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Jun 6, 2013 06:26 AM

1 night in Houston

Hi all. Picking the hubs up tonight at intercontinental and we have 1 kid less night in town before heading back to my folks and our kids on Galveston island. We know nothing about Houston. Right now we have a reservation at the Westin galleria but that can be easily changed. My husband has a meeting tomorrow downtown. I think Houston has a lot of sprawl? So we weren't sure where to stay, where to eat, etc. Looking for a a place with a cool atmosphere (we're 38), great food, independant, and not terribly expensive (where we could get out with wine for $100). I'm clueless, so please help!!! Thanks!

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  1. Paging Neo. Neo, please pick up the red courtesy phone.

    Welcome to Houston. Speaking of sprawl, I hope you are already aware that Galveston to IAH is like New York to Boston, so plan accordingly.

    Our local poster Neointima just hosted a group this past weekend, (where's the tale, Neo?!?), and their proposed itinerary held a number of interesting places you might like. Hopefully, he'll be along shortly to share.

    I think the Westin will be a fine jumping off point.

    Sorry that I can't help, but I'm old and frail and haven't been anywhere with a "cool atmosphere" in a coon's age.

    4 Replies
    1. re: DoobieWah

      Sorry sorry, was out of town and not surfing much!

      At the risk of repeating prior posts, this was our itinerary:

      Friday - Lunch - Alamo on Navigation (again props to Doobie for the introduction)
      - Had an amazing braised red pork sauce taco
      - Handmade Tamales!

      Friday - Dinner Teppay for sushi and ramen (the ramen was not up to its usual par for some reason, but it was really packed, so...) Sushi was still awesome.

      Nu Cafe for Taiwanese style shaved ice

      Lunch - Crawfish and Beignets in the Hong Kong City Market food court
      - Sketchy looking, but really delicious Asian-style spiced crawfish. I was bothered by the fact that it was reheated as opposed to made to order, but it was still delicious.
      - Next door there was a booth with braised snails with multiple flavors including coconut curry!

      Saturday Dinner - Underbelly
      (A brief review
      )- UB Mozzarella, Heirloom Tomato & Fava Beans Salad,
      Toast Soldiers. Excellent Burrata, but eating raw fava beans was odd.
      - Stripstrami, Strawberry Mustard, Fennel, Sorrel, made with lamb and quite excellent
      - Braised Goat and Rice Dumplings - disappointing and severely skimpy on the goat. Kind of a rip-off of a Korean dish for 3x the price.
      - Summer Berry Salad, UB Coppa, Redneck Cheddar, Peaches Candied Pecans. Disappointing, tiny piece of coppa, unimpressive. Avoid.
      - Roast pork with coconut curry - excellent
      - Cornmeal crust Pork Chop with Bread pudding - excellent, even better than the roast pork (they ran out right after we had ours!)
      - "Gyro" style meatballs (not sure why they were called that) were decent with excellent Tsatsiki (sp?)
      - Crispy Local Vegetables (cauliflower and brussel sprouts), apparently with fish sauce, but definitely with soy. Excellent
      - Vinegar pie - excellent creamy custard with cider vinegar tang
      - Strawberry fried pie - disappointingly watery filling which ran all over the plate. Good with their ice cream, but kind of lame execution.
      - Caramel popcorn pot de creme - excellent!

      All-in-all, Underbelly suffered from inconsistency across the menu and overhype. I think I was just really angered by the 'Korean braised goat', which was just slivers of goat. I felt like this was being passed off to people who don't usually eat Korean food as something novel, when in reality, it's just a bit of goat meat with Korean rice cakes drowned in Korean red pepper sauce.

      Don't get me wrong, I liked it and I think I would recommend and try it again. But avoid the dishes that I mention above as they're just not anything special.

      Chez Beignet for dessert - yum! But watch out for the owner; there are pages and pages of hate on the internet about his odd personality.

      Sunday - lunch - Revival Market
      - First, tried charcuterie pieces including a $65/lb spallacia (which was good, but not THAT good), lamb pastrami, roulade, and a mortadella
      - Mangalitza Hot Dog - always my favorite
      - Roast Pork Belly sandwich - excellent
      - Avoid Wheatberry salad
      - Avoid Roast red pepper gazpacho - wasn't bad, just wasn't special.

