Thursday, January 07, 2010

Five things I love about Houston



I was born in Dallas and my family has been in the Dallas area since the early 1800s. But when I was nine we moved to Houston so that’s what I consider my hometown. Sure, Dallas may be in my ancestral lineage but it’s Houston that makes my heart explode.

For some reason, however, as much as I adore Houston I feel that it doesn’t get the respect and love that it deserves. My friends at the Houston Press and the Chronicle , as well as a host of Houston-based food and chef bloggers, do an excellent job of sharing the bounty of this diverse city with the wide world. But I wanted to say a few things as well, so here are five reasons why I love Houston and why you should, too.

Gracious hospitality: When I mentioned on Twitter my plans to come to Houston, in less then five minutes my email box was chock full of invitations from people I had only conversed with online but had never met in person. I was floored. As I was coming home for Christmas, most of my time was occupied with family, but I was able to accept a couple of these generous offers to make new friends.

I had corresponded with Andrea Lazar and Monica Pope about eating at their restaurant T’afia, so the first night I was home Mom and I drove into the city from the suburbs for a night on the town. It was well worth the trip as we were served an exquisite meal comprised of in-season, local ingredients—we were blown away by how creative Monica was with root vegetables and citrus, not to mention the pairing of goat cheese with a beet brownie. But what made this meal extra special was Monica’s attention to us and every other diner—it made fine dining as comfortable as eating at home.



I also had the opportunity to have dinner at the excellent Hugo’s with Anvil proprietor and sustainable rancher Morgan F. Weber and his lovely wife Stacey, which we followed with a dessert tasting by genius pastry chef Plinio Sandalio of Textile. Because we’re all Texans, Plinio chose our great state as the theme of the tasting, with treats such as corny dogs with mustard ice cream, apple and cheddar hot pockets and Texas toast pain perdu with bacon ice cream, among other mind-blowingly brilliant sweets. And while the desserts made me happy, what I’ll remember most about the evening was the warmth that comes from good conversation and generosity of spirit. My only regret was that I couldn’t stay in town longer to meet more Houstonians.



Canino Market: Whenever I go home, a trip to Fiesta is a must with its ample supply of Mexican groceries and the vendors outside selling Mexican corn on the cob and bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dogs. But this trip I also trekked over to the Canino Market for the first time and I fell in love with this Mexican fresh-ingredient heaven. When you first enter, the space is airy and open but the produce isn’t very exciting. Don't worry, keep going and you'll soon find yourself in the outside back area where all the fun stuff lives. Stacked tall are a wide array of chiles—both dried and fresh—baby tomatillos the size of raspberries, cactus pads, hibiscus flowers, dried homily and mole pastes, to name just a few of the things I saw for sale. It’s also a great place to practice your Spanish. And if you love fresh Mexican pastries, head across the street to El Bolillo Bakery, where they sell the namesake bread as well as a huge selection of conchas, empanadas, bizcochos and other pan dulces.



Sweetbread tacos: Los Angeles may have that Korean taco truck and Portland may have a whole downtown block dedicated to street food, but neither one of those towns has what Houston has: a taco truck that sells sweetbread tacos. Unless you live on a ranch, your encounter with sweetbreads is usually in a rarefied environment such as a multi-star restaurant. So when several people told me I needed to check out the Taqueria Tacambaro cart in back of the Canino Market on Airline, I was expecting an upscale operation. Nope, Taqueria Tacambaro is just your regular taco truck, clean and white with salsas on the counter and a menu painted on the side. I walked up and ordered the mollejas (which is how you say sweetbread in Spanish). The woman working the griddle scooped a generous portion of the meat onto two corn tortillas and handed me my plate. Before drenching the taco in the available red and green salsas, I first lifted a piece of the meat and popped it into my mouth to see how it tasted unadorned. Crisp bits from the grill coated the silky meat and its flavor was creamy with a slight hint of earthiness. These mollejas were fine, if not among the finest I’d ever eaten. And you can only find them in Houston.



Jarro Cafe’s neon salsa: I had been warned that this neon-green salsa would rip apart my mouth. But what completely surprised me was the sheer inorganic nature of the color, which reminded me more of car paint than chile peppers. (Though I shouldn’t have been that surprised considering its name.) I hesitated before taking a dip, but after one bite I was sold. It was sassy and good. And not even all that hot. So now my mission is to recreate this salsa at home.



Amalia’s enchiladas verdes: I know I’ve said this before, but these are the best enchiladas verdes I’ve ever had. Juicy and crisp carnitas are stuffed into fresh corn tortillas, smothered in a tomatillo sauce and topped with avocado slices and onions. On the side is a pile of Mexican rice fragrant with cumin and chicken stock and a pool of refried beans rich with lard. Add a basket of homemade flour tortillas, thin, crisp chips and an endless bowl of green sauce and I know that I’m home. Mom tried to pull a fast one on me, asking me when I got off the plane if I'd prefer to go to her new favorite Tex-Mex joint instead. But just as I was about to agree she let it slip that her new joint had no green sauce. No green sauce? What was she thinking? And even though I ate well throughout my trip, I have to say that nothing compared to this plate of enchiladas. Why? They let me know I was home.

I realize this is just a small slice of why I love Houston; I could write for days. But I’m curious, what do you love about Houston? Let’s give this world-class town the respect it’s due!

Related Stories Widget by LinkWithin

139 comments:

Lisa said...

I've never spent time in Houston, so I've got nothing for you, love-wise. But I enjoyed your post, and I want those enchiladas verdes!

bluejeangourmet said...

so many things to love about my adopted town, but what I'm most present to & grateful for right now is the fact that, as a city, we've cultivated and created a very open, friendly food scene. it's not cutthroat or snobby, but it isn't complacent either. this is the best eating town (especially for the value) I know!

Jennie said...

When I was in school (A&M), we went to Houston a lot. I'm from Dallas, so I give it the hard time we Dallasites are known for, but it's got charm, it really does.

talida said...

I've got an entirely different take on Houston. When I spent the week there, I pretty much ate nothing but Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisine, mostly in Chinatown. If we're ever in town at the same time, it'd be interesting to swap eating habits.

Chef Gwen said...

If I could only get past the humidity factor :) Nice love note to your "home" town.

Plum Texan said...

If I didn't adore you before (which I did), I really love you now. :) THANK YOU for singing Houston's praises! It has its imperfections just like everywhere else, but I love it beyond all reason.

The hospitality and lovely people are always on top of the list. The diversity of neighborhoods and cultures are my #2. Food-wise? Vietnamese at Kim Son. Anything at Spanish Flowers. Cuban at Cafe Piquet. Indian at (where else?) India's. Thai Pepper. Barbecue/home cooking at Hickory Hollow in the Heights. And the Midtown Farmers' Market (hosted at t'afia).

...just to scratch the surface!

Jessica said...

Personally, I love the warmth (climate and friendliness), humidity, lush plant life, diverse culture, well, I could go on and on, but since we're talking food, here's what I love about Houston: Kolaches

My son will be going to college in NYC in the fall - is there a chance he'll be able to find anything similar up there?

emma said...

What a great Houston shout out! You listed some of my favorite places. Some of the things that makes Houston my home...I've been shopping Caninos since before I could crawl. It's my very favorite. There is nothing quite like it on a spring day, when the sun in shining, and there is that earthy, vegitable smell... Now my husband and I live in a surrounding area, and I get to go all the time. So glad you had a good time!

Kelly @ EvilShenanigans said...

It may be low class, and I care not if it is, but Houston is home to my VERY favorite burger joint. Myte Burger!! I have been eating them since I was a kid and everyting I go to visit mom's side of the family I stop there for my first meal. (We also take some back with us for family and friends who know and understand the AWESOME that is a Myte Burger!)

Yum, yum!!

Jen said...

BEEF N BUN!!!!!!!!!!!!

claire said...

I've lived all over Texas, even in the cities that look on Houston with disdain. Now when I return to visit them, I know what they're missing. Houston makes my heart explode too.

Kim said...

Houston has been my adopted city for 10 years, ever since I started at Rice. I admit to crying a little when we drove in on I-10 (past the refineries) but, 10 years later, I absolutely love it. Some of my favorite aspects: the cultural diversity, the climate, the live oak trees around Rice, and the people.

