Can't Miss Restaurants in Katy Area
Hi. My husband, two-year-old daughter and I are coming to Houston to visit my husband's family for the Labor Day weekend. They live in Katy, Texas, but aren't exactly foodies. We'll have some time on our own for lunches and dinners out and we're looking for suggestions for the best food the area has to offer. We will have a car, but don't want to stray too far from Katy. Our time tends to be limited and I'd rather spend more of it eating out somewhere than in Houston-area traffic. We love good Mexican/Tex-Mex food, BBQ, burgers and craft beer and would love to try any other specialties the area has to offer. Restaurants need to be kid-friendly and moderately priced, but that hasn't been much of a problem before for us in Texas. We live in NYC, so please no Italian, pizza, bagels, etc. We want to experience the kind of food that makes the Houston area special. Thanks!
Just wanted to send everyone a belated thank you for their help. We had a great time in Katy and a lot of great meals. We really liked Tony's, (wow, their margaritas are strong!), Jarrito's was pretty good too. We'd been to Lupe before, so we skipped that.
My brother-in-law spent 14 hours smoking birsket, so that took care of my BBQ craving. Red River has been pretty good in the past for us though.
BronxBree,, thanks for the tips for the Battery Park area.. I typically stay at the big Marriott in Times Square and wanted to try something different on this trip,, something a little more sedate and non touristy.. Glad u enjoyed your trip to the Houston area... Thx for the recap!!
Thanks, BronxBree for the update. It's always great to hear how recommendations worked out.
Katy has so many really terrific restaurants that it was hard to narrow down. As I said, the startling diversity of Katy residents has resulted in a plethora of great ethnic eating spots. We've got several excellent Indian restaurants, several Colombian, lots of Japanese and Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Italian, Mexican (TexMex and Interior), Malay and Singapore, Lebanese, Israeli, Syrian, among others. We've got an Argentine bakery and sandwich shop owned by a lady from Buenos Aires, a steak and burger and beer place run by a fellow from Holland (whose dream it was to open a roadhouse type family restaurant in Texas and now he has), a northern Mediterranean bistro owned and operated by a Monegasque, a small Italian tratorria featuring homemade pasta and sauces, etc., run by real Italians that came to Houston from Italy via New York City, Palma de Cera (which some of you may not know is the national tree of Colombia) has a mixed "tipico" plate that is as wonderful as what I routinely got in Bogota, and even a Filipino restaurant and market, which is pretty good, and reminds me of my years living in the Philippines.
And also, of course, representation of many of the cooking styles and cuisines of the US as well, including barbeque, southern soul food, Cajun, and fine dining, among many others.
I didn't know anything much about Katy when I moved out here, and probably stupidly bought into the lazy, clichéd and ignorant thinking about suburbia. But I was wrong.
Gastronomically speaking, it's pretty amazing.
I love it here.
Where would you like me to start?
But, while you're deciding, I'll start with Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano.
This is a small restaurant, exquisitely decorated. It reminds me of entering a jewelbox, if such a thing were possible. The owner, Alex Salmassi, is from Monaco, and is a graduate of Cordon Bleu in Paris. Like many Katy business people, they initially had planned to open their store in Houston, but the rental prices, and other considerations of doing business in such a large city, caused them to consider the suburbs, to our great delight out here.
Because he is originally from the French/Italian Riveria, he is familiar with that region's greatest dishes - bouillabaisse being possibly the most famous. But my personal favorite thing I ever ate along that coastline was the marinated fresh anchovies.
Chef Alex doesn't routinely offer them on the menu (although it's a rotating menu, so you never know for sure), but he says that he will prepare anything from that region that you would like. Just give him a call a day or two in advance.
For example, he also doesn't offer limoncello sorbet, but if you make your own limoncello (as I do), you can take it in to him, and he'll make the sorbet for you.
This place is indeed a treasure. A jewel.
