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Jul 18, 2012 03:20 PM

Fiesta Mart? also, Veg suggestions?

I'll be in Houston for three days, August 11-13, delivering my daughter to Freshman orientation week at Rice. We'll be staying at the Holiday Inn Medical Center. I love international groceries, and am hoping to get to Fiesta Mart. Is there anything to recommend one over the other -- it seems we'll be closest to the Kirby St. one (near the Target we'll be going to for dorm sup[plies) or the one near the Menil Collection. Will I find European things there as well as Hispanic and Asian?

Also, if "vegetarian" isn't a dirty word in Texas, could anyone recommend a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, preferably in the Rice/Kirby/Medical Center area?


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  1. First, congratulations to you and your daughter on her entry into Rice. Great school. My rocket scientist buddy got his PhD there, (in Space Physics!).

    Second, Fiesta will have European foodstuffs as well as Asian, etc., but it's main focus is Latin American.

    For a great selection of European stuff try to get out to Phoenicia Market. The one near me is way out Westheimer from where you'll be, but they have recently opened a new location downtown.

    We have great Asian markets here as well. My old standby was Hong Kong Market on Bellaire, but I've recently developed a fondness for 99 Ranch Market on the Katy Freeway which is a chain out of the West Coast.

    Also fairly near where you'll be staying is Central Market. It's a "gourmet" HEB, but it carries a lot of stuff you won't find anywhere else. (But expect to pay for it!)

    I can't help at all with vegetarian; (but I never let the opportunity to say so slip by...)!

    I hope you enjoy your stay in Houston. It's a great place to eat.

    4 Replies
    1. re: DoobieWah

      Bragger, rocket scientist, my best bud walked on the moon, or not, but he does have an awsome telescope. Fiesta, the one on Bellaire and Hillcroft is like a trip to border town Mexico. It starts with a flea market/cheap curios, stereos, all kinds of stuff on the sidewalk. Walk in for your dental work, cowboy boots, cheap jewelry, etc. It's got all the international stuff the others do. The late, great talk show host Alvin Van Black said this is one place in town to take out of town visitors, just go during daylight hours. It's no more than a twenty minute drive from the Medical Center.

      1. re: James Cristinian

        Living just minutes from the Johnson Space Center for 30 years I indeed have friends that have floated in space! Was fortunate enough to see one safely launced on the STS123 shuttle flight. Still mad Houston did not get a shuttle - although we did get a great replica that is even more visitor friendly.

        Now back to the subject of vegetarian restaurants. One just a short trip up Montrose - Baba Yaga is fav for my vegetarian daughter.

        1. re: Cookie Baker

          I suggest the light rail to Spec's for a really good deli great wine selection, plus lots of hard to find food. Yes Cookster, way back I had a sales job where I called on NASA, one of my favorite calls was Building 29, aka the pool, where the astronauts practiced EVA zero gravity outside the shuttle. I was unfortunate enough to be on a pay phone outside NASA making a sales call appointment the second we lost Challenger. The community was just devastated. Wow!!, Cookie, a shuttle launch, awesome. If you think about it, there were 135 shuttle launches and two horrific accidents, very, very short odds, which underscores our true heroes of the space program, not to mention the hundreds of jet test pilots that gave the ultimate sacrifice.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            James, I was friends with Ronnie McNair - a brilliant man, lost in the Challenger accident. That added to my angst when Mike went up on the Endeavour. It was a 2 am launch. It was truly a bucket list moment. Went as an invitee of the astronaut so we were on KSC.

    2. The Fiesta stores vary a lot in terms of international products that they carry but the one on Kirby will be a much better choice than the one in Montrose which is a neighborhood favorite but will be closing soon. James' rec of the Hillcroft one is a good one too but you will find a lot more Hispanic and Caribbean than European I think. I think of Phoenicia as more oriented toward the Middle East and Mediterranean than European. What particularly are you looking for - there are some nationality specific import stores. The deli at Spec's liquor warehouse store on Smith has a lot of European import items.

