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Thank you Houston (summary of my favorite restaurants)

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I moved to Houston from New York 4 years ago. Initially I was very disappointed with the food scene, mostly because of how spread out everything was. but also it took me some time to get used to the local cuisine. (And to eating with the wonderful view of a parking lot).

Over the past few years I have educated myself on local restaurants using Allison Cook at the Chronicle, the Houston Press blogs, Culture Map, the fearless critic and Chowhound. And good old leg work (or car work...no walking here)

I came with a liking of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Italian. Also Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese. Warmed up to Mexican and to BBQ.

I am leaving Houston again and wanted to share my culinary favorites.

Still missing – coffee house that serves quality baked foods (Tiny had potential, Flora and Muse is too far from me).

American/Hamburgers
Barnabys – good basic food and kid friendly.
Becks – for weeknight hamburgers. The closest to fast food that I will indulge in.
Little Bigs – mostly for their fries. Convenient location in Montrose.

British/Indian
Queen Vics – love their fish and chips and their beer selection.
Indika – not a fan of Indian, but liked some of the dishes here.
Madras – husband’s favorite Indian buffet

Italian
Dolce Vita – Favorite pizza. Love the brussels sprouts. Also kid friendly (though no kid menu)
Poscol – hit or miss. Some of the smaller dishes are great but mixed experience.

Chinese
Fung’s – solid Chinese. Fun dim sum on weekends. Weeknights are uneven. A little pricy.
Tan Tan – the one I kept going back to for lunch.
Fu Fu Café – recent discovery. Great Chinese.

Vietnamese – Saigon Pho, Les Girval

Sushi –
Kata Robata – new favorite Japanese.
Oishi- basic sushi.

Coffee
Greenway Plaza – David is my coffee guru. Best drip and espresso drinks in the worst possible place atmosphere wise (Greenway Plaza #5 food court). Still worth the trip. No pastries.
Catalina – Same quality coffee as Greenway in the heights – which is a stretch from where I live. Wish I was closer. Pastries okay.
Inversion – good coffee – never warmed up to the setting. Better pastries.

Mexican
Picos – our favorite Mex Mex (never warmed up to Hugo’s)

Fine Dining
Zelko – had great meal here. Would go regularly if closer (next time I move to Houston I will live in the Heights)
Feast – still probably one of my favorite places to eat - inventive food, buttoned down setting.
Gravitas – had a great meal once. Not sure why didn’t return
Bar Annie/RDG – order from the bar menu (much more affordable)

Sea food
Reef – had mixed experience. When good the sea food is great.
Pappas Sea food – yummy cheap fresh oysters

Middle Eastern
Aroma – Israeli inspired place with great salads, soups and sandwiches. Service sketchy.
Phoenicia – better for grocery shopping than for eating. The cafeteria has some good salads and entrées, but not close to true Middle Eastern quality
(Fadi's) – pale Middle Eatsern. Okay for lunch.
Kasra – Excellent Persian food. Favorite S8 – the lamb shank in lemon and celery.
Café Mezza – their rice and grilled meats/chickens are very good. Their menu is too expansive (pasta and Middle Eatern – why?)

When you want a lunch with your girlfriend
Tiny Boxwood – when I pretend to be a lady that lunches. If their ordering method were streamlined, I would probably eat here more often, because the food is good and the atmosphere charming. But having one (slow) person take orders at lunch ensures long lines that are not justified.
Flora and Muse – Haven’t been recently. My kind of place for light meals, coffee and pastries with a girlfriend. If only it were closer…

Other
Kenny and Ziggys – when I had to have a corned beef sandwich. Great quality but oh so pricy.
Bagels – bagel shop on Hillcroft south of S. Braeswood.

Anvil – favorite cocktail. Though when crowded – impossible to order (I am probably too old for this at 40+)

Steak House
Pappas steak house – was best steak eaten in Houston. By the time we go to Vic and Anthony’s I was a little tired of the “steakhouse scene”. I know Texas is supposed to have the best steaks. I still prefer Peter Luger…

When the kids are hungry and too tired to cook
Café Express – If I space it out, I can manage eating here every once in a while.
Pei Wei – more husband’s preference. I feel greasy afterwards.

Not impressed by
Marks
De Marco
Nico Nico’s
Max’s Wine Dive

Never got to eat there but meant to
Ninfa
Philipe
Burger Guys
Haven
Ava
Vieng Thai
Samba Grill

So this is my way to thank you Chowhounds for all the advice over the years.

