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Downtown's best?

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Greetings from a New Orleans Chowhounder! I get to Houston often but am either staying with family/friends off Memorial near Gessner or out in Kingwood. Consequently, they, fellow foodies, have taken me to such restaurants as Hugo's, Feast, Da Marco, Mark's, Chez Nous, Ibiza (sp?) and Cafe Rabelais (sp?). I'm coming to town with a buddy this weekend for a few Astros-Red Sox games and staying downtown for the first time, at the Alden.

Which places might I consider, type of cuisine immaterial, in/near downtown Houston? We won't have a car and I would not get crushed with cab fares over a 3-day period. I thank you much in advance!

Oh, the current opiniions on Cafe Annie? Haven't been in ages.

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Da Marco
1520 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

Cafe Annie
1728 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056

Chez Nous
217 S Avenue G, Humble, TX 77338

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  1. I was going to recommend Brennan's, but guess you already know about that :-) I'll be at Mr. B's in 3 weeks, can't wait!! I don't dine downtown much but I would NOT recommend Reef. Lots of people here love it but my one experience will keep me from ever returning.

    To get something Mexican near downtown, try El Tiempo on Washington. Crab quesadillas to die for. Casual atmosphere, good service, great food, wonderful margaritas. I haven't been to Hugo's but it's on my list, it looks really good.

    Chez Nous is in Humble, right? That's an expensive cab ride.

    2 Replies
    1. re: texasredtop

      Thanks for the suggestions, RedTop! Yes, that would be quite the haul and mega $$ to head out to Chez Nous. My friends in Kingwood and I go there about every 3rd or 4th time I visit, always top-notch. I appreciate the tip on El Tiempo, gotta get something in that vein every time I'm in Houston. Hugo's is my favorite Houston restaurant, we so don't have anything that ambitious in New Orleans Latin options. But I need something new. Much obliged!

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      Chez Nous
      217 S Avenue G, Humble, TX 77338

      1. re: sanglier

        Yes, I was thinking what could he/she possible have here that he can't get better in NO. That's when I came up with El Tiempo. I think it's much more casual than Hugo's. But I've always had good service and great food. The beef filet fajitas are really good but don't miss the crab quesadilla. It's huge too. Let us know where you end up and how you like it.

    2. 17, in your hotel, is still quite good. Flying Saucer is a good brew pub sort of place. There are many other places nearby. Will add more as I think of them. Voice & Hearsay Gastro Lounge are nice too..

      1 Reply
      1. re: DaTulip

        Thanks Tulip, I'd been told that 17 was good. Maybe I ought not dismiss it out of hand for the simple reason that it's where I'm staying! Always feel the need to catch a meal away from the hotel when I travel, but that really makes no sense when you think about it.

      2. Cafe TH on Pease has some really great Vietnamese. Their Bánh mì is the stuff dreams are made of. Try one with the pork meatballs, and you will love it. Open for dinner only Thurs/Fri from 6 - 9. Lunch M - Sat 11 -3.

        http://cafeth.com/

        1. Cafe Annie closed a while ago. It's been replaced by RDG+Bar Annie at 1800 Post Oak. I second 17. I also like Piola for pizza, Irma's by the ball park (although it's pricey for Mexican food), TQLA on Washington for Mexican and a jillion kinds of tequila. Downtown is a little lacking these days, unless you like steak. And then there are tons of choices it seems.

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          Cafe Annie
          1728 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056

          5 Replies
          1. re: Lambowner

            Thanks for the tips Lambowner! When you say "replaced" by RDG + Bar Annie, does that mean it has downscaled in terms of atmosphere/ambition/price? And what are the steak houses you speak of downtown? Del Frisco's in that number, or are they in another part of town? Haven't checked. My buddy loves DF.

            1. re: sanglier

              Morton's and Vic & Anthonys are both DT. I think the only DF location is in the Galleria. The Hilton of the Americas has a nice sky bar type resto as well as another steakhouse.

              1. re: DaTulip

                Is Vic and Anthony's as good/better than Del Frisco's, in your opinion? And I looked at the lunch and dinner menus at RDG + Bar Annie, and I must say they look really good! Any feeback?