The only reason why I didn't recommend it to the OP was because she specifically requested "no Italian" - although this is certainly no commonplace "red-sauce" Italian restaurant, and they might have liked it a great deal.
But still, to me, "no Italian" pretty much means no Italian.
As I said, Da Vinci is very small, and it's very popular. You definitely need reservations.
BTW, one other reason why I didn't recommend Da Vinci is that I definitely would not say it's "family friendly." You do occasionally see children in there, but it seems to be only one child to a table...one very quiet sophisticated child that is perfectly happy with a dinner of escargot and a small baguette of crusty rustic French bread.
As opposed to the more typical fit-pitching, coloring-on-the-white-tablecloth sort.
We don't go there with the whole family. Either I go by myself, or with another adult friend, or I babysit the grandkids while my daughter and her hubby have a special night out.
You know, after having lived in Katy for several years, I remain somewhat gob-smacked (as the Brits say) at the wide variety and quality of restaurants here. Anyone that derides Katy restaurants as being "mostly homogenized chain factories" has basically just announced, "I am ignorant as to what's really in Katy but I'm so arrogant that I'm not about to let that ignorance stop me from making baseless insults." I honestly think that you could visit one independently-owned cafe or restaurant in Katy each day, ranging from good to excellent to outstanding, and from small taquerias to fine dining, and never run out of places to try.
Dekker's (the Dutchman's steak/burger/beer place) and Sweet & Salty (the Argentine bakery) are two such examples.
Dekker's - You know, I have in the past on quite a few occasions gotten to know European expats that tell me that their personalities, goals, ambitions, dreams, etc., just were not a good fit with the standard culture of Europe, at least not as they saw it. I have no idea as to whether or not that's true, but they clearly think it is. And when they get to Texas, they seem to be so wildly happy with what they see as their "liberation" that they become more "Texan" than folks born and raised here.
And that sort of enthusiasm pervades Dekker's. Tony Dekker says that his favorite movie quote is from John Wayne's "The Alamo," when Davy Crockett says, "You can all go to hell. I'm going to Texas."
The restaurant is an interesting combination of Texas-style family restaurant, and old European bier hall. We go there a lot. There's a sandbox for the kids, and the food is just so good, with an interesting and varied menu. The "gourmet" burgers are terrific, as are the salads. I am a particular fan of the stuffed crab and the fried shrimp. My daughter loves the Mesquite Roasted Chicken Salad. Son-in-law swears by the rib-eyes.
Sweet & Salty - I realize that everybody is different, and what pleases me might not please someone else, but for me, I have to honestly say that this place is perfect. Just perfect.
For one thing, the atmosphere. It's quiet, pleasant, relaxing. It reminds me of the small neighborhood bakeries/coffee shops in Europe. There are only a few tables, and you often see people sitting there, reading a newspaper or book, uninterrupted by the kind of noise and mayhem of a Starbucks, for example.
The owners are from Argentina, and there are quite a few bakery items that are typical of that cuisine. There are meringues, like pavlovas, but filled with dulce de leche rather than fruit. There are "Mil Hojas" (which means, "a thousand leaves"), layers of thin pastry filled with sweets. There are several varieties of empanadas, and enough hand-decorated cookies to fill an entire display case. There are loaves of bread to take home. There are tres leches tortes, and tiny individual key lime pies.
And, best of all to me, there are these wonderful sandwiches, not really like anything I've seen elsewhere, except maybe at Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. They are made with very thin slices of white bread - the bakery's bread, so it's got a nice crumb, totally unlike that white "cotton bread" (as my grandmother used to call Wonder bread). The crusts are cut off, and there is a thin filling of something delicious. Although the menu rotates, there are usually prosciutto and cheese, roasted red pepper and cheese, tuna, and my personal favorites, eggs, olives and cream cheese, and hearts of palm and cheese.