Since we’re talking food, my favorite place to eat/explore is the Southwest part of town, since I’m an Asian food nut. Also, the South Indian scene around Hillcroft is pretty great too. And my favorite tacos/weekend morning scene is at Taqueria Laredo on Washington. This city of strip malls and highways hides some serious treasures, doesn’t it?

Thanks for the love letter to Houston. From one Texan to another, I appreciate it!

Erin said...

Thank you for the recommendations. I'm going to Houston this spring to visit friends and I'm really looking forward to it even more now that you mentioned all of these great finds.

Julie said...

I grew up in Houston also and like a few other commenters -one of my favorite thing about houston is the Chinese and Vietnamese food! Especially down in Sugarland.

But even more than that - my absolute favorite thing about Houston is Ragin Cajun on Richmond. I would give anything for fresh boiled crawfish and handmade boudin. anything. Best bbq in the whole world is at Mo's BBQ on 1960 in Humble.

Sherie said...

I'm a BRAND NEW Houstonian, but have loved, loved, loved the restaurant scene here. MY husband and I know NO ONE from the city, so have been muddling around and stumbling on places....just to have something to do. We look forward to learning more about this city you love so much!

Latter-Day Flapper said...

I've been here nearly 20 years and I totally think Houston is underrated. (I'm afraid to say that too often, though, lest it become too popular.)

I can't believe I haven't been to Canino Market. Aargh.

I love Hickory Hollow, too. Even my mother, who's not a big barbecue person, will sometimes insist I pick her up and take her down there at totally traffic-inopportune times. And I haven't been to Taquería Arandas in ages but I used to love being able to get nopalitos in stuff.

Julie said...

Also - when I am in Houston I want to eat Seafood. Especially Gulf Shrimp - I can't go there without a trip to Pappas Seafood!

Anna said...

I'm the opposite - I was born in Webster, and my parents went to high school in Houston and Pearland (and met at UofH!), but I was raised in Dallas. The Dallas area (especially Denton) makes my heart explode.

Paul said...

What? You left Taqueria Arandas off the list? I love stopping there on my way back to San Antonio from Georgia, especially if it's a weekend so I can get menudo.

apronless said...

I am SO glad you went to Jarro! Plinio is an awesome man all around and if you ever want to do some karaoke, look the man up.

I've been to Canino's ONCE and fell absolutely in love. Parking and traffic is a little crazy up there, but I will be making the trek back soon.

Adam Calhoun said...

One downtown block? Portland has a bajillion downtown blocks filled with food carts.

I do really want to visit, but I don't particularly want to rent a car. I don't suppose there's any efficient way to see the city without one? I keep hearing good things about it.

KMAYS said...

My husband is astonished by how much I miss Houston (even the humidity). The multiple kinds of food, the fruit salad of ethnicities and religions, the friendly people...I could go on and on. Before we moved here to Nashville, I bought the Houston It's Worth It book so that I can remember all those little things that I love.

courtneymunson said...

Food in Houston--where to start?!!!
El Rey "cuban" & "al pastor" tacos, Patrenella's Italian (scallop risotto is my fav!), Lupe Tortilla fajitas, Yia Yia Mary's & Niko Niko's for Greek, Beavers for great drinks and easy food (nut burger= yum), Pappas Steak House (french onion soup= heavenly), Dry Creek burgers, Azuma Sushi (crazy Irishman, please!), Shiva Indian (onion kulcha, goa jhinga curry, & shabnam-e-bahar rock!) and I guess I'll stop there, but OH how I love the food in Houston!!!

heather @ chiknpastry said...

I definitely need to go to Houston. Texas, for that matter. I've only been in the airport! The cuisine is enough to make me wanna go !

courtneymunson said...

I forgot the mention Wabash Antiques & Feed Store--it doesn't exactly fit under the food category, but it's the coolest "small town" store in the middle of Houston, plus they have a nice farmer's market twice a month...way cool place!! I seriously must stop now, because I could next get into all the neat antique and bead stores in the Heights....but I'll save it. Just agreeing with you that Houston totally rocks!

tejasjeff said...

Born In San Antonio,raised in Houston from the 60s thru the 80s.
Family is all still there. I always get defensive when I hear folks bash Houston.What a lot of folks miss is how HUGE the place is. Drive in on 1-10 at Katy and exit around Clear Lake and you realize it is a City of Cities. I have finally come to respect it for its sprawl ,diversity and opportunity. And yes the folks are like all Texans -friendly.

Steve said...

Lisa,
Bravo. We're in NJ for some time now, but we're from The Woodlands. My son went to school in TX and is now working in Houston. Good excuse to get back more often. One of these days.....
Steve
http://www.myfavoriteflavours.com

Manders said...

I grew up in the Houston 'burbs (my brother went to Cy-Creek High School), but I actually didn't start exploring inside the Loop until (ironically) after I went to college out of town and would come back for visits. I know a lot of people in Montrose and West U now, though, so I'm down there a lot whenever I'm town visiting my folks and my friends.

I think you hit it right on the head with Houston people being open and hospitable (maybe not on the roads sometimes, though).

Melanie said...

I love this post!!! I'm a life-long Houstonian, but right now I am debating wether to move to Portland, OR or stay in Houston. This post might have been a little influential! :)

Tasty Eats At Home said...

You know, I've lived my entire life in the Dallas area, have family in Northwest Houston, and have traveled there dozens of times on business trips, but I haven't REALLY experienced Houston in all its glory. What I do love? So much true Texan spirit there, even though it's a big town. (Dallas isn't as friendly. Or maybe I just know it too well.) I also love the Latin influence - while all of Texas has Mexican influence, I love the differences in food in Houston vs. Dallas. And there used to be a little Tex Mex place, don't even remember the name, off 290 in NW Houston that was really tasty. Best queso flameado ever.

maxine said...

Should be mentioned that the "out back" at canino's is weekend only. Otherwise, Yay for eating in Houston!

Waverly said...

What a lovely tribute to Houston, my home town. The weather is 6 months of fabulous and 6 months of swampy. The natural beauty is not as much in the Live Oaks and the azaleas as it is in the people. Houston is open. Houston is forgiving. Houston is tolerant. You like food? Houston has a thriving and diverse restaurant seen. Monica Pope, Hugo Ortega, Jim Goode, Ninfa de Lorenzo, Tony Vallone, The Mandolas, I could go on and on. The food here is amazing.
Cheers!

sscutchen said...

My favorite part of Houston is my local Tex-Mex joint, which explains why I'm such a fan of the Homesick Texas blog.

I've tried to find a Tex-Mex joint in Austin, to no avail. Austin Tex-Mex seems more expensive and more corporately cooked. Even though everyone says Tex-Mex in Austin is da bomb. Santa Rita on 38th is the best I've found, but it's really not a joint.

The keys are the salsa, the queso, the margaritas, the enchiladas with red chili gravy, the flour tortillas, the specialty items like bacon-wrapped shrimp with cheese and jalapeno... and the local-based atmosphere. And, of course, a staff that cares to remember their local regulars.

My local joint is Don Pico's in Clear Lake. Wonderful staff, great food, great local atmosphere... awesome.

Mamacita's in Webster is a second choice, with more consistent food but it has less local "joint" atmosphere. In Channelview, there is Armenta's, and in LaPorte there is El Ranchero.

Houston is FULL of local Tex-Mex joints.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Lisa--Those enchiladas verdes are indeed amazing!

Bluejeangourmet--I agree, definitely a wonderful eating town.

Jennie--Tell me about it--my Dallasite family was horrified when we had to move to Houston!

Talida--That would be fun! Which Chinatown were you at--the one on Bellaire?

Chef Gwen--The humidity is good for you skin.

Plum Texan--There's just something very lovable about it. I was bummed I wasn't able to make the Midtown Farmer's Market (had family obligations). Next time!

Jessica--We have a place in Midtown called Kolache Mama that should satisfy his craving. Or if he's ambitious he can make them at home like I do.

Emma--I would have died and gone to heaven if Canino could be on my regular shopping rotation.

Kelly--Thank you--I will definitely go to Myte Burger next time I'm in town. I'll tell them you sent me!

Jen--Excellent!

Claire--Houston is indeed special!

Kim--I grew up in the suburbs but I spent most of my free time in the area around Rice. One of the most beautiful places in the world!

Erin--Hope you have a good trip!