      Sunday - High Tea at Granduca
      - Decent finger sandwiches, most outstanding was smoked salmon with really great caviar
      - Dessert sandwiches, intriguing fruit and chocolate combos
      - Mini scones - hot and awesome!

      Sunday - Dinner
      - Dumplings at Little San Dong
      - Roast Pork and Duck at Hong Kong Food CIty!

      Ok - so - with that aside, let me make some quick suggestions:
      - Underbelly - it's probably worth taking a chance, cuz it's kind of a fun place
      - Vinoteca Poscol - still love this place, nice wine bar with great charcuterie and nice Italian food

      These will be very close to $100 with wine, probably closer to $150 for two.

      Not for dinner, but great wine bar (and you can make your own smores!):

      Not great drinks, but you have to take a walk through (for atmosphere):

      Nearer the Galleria, I took my parents to

      And we enjoyed it - but again, probably closer to $150 or $175 depending on how hungry and picky you are about your steak. Kind of a cool atmosphere.

      Also, consider the Hotel Zaza if you're looking for hip/chic, mainly because you will be in the Museum District, right across from the MFAH. Might be kind of pricey, though. (I have Hotwired Westin in the past

      - Have to make a quick plug (not food, OMG!) for
      Which was a delightful find that we took our friends too. If lucky, you can catch the resident artists actually working in their studios, and they are PAID to talk to you about what they're working on!

      For your drive- pick up a couple Banh Mi at

      Finally, this is stepping out on a limb, but we have been trying to get to Chez Nous

      Which is near IAH, but have not yet made it because it only opens after 5:30PM, and my wife and I just don't seem to land or pick people up from the airport around that time. Heard great things...!

      Anyway, that's a very long and somewhat non-topical but hopefully somewhat helpful post. If you have a bit more time, I can list a few great places in Chinatown to check out for lunch or road food for your drive out to the beach.

      Have fun!

      1. re: neointima

        I've said it before and I'll say it again, "What a great weekend!".

        And you really should have started a new thread, as your great report will likely get lost here.

        I'm disappointed that Underbelly underwhelmed y'all.

        How did your guests like the overall experience?

        "Eager to come back", or "Glad to be gone"?

        1. re: DoobieWah

          Heh. Agreed - I was feeling too lazy split up the post! But... I hope it addresses the OP question to some extent, especially because I imagine that being one of the two Houston James Beard finalists, Underbelly is probably on most visitors' potential itinerary.

          Speaking of which, someone should weigh in on Hugo's ( for a dinner for two with wine. Can it be done for $100? I think it might be close also...

          I think my friends' only regret is that they only had 2.5 days with us and Houston eats, and that we were constantly on the verge of overeating! Likewise, they may be 'Glad to be gone' to let their stomachs return to normal size/capacity... Thank God the Korean Taco trucks were too far away to chase!

          1. re: neointima

            So KB, where did you go?

            Funny you say that about Chez Beignet, Neo. After Alison wrote about it a couple of years ago I got an urgent call from my brother asking for a meet up there to see for himself. Thinking beignet = breakfast, he convinced the entire extended family to meet there on a Saturday morning at 9. We were surprised to find it closed and not scheduled to open for an hour or two. But the owner was in there and he kindly opened the store for us and made us beignets. Odd that it seems to be a late night place mostly. I see on their FB page that they open earlier now.

            I have been to Underbelly a couple of times and I liked it for the most part although we were sorely disappointed in a couple of dishes. I'm not sure why there is such hooplah over it. Those Korean dumplings are the dish most often mentioned in the glowing reviews too, go figure.

    2. Oh my, there are so many possibilities! Can you help us narrow down the choices? Any particular type of food that's a favorite? Something you don't get where you live that you'd like to have? Things you absolutely are not interested in?

      1. The Galleria is a highly trafficked area. If he is going downtown you might consider some of the great hotels downtown like Magnolia or Lancaster.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Lambowner

          Another good hotel option downtown is the Hotel Icon. I think someone on here recently checked out Batanga, a new tapas place that just opened across the street, and liked it?

          1. re: mjust

            Yep, that was me. Batanga is formidable.

        2. How about El Real for authentic Tex Mex, centrally located.