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Headed to Houston for Final Four. What's worth hitting and what's worth skipping?

I am headed to Houston in March for the Final Four. My husband and I are looking for three or four restaurants worth going to. We like anything from fancy pants spots to hole in the wall wonders. What are the can't miss spots and what is over rated and not worth the time or money?

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  1. I am not sure where you are staying, but I will give you a few places you should enjoy. I'm not keen on the fancy places.

    1. Lankford's Grocery - cool little place near downtown. One of the best burgers around. You'll need to bring cash (they dont take CC) and you may have to wait a while, but it's worth it.

    2. Goode Company BBQ - Off on Highway 59 and Kirby. Great BBQ place. After enjoying that go down Kirby to University Blvd (away from 59), take a left, then a left at Morningside and have a few beers at the bars there in Rice Village.

    3. Good steak houses - Vic & Anthony's or Capital Grille.

    Enjoy Houston.

    1. Houston has some of the best restaurants in the country.. As a frame of reference,, where ya coming in from and what kind of food r u looking for?

      High end=DaMarco-Tony's-Mark's-Cafe Annie
      Blue Collar(sort of)=Dolce Vita-Indika-Pondicheri-Carrabba's-Reef-Ibiza-Hugo's-Pesce
      No Collar=Barnaby's-Paulie's-Empire Grille
      need a reference from you to fine tune

      1. Can't miss if you are coming to Houston is Tampico Seafood on Airline. It's not fancy and it's not in a trendy area but it does have one of Houston's best snapper dishes in the city. It is not cheap cheap but it's 1/2 the price of finer seafood restauarants and it beats the pants off them. You can dine in the really casual part of the restaurant dowstairs and for a little more restauranty feel you could go upstairs. Get the grilled whole snapper. You don't need the extra shrimps etc but if you really want them go ahead.
        Mockingbird Bistro and sit at the bar and order from bar menu a great burger. Other items on the bar menu are a small casuelet and some short ribs. I think they are all under $9. Its a steal and the food is excellent.

        Mockingbird Bistro
        1985 Welch, Houston, TX 77019

        Tampico Seafood & Restaurant
        2115 Airline Dr, Houston, TX 77009

        8 Replies
        1. re: jscarbor

          Why would you send someone visiting Houston to Airline Drive? Eh, stay away from that area.

          1. re: UHCoog05

            I was just thinking the same thing about Goode BBQ. Why would you send someone visiting Houston there?

            I'd suggest that's where she should "stay away from."

            So I guess everyone has a different opinion on the matter. Personally I love Tampico Seafood. And I've never felt uncomfortable there.

            1. re: Jaymes

              That is strange. What did you have at Goode that wasnt good? I've had great food at the Kirby location. To each his own, I guess.

              I just don't like sending people visiting Houston to ugly areas. I am sure the food is good.

              1. re: UHCoog05

                Reviews of the barbecue at Goode Co here on CH have been extensive and exhaustive. But to answer your question, the brisket was dry and tough and flavorless. Ditto the ribs, dry, tough and flavorless. The sausage was at least edible, but just okay, bland, with no snap or bite. Often, when the meat is dry or flavorless you can add sauce and at least turn it into a moderately enjoyable meal. At Goode, no such luck. The sauce was just odd. Not vinegary, not mustardy. More like some sort of weird salsa or pasta sauce - really tomatoey, with no snap, heat or tang.

                We went to Goode Co when I first moved here. In our party were several native Texans. We had heard about it and were looking forward to it. But none of us came even close to finishing our plates, and when we were asked if we wanted to take any of it home, we all screwed up our faces and said, "No thanks." And, I discovered later, in a recent CH Houston BBQ throwdown, Goode came in DAL (dead-ass last).

                Yes, the bread was good. Ditto the pecan pie.

                But I don't go to barbecue joints for bread or pecan pie. And all in all, I can honestly say that was one of the worst "barbecue meals" I've ever had, and I've had a lot of barbecue meals, all over the country.

