Posted by: Travis | September 16, 2008

Trip to Houston: Food

As soon as i found out that i was going on an extended business trip to Houston, i started planning where i was going to go eat. I keep up with a few food blogs that cover food in Houston, and it seems like a number of good places have popped up since i moved away.

For in depth reviews of all the places i went, check my list here.

Places i got to hit:

  • Catalan – Very cool small plates place in the Heights. Pork belly, garlic soup, and spicy garlic shrimp (not together) were certainly the highlights. Great place, small mark up on wine makes me happy. Nice to see people in Houston doing inventive stuff.
  • Feast – I was all geared up to eat testicles and other offal cuts like i was a contestant on fear factor. Unfortunately, the night that we went, the menu was not as packed with that sort of stuff as i was hoping (only about 3 or 4 dishes). Expectations were sky high, and while i was very impressed, i wasn’t as amazed as i was hoping i would be. Highlights included being served wine in a tumbler and pork cheeks with duchess potatoes, red cabbage, and apples. It was a great dish. The others were just good.
  • Reef – This is the restaurant i was hoping Glass Wall would be. Highlight was a slow cooked salmon with lemon risotto and chili oil. I was a little apprehensive about the dish based on the lemon risotto, but it was truly incredible.
  • Beavers – Another great Heights restaurant (though not technicall in the Heights, it is certainly of the Heights. The bar bar appetizer was like briskett with chips, how has no one ever thought of that before? Seafood campachana was also great.
  • Dharma Cafe – I liked this place quite a bit too, but i kind of doomed myself to mediocrity by ordering a thai chicken wrap for lunch. I’ll have to go back before i decide what i think of this place.
  • Asia Market – Grab your car keys and go here right now. This place is like the punk band in high school that was great, but no one knew about, and you were terrified that they would become popular and sell out. I had the pad kee mao and padd see eww (sp?), both were awesome. Get the thai iced tea too. Its a little sweet, but really good.
  • Baby Barnaby’s – Went here for breakfast with friends from college. I always forget about it because it isn’t on a major street that i can drive down and see it, then wonder to myself why i never go here. Breakfast potatoes are my favorite in town.
  • Collina’s – This place gets a bad wrap from critics. Sure its not authentic italian food, but how many places in Houston really serve authentic italian? Two? Maybe three? They serves pretty good food for reasonable prices, they have a BYOB policy and the waistaff is funky. Its great when its getting late and you can’t find a place to eat, which is exactly why we went there.
  • Ginger Man – Went here to hook up with college friends. I hadn’t been in a long time. Its not as annoyingly Rive Village as i remembered.
  • Two Row’s – Went here after guys at Ginger Man lit up their cigars and we could no longer stand the smell. It was close so we didn’t have to move our cars. It really feels like a chili’s, applebee’s, TGI Friday’s….
  • Daily Grind – My Dad and i went here the day Ike hit because there were no other breakfast places open. Service was as bad as ever. It took over an hour to get our food. They ran out of coffee. People were freaking out. They weren’t even that crowded. But the food was good as usual, and the jalapeno cheese grits are still one of my favorite breakfast side dishes in Houston. Too bad the service is atrocious.
  • El Rey – Had to get my fix on two cubano tacos on my way over to Ginger Man. I was just following rule #1: never drink on an empty stomach.

Austin places i was able to hit:

  • Hudson’s on the Bend – Went for my Dad’s birthday. It was as good as ever. I was able to go with a family member that is good friends with the chef. I realized that i need to become friends with some chefs just for the copious amounts of free food. It was awesome.
  • Kerbey Lane – Famous Austin breakfast spot, i still can’t order anything but the Paris Texas Breakfast (migas and French toast), it was delicious as usual.
  • Mellow Johnny’s – Lance Armstrong’s bike shop that just opened a few months ago. The name is a play of the French word for the yellow jersey, the Maillot Jaune. Attached is a coffee shop and cafe called Juan Pelota, Spanglish for ‘one ball’, a reference to Lance’s testicular cancer.

Places i wanted to hit, but wasn’t able to get to (thanks Ike!):

  • Voice- Heard they are doing some very interesting things here.
  • *17
  • Indika
  • Da Marco – We were planning a family birthday dinner there, but the Ike happened. Damn.
  • Mark’s
  • Gravitas – I’ve been before, but its been a while. Definitely would like to check it out again.
  • Ninfa’s – Classic, just have to go out of habbit, but i never made it, thanks to Ike. Heard they are under new ownership and changing a bit. Not sure how i feel about that.
  • Central Market – My favorite grocery store EVER. Sadly, as much as i talked about going there, i never got to make a stop.
  • Textile – This place was soooo close to opening before the storm hit. Maybe next time.

Overall the Houston food scene appears to be in pretty good shape. There are some chefs doing some pretty interesting stuff. Can’t wait to make a return visit, whenever that may be.

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