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Sep 9, 2013 07:06 AM

Houston vs Austin

We may be relocating to Texas from NYC. I am wondering which city has more sophisticated food culture?

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  1. Houston definitely, without any doubt whatsoever, has a far more sophisticated food culture. In fact, Houston is one of the top food cities in the entire country. The New York Times (I'll bet you've heard of them) recently ranked Houston seventh on their list of top places to visit - in the entire world. Houston was the only US city to make the top ten.

    But Austin has a great many other charms.

    It's been my experience, when chatting with other Texans about where in Texas they would live, if they could live anywhere, a pretty clear majority would choose Austin.

    I sure would.

    And when I wanted to partake of world-class art, museums, diverse ethnic culture, cuisine, etc., I'd visit Houston.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Jaymes

      so then why would most Texans choose Austin over Houston if the city offers so much.

      1. re: Monica

        Lots of reasons, many of them hard to put into words, but I'll try.

        Austin is a lot prettier. It's sort of where the Texas Hill Country begins, so parts of town are hilly. There's a terrific lake right in the middle of town, and several more adjacent, as you head west. So if you're a "view" kinda gal, Austin is full of them. You'll have a hard time finding one in Houston. Austin is much smaller and easier to get around. It's where the University of Texas is located, and I read somewhere that UT Austin is the largest university in the nation, so all of the kinds of fun and interesting things that come along with being a college town are there. The weather is much better. The crime rate is much lower. It's a great music town, even billed as "The Live Music Capital of the World," with more live music venues (over 200) than anywhere else in the nation. It's got SXSW - music and film festivals. It's got Austin City Limits music festival. It's got Eeyore's Birthday Party. It's got Halloween on Sixth Street. It's got Barton Springs. It's got the Congress Bridge bats.

        It's frequently been called one of the hippest cities in the nation:

        And it's not like there's nothing to eat there. It's where the original Whole Foods is located. It's got Central Market, one of the best food purveyors in the nation. It's got Uchi and Paul Qui, and Franklin's barbecue and Fonda San Miguel and Austin Food Carts

        You won't starve.

        Austin is a mood. A feeling. A state of mind. It's funky and cool and weird and damn proud of it.

        It's hard to describe. You just have to come visit Austin in order to "get it."

        But, hey... Don't let me talk you into it. Austinites would just as soon nobody else shows up.


        1. re: Jaymes

          Thank you, I think I am getting some senses..I should really visit these two cities and experience them. Mainly, I am looking for a nice suburb with excellent school for my two little ones. No matter what, I don't think I can live anywhere that doesn't have good food...which makes me think I should just pack up and move to France.

          1. re: Monica

            Mais oui, if that's an option. You could try Paris....Texas.

            Actually, there are several suburbs of Houston with low crime, beautiful homes, gated communities, excellent schools. Katy, Sugar Land, The Woodlands come immediately to mind.

            As for Austin, the most important thing is to get in a good neighborhood, rather than looking for a suburb. Although there are suburbs, the main reasons to live in Austin are really pretty-much found right in Austin. Not so much in the suburbs.

            1. re: Monica

              Westwood Highschool is the fifth best public enrollment highschool in the nation. Grisham Middle school has an international bacalurrate program with two elem. schools that are IB feeding into it.

            2. re: Monica

              For all the reasons Jaymes said, but also….the traffic is horrible in both places, but particularly horrible in humid Houston. Yes, they have more diversity in food, but it could take over an hour to get to it!

              I used to live in Galveston and I got sick of hurricanes coming our way. It's the same with Houston. No hurricanes in Austin! That's a big plus for me!

          2. I've been thinking a bit more about you, Monica, and your question. If we take your concern literally, in that you don't think you "can live anywhere that doesn't have good food," should you move to Austin, even if you fall in love with its other charms (as so many do), I'd bet you'd be bored with its food scene in only a matter of a few months. There is "good food" in Austin, but not enough of it to be the reason why anyone would move there, or stay there.

            Even though the city of Austin has grown enough that "The University" (as Texans call it) is no longer its only defining identity, Austin is still, at its heart, a college town. And its tens of thousands of students are, like most college kids, not so much in search of excellent cuisine as they are in search of cheap fast food and easy libation. College kids are pretty big fans of the "if it ain't broke" theory. If they find a joint with good pizza and 99-cent draft beer, they're not going to say, "Let's try something new tonight." They're going to say, "Awesome, dude!" Even though there are plenty of grownups in Austin, the overall mood there is not so much, "Let's take a couple hundred bucks and go to a celeb-chef-driven restaurant for a tasting menu and wine flights," as it is, "Let's grab some soft tacos and a six-pack of Shiner and go find a free outdoor concert somewhere, and afterwards, say around midnight, or 1, or 2, or whatever, we can hit Trudy's for some migas."

            Austin's food scene is improving, true, but Austin is still not a great food town. Austin is a great music town. And a great student town. And a great artist town. And none of those groups are famous for having a whole lot of money to spend on fine dining.

