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Mar 3, 2011 03:41 AM

I STILL love living in Houston!

Per numerous requests, we begin anew...

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  1. Believe it or not, even after the lengthy thread with a similar name, there are STILL places we go frequently that I have yet to mention or comment on.

    One of my son's favorite restaurants is a little counter service place called Masala Wok in the Carillion Center at Briarpark and Westheimer. The center is kind of a unique place which is home to a Chili's and Outback Steakhouse as well as Marini's Empanadas. It is the former home of The Great Caruso dinner theater, and Mata Hari, the first Indonesian I ever ate. Is Sherlock's still there?

    Anyway, Masala Wok is Indo-Chinese.

    Not fusion, just either/or.

    The Kid usually gets Tikka, as he just loves the rich and creamy buttery masala. He will often get a lamb curry of some sort as well, with extra naan. (Always with extra naan!)

    Occasionally I will get a "Chinese" dish, some quick stir fry of some sort or another, but I will usually get a vindaloo, etc. Although I can't say that there is anything I truly L-O-V-E, it is always better than I expect or remember, even though I've been there literally dozens of times.

    Two quick points:

    This is my son's very favorite place. Given his choice, this is where we would go. Once a month or so, I acquiesce. "I" rank it considerably lower than my "very favorite", but as I said, it is almost always better than I remember it.

    It's way cheaper than our usual South Asian spots, although probably on par (price-wise) with many of the places in the Hillcroft corridor. I think most dishes are about $8. Extra naan is $1.50, I think. (I should know this. I really should.)

    Masala Wok
    10001 Westheimer Rd Ste 1060, Houston, TX 77042

    5 Replies
    1. re: DoobieWah

      And I STILL love reading about it.

      One question - it's your son's favorite place?

      Just to put it into perspective, how old is your son? Are talking kid, or teen, or fully-growed?

      1. re: Jaymes

        He'll be 21 in two weeks.

        Pray for me.

        And he often goes there with his friends. He just likes to drag my wallet with him once a month or so.

      2. re: DoobieWah

        There's a tiny Thai restaurant in that center too, squeezed in next to the Starbucks, called Thai Cottage. It's a Houston chain, but one of my favorite Thai places. They have this chicken wing appetizer...yowza.

        1. re: Lambowner

          I've been needing a new local Thai restaurant ever since Johnny closed Singha.

          Thanks for the recommendation; I'll check it out.

          1. re: Lambowner

            We have a lot of good thai here in California so I can mark this one off the long, long list.

        2. On a short street called Del Monte between Voss and Winrock and parallel to Westheimer and San Felipe is a little Chinese restaurant named Far East. How long has it been in business? I'm not really sure, but they have a dozen or so Marvin Zindler Blue Ribbon awards; (and if you don't know who Marvin Zindler is/was, ask your parents).

          Anyway, we've been hitting this little joint off and on for twenty years or so. It's pure Americanized Chinese food, (choice of soup and eggroll), and is very good and cheap for a quick lunch. I often hit it when I'm by myself and in a hurry as a reliable option to Whataburger-at-my-desk.

          Far East Chicken is heavily laden with sliced jalapenos, and Mongolian Chicken is exactly what you think it is...

          And delicious.

          Would I recommend you drive any great distance for this place?


          Would I sincerely give it as a decent option if you're in the neighborhood and looking for a good, quick meal?


          In fact, I had lunch there myself just yesterday.

          Far East Restaurant
          6502 Del Monte Dr, Houston, TX 77057

          3 Replies
          1. re: DoobieWah

            Sounds great but I haven't been there. Here's one for you, Hong Kong Chef in Bellaire. My favorite is shrimp kew, fried shrimp and vegetables in a brown sauce, plus the best won ton around. It's not just a wonton and a few scallions, but a generous (enough for two) portion with veggies and sliced pork, and delicious large egg rolls. It's a hole in the wall that's been there for years. You walk past the kitchen to a small spartan dining room in the back. It's cash only by the way.

            Hong Kong Chef
            5112 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401

            1. re: James Cristinian

              Hong Kong Chef is delicious, always fresh and hot. I love the sweet and sour shrimp. They actually use Gulf shrimp and not those tasteless farm raised things. And to top all the other things about it, it's dirt cheap.

              Hong Kong Chef
              5112 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401

              1. re: texasredtop

                I was going to add the dirt cheap part, but I forgot.

          2. Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen.

            If you've missed this place so far, you need to fix that quick.

