Within the format of the guide, which I think is well done, here are restaurants to replace several of those recommended:
- EggHaus Gourmet – A rather obscure and singular place near Timbergrove from the folks at King’s Bierhaus serving breakfast tacos and odd versions of kolaches – ever heard of a bratwurst kolache? Replacement: Kolache Shoppe – These two locations are easily the two best outposts for kolaches in Houston and likely the entire state – Weikel's Bakery in La Grange is the only serious challenger I’ve found – and the drive-thru of the Heights spot is the source of a mini-traffic jam every weekend morning.
- The Rice Box – The coolly set little Chinese-American place on the curve on Shepherd across the street from The Backstreet Café attracts a younger set. Replacement: Pepper Twins – One of the several home-grown Sichuan-specialists is on West Gray, a half-mile away, serving far better food in the Chinese vein, it has resonated with both the growing Chinese community and any diner who enjoys usually well-crafted food with noticeably high quality ingredients.
- Ninfa’s on Navigation – The Tex-Mex landmark that help instigate the fajita craze several decades ago was a Houston favorite for years. Replacement: El Tiempo on Navigation – Ninfa Laurenzo’s family long ago moved on to El Tiempo and has seemingly much of the former staff at Ninfa’s; serving similar fare, but just much better and in a much more consistent fashion, especially those grilled steak offerings.
- Mai’s – The Midtown spot that had served as introduction to Vietnamese for many college students has been known mostly for its late hours, post bar, when the dishes happened to taste a lot better. Replacement: Thien An Sandwiches – There are still a number of Vietnamese restaurants in Midtown, though not as many as in years past, and the no-frills Thein An is the best, serving excellent versions of all the local favorites across banh mi, bun, com dia, banh cuon, and pho – where the old school tripe and tendon can still be added. It does close at 6:00, unfortunately.
- Tacos Tierra Caliente – The food truck across the street from the West Alabama Ice House is alright, if nothing special other than it’s often quite handy location. Replacement: Master Taco – A few blocks away on Richmond and Woodhead, this friendly daytime and early evening spot from a family from the state of Guerrero, in which Acapulco is located, crafts some terrific small tacos on both corn and flour tortillas, both house-made.
- Coltivare – This place on White Oak can be credited with generating interest in the Heights as a dining destination, though it’s been surpassed by several other restaurants in the neighborhood. Replacement: Squable – Comfort, wit, intelligence, experience and a lot skill are hallmarks of this eclectic eatery that is especially good with breads and cocktails and almost everything, actually, as it is the top dining spot in the Heights, and one of the best in the city.
- True Anomaly and Truckyard – A new brewery and a fun, tacky, beer garden imported from Dallas were two of the recommendations for EaDo. Given my experiences, I cannot suggest visiting a small domestic brewery in good conscience, and there are better options in EaDo for those past their mid-twenties to imbibe than the Truckyard. Replacements: J-Bar-M and Tiny Champions – The new barbecue joint is not only the slickest in the area, it serves up fantastic ‘cue and with an expansive, attractive bar and plenty of seating with views of some of the nearby downtown skyline. Tiny Champions, a funky place with well-crafted pastas, cocktails, ice cream and pizzas. It’s the best pizza joint in town these days.
And a couple of other things worth revision:
- “Don’t leave without having: A rib-eye at any of the bars that hosts a steak night throughout the week…” I had to laugh at this, as did a friend in the hospitality business and a former bar owner here. Neither of us could recall a decent steak we’ve had at any bar’s steak night over the years, and it’s got to be tougher to pull off with more expensive beef these days. These promotions don’t exactly draw the most demanding diners.
- “But the local favorite is really: Food trucks….” There might be a number of food trucks in Houston, but with our usually hot and humid weather, the area is not as well suited to food trucks as a place like Los Angeles. A much better option to the food truck scene is the broadly similar food halls, which have sprung up in recent years. Bravery Chef Hall, The Post Market, Railway Heights, and Finn Hall are all worth visiting. Not only can you dine under cover and in air conditioning with metal utensils and proper plates, you will find an array of dining options much better than from the food trucks.
- “But the local favorite is really:..pizza….” Though it pains me to write this, but Houston is not a good pizza town. The recommendable pizzerias are limited: the aforementioned Tiny Champions, Poscol, Vinny’s, Rudyard’s. Though pizza is certainly eaten often here, a cuisine that is very popular, deeply woven into the local dining culture, and is done here as well or better than anywhere else in the country is Vietnamese, and something visitors should try before any pizza place. The complex beef broth anchoring a good bowl of pho or a crusty loafed banh mi are two types of often excellent locally found fare to be had for a comparative song.
On last thing, for the ink about The Menil Collection, I would have mentioned Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk” that’s set on a reflecting pool near the Rothko Chapel, one of my favorite pieces of public art in Houston.
There is a lot that can be recommended for Houston.
The fiery, delicious Pepper Twins Chicken that's just $11.99 for lunch during the week.