            Houston, on the other hand, is a great food town. And Houston is full of monied grownups that do have a whole lot of disposable income to spend on amusing themselves with things like fine dining. And Houston is also full of grownups from all over the world, so the food scene here is incredible, and limitless. I doubt there is a single world cuisine that is not represented here. There are embassies here from many countries and their staffers have to eat somewhere. (For example, the Indonesian Consulate ladies sponsor a potluck every Saturday.) And, if Houston proper doesn't offer enough, New Orleans is only a five-hour drive. Perhaps you've heard that the food there is pretty good? You can leave work early on a Friday and be in New Orleans in time for dinner, as many Houstonians will tell you. And while Galveston is certainly no New Orleans, by a long shot, it is on the Gulf, and they do have some fine seafood there.

            If food is your main criterion, it's no contest.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Jaymes

              Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for the detailed and thorough response. I think Austin is more like Brooklyn, NY...where there are a lot of young artists and hippies who moved out of Manhattan..though a lot of riches from Manhattan have moved into Brooklyn..but the way you describe reminds me of Brooklyn...artsy..rustic..laid back.

              Yes, Houston sounds like a great city...and probably fits my criteria better; great food(and when I say great food, it definitely includes fine dining), great suburbs with great schools...more jobs..,etc..
              and yes, I've heard about New Orleans...I'd love to visit there just to try out chef John Besh's food.

              The only thing that concerns me about Houston is I can't stand hummid hot weather.

              1. re: Monica

                There's no question that the summers in Houston are hot and humid. You can do what many of us do...stay indoors in the air conditioning until late September.

                Or, head for the hills...of Colorado or Montana or South Dakota or something, until autumn works its merry and slow way down here.

                It's not just Houston that gets hot. All of Texas is hot in the summer. Really hot. Although the humidity level definitely varies.

                Still, if you hate hot, humid weather, and if this transfer is voluntary, I'd suggest you consider someplace other than Texas. Like maybe San Francisco. Or Seattle. Or Chicago. Or even L.A. All great food towns, and considerably less hot and humid than Houston. Even the Dallas/Ft. Worth "Metroplex," while still hot in the summer, is less humid. It's not a "great" food town, but it's pretty good, and getting better.

                1. re: Jaymes

                  Yes, those are some great cities but being from NYC and having experienced the west coast, i really can't see myself living there. My husband's company has offices in both Houton and Austin...a good thing is, I can't stand cold weather even more so I am sure I can deal with hot humid weather. Chicago...while it is a big city, it just sounds boring...and it's not near any ocean.

                  1. re: Monica

                    Visit Austin, move to Houston. The wifeacita is hungry and chomping at the bit while I sit here lollygagging. We're driving to Galveston for lunch and some Gulf scenery. Maybe pick up some fresh seafood on the way home. If you or the husband are outdoor types I can turn you on to some fine saltwater fishing a mere hour from Houston.

                    1. re: James Cristinian

                      Yeah, I've heard a lot about husband is a big beach/ocean person and we love fresh seafood(Though not a fan of gulf shrimps). Well, we'd love to try out saltwater fishing if we get a chance..

                        1. re: girloftheworld

                          Umm. What's Lake Jackson have to do with anything?

                          1. re: TroyTempest

                            it is close to Huston and is not toooo horrid if you have to have a place to live..

                            1. re: girloftheworld

                              Lake Jackson is a bit less than 20 minutes from Surfside Beach, not too shabby. Before people start trashing Upper Texas Coast beaches, I'll suggest they haven't spent much time down there. All I know is that when I used to frequently visit Austin/San Marcos all the college ages kids wanted to do is get to the coast.


                    2. re: Monica

                      Chicago is not boring. It's beautiful and fun and sophisticated, with lots going on. And don't tell them it's "not near any ocean." Texans have been trying to tell them that for years, but they don't believe it. Texans think we have the "third coast," but Chicagoans are absolutely convinced they do.

                      It does get cold there, however. Really, really, cold. Wind-blowing, nose-running, cheek-numbing, frostbite-fingertips-tingling cold.

                      So maybe you'd best start practicing saying "Y'all."

                      1. re: Jaymes

                        I know Chicago is not boring...but it's in the middle of the continent..and...i don't know..i just don't find the city appealing in any ways. It's not close to anything!

                        Y'all....learned that from watching Paula Deena already..

              2. I have lived in both Austin and Lufkin, which has the same oppressive humid summer heat as Houston. I drove to Houston frequently for business and pleasure. Austin has much drier air and is more comfortable. Those were both back in my running days. Austin is much more compact and you will learn it all quickly. Houston is about the size of Rhode Island and you will never cross town. The "keep Austin Weird" mantra is infectious, in a fun way.

                1. We have a guiy down here named DoobiWwah that went to TU in Austin and moved here. Maybe he got tired of the Horns losing games they should win, given all the money they pay their players. First class fellow, wifeacita and I met him and lived to talk about it. Come on Doobs, we really need your opinion, it is trusted and valued.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: James Cristinian

                    You're right...we need Doobs to weigh in on this.

                    But (and I'm just guessing) I think that there are two main reasons why he's in Houston and not Austin:

                    First, his family is here.