                1. re: sanglier

                  I'm afraid to me a steak is a steak is a... so I can't offer my opinion on which is better, but I do HEAR that V&A's gets great love even though it's a Landry's holding. I have been to the steakhouse in the Hilton of the Americas and they have great creamed spinach and service. And steak, of course. There's also Strip Steakhouse and Shula's Steakhouse downtown.

                  I got no intel on RDG, but plenty has been written on it in the Chron.com and Houstonpress.com.

                2. re: DaTulip

                  The view is terrific from the top floor bar/restaurant in the Hilton but the food and ambience - not so much. Spencer's steakhouse in the lobby is much better food-wise. Excellent crab cakes (and crab legs on the lounge menu) and if you're getting a salad, ask for their wonderful balsamic dressing. Order extra on the side because you'll be tempted just to drink it out of the bowl.

            2. Treebeards in the basement of 1100 Louisiana is cheap and good cajun cafeteria style service. Out past midtown on Westheimer you have the awesome Indika - a modern Indian restaurant with high prices but nice decor and ambience and wickedly good food - not your traditional Indian but great. In midtown you have Damiens a good Italian but with very high prices.

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              Indika
              516 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

              2 Replies
              1. re: kagemusha49

                Sanglier - being that you are from NOLA, I'd give Treebeards a miss. It's fine for a DT lunch stop - good red beans and rice - but won't come close to what you have at home.

                1. re: DaTulip

                  Da Tulip, I agree on Treebird's. I would put it as a decent choice if you're stuck on jury duty, a person from New Orleans would be bitterly disappointed.

              2. FYI - the downtown taxi situation. They do a flat $6 CASH ONLY ride anywhere that is in the immediate downtown area. Once you get out into "mid-town" standard rates apply. Also, the Alden has a shuttle that should be able to drop you at downtown restaurants. Vic & Anthony's also does a greatly revered burger day on Fridays. Glad to see props to Chez Nous, since I live up there. They are really a hidden gem!

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                Chez Nous
                217 S Avenue G, Humble, TX 77338

                6 Replies
                1. re: arashall

                  Thanks Tulip, thanks Arashall! One final question and I'll get outta your hair: any suggestions for downtown or close to it Italian of a Da Marco quality? I'd love to squeeze in some good Italian while in town. Merci beaucoup!

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                  Da Marco
                  1520 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

                  1. re: sanglier

                    Damien's is good quality Italian (as suggested by kagemusha49). It's not DaMarco level, but it is DT. DaMarco isn't too far either. Another option is Sorrento...closer than DaMarco & great food, but just outside of DT. Westheimer near Montrose.

                  2. re: arashall

                    I agree with DaTulip on the Italian. Damian's is certainly good quality, but a little more traditional, less trendy (and less expensive). They have a very good hand with fish and seafood, as well. It's also open for lunch.

                    1. re: arashall

                      OK, a late push to do Quattro in the Four Seasons. I must admit the menu looks wicked, but anyone have feelings against going there?

                      1. re: sanglier

                        I've been there many times for drinks and appetizers. Everything first class and very good. It's a little, hmmm, "sterile?" If you know what I mean?

                        1. re: Lambowner

                          No sweat, we're a sterile group...wait that didn't come out right. Uh, we're fairly staid, yeah, that's better. Thanks Lamb!

                  3. For breakfast I would recommend that you hop on the Metro and head to Tacos A Go-Go for the great breakfast tacos. The Metro stops right in front. Also, Vic and Anthony's is a great place to go after the game. Eat in the bar or at the bar overlooking the kitchen and by all means try a crab cake. Also, definitely ignore the negative comment above about Reef. It probably has the best seafood in Houston and is well worth the $6 cab ride. My current favorite restaurant is Stella Sola but that may be a little further away than you want to go to. Enjoy.

                    http://tacosagogo.com/

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                    Stella Sola
                    1001 Studewood, Houston, TX 77008

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bhoward

                      If Reef is the best seafood in town then I'm wondering where else you eat at. There are tons of better seafood places than Reef. And better service. And a more pleasant atmosphere.

                      1. re: texasredtop

                        I eat all over Houston. I, like many, many who post here, love Reef. You have at least admitted in your posts that you are definitely in the minority and that you have only been to Reef one time. I try not to post negative reviews based on a single visit, especially if I am dining alone or with just one other person, because any place can have a bad day and because the number of items sampled is way too small. I have also found the service to be excellent and, in fact, am fairly certain that I have never read a negative post here concerning Reef's service other than yours. I do not find the atmosphere to be unpleasant at all but it is certainly minimalist and not like some of the older, more traditional fine dining rooms in Houston. Your statement that there are "tons" of better seafood places is, to be polite, misguided.