Julie--I miss boudin, too. I need to learn how to make it! And yes, the seafood there is the best in Texas.

Sherie--Have fun exploring your new home!

Latter-Day Flapper--I haven't been to Taqueria Arandas in ages as well. That must change!

Anna--Dallas definitely has its charms.

Paul--I know, I know--you're the second one to remind me!

Apronless--It's a good thing I live so far away from Jarro as I'd probably eat there at least twice a day.

Adam--While there are buses and a train that goes from downtown to the medical center, you really need a car.

KMays--I don't know that book--I'll have to get my hands on a copy.

Courtneymunson--Isn't the food there amazing? And I didn't have time to get to Beaver's but will hit it next time I'm in town (which I hope is soon). And Wabash, yes!

Heather--Yes, you definitely need to explore beyond the airport!

TejasJeff--It is indeed the city of cities. But the new toll roads have made getting around town much easier.

Steve--I'm happy to hear your son is still there and you have a good excuse to visit!

Manders--I went to Cy-Fair! We were practically neighbors.


Melanie--They both have their strengths. You should talk to my brother who left Houston for Portland.

Tasty Eats at Home--The Texan spirit is definitely alive and well in Houston. It's a soulful place.

Maxine--Oh, thank you! I did not know that.

Waverly--Yes, the people and the food are just outstanding. Such an open and warm place.

sscutchen--Yes, Houston's Tex-Mex bounty is endless! Will have to check out Don Pico's next time I'm in town!

Christy said...

I couldn't agree more! I love Houston, though I have stopped trying to convince others. If they don't want to be here, I don't want them here! One thing that was left off your list (and everyone's who has commented thus far) is the Spec's downtown! What a dream! Sure, they have a ton of liquor and wine and sell every beer they are legally able to in Texas, but their food section is where it's at!

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely will NOT go to mexican restuarants that don't serve green sauce!

Kimberly said...

Thank you so much for giving credit where credit is due! My parents live in Dallas, but I've lived EVERYWHERE since I was an Army Brat until age 17. And let me tell you...Houston can't be beat for real food, be it BBQ, Tex-Mex, Chinese...and the people are the NICEST. Nobody gets "uppity" down here...even if we are in "the boonies of Texas."

Oh, if you want GREAT Lebanese food, next time you're in town, you have to try Cafe Lily on Westheimer just a few blocks from the Galleria. It is so good! And I agree with the comment about Spanish Flower...great place with great food.

Sascha said...

This is such a great post! I've been living in Seattle for 7 years now but I'm a native Houstonian. What I noticed after moving here is that it truly is a food lover's paradise! Most food in the northwest is on the bland side, and Mexican? BBQ? Forget it. I always look forward to a trip home to eat myself silly.

Innkeeper Seely said...

20 years in Houston and now 11 away in Narragansett RI. I still miss the food scene. Can live without the traffic and humidity. Miss Fajita Willie's up on 290, all the places on Airline near the Farmer's Market, oh, the list could go on but then I would just be sad instead of happy to read about what the rest of us missed when Homesick went home.

Texas Dawn said...

So strangely, I read/love your blog because somedays I miss being a homesick Texan living in New York. Not to mention that I love the photography, writing and am constantly seeking new information on my beloved state. Now to find out that we went to the same high school makes even more. So, as a fellow Bobcat I have to add Goodson's to the list. It's the same as it ever was.

Anonymous said...

My family was from East Texas (Frankston) but when we got to Houston it always included a stop at the San Jacinto Inn (now sadly gone). Wonderful seafood: oysters, crabs, fish, shrimp, whatever they had was delicious. Combined with Texas hospitality, my favorite Houston memory. I do like the fact that you can walk around downtown underground and avoid the heat.

Larry

Kiss the Cooks said...

I, too, grew up in Houston but have not lived there for the last 7 years. When I read your post, I *almost* wished I still lived there. I second the kolache craving being woefully unmet outside of Texas, and also second the dearth of incredible TexMex. Ay de miiii....

BonneT said...

Thank you so much for the shout out to H-town! I only lived there two short years, broke and carless, so I didn't get to explore like I wanted to. Now, after 5 years in Dallas, I still am partial to Houston and am always trying to convince my Dallas friends that they are totally missing out by not visiting! I also have to agree with Christy, Spec's beats the pants off of any liquor store I've been to, hands-down.

BTW, I love your blog and get excited whenever there is a new posting :)

Roystal said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I already loved your blog but now i do even more! Thanks for giving houston the credit it deserves! I lived in Houston for 24 years I am now in Utah were i met my husband so who knows when i'll move back..but I visit often and the first thing I do when i get there is EAT EAT EAT! My MUST HITS are Popeyes Chicken, Los Cucos Mexican Restaurant..Cafesitos..(BEST PAELLA EVER..and Niho and her band perform there and they aer awesome!) KOLACHES..and I of course MISS THE PEOPLE THE MOST! Theres nothing like Southern Hospitaliy. Thanks again for your wonderful post! I can't wait to visit in April!

Georgia@GeorgiaPellegrini.com said...

It's true I often only hear great things about Austin... I wonder what that's all about!

Bering UMC Kenya Mission Trip said...

Here in Houston we like to eat. Nuff said!

texichan said...

YES! Thank you! I'm a native Houstonian (born in Pasadena, lived in the Heights, then across from The Woodlands, then Tomball/Willowbrook) - but I lived in Chicago for a year when I started following your blog, and now to San Antonio. I really do like SA, but I can't help missing Houston. Nobody here seems to get it... and even I didn't really get it until I grew up and moved away.

I miss the food soooo much. I always tell everyone that it's just the perfect location for the melding of foods... the crossroads of Mexican/TexMex, barbecue, Southern fare, classic Texas fare/steaks, and Cajun/Creole/seafood. Not to even mention the wonderfully diverse ethnic cuisines - especially Vietnamese. I miss it all. My favorite joint is Mario's in Spring for Mexican food. And I sooo miss Ninfa's green sauce... The whole food scene is, to me, amazing. It leaves me wanting nothing.

I don't miss the humidity, but I do miss the heavy, loud rains, the luxurious greenery... the hospitality and diversity, the culture, the unity, the "underground" sort of "weird" feel to everything. It's a most difficult place to be a tourist to, unless you're really into sports/space/food/festivals. But, it's an incredible place to live.

I really hope to move back there one of these days, despite my love for San Antonio. I just cannot sing its praises higher, while my friends stare at me befuddled...

And, for the record, I've never much cared for DFW.

Toiling Ant said...

Houston is most definitely one of the most underrated large cities. I miss everything (except the traffic!). I love how when I'm driving in from the west, the downtown skyline pops up out of nowhere around the Studemont exit. I love Montrose. I love to drive through the museum district, just to enjoy the calm. I love a picnic in front of the Water Wall on a Sunday afternoon. I adore the access to truly amazing arts functions, and a fantastic public radio station! I miss seeing guys in cowboy hats, and oh MAN do I miss the rodeo.

When we make a visit back, we ALWAYS hit up either Lupe Tortilla's or Chuy's for *good* Tex-Mex. Then there's Star Pizza... mmm. And so many great barbecue places, and Miyako Sushi!

Ok, I need to go cry a little from homesickness... even after being gone for two years, Houston definitely still makes my heart explode. :-)

Jennifer said...

I've done the Houston to NYC move as well, and I must admit that I don't spend a lot of time singing Houston's praises, mainly for the implosion of new strip malls that sprout up like chia pets.

However, the food is consistently awesome and I've never been to the places you've mentioned here. Next time I'm home, I'll definitely have to explore this "other" Houston.

Love your blog...makes me salivate every time I read.

HoustonJen said...

Ohh I'm so happy to read this post and all the other wonderful comments about Houston! I grew up in Houston, then moved to northern California - where I only lasted 7 months. What was the number one thing I missed (besides my friends and family)? The hospitality! People are just so friendly 'round here :)

I love Chuy's creamy jalapeno sauce. I could eat that stuff with a spoon! I'm with you on the green sauce, too. Oh yeah, Los Cucos is some good, good stuff. As far as BBQ goes - there is a place called Brother In Law's on the east side that has what I'd daresay is the BEST BBQ ever!! I have family that lives in that area and anytime I find myself on that side of town I have to stop there and get a sliced brisket sandwich basket. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a restaurant called The Hobbit Hole that serves some great vegetarian food.