I've read some reviews online, and most of them are raves. The only negative comments are about the so-called "rude" service. Well, I remember when I first went in, a couple of years back, right after they first opened. I wouldn't call the service "rude" so much as "indifferent." But I kept going back. And after two or three more visits, I realized that that the lovely Argentine lady that waited on customers was very unsure of her English skills. I do think that she has something of a shy and reserved nature as well, and is more comfortable in the back of the house whipping up some delicious treat than chatting it up with the folks coming in the front door. And all of that was just fine with me. But they have now hired some more outgoing and personable help to wait on the customers.
Like I said, I'm not making any promises to anyone.
But for me, this place is absolutely perfect.
Back to Katy - I think I've said this elsewhere, but it bears repeating. A great many local Katy businesspeople have told me that when they originally considered opening a business in the Houston area, they naturally thought they would do that downtown. But there are a lot of negative aspects to that.
Katy suits them just fine.
And for anyone that feels the urge to deride Katy and its citizens, well, I've got an idea...
How about this: I won't gratuitously insult your burg, and you won't gratuitously insult mine.
Very cool. " I honestly think that you could visit one independently-owned cafe or restaurant in Katy each day, ranging from good to excellent to outstanding, and from small taquerias to fine dining, and never run out of places to try." - that's quite a HUGE departure from when I was growing up there over 10 years ago...
Dekker's sounded somewhere I'd wanna bring my family that's a little more interesting than the typical places off Mason Rd, but whoa it's out there! What about the Malay/Singaporean food?
The bakery sounds great. I used to live down the street from a Colombian bakery in Carrollton (El Portal) that's got similar sounding pastries like arepas, milhojas, almojabanas, etc. Indifferent is a good word for the service and I think it's just a cultural difference in dining out.
Well, Air, I'll bet you've changed a bit over those ten years, too!
Katy has been experiencing phenomenal growth. In fact, in January of 2011, the Gadberry Group released its list of fastest-growing communities in the US, and little ol' Katy was ranked #1. In the whole country. Much of that growth has been thanks to newcomers from various foreign countries, and they choose Katy in large measure because of its low crime rate, good property values, and some of the nation's top-ranked schools. That obviously has had an influence on Katy's retail outlets, including restaurants.
As for Dekker's being way "out there," I don't know in which part of Katy you'll be, but we're in Cinco Ranch, and it only takes us about ten-fifteen minutes or so to get there. You go south on 99, which is 4-lane freeway, and then west on FM 1093 for a couple of miles and there it is. Pretty easy commute, for us, anyway.
The Malay/Singaporean restaurant is something of an interesting story, speaking of why some people would rather be in Katy than downtown Houston. Actually, Doobiewah was the first to tell me to try it, and I was sure grateful.
It seems that the woman had a successful Malay/Singaporean restaurant (called Cafe Singapore) in Houston, but she had had some issues there that had caused her to consider high-tailing it to the suburbs, so she tried to sell out, but didn't have any takers. She has a daughter in Singapore and, once a year, goes to visit the daughter for several weeks so, a couple of years ago, she put a note on the door of the Houston restaurant saying that it was "temporarily closed" until her return. To her surprise, while she was gone, somebody contacted the landlord and asked if the restaurant was permanently closed, because if so, he was interested in buying it.
So she sold, and opened "Rich Asian Cuisine" in a strip mall on south Mason. It's small, and pretty-typically "strip mall" in ambiance, but the food is terrific.
Here's an excerpt from my first review:
"For the main, I ordered the Nasi Lemak, a sort of Malay combination plate. Included on it was rice cooked in coconut milk, beef rendang, sambal shrimp, and a fried egg. For garnish, there were peanuts, cucumbers, marinated carrot strips, and fried anchovies. The sambal shrimp was pretty spicy - not take-off-the-roof-of-your-mouth spicy, but perhaps one step down. People that carry around little bottles of high-scoville hot sauce and pride themselves on their ability to handle heat and are forever double-dog-daring others to join them would probably find it wimpy, but people that can't handle spicy food at all should probably order something else. I loved it, although it was at the top of my own personal heat tolerance index. It was perfectly-cooked shrimp in a hot chili-oil sambal sauce. Just excellent. The beef rendang was also excellent, tender pieces of beef in a traditional sauce. Although made with coconut milk, it's not sweet. The various chilies and spices can make it quite hot, but this wasn't. I think anyone would enjoy it.
