like, the Pho Binh trailer in Houston or Pho Pasteur's (since you say you've been to some places in DFW..), both places I also enjoy but admit they both serve broth can be too greasy or overbearing.

              Pho Binh
              2021 Mangum Rd, Houston, TX 77092

              Pho One
              11148 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77042

              1. re: andygellis

                Concur; The owners are sweet, but their Pho isn't our favorite. Chicken Slaw Salad you mentioned and the Bun Bowls are very good. The House Special Banh Mi is teh awesome. Le Viet is our local Westchase favorite. Pho.

                Le Viet Restaurant
                11328 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

              2. re: DoobieWah

                having had pho in literally hundreds of places... diff cities, states, even countries (poland and uk, interestingly enough)... i cant say Pho One is very special or memorable. probably average or slightly average for all the places in houston. which is unfortunate, because i live around the corner, so its more convenient than bellaire.

                its not bad. its just not noteworthy

                for my money theres better at pho saigon (bellaire location; there are 3 with the same name in the city), and the one next to HK supermarket in the HK supermarket complex... forgot the name

                1. re: paleogeek

                  "...the one next to HK supermarket in the HK supermarket complex... forgot the name"

                  Pho Dung.


                  1. re: DoobieWah

                    And we eat at the one out in Katy all the time. Pho is great. Grilled Pork with vermicelli or rice also terrific.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      Yeah, the one in the Hong Kong Market mall was my first experience with pho.

                      Made me a believer.

                      But Pho One is just around the corner from me and I like the owners.

                      And come the cold weather, it's a frequent stop.

                      We need to grab some Chow soon, Jaymes. It's been a while. How's the new grandbaby?

                      1. re: DoobieWah

                        He's a buster, to be sure. How about that Korean? Sometime soon?

                        1. re: Jaymes

                          How about Sunday lunch?

                          Isn't it Bonga you like?

                  2. re: paleogeek

                    went back to Pho One for lunch today. didnt want to stray too far from the office.

                    1/2 Shrimp Spring Roll: not the standard order cut in half, but small rolls. shrimp was small and sauteed yellow, not halved or butterflied. never seen it like that. missing that long chive like herb (dont know name).

                    Pho special took a long time to come out. Inexplicible for a pho restaurant. The menu barely had any meats and thus the same story for the special: had chewy dried out brisket and big chunks of tendon. No tripe, fatty flank, etc - the good stuff.

                    Herb dish didnt have razorleaf/sawtooth herb!!! But it had cilantro. wtf? The killer however was the broth that came out extremely clear. Barely any fatty bubbles to speak of and thus no body. Ive had watery-er/worse broth, but overall this pho is now down to the bottom quartile to third of my list.

                    It behooves everyone to take that extra drive down to Bellaire...

                2. I love to cook. It's basically my sole creative outlet these days and I have found a certain joy in discovering and experimenting with new ingredients.

                  As a result, one of my favorite pastimes is grocery shopping. I know, I know, and yes, I am a guy, but searching shelves for new additions to my spice or sauce shelf and then figuring out what to do with it gives me a certain amount of satisfaction. (Which is NOT to say that I've never thrown it all out and ordered a pizza!)

                  One of my favorite grocery stores in town is PHOENICIA MARKET on Westheimer between Kirkwood and Dairy Ashford. I first discovered this store when it was 10% its current size and located across Westheimer from the current digs. As an ancient Persian man remarked to me shortly after the new store opened, the new location is "...not so intimate.". And he's right - it's not. But what it lacks in intimacy, it makes up for in selection.

                  Fresh pita bread is made daily on site via a huge conveyor that starts in the ceiling and cascades around until your bread is delivered hot and wrapped in front of you.

                  There are at least six different kinds of feta cheese being offered in the deli case.

                  If you like the olive bars that suddenly appeared in every grocery store in town a couple of years ago, you will love this place.

                  Some of my staples from Phoenicia include : Zergut roasted red pepper strips, mortadella with pistachios, any number of cheeses, (there are dozens of varieties from all over the world), Turkish pistachios, sun dried tomatoes, large Kalamata olives, Spitiko olive oil, ghee, chocolate (!), and on and on and on and on...

                  There's a bakery, (over and above the pita manufactory noted above), a butcher shop, (serving whole lamb among other things), a deli, (with the distinctly non-Halal Serrano jamon and prosciutto available).

                  IF you like to cook, and IF you like to be creative with new flavors on your palette, (a play on words and not a misspelling!), and IF you want to experience something new, get thee to Phoenicia.

                  It's worth a drive on a Sunday afternoon. (I just thank the stars that I live less than 5 minutes away.)

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: DoobieWah

                    They are opening one downtown. I will look forward to visiting once it opens.

                    1. re: Cookie Baker

                      I understand the new downtown location will be much, much smaller and will focus on ready-to-eat. I urge you to make the drive and check out the "big one". It is absolutely unique.

                      1. re: DoobieWah

                        Well, it looks like I was wrong. <shudder>

                        Congrats Downtown! Looks like you scored big.


                        (Just wish they could spell "downtown".)

                    2. re: DoobieWah

                      Yes, totally agree - I LOVE Phoenicia too! Everyone must visit this place at least once.

                      1. re: DoobieWah

                        Phoenicia is definitely a cool place. Almost impossible to just get in and back out again quickly. The variety is stunning.

                        If you're into exotic and variety, you should also check out the Chinese markets along Bellaire between Gessner and the Tollway. Even if you aren't. Old style meat counters and huge selections of fish and shellfish. Their produce departments typically put your average Kroger or HEB to shame in terms of variety AND prices. We usually shop at Welcome, corner of Bellaire Blvd and Ranchester, but there are others in that same neighborhood that are just as good.