Also want to mention Blue Bell ice cream :)

em said...

i recently moved from houston to san francisco and miss it so much! i miss the heavy heat and humidity, the live oak trees, and, of the course, the food. while there is mexican food here in sf, what i really want is are the tacos, tortas, and salsas in houston. not to mention the fact that i have to make my own pimento cheese now!

Haley said...

Great write up Lisa! I think it took me being around the world to realize the charm that Houston possesses.

Another vote for Armenta's and El Ranchero!

-Haley
Iraq

Anonymous said...

I can literally never get out of Houston fast enough. The traffic is awful! Between the traffic, humidity, and crime it leaves little to be desired. I do love the Houston Arts district and fine dining. I was born in Corpus Christi, spent my early childhood is San Antonio, and lived 8 years in Dallas and made the I35 and I10 drives more times than I can count. My favorites are all the hole in the walls outside city limits. Buckeys truck stop in Luling and The Little Czech Stop in West. The original Rudy's in Leon Springs.... Give me small towns over big cities any day.

Karen said...

I've been blessed to have lived in Houston. The choice and selection of places to eat is what I miss most. Currently living in the UK where certain foods are so hard to find. The trips back home are what keeps me going here. Next time you're in Houston try out the Kolache Bakery for the most amazing kolaches. Our favorites include Fadi's Mediterranean; Yuan Ten ~ they have the best Walnut Shrimp; Gringo's and Chuy's; Sinh Sinh ~ the best Vietnamese Imperial Rolls!; and the list goes on...

Thanks for singing Houston's praises! I can't imagine living anywhere else!

Cristina said...

Like you I moved here when I was a kid from Dallas (well Ft. Worth)... I love the diversity of each suburb to create this one great big city.

I love "The Hobbit". The sandwiches are so unique and good and big. This urban hole in the wall place has been around forever. It is a springtime tradition to go!

Barb said...

We're expats from Austin now living on Long Island and the thing I miss the most about Texas is the people. I don't think I appreciated them until I moved to an area where every interaction with a stranger (And or NY driver) is akin to a (deadly) game of chicken. It's exhausting. I miss the laconic graciousness of people who take the time for courtesy. I miss the kindness of the South. I miss no one ever honking at me.

I miss the tortillas.

Windy said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely article about my hometown.

I was born and raised in Bellaire and lived primarily in the Rice U and Montrose areas.In the late 80's I moved to Western MA. I missed Houston so much when I was gone. I was continually on a quest for Mexican food and went all over Berkshire County. It was a happy day when I moved back.

I don't think you can plumb the depths of all the fine food establishments in the metro area. It's staggering. You hit the nail on the head with regards to the thriving food scene and great chefs. We really are fortunate indeed.

Currently I live about 50 miles away but make the jaunt into town as often as I can. Typically I'm on my way to one restaurant or another. And yes, Canino's...

Lastly, Houston has a burgeoning coffee scene. Catalina Coffee has become a regular destination of mine and is well worth the trip.

Thank you Lisa.

Andrea said...

I love that someone mentioned Goodson's. LOVE that place. Another awesome place in Tomball is Mel's.

Now that I live north of downtown, I don't get down that way very often. But when I do, I never pass up a Kelly's. That's comfort food at it's finest.

Frank said...

Don't suppose you had a chance to hit the Saint Arnold Brewery did you? :o)
Great post on my hometown. When folks ask about the food scene, I tell them that no matter how small and obscure the country or ethnicity, Houston has at least TWO restaurants that serve that kind of food.
Did you make it to the Blessing Hotel?

Sharon Worster said...

And don't forget to visit Goode & Co. on Westpark for their famous shrimp & crab campechanas. OMG they are to die for! Before we moved to The Woodlands from rural Western Kentucky, my husband's territory was Houston and I would fly down here with him to eat there. When anyone comes to town that is the first place I take them. The shrimp and crab are swimming in a luscious ceviche mixture of secrets that include fresh avocado. They serve it in a tall ice cream glass on a small plate piled high with fresh chips. The people here are sooooo friendly too. I love it and can't wait to live in the middle of Houston vs. the burbs. I also adore Hugo's!!!

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in Houston and never plan on leaving. I love everyting about this great city. We have everything here... diversity at it's finest!

Anonymous said...

I love my hometown of Houston! Thank you for this post. I like the fact that the city image is not just about cowboys and oil wells anymore. We aren't a secret anymore.

eonyc said...

I lived in Houston for just over a year and was surprised at how much I truly loved it there. I still miss Fiesta, but MAN I wish I'd heard of Canino market while I was still there! I think I'm in NYC to stay, but I'll never turn down a chance to go back and visit TX (also where I was born--Temple!)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Christy--Oh, yes! Spec's is one of a kind!

Anon--You have good taste!

Kimberly--I will definitely try Cafe Lily next time I'm in town.

Sascha--Doesn't Seattle have a good Mexican taco truck scene?

Innkeeper Seely--I can live without the traffic and the humidity, too.

Texas Dawn--Hey there, fellow bobcat! What year did you graduate?

Larry--Oh, no! I have fond memories of eating at the San Jacinto Inn as well. Had no idea it had closed.

Kiss the Cooks--Yep, kolaches and Tex-Mex just are not done well outside of Texas.

BonneT--Thank you! And I try to convince my Dallas friends of the same thing. Some day...

Roystal--I'm a big fan of Los Cucos! Yummy green sauce and flour tortillas.

Georgia--Well, Austin is a very cool town and it has a couple of festivals that cater to media movers and shakers such as SXSW and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, so I think that's why it gets all the love.

Bering UMC--Houstonians do indeed love to eat!

Texichan--I agree, it's at the center of so much geographically and culturally, which makes for a wide variety of cuisines. And I've had friends visit as tourists and they hated it, even when I told them where to go. I think it's just too spread out to get it on short visit.

Toiling Ant--Yes! When I was driving into town, at the same ZZ Top came on the radio, that beautiful skyline popped into my view. A perfect moment!

Jennifer--The lack of zoning in Houston is annoying, I agree.

HoustonJen--The Hobbit Hole is a Houston institution!

Em--I miss the live oaks as well. We had them in my yard growing up and you just don't see anything like that here. Such a majestic tree.

Haley--I have to admit that I had to move to NYC to discover the same thing.

Anon--It's not for everyone!

Karen--I'll have to try Yuan Ten's walnut shrimp. Yum!

Christina--Love that place, too!

Barb--The people are definitely friendlier in Texas.

Windy--It is staggering. The diversity of food in Houston certainly rivals NYC. Is Catalina Coffee the place in Greenway Plaza?

Andrea--I was going to go to Mel's, but it was closed so I went to Luby's instead.

Frank--I drove past it when I was on my way to Ninfa's on Navigation and I thought of you! Sadly, I didn't make it to the Blessing Hotel this trip--too many family obligations. Next time!

Sharon--I've never had that but will have to try and make it. Love the presentation!

Anon--Yes, indeed!

eonyc--If you're a Fiesta fan, you'd also love Canino. I wish we had something like it here.

Anon--Houston has moved way beyond that stereotype.

Rooth said...

Thanks for giving Houston its own shout out. I moved here after growing up in Dallas and going to school in Austin and have found that the food scene here is incredible and always changing. Hope you get to come back more often!

Lesli said...

Oh how I miss my Houston- I'm a born Texas native, and in Houston for most of my life...Now I am a proud Army Wife - stuck in Michigan! Where the food is...well...lacking! I make YOUR dishes-and impress the northerners here!
My fav in H-Town...brunch at LaMexicana on Montrose...oh yummy!

Class factotum said...

I haven't lived in Houston since 1987, so I don't know if these places are there any more, but this is what I remember from college and right after:

Marini's Empanadas: Used to be on Westheimer, then they moved. Wonderful Argentine empanadas with every kind of filling, sweet and savory.

House of Pies on Kirby

Goode Company BBQ

What I loved about Houston was that was where I discovered so many cool foods: the bagel place on N. Shepherd. The Thai Pepper. Neil's Ice Cream. The Gyro place on Westheimer. The Ragin' Cajun. That Vietnamese place where I first had pho thai. I was only 17 when I went to college and yes, I had lived abroad as a kid so had more exposure to exotic foods than most, but I still had never tasted some of these things. Houston opened a whole new world for me.

eLIZabeth Floyd said...

