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Dinner Recommendations - Open to Anything

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When my son was visiting Rice University last spring I asked this board for some recommendations since we'd never been to Houston before and we got some great suggestions. Son is now a freshman at Rice and we'll be visiting him in a few days for Family Weekend. Our schedule is pretty full with Rice events but we should be able to do one dinner off campus. So, where should we go? Son is open to anything but would like to get out into Houston, since he doesn't have a car. He rides his bike to Rice Village frequently so we'd rather venture further out into the city, to some place it would be hard for him to get to on his own. I'm thinking of Reef or maybe a great Chinese or Thai place. Mexican is good also. Suggestions needed! We're all interested in good food and in seeing more of Houston.

On a separate note, I read somewhere about a restaurant in a plant nursery or greenhouse. I can't remember the name of it and I can't find it. Does such a place exist? It may be too twee for my son but I'd love to check it out at some point, assuming I didn't dream it up! Thanks.

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  1. For Mexican try El Tiempo. (I prefer the one on Richmond, close to Kirby). Amazing fajitas-if you go with your family the parilla is really a great deal because you can try a lot of their different specialties (sausage, quail, ribs, carnitas, beef, shrimp, etc.). There is almost always a wait on the weekends though. The restaurant in the nursery is Tiny Boxwoods. Also, really good. I am a regular there. Great atmosphere. The menu is selective though, so you have to be in the mood for what they have that night. You have to try to the sangria-it's the best! And they have the yummiest chocolate chip cookies!
    If you want a true chinese or Thai experience go to Chinatown. Otherwise, there are some decent places in rice village. The only noteworthy Thai place I found has since closed down. :( Hope this helps.

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    Tiny Boxwoods
    3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027

    1 Reply
    1. re: mrcandme

      Curious, what qualifies as noteworthy for you? Asking since IMO there's a couple excellent Thai places in Houston. Look up V's or Vieng Thai. Both places don't go easy nor dumb down the flavors. Some like Vieng Thai for the bigger menu, but my parents live closer to V's so I find my way over there more frequently when I visit.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/463757
      http://www.houstonpress.com/2007-10-2...
      http://www.houstonpress.com/2005-09-0...

      Now for the OP, I remember your past thread and you're from NYC right? The Chinese/Thai places there are on another level compared to any you'll find in Texas, so I would be hesitant to make those recommendations and I think it'd be a better idea to steer you towards places you wouldn't find at home or cuisine where Houston is stronger (ie, Vietnamese, Mexican/Tex-Mex, Gulf seafood, Cajun).

      Reef is a good pick, I'd also say Feast (if you are serious by anything goes, do the tasting menu) and I'd agree with El Tiempo for Tex-Mex.

      I'm sure you've heard plenty about those previous other places so I'll go into a lot more detail for Que Huong, my suggestion for Vietnamese.

      The menu is pretty big so everyone is sure to find something they will like whether you've never had your first bowl of pho or you are more adventurous. I usually take large menus at a Vietnamese place as a bad sign, but this is one rare place where just about anything you order is bound to range from good to oustanding. Keep in mind that most portions are quite generous, so plenty to share as a group. And if you aren't afraid of ordering anything (frog legs, snails, etc), you just might stumble upon something very delicious.
      http://www.houstonpress.com/2008-01-1...
      http://www.b4-u-eat.com/houston/resta...

      If you want examples of adventurous stuff...
      #287: Aromatic snail sauteed with Basil leaves
      #290, 292, or 295: Eel, Frog Legs, or Alligator in curry sauce
      forgot the number: com tay cam ech: Frog leg in clay pot with rice and vegetables.

      Robb Walsh is fond of their salads (and I also like the surf/turf one). Also I would take a glance at his top 100 list, because to me it is a good representation of what Houston does best.
      http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/...
      http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/...

      I also think the bun bo hue at Kim Chau would be worthy of a drive for an out of towner if you're interested. Be sure to specify they include everything with the soup so you are getting all the goodies.
      http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/...

      There are a multitude of Vietnamese restaurants in Houston and everyone has their own favorites, while a couple places are known for specializing in specific dishes. The other place mentioned, Huynh is not a bad choice either and located closer to Rice. Just been to Que Huong more often because the location is closer to Katy.

      And I hadn't heard of Tiny Boxwoods so thanks for that, I'll check it out next time I'm home.

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      Vieng Thai
      6929 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055

    2. Two other great places are Hugo's for Mexican (Mex-Mex, not Tex-Mex) and Indika's for modern Indian. Both are awesome. Another place not in biking distance of Rice is Huynh (Vietnamese, BYOB, tasty!). Try the duck salad with ginger dressing.

      I have heard great things about Tiny Boxwoods, though never been. I've heard you should go early if you're doing breakfast, because otherwise you have to fight the hordes for a table.

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      Huynh
      912 St Emanuel, Houston, TX 77003

      Tiny Boxwoods
      3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027

      Indika
      516 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

      1. Tiny Boxwoods is what you are thinking of in the nursery. I've not been, but it's on my list. Hugo's for Mexican (more Mex-Mex, than Tex-Mex) for sure. Feast is an icon for British style food. Backstreet Cafe is very nice also. Lucky you, your child is at Rice, a premier school. Congrats!

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        Tiny Boxwoods
        3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lambowner

          Totally agree about Backstreet Cafe (have been trying to remember the name lately ... thanks). I've been 2 or 3x and each time was memorable. Delicious food including a vegetarian entree I still remember, 3-4 years later, and warm and attentive service!

        2. Agree with everyone re: the Feast recommendations. It's one of my favorites in Houston. You can be quite adventurous, or not so much, and the food is great either way. The tasting menu is awesome, but don't plan to do much afterward other than take a nap!

          1 Reply
          1. re: mjust

            Thanks for all the good suggestions. Houston seems to have such interesting restaurants. We're looking forward to trying many of them over the course of the next four years. I imagine we'll be visiting at least once or twice a year. Will definitely have to get to Tiny Boxwoods. Sounds unique.

            Thanks for the congrats re: Rice. He - and we - are loving it so far.

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            Tiny Boxwoods
            3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027