"Those little fried anchovies were a tasty and crunchy and unusual (to me anyway) treat and they, along with the peanuts and cucumbers and carrots rounded out a very good dish."
Here's a link to the Urban Spoon reviews: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/8/1601025...
Well, howdy y'all!
Interestingly, I checked back at that original Katy thread that I started about a year-and-a-half ago, and a few things have definitely changed. We've got some new favorites, and some previous favorites are no longer doing all that much for us anymore.
I will say that in the interim, we've become big fans of Dozier's BBQ, which Doobs recommended. BronxBree, don't know how familiar you are with Texas barbecue but, for the most part, this is not the land of pulled pork and sweet baked beans, so don't go to Houston's BBQ joints expecting that. Dozier's has excellent barbecue brisket - both the moist (our favorite) and the lean.
For TexMex, our hands-down favorite is Tony's, on Mason. We go there often enough that they recognize our voices when we call to reserve a large table and two highchairs. Everything we've ever had there is terrific. We always start with the Nachos Sabrosos, which come a dozen to an order. Our group most often consists of me, my daughter, her husband, and their three small children, and we go through two orders pretty quickly. And two more when my son and his wife join us. Again, BronxBree, don't know what you're accustomed to, but if you are not that familiar with traditional Texas nachos, and you are imagining that big plate or bowl of cold tortilla chips with mounds of assorted gooey mush dumped over, these nachos are nothing like that. These are hot, and individually prepared, with only a smear of refried beans, topped with some cheese. The jalapenos usually come on the side, so they're good for kids. Our 4-year-old and 2-year-old always polish off one order all by themselves. Then, my daughter gets one order of cheese enchiladas, which the kids split, and that's their meal. By the way, true Texas nachos look something like this: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2008/01/nachos-101.html You can't go wrong.
Another huge favorite is Orleans Seafood Kitchen, up on I-10. They have wonderful Cajun food. In particular, we love their fried shrimp and hush puppies, and the etouffee, but again, everything we've tried has been terrific. On Sundays, they give you a ten-percent discount if you bring in a church bulletin, so there are always a lot of families.
One thing that Houston does spectacularly well is Vietnamese. I read somewhere that the Houston area has the second-largest Vietnamese population in the US, with only Orange County in California having more. I don't know if that's true, but there's no question that the Vietnamese are well-represented here, having immigrated to this region due to its climate and opportunities to earn a living by fishing, both similar to Vietnam. There are many excellent Vietnamese restaurants all over Houston, and Pho Saigon is one of the best. They have a location in Katy on Mason and we go there a lot. The pho is outstanding, just as you'd think, but probably our favorite dish is the dinner with the char-broiled sliced pork, and fried egg rolls. You can get that with rice (#53 on the menu), or with vermicelli (#60). Those crispy fried egg rolls are wonderful. They always come with some lettuce leaves on the side, and a dipping sauce. You take your hot, crispy egg roll, and wrap it in one of the cool lettuce leaves, and then dip the whole thing into the sauce on its way to your mouth. So so so good.
For southern/comfort/soul food, which I can't imagine is very commonplace in NYC, we like Cornbread and Collins Greens, a small family restaurant run by the Collins family. Service can be spotty there, since the Collins kids are often pressed into service to wait tables. But the food is spectacular. The sweet potatoes, greens, fried chicken, and other typical southern "meat and three" plates are as good as I remember my grandmother making. And that's pretty damn good, indeed.