Wonderful Post!

I am originally from San Antonio and only visited Houston for the first time in my twenties and believe it is my favorite town in Texas. Houston is underestimated in my opinion! Thanks for sharing :)

Missy said...

Thanks for your posts Lisa!
I'm a fifth generation Houstonian and have Tex-Mex coursing through my veins. My favorite place in the world was Felix's on Westheimer, a couple of blocks east of Montrose. The queso was legendary...though somewhat strange in appearance - orange, clumpy, and a pool of red-ish oil would settle at the top if it hadn't been stirred with a chip for a while...but so good. I've been in New York since 2003 and I absolutely love it here, but I miss home often and I've never had so much pride for Houston and all things Texas as I've had over the past 7 years. I have frequent discussions with my NYC friends about the superiority of restaurants in H-town. My best friend came up with a theory which I think hits the nail on the head...she says that because Houston is so sprawling and you have to have a car to get around that it actually makes the restaurants better, as no one is going to drive 15 to 20 minutes (or more!) to eat mediocre cuisine. So if the restaurant is not super tasty it will get a bad rep and fail. But in NYC your day in/day out eating regimen is most likely based on your location - at home in your 'hood or at the office. And whatever is closest is what's likely to be selected, no matter if it's all that good. So lackluster restaurants can stay in business much longer in NYC. My feeling is that Houston is a much more egalitarian eating city than NYC, which has great restaurants but you will likely need to take out a second mortgage to enjoy them.
I want to shout out to the 2 restaurants I worked at in Houston - The Black Labrador and Barnaby's on Fairview.

Debra said...

My first love is Fort Worth, but as a returning Houstonian (left in 1980, came back in 2000)... however, bottom line is that if you can't eat or shop in Houston, you're not trying!

I'm a huge fan of Los Cucos in Houston/Katy and the Original Mexican Inn in Fort Worth for my Tex Mex .... Now ... Mi Cocina is another one of my faves!

I've married into a Scottish family so I usually have to get my "fix" with girlfriends ....

C said...

I love that breakfast tacos are always only a block away.

I love that I can get tex-mex, authentic Mexican, Thai, really good Chinese, and Greek food in with in mins of each other and often into the late hours.

I love that there is always something to do, here. In fact someone said it even better, "If you're bored in Houston, you are doing it wrong." From to the opera, to an outdoor concert venue, diverse theater companies to... it can keep going.

As much as I fall in love with the east coast when ever I visit I always love coming back here.

C said...

PS. I love that your 5 things wouldn't have necessarily have been my 5. Houston is so rich and diverse a 100 people could list their top 5 and none would probably match.

Big Brother is Watching said...

I'm a yankee at heart, and I haven't lived in Houston since 1985. The only things I really miss are the food and the people, and I do miss those. I miss the food a LOT.

Roystal said...

I agree C...thats what makes Houston so awesome! :)

Sharon- How could I forge Goode's..and Rajun Cajun!!

YUMMM!!

mama3davis said...

Aahhh . . . you have made me homesick - more than you usually do. I grew up in southwest Houston and have been in Knoxville for 13 years. Talk about a culture shock!

I miss the great Tex-Mex. (Thank you for helping me, by the way.) I love Taco Cabana (formerly Two Pecos) because you just can't beat a fast food place like that. My favorite is their sopaipillas on the counter! I love all the Pappas restaurants and those great whole in the wall places you speak of all the time where I can't hardly read the menu and want absolutely all of it. One of my other favorites is kolaches at donut shops. I had NO IDEA that they were not at EVERY donut shop everywhere until I moved here . . . so sad.

I never could have imagined what I would be missing when I moved to East Tennessee.

Chef Linda said...

Being a baby-boomer, born downtown where Jones Hall now stands, I should have plenty of years of Houston living to lament over, but,alas...married and too many years gone to be familiar with what's currently "in the know" in Big H. My memories come from when the East wind would blow Pasadena into our Burbs, or the more pleasant Folger's coffee roasting aromas, and always knew when Mrs.Baird's bread was baking! My Mom insisting I carry my big coat to school on a seventy degree, balmy morning, and being glad I did when the Blue Norther would blow in during the day. I always bragged to my out of town cousins that we had sky-scrapers, with the Gulf Building being the tallest!! Even now, when we roll into town, the Houston skyline still gives me a thrill! My food memories include Princes Hamburgers, Ninfa's on Navigation, the lunch counter at Foley's downtown, Sonny Looks, Pig Stand(high school hang-out), Bill Williams Steakhouse, and my favorite high school date night...Vallians on South Main...the Best pizza at that time('60's). Now as a chef to professional rodeo cowboys, my husband and I will be leaving Idaho soon to head down to Bayou town to get ready for the biggest rodeo we cook at. I look forward to some of the places that have been mentioned on the blog!!

Lisa & Mike said...

I adore your blog and this makes me love it even more! I've always thought Houston had the best food in Texas (maybe even the region). My daughter moved to NYC a year ago and actually found this blog and told me about it. When she's in town, we try to load her up on her Tex-Mex and also hit up anything else we've missed while she was growing up here. Thank you for helping me plan her next trip home. Much love!

hhreeka said...

I just discovered your blog, and I am so excited to read about another homesick Houstonian (from Cy Fair ISD)living in New York. Funny, it was only after I moved here that I bought my first pair of cowboy boots, and realized how great Houston actually is (if you look deeper than the suburban strip mall sprawl).

Here are a few of my favorites:
1) Homemade tortillas from Lupe's
2) Jalapeno, sausage & cheese kolaches
3) Freshly brewed iced tea EVERYWHERE
4) Vietnamese spring rolls (where is the good vietnamese food in this town, btw?)

I can't wait to go back and try your recommendations!

Maren said...

great post! i'm also a houston to nyc girl....
great restaurants--- pico's mex mex (great margaritas)! cafe lili (great lebanese), goode co bbq! chuy's for tex mex; el rey has great breakfast tacos and coffee; hobbit cafe (used to be all vegetarian, but not anymore)... soo many more!

balletshoes14 said...

I truly enjoy your blog, but wish you experience at tafia were closer to the average joe experience. I have been there on numerous occasions and other than happy hour i will not go back. The ratafia drinks are delicious, but the experiences are aweful. rude and uppity service everytime i have gone. I do appreciate what Monica is trying to do and prefer her other establishment Beavers any day(the farmers market is awesome). In fact, we frequent Bevers because everyone is genuinely nice. The guys over at Anvil created the drinks there and then decided to open their own bar. You missed out not going over there. Next time you come to Houston you must check out Dolce Vita, Maxs Wine Dive, and Catalan. All delicious food, without the pretense.

Maggie said...

I grew up in the Heights (just a few blocks away from the Texas Cafeteria!) and when I graduated high school I couldn't get out of Houston fast enough. I'm now living in Philadelphia and I appreciate having grown up in Houston oh so much! Reading this post and then the comments makes me feel like I'm almost there and I can almost taste some of the food mentioned! There's a new place (well within the last five years or so) downtown called the Hubcap Grill that has a muffaletta burger-SO GOOD! And Shipley's donuts-I don't know why they can't make donuts like that up north. Yum and yum. Thanks for the post!

John Beene said...

Are you talking about the actual Houston in or near the 610 Loop? I love that Houston too!

But I lived in "Houston" 'til I was 13 near the intersection of FM1960 and 290. We left for Colorado just after the Willowbrook Mall was built. It wasn't too bad back then but I was back there over Xmas and that place is the worst kind of metrohell. Only chain restaurants as far as the eye can see.

Susan S. said...

Hey there....stumbled onto your blog and LOVE it! I'm a native Texan and have lived in Houston my entire adult life. I'm about 2 miles from the Texas Cafeteria and 5 miles from Canino. We love to go to ALL the places you named...except I've never had sweetbread tacos. Have you been to Molina's....GREAT Tex Mex and STRONG margaritas!
So...Happy New Year from the Heights/Garden Oaks. I'll be back to "visit" you on your blog.:)

My Crafty Little Page said...

I'm from McAllen and now live by Austin. I loved visiting relatives in Houston when I was little. Now I love the art museum there and the French Impressionists they had for a while was amazing.
God Bless Texas! :) Nancy

Katrina said...