      A request for vegetarian may provoke gaping gazes in small town and rural Texas but not in the big cities and certainly not in Houston. Many restaurants here will honor requests for vegetarian preparations if they are not already designated on the menu. A place that would be very convenient to you would be the Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet on Kirby, actually in the same center as the Fiesta but around the corner, facing the north end of Reliant Stadium. It's a local chain and a buffet so that already tells you something of course but it's pretty good. There will be a half dozen salads to choose form, very good hummus and babaganoush, plus veggie dishes in addition to meat choices. There is a My Fit Foods, a local or Austin based group of healthy meal take-out places, on Holcombe at Greenbrier, not far from your hotel. They will have some vegetarian choices plus each of those stores carry some entrees and sides from Pat Greer's Vegan Kitchen up in Montrose. Selection will be limited. Over on Almeda is Green Seed Vegan cafe. This young couple has been running a food truck for a year or so but just recently graduated to a brick and mortar establishment.

      I would imagine there are vegetarian options at whatever eateries there are on the Rice campus, too. As far as The Village, referred to these days as Rice Village, just west of the campus, the only restaurant in there specifically touting it's vegetarian menu is Shiva Indian and it's only so-so. There is much better Indian including some specifically vegetarian in the Mahatma Gandhi district, on Hillcroft at 59, just up from the Fiesta James rec'd - Shri Balaji Bhavan is a foodie favorite; there is also Shiv Segar, Udipi Cafe and Krishna Chat and down the highway a bit in a motel, a Gujurati buffet at Bhojan.

      You can find lots more on all these including maps on Yelp or our local site,, or by googling for websites or reviews in The Press.

      ETA: that Fiesta on Hillcroft will carry a lot of Central American products, particularly Salvadoran.

      1. Thanks, everybody! I'll check out all these suggestions.

        1. I echo everyone's suggestions. Fiesta and Phoenicia Markets are probably your best bet for international items, aside from driving a bit to get to 99 Ranch or H-Mart.

          I'll also throw out some more vegetarian friendly suggestions that are nearby Rice...
          Ruggles Green
          Hobbit Cafe
          Field of Greens
          Bombay Pizza

          3 Replies
          1. re: psychotron

            Another strong recommendation for Phoenicia Market. I'd tell you that's it's a "do not miss."

            And the Spec's downtown, while primarily a wine & booze shop, is pretty Spec-tacular, and carries a great many specialty food items, including European imports.

            British Isles maintains an excellent website for ordering European items, from the UK in particular, obviously, of course. And their store is here in Houston. It's wonderful.


            And Polonia Restaurant serves terrific Polish food. They have a store, too.


            1. re: Jaymes

              Wow -- British Isles is right near Rice! Thank! I have a peculiar fondness for British snack cakes and biscuits.

              1. re: khoffdenver

                The Polish food store is pretty amazing. I had forgotten about British Isles. For Italian the biggest selection in town would be Nundini's on Shepherd but D'Amico's in the Village has a small collection of imported goods in their restaurant.

                For Turkish there is Istanbul Market on Hillcroft and for Bosnian, the Bosnian food store across from Cafe Pita + which is out (relatively) near Phoenicia.

                The more I think about it, the biggest selection of European import foods just might be Spec's, though.

                On the website, select Browse the Store, then Foods, if you have a couple of hours to browse the lists to see if anything tickles your fancy.


                BTW, just remembered I saw the other day that some organization had ranked Houston the fifth best city in the nation for vegetarian dining out.

          2. Because you will be staying in the Medical Center area, the closest Fiesta is a very nice one on South Main. You will also want to go to Phoenicia, either the new one downtown that you can get to by rail or the original larger one out side of the loop on Westheimer. There are excellent South Indian vegetarian restaurants along Hillcroft: Shiv Sagar, Sri Balaji Bhavan, Udipi, Raja Sweets, Neeta's Indian restaurant.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Jay Francis

              The Fiesta Market near the Menil (at Dunlavy and Alabama) closed permanently last Sunday.

              Madras Pavillion is a good vegetarian (and, in fact has vegan options) Indian restaurant on Kirby, south of Richmond. If you like Mexican, Bocados on Alabama near the Menil has several vegetarian options. Also, on Montrose, just a few blocks north of Rice, is Thai Sticks, one of many Thai possibilities. Istanbul Grill and Pasha in Rice Village have vegetarian options, too.

              1. re: sallen

                Oh, thanks for letting me know! I'll plan to go to the one on Kirby st.

                I'm copying all the vegetarian restaurant suggestions into a document to print out and take with us. Thanks, everybody!