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Austin 'hounds coming to Houston for foodie weekend (rate this itinerary)

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jwynne2000 May 13, 2013 07:37 PM

Hello kind Houston 'hounds. My wife and I are coming to Houston over Memorial Day weekend for a ballgame and more importantly, delicious food. We've sadly had very little of all the good food that Houston has to offer, so we're excited to jump in. For geographical reference we're staying at a hotel downtown. Here's the plan, please affirm or critique, and suggest alternatives if there are better options within our parameters:

Friday lunch - Liberty Kitchen for oysters. We'll be arriving to town around noon, and we won't be able to check into the hotel yet, so lunch is first. We are going nuts for dinner, so we were thinking something on the smaller side.

Friday pre-dinner cocktail - Captain Foxheart's or Goro & Gun? Both are a block or two from the hotel.

Friday dinner - Oxheart. Followed by after dinner cervezas at Last Concert Cafe :)

Saturday coffee/pastry - Minuti Coffee. We don't really want a big breakfast, but great coffee is a must.

Saturday lunch - Because we prefer to keep the driving to a minimum in unfamiliar territory, we're going to hop on the 81 bus to the Westheimer / Montrose area for shopping, browsing, and hipster bingo. This is where we're stumped...where to eat for lunch in this area. Is the new Pistoleros any good? Bacchus?

Saturday early dinner - Batanga for tapas. Astros vs. A's at 7:00, so we're trying to eat something tasty and easy before the game.

Saturday post-game cocktails/entertainment/late-night eats? Any suggestions? Is there a good jazz club in the downtown area?

Sunday - on our way out of town, we'll stop at Revival Market to load up on sausages, charcuterie, and other amazing-looking goodies that Austin is so sadly missing. Is this place legit?

Thanks in advance for the help!!

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  1. DoobieWah RE: jwynne2000 May 14, 2013 08:38 AM

    Well, I've never even heard of half of those places, and Revival Market is the only one I've been to, but I greatly look forward to reading your trip report after you return home.

    Who knows? Maybe it will inspire me to get out more.

    1. Lambowner RE: jwynne2000 May 14, 2013 10:35 AM

      Sounds like a plan! Although I would order the oysters fried. We are past raw oyster season. Late night eats may include El Real for Tex-Mex or Mai's for Vietnamese. I don't know of Pistoleros or Bacchus either, I tried Casa Caballo newly opened in that area and it was "okay." Niko Niko's is there also for fabulous Greek food. There are tons of places to eat in Westheimer/Montrose, so don't be stumped. Danton's (seafood), NiJoy (Thai), El Real, Underbelly (closed for lunch Sat, but highly recommended), Niko's, are all discussed here in a plethora of posts as are many more in the area. Cocktails: Federal Grill, Anvil (of course), and for old school elegance, the Four Seasons piano lobby bar downtown. Search by area of town or cuisine at B4-U-Eat.com

      1. n
        neointima RE: jwynne2000 May 15, 2013 10:53 AM

        We've become big fans of Vinoteca Poscol in Westheimer/Montrose. In-house charcuterie with HEADCHEESE (and other things also)! On Sundays, they do roast suckling pig!

        http://www.poscolhouston.com/

        For the evening: Although not a great place for drinks Nouveau Antique Art Bar is a pretty great place to check out for their massive collection of Tiffany-style Art Nouveau lamps.

        http://www.art-bar.net/

        After checking out the lamps, I would promptly head to 13 Celsius Wine Bar for laid-back yet hip wine bar atmosphere. Tons of affordable by the glass with a really very helpful and engaging staff. Also nice munchies (small selection but excellent charcuterie and cheese), but not quite substantial enough for dinner.

        http://13celsius.com/

        Revival is definitely legit. And, like any charcuterie worth its (oops) salt, they will let you try pretty much everything. Although I think not everyone on this board likes it, I really enjoyed the Mangalitza Hot Dog!

        For coffee (credit to the 'hounds who sent me these places to begin with) - we really like Catalina Coffee (probably within short driving for you) and Boomtown Coffee (a bit further ~15min.). I think some of the 'hounds meet at Boomtown for brunch on Sundays - can I get a chime in? Actually, if you're heading to Revival - both are reasonable distance.

        http://catalinacoffeeshop.com/
        http://boomtowncoffee.com/

        Have fun!

        2 Replies
        1. re: neointima
          j
          jwynne2000 RE: neointima May 15, 2013 07:20 PM

          These are great recs!! I think the Art Bar and 13 Celsius will be a great post-game stop, and right off the light rail stop, it looks like.