I am a native Texan but have only
lived in Houston for 1.5 years...my
husband and I quickly discovered that
Mollina's on Washington can't be beat!
We still drive inside the loop to eat there.

Now that we are in the 'burbs, however,
we are completely in love with Lupe Tortilla's fajitas.

Matt said...

You make me want to visit Houston (which is incredible, since my only previous Houston experience was being stuck in several hours of rush hour traffic while driving cross country). You make it sound wonderful.

However, I have to disabuse you of the notion that only Houston has sweetbread tacos. Here in L.A. we have trucks with sweetbreads, brains and many other yummy "non-traditional" meats.

Windy said...

Catalina Coffee is located on the eastern fringes of Washington Ave. Just a block from the old Pig Stand. Max Gonzalez is a very personable owner and barista. I have to say it's the best coffee I've had in the Houston area.

The spot in Greenway Plaza is Tuscany Coffee. Haven't made it there yet but hear it's very good.

New coffee shops are opening up all over Houston with baristas making coffee as a craft versus a vocation only. You can tell the difference.

So glad they're in my backyard...

Melissa said...

Houston to Connecticut here, and this has to be the whitest place on earth - and I don't mean the snow. Yuck.

The San Jacinto Inn is still open, it just moved locations. It is now housed in the building near the ferry landing - the old Lynchberg Inn. And they still make the best cinnimon rolls. I have to second the mention of Brother-in-Laws on the east side. The ribs will melt in your mouth and most of the staff has been there since they opened over 20 years ago. Oh, and Wednesday nights are all you can eat ribs.

I never realized how much my city was a part of me until I left her.

You can't replace early Saturday morning at Canino's. The occasional pick up class at Central Market. Celebrating birthdays at the real Carabba's on Kirby - where you still see the family or at Vincent's on West Dallas. Campechana at Goode Seafood or those BRILLIANT fish tacos at Chuy's. I miss an afternoon at the Menille Collection and then those yummy mushroom quesadillas at the Black Labrador. And then there's the pan seared quail and sticky rice at Kim Son...

All that being said, my very first stop when I leave the airport is always Sonic. It's the ice, I swear.

Anonymous said...

I am a Houstonian transplanted to Maine. I so miss the Tex Mex food and the Cajun food. I also would love just one to show these Mainers some real Gulf shrimp. I plan my trips home around eating certain things to the point my mom gets her feelings hurt. I have to have certain thing like BBQ and the abouve mentioned items. Going to Fiesta to stock up on essential spices is important. I agree with the comments here about the open, welcoming ethnic scene with regards to food. I don't miss the air pollution, mold and humidity. I can't live there because I can't breathe there.

RyanG said...

Born and raised in Houston, but now in the pacific NW, missing my beloved hometown, especially

Fiesta en guadalajara on fulton
Taqueria Laredo breakfast tacos on calvacade
Mambos seafood
Cafe adobe food and margaritas
Hickory Hollow BBQ
And last but surely not least but surprised nobody else has mentioned it
SHIPLEY'S donuts, simply the best
Thanks for posting this blog about our city, let people know we know food!

Mandy said...

I was born and raised in Houston, now live in Austin, TX - so I'm not too far from home. I have a sweet place in my heart for H-town. Some of the most creative cooking I've found at small and smart restaurants. I could literally eat Mexican food every day for every meal. Ahhh... Houston!

deceiverofmen said...

Houston is home to my very favorite whole foods market.

Houston has awesome vietnamese food and tasty and exciting vegetarian food. The whole food scene in general there is very fun and inviting, not snooty.

And like you i have a list of restaurants and markets i could go on an on about. I've mentioned before about my love of Merida's enchiladas, but next time i'll have to try your Amalia's.

My very favorite thing is that there's always a cajun guy that sells homemade boudain and/or a woman that sells homemade tamales at your workplace.

oh houston, your food culture is simply amazing.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Yay Lisa! Some love for H-town!!! I have always had a soft spot for this massive, sprawling city being born and raised there and never understood the Houston versus Dallas debate - why can't we love them both? But for me - it's Houston.

After all - "It's the most exciting city in the whole world..." - to quote Pam from the movie Urban Cowboy. Granted, I guess Pam never made it to New York, but still...

As always a great post. Thanks for the Houston love!!

keith said...

Hi. I just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog. I recently moved to Germany from Houston, and I found your blog one day while I was homesick and googling things about Texas. I went to Rice, which isn't too far from El Bollilo, so I am very familiar with it. That place is ".wunderbar" as they say here in The Land Seemingly Devoid of Anything Remotely Spicy, also known as Deutschland.

So thanks again, especially for this post dedicated to our hometown!


Aufwiederlesen,
Keith

keith said...

oh, any my favorite things are all on richmond avenue near the montrose area:

the la tapatia (for the fast service, wonderful food, and late hours)

maria selma's (if someone else is treating you...)

ruchi's (across from the movie theater-turned-bookstore. their green sauce is the most amazing thing i have ever tasted in my entire life. it is creamy, and not salsa-y like other tomatillo-based salsas. maybe it is avocado-based? i dont know what it is. but they serve it bottomless as well with the normal red salsa. PLUS they offer you picked carrots, and jalapenos right off the bat. the service is wonderful, fast, and friendly. oh. my. gosh. im so tempted to hop on a plane right now!!!!)

ShadesofGray said...

Great post! It made me extremely homesick but also thrilled that Houston is getting some long over-due attention and respect! Your post reminded me of some of my old favorites and listed some new places to discover on my next trip home. Thanks!

Charee said...

I love Houston too!! I haven't lived there in almost 15 years, but I go to see family almost every year. The food, I could go on and on - so here are a few favs:
Pappasitos! My favorite general Mexican
Yildizlar Restaurant - Best falafal sandwich (Richmond and Kirby)
Berryhill Tamales - Needed a snack, drove by on Montrose - oh, gotta stop
The Grotto - Italian - now at Westheimer and the West Loop
La Madeline - best quick lunch or breakfast


I love to drive in Houston - even 15 years later I can detour around traffic and find a parallel less congested street better than a GPS.

Favorite Arts Scene - Alley Theatre! After living without awesome theatre, then in Boston where they charge twice a much, I go to the Alley anytime I am in town.

Houston Ballet - love it!

Well, I will let someone else post, but this is the first comment I have ever posted to a blog. Love of Houston made me do it.

Deana said...

I recently was transplanted from Houston to Washington, D.C. Everything everyone is writing makes me so homesick... I'm 5 mo. pregnant and dream of Mexican food and BBQ...

JAS-- said...

I'm another homesick Texan (and native Houstonian) living away from home and above the Mason Dixon since 1983. What I miss most about Houston is no longer there--La Bastille and the other haunts of Allen's Landing in the 70s, Christie's Seafood Restaurant on Holcomb Blvd, The Hobbit Hole on Westheimer. If you come across a recipe for Christie's remoulade sauce, let me know!

Andrea Meyers said...

I spent a week in Houston years ago while going through training for a move to Saudi Arabia, and though I didn't have much time to get out and explore the city, I do remember some absolutely delicious ribs with a pecan barbecue sauce that still makes me weak in the knees when I think about it.

Spook said...

I'm a Houstonian, displaced by military, and I lay awake nights thinking of all of the wonderful food I'm missing out on!

The Chocolate Bar, Agora coffee, Demeris BBQ, ANY Pappas brand restaurant, Eastern (Chinese in Garden Oaks), Churrasco's, Miller's Hamburgers off 610 near the Heights.

You really will have a hard time finding BAD food in Houston!

Aunty Pol said...

I've called Houston Home since 1982. I grew up military and have lived all over .

Thank you for praising the only place that I have ever felt at home- Seriously . Hell, I love it so much I married a native .

Don't forget the Monument Inn, Cafe Adobe's Mango Margaritas, The original Ninfa's on Navigation, Chez Nous in Humble, Gaido's on the island, Chueys, Kim Son..Irma's ...I could go on and on.


Waves from 2 Allen Center

Amy said...

Like many of the other people who commented, I'm a displaced Texan (native Houstonian)living in the Northeast. I go home to Houston every year for the holidays and have to eat the portobello mushroom tacos al carbon at Lupe Tortillas. And obviously I have to get some bar-b-que. I miss it already.