                    And second: He needs to earn a living. I think practically everybody in Texas would move to Austin in a heartbeat if they thought they could earn a living there.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      Or afford it. Austin is much pricier than Houston.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Right. And because everybody wants to live there, wages are often lower for the same jobs.

                        When you can find one, that is.

                        I'd still be in Austin, but my son-in-law needs to work. And Houston is where he can do that and be paid very well for it. He and my daughter (a teacher) have four really small children and need a babysitter. That's me. So even though I no longer would have to live in Houston for my work reasons, the job opportunity differences between Austin and Houston are affecting where I live.

                        I'll just sum up by saying that, while everybody's priorities differ when it comes to choosing where they prefer to live, nobody I knew when I lived in Austin wanted to move to Houston.

                        But at least half of the people that I've met in Houston speak wistfully about the possibility of moving to Austin someday.

                        1. re: Jaymes

                          Heck Jaymes, you live in Katy, a suburb of Austin, a ten minute drive to the fabulous City Market in Luling. We just got back from gorging on seafood in Galveston and Surfside, something you unwashed flea bitten Austin hippies can't pull off in an afternoon, leaving the big city at noon, back by 7:30, including lounging over the breakers in the Gulf for a couple of hours with some cheap wine at Murdoch's. The sounds and smells of the sea were a symphony, a hypnotic one.


                            1. re: Veggo

                              Wrong Veggo Katy is Katy and Austin can keep it. Just some joking here I know Jaymes and kinda sticking it to her. Yes, Jaymes is a chick. There is an ongoing joke in the Houston Chronicle about evacuating Katy at the mere whiff of a tropical system. Apparently Katy folks helped clog the freeways before Rita, as hundreds of thousands left Houston a ghost town, future wifeacita included, leaving myself, best friend, and a nice Asian liquor store owner in the Heights as the only three people left in town. Thank you nice lady. By the way, Katy is a shortened name for the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad, the Katy which the city in it's infinite wisdom bought and paved over for a giant freeway pretty much always in gridlock to Katy which I avoid.

                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                Amusing. I did not know Jaymes is a woman, thanks. She replies to me below about my hubby's driving distance, and I don't have a hubby. I have testicles.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Dang Veggo, I thought you were a chick as well. How about your cat? What's going on down under? I had some great male cats and most were "fixed."

                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                    little veggo in Mexico is a father. And he stays current with his kitten support payments, with scorpions and geckos.

                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                      Oh man, you guys are too funny..well, that's a good sign..

                                    2. re: Veggo

                                      Actually, I thought I was commenting on Monica's "hubby" and his driving distance, in reference to where in Austin she might decide to live. I knew you, Veggo, were a dude. (Of course, these days, dare I point out that that does not in any way preclude you from having a "hubby"?)

                                      But, speaking of living in Austin, Monica, you mention something about living in Austin being amazing, "minus price of house."

                                      It's true that Austin is, in general, more expensive than other Texas cities. But you are coming from NYC. I feel pretty sure that nothing in Texas will strike you as being overly expensive.

                                      Also, coming from NYC, I think I understand why you mentioned living in a suburb. NYC is one of the densest urban areas in the entire nation. I suspect that all of Austin will feel to you like a suburb. You will be amazed at how small it will feel to you. And when folks in Austin (and everywhere else in Texas, for that matter) talk about "neighborhoods," they're talking about the actual sorts of neighborhoods that have houses, tree-lined streets, sidewalks, etc. Not a bunch of blocks of high-rise apartments, condos, co-ops, etc. For example, there are neighborhoods with houses, etc., within walking distance of downtown Austin. Here in Texas, we've got land, lots of land, under starry skies above, and when our towns and cities grow, they grow out, not up.

                                      Houston has also grown out, but it's huge - the fourth-largest city in the nation. If you decide to come to Houston, you most-likely will want to live in a suburb. Everywhere in the city, even including the toniest neighborhood, River Oaks, has problems with crime.

                                      Has anyone mentioned that I live in a very nice suburb? Katy? And that it's only a mere three hours from Austin????

                          1. re: Jaymes

                            Sorry for the delay but for future reference, you need to invoke my name three times, (a la Beetlejuice), if you need me to appear immediately!

                            I'm flattered you guys thought of me, but I'm probably the least biased person to ask.

                            I LOVE living in Houston.

                            Yeah, I went to Texas but that was a long time ago. Recent enough that the football losses still sting, (was that really necessary, JC?), but my favorite restaurants from those days are long gone.

                            Houston beats Austin food-wise overall, but Austin has its gems. As mentioned, the food truck scene is awesome, the bbq is worlds better, (I like Mueller's over Franklin, but it's a sentimental thing), etc.

                            But even my die hard Austin-is-the-center-of-the-Universe friends will admit that overall, Houston wins. And that's why they come here to eat.

                            My $0.02 and I'm certain it surprised no one.

                        2. Oops, met Jaymes too. That Katy Cajun place sounds nice, but I'm with brucesw, it must get seriously cooler. Off to Galveston.