          The coffee recs are perfect for Sunday morning before we go nuts at Revival.

          It doesn't look like Vinoteca Poscol is open for lunch, so Niko Niko's and NJoy are contenders for Saturday lunch.

          1. re: jwynne2000
            n
            neointima RE: jwynne2000 May 20, 2013 08:51 AM

            Just heard a great tip this weekend:

            Although I was not that impressed with the Greek food at Niko Niko's (good, but not national television good), apparently, what the cooks think is their best dish is their house specialty Char-Grilled Pork Chop!

            Who wouldathunk?

            One more bar tip - again I haven't been, but it's on our list:
            http://mongooseversuscobra.com/

            Oh, and how can I forget - again a tip from this board - Hugo's is apparently great for their Sunday Brunch Buffet, though that might not fit in your plans. Nevertheless, it may work for your lunch plans in the Westheimer area on Saturday. I remember reading something about James Beard Finalist or something...

            http://hugosrestaurant.net/

            Although I've been wanting to go, I know that DoobieWah really likes Houston Dairymaids, and I think they are open 10-4 on Sunday, also just a couple miles away from Revival Market.

            http://www.houstondairymaids.com/

            Oh and one last thing - unfortunately, it doesn't seem like you will have a chance to hit the Bellaire Chinatown, but if you're planning on taking I-10 back, it might be worth checking out 99 Ranch Asian Market/Food court +/- Super H Mart Korean Asian Market and Food court just for the spectacle.

            http://www.99ranch.com/

            http://www.hmart.com/

            Lastly, if you're tight on time on Sunday, Revival Market does have locally roasted coffee with a good reputation (Greenway?) and what look to be legit baristas.

            Sorry for the overload, but your visit near coincides with a visit from my foodie friends also, so I have been brainstorming their food itinerary too!

        2. s
          sallen RE: jwynne2000 May 19, 2013 07:17 PM

          Other choices for Saturday lunch might include BBs for poorboys, just north of the Westheimer/Montrose corner,or Indika for casual, interesting Indian food on Westheimer. Both are open for Saturday lunch.

          Pistolero just opened but the comments in today's paper were favorable.

          1. j
            jwynne2000 RE: jwynne2000 May 26, 2013 01:34 PM

            We're back to Austin with big grins on our faces. Despite a horrendous outing from Lucas Harrell on Saturday night, we had a great time in Houston. The reviews....

            Started at Liberty Kitchen for lunch Friday. This was a great prelude to many places that we found were architecturally and aesthetically very well put together. It was hopping for lunch. We started with a half dozen Rhode Island oysters that were excellent (although not cut clean from the shell) and a couple of wheat ales from Karbach that are specially brewed for the restaurant. Wife got the New Eddie Would Go sandwich, which had a great spice and zip to it, and the housemade egg bun was excellent. I got the special of the day, which was a fisherman's stew. After discarding a couple of clams that weren't open, I counted exactly 3 mussels, 1 clam and 1 very small bite of lobster. Poor fisherman isn't very full after this. The "market price" of this underwhelming soup was a whopping $31, so I would just steer clear of that next time. Overall I found this place to be just a little too high on the price point to rate this very high. Moving on....

            One of two very nice surprises of the weekend was Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lounge for pre-dinner drinks. On Main Street, right next to Goro & Gun... we went a little nuts trying to find the place. The entrance is a non-descript little door that says "Law Offices of {something}". Up the speakeasy-like stairs is a very cozy cocktail bar with (finally!) no pretense. Aaron took great care of us and makes a mean sloe gin fizz.

            Oxheart for dinner - We both got the 7-plate tasting menu. So much has been written about this place, I'm not going to try to top the professional food writers. All I will say about the food is that it is extremely well-thought out, artistically presented (there has to be tweezers involved in putting some of the plates together), and just damn tasty. Our standouts were the braised rabbit and turnip rolls and the fennel mousse. My one quibble is how long the dinner took. We were seated at 6:45 and didn't leave until 9:15. Sorry folks, that's just too long to sit in very close quarters with other diners. We were kinda hungry again by the time we left. Two glasses of wine, one beer, and two tasting menus was stratospherically expensive - $250 with the tip. But you knew that already.

            Saturday morning - walked to Minuti Coffee, which was just laughable crap coffee. Fortunately though we stumbled onto Georgia's Market. A very friendly little natural grocer with wonderful cranberry-walnut bread French toast.

            Later for lunch we rolled the dice on Pistoleros. The service was prompt, if not a little clumsy. The house made chips were some of the best I've ever had, the salsas and escabeche were excellent, and the lengua, pork mole and chicken tacos that we sampled were good (approaching great). Decent ritas. Price point was just right.