Debra said...

Many years ago (even before I actually moved to Texas), I was in Houston on rather sad business during the Christmas holiday. After a Christmas Eve service, my loved ones and I went out for dinner and enjoyed fantastic food at a restaurant whose name I cannot remember. What I DO remember is tamales that were a revelation to my Georgia tastebuds and Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" blaring over the sound system. To this day, when I hear that song, I smile and think back to one of my fondest Christmas memories. So...gracias, Houston!!

Lindie said...

I want to go there!

G in VA said...

WOW! I just got off the plane from a VERY COLD weekend in Houston! The food is always the best part of the trip!
Ninfa's on Navigation- the original, the best! The suizas can not be beat!
Goode Co BBQ- don't forget the PIE!
Kolaches!
Charlies Hamburgers- chain but charm!
and last but not least.....
Chicken Fried Steak! anywhere, Pappy's, Black Eyed Pea!

All the things you can't get in DC!
Beef BBQ and the always amazing
BLUE SKIES OF TEXAS!!

(to the girl missing Tex Mex in DC-
Cactus Cantina is our best!)

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Houston and returned there from the Bay Area this October. #1 priority for me was Marini's Empanadas. My Mom took me to the original in the Montrose and the same family now runs two locations on the west side - just as good as I remember. #2 any of a number of muy excellente Tex-Mex places. #3 kolaches. I could go on...

Vanessa said...

You've been featured on my blog:

http://designsbyvanessa.blogspot.com/2010/01/its-soup-kind-of-day.html

Anonymous said...

I too love Mollejas. It isn't even slightly true though that Houston is the ONLY place you can get them. It may just be the most northern spot in Texas where you can get them. When you have time, make a food pilgrimage to the Rio Grande Valley. Mollejas, tripas, menudo, rinones, higado, huevos de toro can all be found in restaurants there. They're all wonderful and very underappreciated by anglos.

Texasann said...

Lisa, I too want to thank you thank you thank you for shining a much deserved spot light on Houston. We have so many culinary delights, I have lived here for almost 30 years and haven't scratched the surface.

Someone mentioned above the rich Asian food that is available. My personal favorite (which I was wolfing down as I read your piece) is Van Loc on Milam. I love their stir-fried pork with vermicelli (Bun Thit Nuong). They have a steak salad that is awesome! The chunks of steak are so plump and tender you can see the juice... mmmmmmm. Next time you are here I hope to take you there!

Texann

Margie said...

We rock!

Edelweiss Cowgirl said...

I'm a fellow Houstonian who's been living in Austria for the last 10 years. When asked what I miss the most living overseas, I always answer "the food and the people!". I was in H-town over the Christmas holidays and, as is always the case, my first stop after being picked up at the airport was Tex Mex (Las Flores restaurant in Fulshear). Places I miss: Chuy's, La Mexicana, Buffalo Grill...the list goes on and on. Can't wait for my next trip back.

Anonymous said...

I miss the people. Friends, yes, but all the unknown friendly people, that make up the greater Houston area, it was such a welcoming community and I miss it. I miss the Crazy Cajun in the Clear Lake area, also Tookies, and the gone but not forgotten Shrimp Hut with many happy memories of their shrimp po-boys first in a shack like restaurant then in a grand building at the intersection off Nasa Road one and the road that used to have the Kemah drawbridge. I know that dates my Houston area timeframe. Oh I really miss China Square for the best chinese food near the gates to NASA. Is it still there? Maybe I need a trip back.......chrisq

Toiling Ant said...

HOW could I have forgotten to mention Mama's Cafe on Westheimer?? Fabulous midnight hangout with amazing comfort food. Mmmmmm....

Anonymous said...

I drove from The Woodlands over to Amalia's for the enchilada verdes.
They were the best I have had. I would drive over there again for these.

I was not as impressed with the chips, red sauce, and green sauce. Sauces seemed bland and had no heat/flavor.

k said...

SO great to see all the Houston love! I grew up there but now live in Seattle, after being in Ohio and Washington DC and traveling all over the US and the world. I still think Houston has the best restaurant scene anywhere. Amazing diversity, high quality, and NO pretension! My favorite places are:

Churrascos - South American
Nit Noi - Thai
La Griglia - Italian
Yildizar - Middle Eastern
Andre's - pastries
Tila's & Hugo's - Mexican
Brasil - coffee & dessert

Honestly, there are too too many to mention. It's hard to go wrong in Houston!

Kim H said...

I love love love Houston!

This past summer I got to travel with my husband on business trips to Houston once a month.

Since we were sans kids we spent alot of time out and about. But the one place we ate at the most was Chachos. Even though it was midsummer it was awesome to sit outside in the warm breeze with good food and much Modelos!

Mornings were spent at the hotel gym to work out for that evenings yummy meal.

K. Wallace said...

I'm a future Houstonian and love reading your blog. I'm from NYC but for some reason I've always believed that Houston is where I truly belong.
After grad school, I'm packing up and moving there :0)

Twilight said...

The authentic Mexican seafood joints especially near I-45 & the beltway, are so authentic and good. Love them. They're huge, with fish markets inside, and completely packed with who else? 100% Texicans. I also love the spicy crawfish for $3.99/lb at Wolfies. Haven't had better except at Cajun family friends' crawfish boils. And then there's the Vietnamese food/community... #2 to O.C. but almost completely lacking in NYC.

andrea said...

I forgot to mention one of my most favorite Houston Tex Mex hangouts...Last Concert Cafe. Possibly the best salsa I've ever tasted, and interesting bands as well.

NekoHitori said...

I'm a native Texan, born in Houston and raised in the suburbs surrounding the area, that has recently moved out of state for graduate school. My sister told me about your blog, and this is literally the first post that I read. I love and greatly miss the food from home, be it home-cooked or from a restaurant. I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future.

One of my favorite things about Houston, aside from the culture and museums and the symphony/theatre, is House of Pies. Especially the one on Kirby. Decently priced, good food in general, great pies, and my coffee-drinking friends say that they have good coffee, too.

Anonymous said...

Read this post thinking of all the favorites I'd add-
I always crave the salsa at Goode CO. Mesquite on Kirby

Also lamenting Houston's loss of 24 hour Taqueria Jalienence on Montrose (my spelling is off I know)
and of course those mentioned and too many more to name


I'm also Lisa from Texas living in NYC and haven't quite found my fave Vietnamese place here even after 11 years.

To the new Austinite trying to find great taco joints try Nueva Onda off South Congress near Oltorf (I think the little street is called College that cuts the corner between S. Congress and Oltorf (closes at 3pm).

Also there are some amazing spots on South 1st such as Polvos (amazing assortment of salsas, self serve) and La Reina.

Dora said...

Thank you for giving Houston proper credit! I was born and raised in SW Houston and have lived in Washington, DC for 8 years and I miss it terribly sometimes! Your blog always makes me long for home. I personally can't make it 20 minutes away from IAH before I am at Taco Cabana (how cheap of me!) getting tortillas and queso to tide me over til I am at my sisters!
Thanks for the great blog, I am proud to be an East Coast Texan!

Anne said...

I'm not seeing any mention of Otilias on Long Point - great traditional Mexican food. Zagat rated! And I LOVE Micheladas! Salsa in beer with an iced salted mug - awesome! Also, one of my friends went to Coninos and had to go to the bathroom - DEAD GUY IN THE BATHROOM - he'd been shot! The area isn't the safest but they do have amazing veges in the back...