            If I recall the brief bio on the menu correctly, Sylvia herself hails from the Valley area of South Texas and her cooking reflects that.

            This is "authentic Tex-Mex", with all of the history, flavor and richness the term can conjure up.

            To make this brief, I almost always get the carne guisada because it is almost, ("almost" mind you), as good as mine. It is rich and thick and tender and...

            ...I think I'll be having it for lunch. Her various moles are also particularly interesting - rich and complex.

            We visited the original location on Westheimer, (just around the corner from Mexico's Deli) for a good long while but a couple of years ago, she opened a new store on Woodway just inside of Voss where The Grotto (and several other things), used to be. Just a few blocks from my office.

            Sylvia herself can often be seen at both locations and there is no mistaking her. She is a "Restaurateur", (with a capital "R") and is instantly recognizable by her dynamic personality.

            Try it.

            Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
            12637 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

            3 Replies
            1. re: DoobieWah

              I have not had good luck or food on the several times I've visited Sylvia's. Bad service, cold food, food brought out staggered for the table, so that some are finished while others have not yet been served, promised items "not available," (cabrito, twice). This is just one place who's popularity confounds me. We long ago gave up on it.

              1. re: Lambowner

                Never had any of those issues at either location.

                Did have a stone in the beans once, but I forgave them that. Even I do that once in a while.

                Sorry you've had such bad luck in so many of the places I like...

                1. re: DoobieWah

                  Sometimes I think I'm just jinxed. I've had really awful food and service at some of Houston's most acclaimed places, most recently Laurenzo's and Catalan, both of which served food bordering on the criminal. I'm beginning to think that consistency is the greatest of all restaurant traits. We do tend to hit the same places over and over because we know they will be consistently good. On the west side, this means Rioja, Denis, Empire Turkish Cafe, occasionally Napoli for pizza/pasta, Polonia, Sushi Jin. And we drive for Lopez, Feast, Swinging Door. I'm not that picky, really. We just seem to draw the short stick sometimes, but I try to give them a second and third chance. I think there was only one other place you liked that I wasn't fond of...Burger Guys? My experience was just like Katharine Shillcutt's before she wrote the "charcoal briquette" review. But there again, I've heard lots of other people like you say it was awesome. Hence my consistency theory! Keep reporting back on your experiences! Don't let my wet blanket dampen the party!


                  Sushi Jin
                  14670 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079

                  11920 Westheimer Rd Ste J, Houston, TX 77077

                  Swinging Door
                  3714 Fm 359 Rd, Richmond, TX 77406

            2. Well, OK then.

              So I talked my little brother into joining me for tamales and Barbecue Inn.

              My little brother is slightly younger, slightly taller and slightly better looking than me. (Probably more than slightly ALL of those things, but no matter...

              What matters is that he is one of my favorite people to explore food with as he has a great palate. I think he likes going slumming with me also. I use "slumming" as you have realized by now that mine is not a world of haute cuisine, but rather simple but excellent food.

              Nevertheless, let's make no mistake - I do not dine, I eat.

              Anyway, enough about the Golden Child and on to Alamo Tamale and Taco Factory. This was my second visit and once again the line was to the door but moved quickly. Once again, I chose the pork, "hand-rolled" tamales vs. the "factory" ones. (Choices are pork or chicken and factory or hand.) The factory were $4.50/dz and the hand-rolled were $9.99/dz. I got three.

              Dozen. Just about the time we got away from the cash register, Jaymes shows up so we three sat down to scarf down a quick half dozen; (they come wrapped in foil, six per). They are sooooo good. These were still fresh from the steamer and about as perfect a tamale as you'll find outside of your abuelita's cocina.

              Jaymes had wanted to try but not necessarily buy. However after trying a couple, we didn't mind waiting while she navigated the line.

              So then, we're off to Barbecue Inn.

              We get there early, maybe 11:40 am. There are one or two other parties and the hostess, sensing we are going to be trouble leads us to a far back corner away from the civilized folk and sends out...

              Lily. Lily has been serving diners at Barbecue Inn for 33 years.

              To say the Barbecue Inn is an anachronism is just stating the obvious.

              To say that I will never eat at the Barbecue Inn without asking for Lily is just my promise. She is every bit as classic as the restaurant itself.

              "Alright DW, blah blah blah...How was the food?"

              Well, smarter people than me have already told you that it's awesome.

              Jaymes had the shrimp and oyster platter. She wasn't fooling around. Cole slaw for the salad choice.