                        1. re: DoobieWah

                          I live on the south east side and try to get to Phoenicia once a month or so. It's close to Mexico Deli and Hong Kong Market on Bellaire so it's usually a foodie day for me

                          Hong Kong Cafe
                          9108 Bellaire Blvd Ste A, Houston, TX 77036

                          1. re: DoobieWah

                            fantastic stuff.... but the FADI'S across the street is just as good

                            1. re: paleogeek

                              I think you are referring to the Phoenicia Deli which is reviewed here also. This was about the market.

                              I don't really care for either Fadi's or Dimassi's. Fadi's had good food, (THE most important thing), but I didn't like the setup or service.

                              The people at Phoenicia are almost family.

                              Different cuisine also - kefta or kebab at Fadi's, schwarma at Phoenicia.

                            2. re: DoobieWah

                              I think of you everytime I use my spices from Phoenicia Market! You and Cynsa my chow pals!

                              1. re: dimsumgirl

                                Well, we'll definitely have to hit it again next week!

                            3. It's almost impossible to believe that I lived the first 45 years of my life without sushi. Sure, I'd tried it, but never really cared for it. The textures, the aromas, and the flavors were just too foreign, too ... raw fish, for me to embrace. (My standing joke was that sushi was invented by a lazy fisherman who decided to just eat the bait!)

                              Then a chance lunch with a friend in Austin, (at Mikado Ryotei if you're interested), proved a revelation. The very next day, I was sitting at the sushi bar in Sushi Jin at Memorial and Dairy Ashford. I must confess here and now, that I had lived within a long 3-iron shot of this restaurant for six years before I ever darkened its door. What a fool I had been.

                              That was just over four years ago, and I have been to Sushi Jin at least once, and very, very, very often twice or more, every week since then.

                              The fish is unbelievably fresh. The itamae are are artists. The serving staff are friendly and helpful.

                              Sushi Jin is possibly my favorite restaurant despite the fact that I have come to take for granted the freshness and quality. This is another of my regular haunts that has been discovered by the Press and awarded one of their coveted "Best of..." superlatives.

                              Also boasting a couple of karaoke rooms and a couple of tatami rooms for meetings or small banquets, Sushi Jin should be on every Houston sushi lover's pilgrimage list.

                              It's not trendy and it's not a place to "be seen", but it is THE place to obtain fresh, ultra high quality sushi. And best of all, even though I no longer live a slice or hook away, it's still just five minutes from home - Which makes my weekly visit a highlight of my dining week.

                              If yo go, tell Leo-san or Uotani-san that Doobie sent you. It won't mean a damned thing to them, but I just might be there.

                              And it will make me laugh.

                              Sushi Jin
                              14670 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: DoobieWah

                                If you've ever enjoyed a meal or two at Sushi Jin, please keep Master Chef Uotani-san in your thoughts and prayers. He has been hospitalized for several weeks now.

                                He is a great, great man.

                                Sushi Jin
                                14670 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079

                                1. re: DoobieWah

                                  We've enjoyed the sushi there many many times. Sorry to hear this.

                                  1. re: DoobieWah

                                    My deepest condolences to his family.

                                    He will be truly missed.

                                    So long, Chef. Till we meet again...

                                2. Pierson & Company Bar-B-Que is pretty much out of the way from pretty much everywhere. For me, it's about a 25 minute drive with $3.75 in tolls, (each way!).

                                  And worth every second and every penny.

                                  Clarence and his family have been serving up what is almost certainly the best cue in Houston for several years now. And they are finally getting some recognition for it.

                                  The beef, the smoked pork and the ribs are the best to be found in the area. Pass on the sausage unless you just hafta have it. It's not bad, but he has someone else make it for him, it's very VERY greasy, (which isn't normally a bad thing, but in this case, it is).

                                  If you like chicken, you have to be there early on a Friday or Saturday, the only days he does "yard bird". If you're smart, you'll call on Wednesday or Thursday and pre-order. Then they will call you when they're ready to be picked up. (Don't tell Clarence or Miss Vanessa, but I always get a little extra chicken and make the world's best chicken salad out of the leftovers!)

                                  As I noted, it's a drive for me, but well worth it. I've always picked my order up "To Go", so I can't testify as to the sides, but I have no reason to doubt them.

                                  If the food weren't reason enough to go, they are also the nicest people you can hope to meet. Tell them it's your first visit, and Miss Vanessa will get Mr. Clarence to make you a sampler plate.

                                  Remember this if nothing else: If Miss Vanessa asks you if it's your first visit, the correct answer is always : "YES!".

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: DoobieWah

                                    Can you share an address for Pierson & Co.?

                                    1. re: nestorius

                                      5110 T C Jester Blvd Houston TX 77091

                                      I hope you enjoy it.

                                      1. re: nestorius

                                        There have been many mentions of Pierson's on this board - I think it was 'discovered' on this board a couple of years ago. Use the search feature for more comments. Most people here think it's the best in town right now.

                                        1. re: dexmat

                                          I live in NY, and travel to Houston frequently on business, and I've searched for good BBQ in Houston. Pierson's is hands down the best. I hope his success doesn't ruin him! The Houston Press had an article a couple of years ago about how he does it...

                                      2. re: DoobieWah

                                        I was in the area yesterday so I gave them a call just to check.

                                        The recording is still up that they are temporarily closed due to Mr P's knee surgery.

                                        Here's wishing you a speedy recovery amigo. Get well (and Cookin'!) soon.