Anonymous said...

i find that i never appreciate houston as much as when i leave it for any extended amount of time. there is NOWHERE that does asian food like this place, and i say this with experience. i've lived here my whole life and spent a lot of time in chinatown(went to middle school on mary bates and roos and a year of high school at st. agnes), and almost every time we ever had dinner out it was at some place on bellaire. one my favorites is lai lai dumpling house which i know gets a lot of heat from almost everyone who didn't actually grow up eating it, but it really is amazing. above and beyond every other restaurant in the area, i have GOT to give props to tan tan fast food on bellaire and ranchester. to anyone who has reservations about it due to some perceived lack of cleanliness, i am a living example that whatever you eat there, though you may not want to get into the hairy details, will not actually kill you. if this was the case, i would be dead 10x over by now. also, a place with as much crazy turnover as tan tan gets has no choice but to keep fresh goods in supply, as surely not even the the most exotic item on the menu sits in a fridge for very long. a lot of the menu is devoted to pretty standardized, msg-enhanced (despite whatever denial, i know it's there) american interpretations of chinese food, but then you get things like clay pots filled with seafood and rich brown sauce and soup you maintain on a burner at the center of your table, to which you add sauce/noodles/veggies/protein in whatever amount suits your taste. i remember eating there as a 5 year old, when i was pretty much forced to go, and now find myself making the modest trek as an adult completely out of my own free will to satiate a craving that no other cuisine will. it doesn't hurt that there are like 5000 bubble tea shops in the area too.

just further west on bellaire you'll end up at hong kong super mall (featured in the texas issue of saveur for its RIDICULOUSLY large crawfish obtained from god knows where and sold at an unbelievably modest price, loaded with cajun seasoning, at the food court). this place is just ridiculous/awesome. this is where anything from jasmine incense to fresh fish to dirt-cheap woks to fresh fruit juice to aloe vera and mango juices can be found. the food court also boasts stalls for fresh (and i mean you see them cut up the mangoes and pineapples) juices, exotic fruits, shiseido cosmetics, and even chinese silk fabric by the yard if you are so inclined. there's also decent dim sum until 2pm on most days at ocean palace in the same complex (but, to just repeat the cliche, nothing really beats fung's).

for something dramatically different, phoenicia supermarket on westheimer, just west of kirkwood, offers a respectable selection of prepared middle eastern cuisine (sweet, honey-soaked pastries, lamb shanks, nut spreads, etc.) as well as hard-to-find ingredients and luxury chocolate and nut pastes. i like the idea of it serving people in the area who can't always make the trip out to hillcroft (which itself hosts a veritable menagerie of mad culinary and cultural gems catering to the growing middle eastern and indo-pakistani communities). raja sweets has amazing rasmalai and vegetarian samosas and the restaurant in the same complex (forgot the name) serves up amazing indian fast food (i believe regionally-tied to kolkata but i could be wrong).

i honestly meant for this comment to be two or three sentences long, but just starting on the topic of the diversity and quality of houston cuisine really gets me going. thanks for the shout out to one of the best food cities in the nation and keep up the awesome writing!

now i think i'm going to go pick up some snow pea leaves in garlic sauce from tan tan....

- sara!

Dayle said...

I'm a proud Houstonian, married to a born-and-raised in Houston retired HFD fire captain. I enjoyed reading your post about our city.

Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady") said...

Thanks for your blurb about our burg! I'm originally from Lubbock but had 4 transfers to Houston with my husband's company and ended up here "for good". I love the city and all it has to offer. Glad you share the joy! :)

Toiling Ant said...

Just remembered yet another unique place I miss: Moscow, a little Russian market on Dairy Ashford. A few years ago there was also a Russian restaurant called Russian Bear another mile or two down Dairy Ashford, but it might not be there anymore. I used to visit both places to get Eastern European treats and to practice my rudimentary Russian language skills.

Ina Pickle said...

I miss Houston. Living in VA now, and can't even get a decent avocado. My Northern California husband hated living there - snob. Personally, I agree with you whole hog: the people were kind and hospitable, and the food was flat-out fantastic.

I was also a devotee of Caninos. If you haven't been to the panaderia next door (I think it was "El Bolillo"), that place has very decent empanadas de calabaza. That's a favorite of mine. Also, definitely buy the double yolk eggs from the egg vendor in the market - love.

Ming's Cafe down in Montrose was such a great place - not hugely authentic or anything, just great. There were so many outstanding Vietnamese places I couldn't pick one -- I miss awesome imperial rolls.

If you never ate at Simposio out on Westheimer, you missed out -- and it exemplifies a Houston thing for me that is fairly unique: strip mall high cuisine. In Houston, that spot tucked in a strip mall next to a Western wear store, or a Mexican grocery, or a laundromat, can be OUTSTANDING. You can't judge a book by its cover there.

Burger-wise we were major Cliff's people. We liked Goode Co. for bbq. Treebeards was so reliable and tasty, though we'd truck out to Al T's in Winnie for authenticity. One also can't get past the Houston scene without mentioning ice houses -- which I desperately miss.

Well, that and it's cold right now, so I miss even the weather!

Anonymous said...

I love this blog and I love Houston! It's nice to see someone finally showing some love. Every time I tell someone I lived in Houston, I get the same old "sprawl, ignorance, blah blah blah" knee-jerk reaction. And I just smile, knowing that's one less knucklehead that will move to Houston and ruin it's incredible tapestry...

Susannah said...

Lisa, have you ever been to Los Gallitos on Murphy Rd? I am obsessed with the green salsa there!)

physicschick said...

Lisa, I loved your tribute to Houston. I am a native Houstonian who was whisked away to live in Personville for my teen years. I'm back in the Houston area now and loving it.

Have you ever eaten at Cafe Red Onion on 290? It is a Latin infusion place that's awesome. I discovered it before it was "discovered." Then you had no lines, but be prepared now. However it is totally worth it! Their pineapple salsa is to die for!!

Really enjoy your blog! Keep it coming. :)

Shreela said...

Next time you visit, get someone to take you to one of the Cafe Adobe and try the deep-fried avocado, oh man is that awesome! You can get it stuffed with shredded beef or chicken, or my fav is the shrimp. The times I've gone to Cafe Adobe, I've seen more deep-fried avocados being served than anything else.

nick11 said...

Good article, nice to see others who like Houston too. I was born and raised in Fort Worth aside from a year in elementary school spent in the Houston area (Alief). Most people I know or meet up here in DFW don't care for Houston, based on humidity and they call it a dirty town. I guess it takes living in Houston to really appreciate the city since you get to know it in ways people just visiting the city don't. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to move back to the Houston area again.

Anonymous said...

I was born in Southeast Asia, and have been living in Houston my entire life. Moved away briefly after college. I didn't realized how much I missed Houston til I moved away. I am now back in Houston, hopefully, for good. I love the food scene here...so diverse....I love a lot of food and love to try every ethnic food there is to try....Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, Greek, Tex-Mex (I become a Texican every time I eat Tex-Mex), Italian, Spanish Tapas, Brazilian, and more....need I said more....Houston is definitely underrated for all she has to offer....Thank you for this post and thank you city leaders for trying to add more parks and greens to this wonderful city. Does anyone know the name of this bagel place in the Rice Village...I used to work in this area and would frequent this bagel shop that sell different varieties of bagels. I did several drive-by but can't find it. I miss it so much. It was delicious....

Marianne said...

I grew up just outside of Houston in Brazoria County so the Tex-Mex, seafood and all the wonderful other ethnic foods were my staples for dinning. I have lived all over the USA, but have never really found a Tex-Mex that matches the flavors I grew up on. I have little reason to return to the area now that my family there has passed away, but I do hope to return someday to share the area with my son and my best friends.

tinmaninc said...

Thank you for this post about the city of Houston. Growing up in Southeast Texas, I have always looked upon Houston with a fondness that borders on enchantment. I never fail to find some new hidden jewel when I am home. After living abroad in Peru for a year, then subsequently moving direct to Saudi Arabia,I was recently able to introduce my Peruvian wife to the Texas lifestyle. Although Peruvian food is still her Mt. Everest in the culinary world (as pretty much all Peruvians believe), she finally got to understand why I gush about Texas during my bouts of home-sickness...the food, the people, the place. Now that we are back in the Land of Sand, my wife is already looking forward to re-visiting some of her favorite places, and investigating new places to visit, when we return in December. Thank you for making the distance grow a little bit smaller, every time I read your blog.

Terry Combs said...

I have been in exile in East Texas for most of the last 19 years...Yes I/we go to Houston at times (and Austin where family has migrated), but not nearly often enough to suit this lad...I grew up there literally and figuratively and miss it often. Recently discovered you and want to tell you how much I enjoy your "stuff" written and recipes...Also have a kiddo living in NYC to whom I am sending your link since I KNOW she misses Texas food to the max...

Terry Combs and Linda Allen, Tyler

Unknown said...

I am currently in Memphis. The most popular "Tex-Mex" place here puts orange juice and COKE in their margs. I enjoy many things about Memphis, but I miss Texas!!

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated to avoid spam. And if you don't have a blog, please leave your name as it makes it friendlier that way!