                As for "ugly areas," every city has them. There are indeed some folks that I wouldn't send to one. But it seems to me that people on CH are a little different from your average traveler. For one thing, they know that every city has ugly areas and that sometimes the best food is found there. I think when people specifically mention "holes-in-the-wall" when asking for a recommendation (as this op did), they're saying that ugly areas are fine, as long as the food is good.

                And I've followed jscarbor's posts for quite some time and trust him implicitly. In my view, if he says it's worth going somewhere, even somewhere ugly, it is.

                1. re: UHCoog05

                  Uh, not to hit you when you're down, but when was the last time you had a burger at Lankford? Yikes.

                  I do agree with you on locations though. The environment is part of the whole experience to me, and there plenty of good Tex-Mex places around in places that showcase Houston.

                  1. re: Lambowner

                    Had it about 2 months ago. It's a nice hole in the wall place, cool atmosphere and good burger. I do agree that the last time I was there it seems a bit too seasoned, but I was hoping it was just a one-time thing.

                    1. re: UHCoog05

                      Try Christian's Tailgate, two locations. You'll love the burgers.

              2. re: UHCoog05

                I regularly eat at Tampico and I visit that area frequently going to the farmers market. I have never had any problems.

            2. I didn't want to say anything about the person that touts Goode Co bbq and Lankfords but will. My guess is coog saw these two on some food network show and thinks they are good places? My first time to eat at Lankfords was about 15 years ago and it was very good. Today I could easily name 15 places where I can get a better burger. Here they are:
              1. Mockingbird Bistro at the bar.
              2. Bernies Burger Bus
              3. Burger Guys
              4. Zelko's
              5. Tornado burger
              6. Ninfa's on navigation
              7. Laurenzo's
              8. Petrol
              9. Love Shack
              10 Rockwell's
              11. Goode Co taqueria and burgers(actually a pretty good place)
              12. Block 7
              13. Smash Burger
              14. Sparkles
              15. Bubbas
              For BBQ I could name 5 places that I know are better than goode. There would be more if I were to really think about it
              1. Gatlins
              2. Pierson's
              3. Lyndon's
              4. Virgies
              5. Pizzitola's(ribs only)
              As for Tampico being in an odd area, that's what makes it even cooler IMO. You don't go for the Tex Mex you go for the tex/gulf coast food. I don't think there is anything like it around the country? The whole snapper is one of the best dishes in Houston bar none. Original poster said hole in the wall wonders...this is x mark the spot for that IMO.

              Mockingbird Bistro
              1985 Welch, Houston, TX 77019

              Burger Guys
              12225 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

              5 Replies
              1. re: jscarbor

                I would also recommend Christian's Tailgate to you, jscarbor, not to detract from your list (especially Tornado), but if you haven't had a CT burger, you haven't had all that Houston haves to offer.

                1. re: Lambowner

                  Christians is good and should have been in my list.

                2. re: jscarbor

                  The burgers at Barnaby's are my favorite in Houston and there all beef hot dogs, the best. They use natural, hormone free ground chuck for the burgers. If your looking for the greasy burgers of christians or smashburger and the like, this is not your place. Also, the ribs here are about as good as it gets.. the smokey flavor of there chipotle bbq sauce is just awesome and i prefer over Pierson's,, and wins head and shoulders over the overrated Pizzitola's..

                  1. re: jscarbor

                    I didn't see them on food network. It's a good burger imo. Both of these places have lines out the door, so obviously they have returning customers. If you don't care for them, so be it, to each his own..like I already said.

                    Pappa's has a great burger, I think that should be on your list and I agree Christian's Tailgate does too. I was at Petrol this weekend and the burger was pretty good.

                  2. I haven't seen anybody mention Armadillo Palace. I can't speak on behalf of their food, but it's always a fun place to take visitors for a "Texas experience"

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thedomesticity

                      Most of their food comes from across the street, Goode Company BBQ, which many of here don't care for. I still think it's the best BBQ in that area. It's a cool little place and has live music many nights.