              My brother ordered fried chicken. Homemade ranch dressing for his salad. BTW, the salad is iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes. Maybe a little red onion.

              As promised, I ordered the chicken fried steak with homemade 1000 Island. Tangy.

              As noted elsewhere, the fried chicken, (and everything else), is cooked to order, so we ate our salads and visited, (which is what people did over lunch back in 1946 when this place opened).

              Per Cristinian's note, they will sell you shrimp and oysters by the piece so my little bro and I each ordered two of each. Good call. Very darned good call.

              The CFS is lightly battered, fork tender and smothered in a cream gravy that for me was very nostalgic. I ate it all, but only a smattering of the fries that are served alongside - Remember I had already scarfed down two large tamales just before I arrived for "lunch".

              Great stuff. Really great stuff. The building, the staff, the food. It really is like stepping back in time to another place.

              A better place. Give your cardiologist the finger and just go here once. It will make you young again.

              BTW, when I dropped off my mom's dozen tamales, she assured me that I had been there before, when I was about 6. I don't remember it at all, but my brother was positive he had been there though he couldn't place it. He must have been about 4. What I could do with a memory like that...

              Thanks Jaymes. It was nice to meet you. I look forward to Polonia.

              Barbecue Inn
              116 W Crosstimbers St, Houston, TX 77018

              10 Replies
              1. re: DoobieWah

                What a grand day. Some things just don't get any better in this world and one of those is being able to meet new and simpatico friends for lunch on a beautiful sunny Saturday. Rest assured, DW, your brother may be younger and taller but he is not so much as one skinny Barbecue Inn french fry "better looking" than you. I was fortunate to be dining with two such charming companions.

                Alamo Tamales. What a place. Anyone to whom "authentic" is important must immediately go there and squeeze your way back through what turns out to be a veritable maze of aromatic authenticity. Also, anyone to whom "fabulous tamales" are important. Honestly, I suppose it's possible that somewhere on this planet there exists better hand-made pork tamales, but haven't had any, and I'm sure that they couldn't possibly be enough better to make the search worth it. As Doobs says, I had not planned on buying any but after one bite, I changed my mind, and brought home a couple of dozen. There were many other things on the menu, and I could hear other patrons calling out their orders: "Hay barbacoa?" "Pollo?" and reaching into the cases for sides of salads and salsas. I was really a little overwhelmed, but am now determined to get back to this place some weekday when it's not so crowded and learn more about what all they have to offer. Thank you so much Doobie for inviting me along with you to learn about Alamo Tamales. I am in your debt.

                And then on to Barbecue Inn.

                I think I might have to go back sometime and try the barbecue in order for that name to find its proper spot in my consciousness. It just didn't seem very "Barbecue-Inny" to me. Didn't look it, didn't smell it. But it really is a throw-back to the family restaurants of yore. And Doobs is sure right - the star in this sentimental journey through time is most certainly Lily. It's like she was ordered up from central casting, calling us Sweetheart and Sugar and Darlin' in her rasping voice, cracking time-worn jokes and telling us about the good ol' days when the restaurant offered fried gizzards and liver and onion rings.

                Doobiewah has told you what we ordered. For me, the absolute star of the meal (besides Lily, I mean) was his chicken fried steak. Man was that good. I'm not really a french fry fan, so when I return, as return I surely must (Lily's expecting me), I'll see if they have mashed potatoes to go along with that crispy slice of heart attack heaven.

                The fried shrimp and oysters were also very good. I'm currently besotted (as I've said elsewhere) with Orleans Seafood Kitchen out in Katy, as they have the best oysters and fried shrimp I've had in years, and these shrimp and oysters were definitely on a par with those.

                All in all, such a fun outing.

                And I, too, am looking forward to Polonia some afternoon very soon.

                Thanks again, Doobs, for including me.

                Barbecue Inn
                116 W Crosstimbers St, Houston, TX 77018

                Orleans Seafood Kitchen
                20940 Katy Fwy, Katy, TX 77449

                1. re: Jaymes

                  Great reports on an old classic. I miss it being close enough to go when I want. No desserts? Even a piece of pie to share? Or to go?

                  We had brunch at Brennan's today. Thread coming........

                  1. re: texasredtop

                    Bragger!!! I love Brennan's. Let us know.

                    1. re: texasredtop

                      We thought about desserts. The Doobster even asked if they make the pies there. But when Lily said that they do not, we elected to wait until another time.