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Tiny Boxwoods
3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027

Pico's Restaurant
5941 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77081

Fu Fu Cafe
9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Indika
516 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

Ninfa's
600 Travis St Ste T-L, Houston, TX 77002

Kata Robata
3600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098

Vieng Thai
6929 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055

Tan Tan Restaurant
8066 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77063

Burger Guys
12225 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

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  1. Almost forgot!
    On my second day here - as I was getting used to the scenery (flat, strip malls, highways) I was taken to Central Market. After 5 minutes there I looked at husband and said - with a store like this - I can live here.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JenJen16

      That was a great review. After 9 yrs here, I too am still in search of a great bakery and farmers market but for the most part the food scene here is great.

    2. Thanks for the list. I agree with you for the most part. One major difference being Max's Wine Dive. I think they have fantastic food, expecially the legendary 3 egg sandwich BELT. I have been to Mark's several times and it just doesn't do it for me. It's ho-hum in an expensive way. I would never go to a RDG place either, since I had just a horrid evening at the Grove once. However, Fung's Kitchen and Docle Vita are such happy places to eat, and I am grateful they are in Houston.

      Good Luck to you!

      -----
      Fung's Kitchen
      7320 Southwest Fwy Ste 115, Houston, TX 77074

      2 Replies
      1. re: Lambowner

        the only issue i have with Max's Wine Dive,, and its a HUGE dealbreaker for me,, on 2 of my 3 trips to Max's,, having a full frontal view at the bar in front of the "open" kitchen,, I observed the chef's preparing food for the customers,, feeding themselves (as in hand to mouth).... This nasty behavior probably happens at many restaurants but,,, sight unseen goes undetected by patrons. All the more appalling that this happens in full view of customers... I did complain to the mgr who sent me an email of apology, insuring he would correct the problem while speaking with the staff.. On the visit that followed,, the behavior remained unchecked,, thus my last visit there. Do you think these food handlers wash there hands after restroom breaks?? I 'll play it safe,, and stay away..

        1. re: bornie

          I would expect cooks to be "tasting." Maybe not with hands though.. I did eat at that bar last time and didn't see that. I'm not sure it indicates a lack of hand washing in the bathroom, though...

      2. Are there any other noteworthy cocktail destinations in Houston besides Anvil, or is that the only one that's in the spotlight? I just figure Houston's big enough to where there has to be at least a couple more bars doing quality cocktails that isn't anywhere near as crowded.

        5 Replies
        1. re: air

          Branch Water Tavern has an amazingly extensive cocktail list much like Anvil's. The bar is small but comfortable.

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          Branch Water Tavern
          510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

          1. re: Lambowner

            Cool, will check that out. Should also probably clarify: extensive cocktail list isn't a requisite, basically want a place with discerning bartenders who care about making proper drinks and don't take shortcuts - that isn't Anvil.

            1. re: Lambowner

              My wife and I went last week (Tuesday night). I had a nice glass of whiskey and she a cocktail, but the food was not up to par and the service was worse. We only were told of one special after we inquired about a plate two tables over, and didn't even hear the second special until after we'd ordered and the waiter was dealing with the table next to ours. The apps were pretty decent (chix fried oysters-yum, bacon wrapped shrimp with grits and egg, good, not great), but the entrees (pretty tough fatty pork chop for me, short rib for her) were underseasoned and just didn't earn their keep. All food was served by the hostess, who had to ask who had what for each course, and they just didn't seem to care that we were there. Overall, for $135 or so including tip, I expect better food and much better service. I have no aversion to spending a couple hundred for a great meal, but I think we either hit a very off night, or this place is not worth a trip.

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              Branch Water Tavern
              510 Shepherd, Houston, TX 77007

              1. re: LeroyT

                @LeroyT, I gotta agree, I've been to Branch Water many times when it was great, but when I went this week, it was not so good. The fish and chips that were awesome turned into 4 strips of greasy yuk. I did not see the usual chef there, so perhaps he's departed. Movin' on.

                1. re: Lambowner

                  Possibly not. I've had the same experiences there that you describe since they opened...stellar or complete miss, with no pattern I can discern.

          2. Nice thoughtful list and useful observations. Thanks a lot! (Are you headed back to NY?)

            1. Couldn't agree more with your coffee reviews! David is my coffee guru, too!