                      Goode Company Restaurants
                      2511 Bartlett St, Houston, TX 77098

                    2. These suggestions and the enthusiasm behind them are incredible! Thank you to all who have added their suggestions. We clearly need to make a point of spending more time in Houston asap. So many places, so little time! Will report back on where we end up going. Again, thank you for all the excellent info.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: delightfull

                        Houston is the fourth-largest city in the county. It's an immigrant city, which makes for great food on the low end. There's a lot of money here, too - oil money - which makes for pretty good food on the high end as well.

                        Houston doesn't get as much press for being a great food town as do New York, New Orleans, San Francisco. But when it comes to eating well, Houston ain't exactly chopped liver.

                        If you can't find something tasty to eat in Houston, it's your own dang fault.

                          1. re: DoobieWah

                            Yeah, okay...you just knew I couldn't be as succinct as that, right?

                            Just let me add that when reviewing a restaurant, I often point out how long it's been open or how long I've been patronizing it. That's because Houston is SUCH a great food city that anything sub-par just doesn't last very long. Restaurants like everything else have their ebbs and flows, but twenty or thirty years in the same location will usually suggest it is at least worth a look.

                            OK. I'm done.

                      2. Get out west on Bellaire and try some chinese and vietnamese. Houston has a huge ethnic presence/

                        1. My favorites right now when higher end are Haven and Branch Water Tavern.

                          If you've never experienced a Brennan's of New Orleans restaurant, try Brennan's in Houston, especially their brunch. Hugo's also has a great brunch.

                          If you like Asian and can't get authentic in your area, then I recommend a trip to Houston's Chinatown in southwest Houston, FuFu's Cafe is our favorite for dumplings and hot and spicy chicken. We also like Que Huong for Vietnamese.

                          Bombay Pizza is great fusion.

                          Que Huong Restaurant
                          8200 Wilcrest Dr Ste 27, Houston, TX 77072

                          Branch Water Tavern
                          510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: pyescamilla

                            Seconding BWT, have yet to try haven.

                            1. re: pyescamilla

                              At Branch Water Tavern, you MUST have the sticky toffee pudding for dessert. It is outstanding!

                              Branch Water Tavern
                              510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

                              1. re: grbroderick

                                I actually believe theres a thread somewhere, either on culturemap or 29-95 on just toffee pudding? i could be mistaking it for bread pudding however

                                1. re: grbroderick

                                  Not as good as Feast's Sticky Toffee pudding..IMO Not nearly. But I love Branch Water Tavern for their other offerings. i'm a regular.

                                  Branch Water Tavern
                                  510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

                                2. re: pyescamilla

                                  I'm with ya on Haven. It's damn good.

                                  I'm trying Branch Water Tavern tonight. ;-)

                                  Branch Water Tavern
                                  510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

                                  1. re: malarkey

                                    Branch Water Tavern:

                                    Had the artichokes stuffed with morcilla (good but I wanted more morcilla) shrimp & grits w/poached egg (very good but I've had better s & g) and the quail stuffed with foie gras, ginger cranberry chutney, daikon sprouts, mushrooms. The quail was awesome, perfectly cooked with a rare chunk of foie inside ;-> this dish could use a nice piece of grilled bread or something to sop up the fat from the foie. I didn't really care for the cranberry chutney, which is too bad, because foie IMHO needs something just slightly sweet to counter the richness. With the right sauce, this dish would be over the top amazing.

                                    didn't have an entree because at this point I was stuffed. Would love to go again with peeps who like to share their food so I could try more stuff.

                                    Had the "zut alors" cocktail (great name) and I thought it just slightly out of balance, but really quite nice. Good bar & great wine list as well.