                      I know some of y'all maybe think we let you down but, keep in mind, we had already polished off a half-dozen tamales for our appetizer.

                      1. re: Jaymes

                        I totally understand but for crying out loud, get a piece to go - lol

                        Their pies are very good. At least the meringue ones are. And HUGE.

                        Did I miss the report on the fried chicken? Going back to reread.

                        1. re: Jaymes

                          A word about the pies. I saw a lady unloading a bunch of pies there from the back of her car, so they appear to be home made, not Sysco for sure. There's always Flying Sauce just down the street for great variety and taste.

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            You're right, not Sysco. Miss Lily whispered it to Doobie. I didn't catch it. She might have even said "Flying Saucer," for all I know. But it definitely ain't Sysco.

                      2. re: Jaymes

                        Alamo Tamales/Tamales Dona Tere post: After three visits to Alamo I finally tasted the tameles (the wife still has some other good homemade in the freezer.) I celebrated my birthday on a Monday morning by going. They didn't have regulars carnitas, which is what I usually go for, but had spicy carnitas instead. I ordered all they had, about a pound and a half, plus all the rajas the had. If you've never had rajas, try it. My authentic Hispanic wife turned me on to it, it's strips of poblano peppers in a spicy tomato broth with Mexican cheese. The spicy carnitas, in a broth, and rajas were delicious, along with their flour tortilllas, which the wife isn't wild about, and a container of red sauce which we both love. I ordered two tamales, not dozen, and ate one and took the other along with other leftovers to the wife. The tamale was delicious, hot and full of pork. A birthday present I got was the third edition of Fearless Critic. They claim Dona Tere has the best in town, better than Allamo. I live not too far from the Long Point location, so I checked them out one morning. If you like masa, you'll love this place. The tamales are good, but the Mexico City style with lots of masa means less meat fillings. I got the highly recommended (religious experience) oaxacaqueno wrapped in a banana leaf, chicken as they were out of pork. It come with a red mole working through the masa, but there was just too much masa and not enough filling. The same goes for the chicken rajas with jalapenos, too much masa. The masa was delicious, but I wish there was more meat and less masa. I give a strong nod to Alamo. By the way, I'm responding to Jaymes, from whom we have not heard from in a while. I hope all is well.

                      3. re: DoobieWah

                        Glad to be able to provide a tasty tidbit. I was in the area yesterday, you inspired me with a trip to Flying Saucer Pie for some strawberry and pecan pie. Did you check out the the old meniu inside the first set of doors? It looks almost the same except for the prices. Polonia, a must try is the veal schnitzel.

                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          To answer some questions above:

                          Re: Desserts. I am not a sweet eater usually, but after asking and receiving affirmative answers to the "Do you make it here?" questions regarding the breading o the fried stuff, the french fries, the salad dressings and even the tartar sauce, getting a "No" to that question on the desserts made them seem utterly superfluous. I hadn't heard anything about the desserts being "must haves" so after tamales and salad and chicken fried steak, it was easy to say "No thanks". She also mentioned Flying Saucer and if we had known it was so close we might have at least stuck our head in.

                          Re: the fried chicken. It looked great and while I did scam a piece or two of the crust off of my brother's plate, he didn't offer any, and since I had plenty of my own, I didn't ask for any either. It looked like my mom's. Crispy and juicy. Next time.

                          I missed the old menu in side the front door. Once again - Next time.

                          Cool place.

                          Lastly, Jaymes, if Orleans' oysters and shrimp are as good as those we had Saturday, I will be wanting to make a venture out there as well. Really, really good. (P.S. I haven't seen an email; did I miss it?)

                      4. Baker's Ribs.

                        I've mentioned this place of a couple of other threads; someone was looking for decent bbq near the Galleria area, and one where I was looking for smoked chicken. Neither was a full review, and this place deserves it. It's the only Houston location of a small family-owned Dallas-based chain.

                        The ribs are awesome.

                        The brisket is great at times and merely passable at other times. The jalapeno sausage is pretty darned good. The smoked chicken is edible but not as smokey as I was hoping for; (to reiterate what I said on the prior thread, they are now doing half chickens instead of just the butterflied breasts they used to serve).

                        The sides are pretty standard, and I like the dill-ed potato salad.

                        It's just a few blocks from my office and I've been picking up an order to eat my desk at least once or twice a month for the past fifteen years or so.

                        Try the ribs.

                        And tell Bruce that DW said "Hey".

                        Baker's Ribs
                        2223 S Voss Rd, Houston, TX 77057