                    2. Sanglier: I got side tracked. Where did you end up eating in Houston?

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: bhoward

                        Yeah, where?

                        1. re: Lambowner

                          The last game was just over a few minutes so I'm thinking he's still here and will report back when he gets home.

                          1. re: texasredtop

                            All we lack is Sanglier's choices. Hope it wasn't RDG. Ahem.

                            1. re: Lambowner

                              lol - if it was RDG and he had a bad experience - you'd better scramble to delete your comments that came too late :-) Gosh, I've been searching chowhound all day in other areas. It's really hard coming up with something decent when visiting new places that don't have a lot great food like we do.

                              1. re: texasredtop

                                Hello folks! Just back from your great city this afternoon. Let me say a big thank you to all who gave me suggestions, I really appreciate your help. A few places we were going to hit last night, namely Voice and Damien's (sp?), were closed. But here's where we went: Friday, Quattro. Nice, calm atmosphere, really good pizza, porchetta, and pea soup with morels and sweetbreads. Friendly service, couple of Chianti Classico's. Happy we went. Saturday lunch: oh darn, forgot the name, something and Izzy's on/near Post Oak, the deli? Man, my sable and whitefish platter with a toasted poppy bagel, thought I was in Manhattan! Most delicious. Saturday, post-game: Vic and Anthony's. Just wonderful steak, nice service, expansive wine list with plenty of choices, opted for old favorite Rafanelli zin. Sunday night: not sure how we ended up here, but took at cab to Brasserie Max and Julie's. Textbook French! Chicken liver, lardon and frisee salad with poached egg, skate wing with butter and caper sauce, a few cheeses, Loire valley rose, half bottle of Sancerre to boot. What a gem! Today before flight: sliders and fries from BRC. Just what I needed--not! Overall, happy with our food. Wish I could say the same for the Alden Hotel. If there was a HotelHound, would I rant about them. Horrific service. Anyway, again, thanks all! Please look me up on the New Orleans board when ya'll come my way, love to add my 2 cents. Bye!

                                1. re: sanglier

                                  Kenny and Ziggy's?

                                  1. re: texasredtop

                                    That's it! Really enjoyed it, my friend had a collosal corned beef sandwich, brother stuffed cabbage rolls, but my smoked fish platter with a side potato knish was best. Hey TexasRedTop, please educate me: so is downtown Houston not really a happening scene? The area in the few blocks around the Alden was a ghost town! My brother who lives in Houston says that for the most part, downtown is quiet at night. Wasn't expecting that.

                                    1. re: sanglier

                                      Downtown Houston is so quiet it's apparently used as a metaphor for "the emptiness of modern life" in the recent film The Tree of Life :o)

                                      http://bit.ly/mE5kj9

                                      1. re: sanglier

                                        It's been a long time since I did anything downtown other than catch a restaurant. That's only once a year or so. If Brennan's weren't on the outskirts of downtown, I'd probably never go. The other posters here have much more experience downtown recently than I do. I think there are a couple of really great burger places but am not sure what the names are because I haven't been.

                                    2. re: sanglier

                                      Thanks for the report back. Sorry to hear about the Alden. Glad you found some good places. Will post to you for advice next we're in MSY.

                                      BTW, I also love the A. Rafanelli Zins. If you haven't been to WINO in New Orleans check it out. If they still have the 2005 Domaine Newman Clos des Avaux, check it out. I think you'd enjoy it.

                                      1. re: sanglier

                                        That sounds wonderful! Especially the pea soup. Glad you enjoyed!

                            2. We had a fabulous meal at Samba Grille in Bayou Place recently. (finally a good restaurant in Bayou Place) Definitely for carnivores only, and it ain't cheap. But the filets were perfectly medium rare as ordered, and the kitchen substituted two beautiful jumbo shrimp for the scallops I can't eat. Another of those big old shrimp was casually hooked over the edge of my bowl of shrimp and corn bisque, which was excellent. Shouldn't have indulged in the cappucino tres leches, but we did. Nice wine list, too. A great addition to downtown, especially for a special evening (dinner and a concert, etc.).