Today in a break from my regular posting plan......
FoodNetwork posted an article this week about the top 10 places a new Houstonian should try......mostly places that aren't TOO out there for people who haven't learned yet that Houston is the BEST place to learn to be adventurous about food. I've read that Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and man, did I figure that out when I lived in Montrose. I think it's the only place that you can get legit French crepes fresh off the cart on the street corner one block from some of the best Mediterranean food you'll ever eat.
But, the only one I agree with on this list is Pondicheri. not because they are bad, but because I love SO MANY other places that were left off. I know ten is a hard number for a foodie to limit themselves to, so, in girl-in-the-city style, here's my revised list (which really just means, let me remember what my first 10 places were in Houston....especially way back when I was less adventurous and long before I was a Houstonian!) these places are relatively safe....you can more or less get "a sandwich" with nothing fancy if that's what you are comfortable with. but it'll be a really really good sandwich. probably on artisan bread with cheese straight from the cow in the backyard (ha. kidding. sort of.) but I digress.
so without further tangents:
1. Phoenicia - get the chicken or beef gyro. go to the downtown location, it's an easy walk to Discovery Green and it tastes soo much better outside. This is also a good place for cheap specialty groceries.
2. Babayega's - I learned about this place from my aunt and uncle who lived in Montrose in the 1970s. delicious. well established (: this place has great vegetarian options, but also just plain burgers and salads.
3. Te House of Tea - I worked there, so I know EVERYTHING on the menu. I've also eaten everything on the menu approximately 12 thousand times. My favorite recommendation is the rosemary goat cheese crepe with an Immunitea. (fruit juice and matcha, shaken well, served cold.) also have some Snow White Tea. (fair trade white tea with mint and rose.) Just trust me.
4. Little Big's - if you are unsure if you will like it, get it in miniature size! Everything here is a slider of varying tastes. the concept is genius. also they have sriracha mayo sauce and I'm not sure if this is a thing other places but it's so good?! And you can get beer/wine with your burger!
5. Pondicheri (as I agree with this list on this one.) brunch is awesome. Indian food, but pretty simple still.
6. Simply Pho - the nicest people, too. get avocado on your # B12 (Vietnamese barbeque bahn mis) because it is GREAT. Vietnam was formerly controlled by France, so they have some French influence on their food (ie, baguettes for sandwiches, etc.) their dumplings and Cafe Sua Da are excellent as well.
7. Cafe Brasil - a Houston standard. back porch is charming as well. there is also this hilarious man who plays jazz and yet has no sense of rhythm. so. I like the chicken salad because it is interesting but they have pretty much everything from pizza to soup here.
8. Black Hole (okay okay, technically a coffeeshop. but the experience is pretty spot on if you're looking to feel like you're really in the city.....always crowded, always cozy. it's sort of a retro place too with a slight nod to a space theme. they make the sandwiches you can find at Antidote as well.) Get the Mate Latte with a side of oh-dang-now-I'm-awake! (it's made with yerba matte which has an equal level of caffeine as a shot of espresso.)
on a side tangent, I could do an entirely different list of coffeeshops.....but i'll save that for another post. (:
9. Good Dog - good for everyone, because everyone likes a hot dog! the lavender lemonade is amazing!!
10. Roost - okay, not a starting place for beginners exactly......this is your next step if you have tried all the "normal stuff" - they are known to have quail eggs and watermelon salad and stuff like that. but if I've learned anything from living in the city, it's that you should really just TRY things (like the Tuna sandwich at Paulies!) you might be surprised. The menu here changes every six weeks, so don't get attached to anything. (but they always have Slow Dough bread service. wink wink.) They have an amazing wine selection and the ambiance here reminds me of a English farmhouse.
Here's my takeaway (HAHA pun totally intended here. sorry.) on food: I love trying something I didn't think I would like, and finding out that I actually love it. I love going to dinner with a new friend and ordering "what I always get" or something totally different. I love the array of atmospheres of places in this city - twinkling lights in the tree growing through the middle of the porch in one, punk rock and skate culture in another. I love that Houston is a place where makers thrive - it's a good place for creativity and risk. and food seems to be a pretty easy starting place. But it also brings people together - when I think about my favorite moments of the last year and a half in Houston, tons of them were over food - a good cup of tea, the best sandwich I've ever had (so far), a gyro with former Houstonians who are delighted to find that 30 years later, nothing has changed a bit. in each, there is laughter, there are stories, and there is food.
p.s. disclaimers! (: this Girl in the City is clearly influenced by Montrose. there are other places that are good that are outside of this neighborhood, but......I guess I haven't been to them as much. each neighborhood has it's classic places and it's adventurous places, but I learned about food in Montrose because I lived there and dove right into the Montrose cultural experience. (write what you know. eat what you don't know! right?) this is also not a comprehensive list (30 would be closer, I think (; )