            Prior to the ballgame we checked out Batanga for tapas. We sampled the cucumber salad, ceviche, and a bearded brotula. All were very formidable, and the al fresco dining area was spot on.

            Astros game was a disaster, but because the MetroRail was out of service that day, our second surprise of the weekend was MKT Bar. I can't say enough good things about this place. A nice roomy space with great lighting, art displays, and three young women spinning old Motown 45's in the corner. The real treat was the meat and cheese plate we ordered. Very rarely does everything on a meat and cheese plate order hit the high mark, but this one does. Proscuitto, speck, salami, "drunken" goat cheese, Armenian string cheese, small green grapes, apricot marmalade, olives and housemade pita crisps... holy cow we had to remind ourselves to stop and breathe!!

            After the delight of MKT Bar, we walked over to OKRA Charity Bar for a nightcap (we drink a lot, if you can't tell...lol). This was worth going to just for the jaw-dropping architecture of the place. We sat there staring up at the ceiling most of the time. Just wow.

            This morning we made our way over to Revival Market in the Heights. I think we were expecting to find a variety of whole salamis and sausages to take home. What we found was a store that was taking the artisan food movement way too far -- $10 bottles of local ketchup, $50/lb guanciale, tiny jars of mayonnaise from Brooklyn, a small bag of "homemade breadcrumbs" for $5.... come on. We left, emptyhanded.

            neointima -- THANK YOU so much for the two coffeeshops you recommended. Catalina Coffee served up hands down the best cortado I've ever had. Then for breakfast (and more caffeine!) we checked out Boomtown. I couldn't believe it when I saw undertow listed on the chalkboard menu. Such a delicious little-known barista treat, if you've never had one. We each had a fried egg taco and were shocked at how good the yellow corn tortilla was. Are they back there hand-pressing corn tortillas in this place?? Also, thank you Houston, for having a coffee shop that turns out great coffee without the serious, snotty coffeeshop pretense. Austin could take a lesson here.

            Other observations:
            - We stopped in La Carafe in our downtown wanderings. What a rathole gem of a bar.
            - The Houston beer scene is heating up nicely. Get out there and support it!
            - We're used to seeing a lot of homeless people in Austin, but good lord it's bad in downtown Houston. Is this leftover fallout from Katrina?

            Cannot wait til our next trip! I think we'll need to check out some of the great Chinese and Ethiopian joints I keep hearing about. Thanks for a great time Houston!

            6 Replies
            1. re: jwynne2000
              n
              neointima RE: jwynne2000 May 27, 2013 12:09 PM

              Thanks for the updates! (and I can't take credit for the coffee suggestions, because the other Houston 'hounds gave me those suggestions when we moved to Houston last year!)

              I will say that the Boomtown boys and girls are a lot of fun - they really love what they do and love talking about it. It's pretty fun to just shoot the breeze with them when it's not too busy. Sometimes you can get beans right off the roaster!

              Sorry, I should have warned you about Revival - it's not quite what you expect from the hype, though we still love it. Maybe next time you guys are in town, a few of us Houston 'hounds can get together with you guys and have some charcuterie together!

              There remain many unsung delicious little gems around Houston (like the chalupa truck in Canino's market lot on Saturdays) - hope to share them with you again in the future!

              1. re: jwynne2000
                Lambowner RE: jwynne2000 May 30, 2013 06:25 AM

                Yes, thanks for the report! I have been to Revival a couple of times for a sandwich and some of those dry beans, but have not purchased meat there either. I'm not sure I understand the hype of the place. The coffee bar seemed to be the big draw when I was there.

                1. re: jwynne2000
                  otherbrotherdarrell RE: jwynne2000 May 30, 2013 06:53 AM

                  Coffee should have been Catalina Coffee on Washington.
                  Sorry I missed your post or would have steered you there.
                  Owner roasts his own beans, I just introduced DooieWah last weekend and made him a believer.

                  1. re: otherbrotherdarrell
                    DoobieWah RE: otherbrotherdarrell May 30, 2013 07:32 AM

                    Truth.

                    1. re: otherbrotherdarrell
                      Lambowner RE: otherbrotherdarrell May 30, 2013 08:09 AM

                      jwynne did go to Catalina - see third paragraph from bottom. I have been there once and probably had a latte. Next time I'll try the cortado.

                      1. re: Lambowner
                        j
                        jwynne2000 RE: Lambowner May 30, 2013 11:32 AM

                        Yup, we did make it to Catalina. Outstanding coffee spot. I love the Houston-centric art displays in there too.

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