                                    Branch Water Tavern
                                    510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

                                3. Cheap good fast authentic Mexican - 100% Taquitos - south side of route 59 a little East of Buffalo Speedway - (I think it's a whole exit east).
                                  Less good but atmospheric bar in Midtown with a sports theme Cyclone Anayas - overpriced but you might enjoy it
                                  Absolute bargain brunch ($10) Sabri Nihari at Highway 59 and Hillcroft - Pakistani/Indian no alcohol but awesome brunch. (Way cheaper than Indika which I also love).
                                  And finally Kanomwon (The Telephone Thai on Telephone road) - just about the best Thai food you'll find in Houston - Highly rated in Zagat's
                                  And really finally - Chick-Tex a tiny hole in the wall Puerto-Rican place run by an old couple from what I guess is their converted living room. Nice Mfongo and stuff like that.

                                  Cyclone Anaya's
                                  1710 Durham Dr, Houston, TX 77007

                                  516 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kagemusha49

                                    Tex Chick has the best onion rings I have had as well as the Puerto Rican food.

                                    Tex Chick
                                    712 1/2 Fairview St, Houston, TX 77006

                                  2. Just like the poster above, Cyclone anaya is good, but if u just want a "decent" bar, i would suggest christian's tailgate, killer burger

                                    1. Huynh Restaurant on St. Emanuel for duck salad, pork spring rolls, bone-in pork chop and stir fried tofu. Tampico for the snapper a la plancha. Himalya on 59 and hilcroft for hara masala. Goode Co. seafood for campenchana. Dolce Vita for margarita pizza and shaved brussel sprout salad.

                                      912 St Emanuel, Houston, TX 77003

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: JJC

                                        The hot spot du jour for Tex-Mex these days is El Real Tex-Mex, 1201 Westheimer. I make no assessment of the food (I havent been there yet) but with Bryan Caswell and Robb Walsh behind the concept, a lot is being expected of this place. Currently they are only open for dinner, but lunch service is scheduled to start on Tuesday 3/28. Just in time for the final-you-know-what scheduled to swamp the city next week .....

                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                          I've been there - had the guacamole, margaritas and the original regular dinner. Food was excellent traditional tex-mex. Not health food by any means, and I wouldn't recommend eating it every day, but it took my taste buds back 20 - 25 years to what tex-mex used to taste like.

                                      2. depends on what you like or CRAVING ;-)

                                        High end- MASRAFFs in the Galleria. Ive been to all that was mentioned for HIGH END, but the price at Masraffs is definitely cheaper but in my opinion, they have excellent food. I have been there twice. Da Marcos twice. Marks once (wont come back).

                                        Vietnamese- Cuu Long Quan for Pho, and Cali's for banh mi.
                                        Chinese/Singaporean- Bowl
                                        Chinese/Authentic (Szechuan)- Triple 8
                                        Cajun Food- BBs
                                        Japanese- Cocos Sushi (cheap HH sushi and chicken skin yakitori, drool) Japanese Ramen-Kubos (Tonkatsu Ramen)
                                        Authentic Mexican- (man, there's so many) You would have to venture out away from downtown. Taqueria Mexico or Taqueria Del Sol
                                        Italian (semi formal)- Cafe Bello

                                        I dont think i mentioned anything anyone has above...perhaps I am actually using this to get advice from everyone to see where I need to eat next ;-)

                                        Hope you enjoy your stay. Gah...I'm getting hungry....

                                        Da Marco
                                        1520 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

                                        Taqueria Del Sol
                                        8114 Park Place Blvd, Houston, TX 77017

                                        Cuu Long Quan
                                        3724 Broadway St, Houston, TX 77017

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: ldata

                                          Yeah, the Final Four ended last night so "Delightfull",(the OP), is probably back home now.

                                          However, that being the case Delightfull, we hope you enjoyed your stay.

                                          Where did you go and what did you have?

                                          1. re: DoobieWah

                                            hahahah i where have I been???? lol i just like food :-)