While driving to Katy along I-10, you can't miss the large "boat" on the south side of the interstate, just as you near Katy from the east. That's Cap'n Tom's Seafood & Oyster Bar. I'd bet a pretty penny that it's nothing like what you'd find in NYC, thanks in no small measure to the typical clientele. On any given day, you'll find a lot of Mexican workers chatting over their oysters and Micheladas, a concoction of beer, hot sauce, and lime juice. The atmosphere is fun - you sit at an oyster bar that feels almost like you're dining dockside, and the food is cheap and good. Another place where we're regulars.
Katy is a very interesting little burg, as it turns out. And who knew? Not me. But now that we're here, we're stunned at the diversity of its residents. We've been told that the reason is that Katy's crime rate is low in comparison to much of Houston, and Katy schools have a reputation for excellence. Those two things are of particular importance to people that immigrate here, particularly those from Asia and the Middle East. So we have a great many businesses that cater to these varied ethnic groups. There are at least five Middle Eastern restaurants, with our favorite being Naranj, also on Mason. It's new, having just opened in the location where Saltena was (in fact, as of yesterday, they hadn't changed the sign, so when you go, if it still says "Saltena," no worries, you're in the right place). The owner of Naranji is Syrian, and is working hard to offer the very best of his native country's food. Even when we don't eat there, we often stop by to get some hummus, tabuli, home-made pita hot out of the brick oven, grape leaves, swarma, etc., to go. They don't yet have a beer and wine license, but they're working on it, and, for now, you can take in a cooler of beer or wine if you'd like.
There are also a great many restaurants in Katy that cater to kids, and I mean really cater to kids, as in offering a sandbox where the kids can play while the grownups chat.
First among these is Dekker's (also in Fulshear, where Dozier's is located). They offer beer and wine and hamburgers and steaks and salads.
And Lupe Tortilla, probably our second-favorite TexMex in town, but our first-favorite sandbox.
And Red River Grill, our third-favorite barbecue, but our second-favorite sandbox.
And Jarrito's, our third-favorite TexMex and third-favorite sandbox, but their sandbox is covered, so it gets bumped up to number one if it's raining.
For breakfasts, we go to the rather spectacularly unimaginatively-named "Bakery Doughnuts" location at the corner of Cinco Ranch and Peek. They have terrific kolaches, including several sausage varieties, a truly Texan example of the "kind of food that makes the Houston area special."
And our favorite location for breakfast tacos, "Tacos la Bala" - the Katy location in the parking lot of the Fiesta at the southeastern corner of I-10 and Mason.
Can't help u with Katy area restaurants as I live in the Montrose area but I will tell ya that houston is a breeze to navigate around during holidays. The town really empties so getting to and from and getting seated quickly at ttpically busy restaurants is a snap! Not from nothing, I need some good picks for pizza, bagels, etc in the Battery Park area for a planned trip in mid oct. Can u help?
Unfortunately, there's not much in the Battery Park area, (I used to work down there). It's a very business-oriented place and they roll up the sidewalks pretty early in the day. Be sure to have a drink on the patio at Ulysses on Stone St., but their food is not so great. Make sure to get a slice of pizza at Pizzeria Italia, also on Stone St. close to Broadway. The "Grandma" slice is the best. FYI, they are closed on the weekend. Battery Park is a great area to walk around and Battery Park is beautiful. And, you've got a lot of subway lines nearby to get you somewhere else. The best bagels are at Murray's. It has locations in the W. Village and Chelsea.
Jaymes, please pick up the red courtesy phone...Jaymes...
In the meantime, let me turn you on to Dozier's Meat Market in Fulshear. Shouldn't be more than a fifteen to twenty minute drive depending where exactly in Katy you'll be.
Old fashioned meat market and BBQ, (best at lunch). Also check out the smoked bacon, beef or turkey jerky, etc. Also canned jellies and jams.
You'll love it.
Here's a link: http://doziersbbq.com/