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|| News Item: Posted 2004-01-29

Houston Super Dining Guide
By Robert Seale, Sporting News

Houston has thousands of restaurants, including many fine chain restaurants. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to avoid those and concentrate on local fare. These are places I would take you to if you were visiting Houston for the first time and I was your guide. If I catch any of you eating at Ruth's Chris or Landry's during the week I'm going to call the NFL and have your credentials revoked

Photographers dining guide dress code key:
(Or, what is the minimum I have to wear to this place to keep from getting kicked out)

Very Expensive=wear a suit, (you know, the one you wore on your job interview)

Expensive=change from blue jeans to black jeans, wear black doc martens instead of Nike's, wear long sleeved shirt you bought from store instead of a sporting event.

Moderate=jeans (no holes), tennis shoes, tuck Final Four polo shirt in upon arrival

Inexpensive=shorts, T-shirt, shower, shoes of some sort

High-end restaurants:
Café Annie, 1728 Post Oak (713-840-1111) The flagship restaurant of Robert Del Grande, one of the pioneers of the chic southwestern food movement. This place will be hard to get into during Super Bowl week…more on this later. Very Expensive

Ruggles, 903 Westheimer (713-524-3839) This is my favorite upscale restaurant in Houston. This place is New American with a Southwestern twist …which means they have fabulous steaks and seafood, wonderful sides, and sauces with words like Chipotle and Poblano in the menu descriptions. Expensive

Hugos, 1600 Westheimer (713-524-7744) This is a high end Mexican restaurant (not Tex-Mex). It is in a very cool old brick building with a loft-like feel. Expensive

Mockingbird Bistro, 1985 Welch (713-533-0200) This is a great place for steaks, seafood, with a funky gothic dining room. Expensive

Backstreet Café, 1103 S. Shepherd (713-521-2239) If the weather is nice - this is the place. A wonderful backyard courtyard behind the main dining room under large Oak trees…the food is mostly southwestern and fusion cuisine. Moderate to Expensive

Mexican/Tex/Mex food: (is there any other kind?)
El Tiempo, 3103 Richmond (713-807-1600) This is quite possibly the best Mexican restaurant in Houston. Owned by the sons of the late Ninfa Laurenzo, who started the locally famous Ninfas chain - this place has filet mignon fajitas served on individual charcoal warmers with a garlic butter sauce and homemade tortillas. Wow. Moderate

Doneraki, 7705 Westheimer at Hillcroft (713) 975-9815 The salsa is warm, the queso is good, and the Tacos al Carbon and Carne Asada rule. This is a great Tex-Mex place.

Tila's, 1111 S. Shepherd (713-522-7654) Very small cozy Southwestern restaurant (next door to Backstreet Café). Great Carne Asada and Margaritas…they also serve plantain chips with their salsa. Moderate

Chuy's, (Westheimer, just west of Kirby) Yes, it is a chain - but if you are looking for fat, cheese covered enchiladas with choices of fillings and sauces… this is the place. Try the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo. The Austin location is where Jenna Bush got busted with a fake ID.... strangely enough, there is no commemorative t-shirt available. Inexpensive to moderate

Jalapeno's, 2702 Kirby Dr. (713-524-1668) See Chuy's description… Famous for their spinach enchiladas and other Tex-Mex dishes. Inexpensive to Moderate

Goode Co. Taqueria, (corner of Westpark/Kirby) Great place for lunch - mesquite grilled chicken, fajitas, and burgers. My favorite grilled chicken fajitas in Houston. Cinnamon chocolate ice cream for dessert. Inexpensive

Houston has a couple of unique southwestern places you might want to try for lunch. Robert Del Grande, and Ben Berryhill, of Café Annie fame, started 2 places that are casual, cheap, order at the counter restaurants as experiments in cheap but excellent food.

Berryhill Tamales, Post Oak at San Felipe, Galleria area. 4 kinds of tamales, fish tacos, etc …best Chili con Queso, made with Monterrey Jack Cheese.

Taco Milagro, Westheimer at Kirby. Excellent salsa bar…very cool patio area for people watching.

Misc. Food:
Goode Co. Seafood, 2621 Westpark (713-523-7154) Jim Goode, the Barbeque king of Houston's Seafood restaurant …great grilled fish with Creole or Mexican preparations in a cool old stainless-steel-diner type setting. Moderate

59 Diner, (S. Shepherd/Norfolk - just north of freeway-next to Star Pizza) Exactly what the name says… a real 50's style diner with great comfort food - Chicken Fried Steaks, Pot Roast, Burgers, and milkshakes rich enough to be your landlord. Inexpensive

Star Pizza, 2111 Norfolk (713-523-0800) Outstanding deep dish, Chicago style pizza, with unique combinations of toppings. Famous for their Joe's style (sautéed spinach, garlic, jalapenos)…my personal favorite is the grilled chicken rosemary pizza (deep dish wheat crust, alfredo sauce (no tomato sauce), grilled chicken, fresh rosemary, and mushrooms. Worth the wait. Inexpensive

Contrary to popular belief, Houston is not really a great barbeque town. If you feel like a road trip - drive west on I-10 about 2 1/2 hours to some of the best Barbeque in the world… City Market, in Luling; Smitty's and Kreuz Market in Lockhart. (These places all use Post Oak wood) They are all phenomenal.

As for Houston:
Goode Co. on Kirby Drive Nowhere near as good as central Texas barbeque - but you'll probably still like it very much…just tell the nimrods behind the counter to put your sauce on the side. Drowning brisket in sauce is a cardinal sin and should be punishable by death. Jim Goode, the owner, knows better…Taste the meat first … savor the smoke…then dip it in sauce if you wish. Great jalapeno cheese bread - lots of weird items besides the usual brisket, ribs, sausage…they have smoked turkey, for instance. Cool Texas gift shop/pit store across the street. (Mesquite wood.)

Burn's Barbeque, 8307 De Priest St. (Post Oak wood.) This is a real barbeque joint - deep in the Acres Homes neighborhood of Houston. Harder to get to than Goode Co., but they have excellent ribs. Go to MapQuest for directions before you try to find it. (Post Oak wood.)

A word of caution: If anyone tells you to try Drexler's (yes Clyde Drexler's mom's place), or Otto's (George Bush's favorite), hit them upside the head with your Gitzo and bring them back to reality.

Late night/24hour places:
Spanish Flowers, 4701 N. Main (713-869-1706) 24-hour Tex-Mex just north of downtown Houston in the Heights. This is a popular photographer hangout after Astros games, etc… Inexpensive

Mai's, 3403 Milam (713-520-7684) Awesome Vietnamese food on the south side of downtown. You absolutely have to try the Salt Toasted Shrimp, (make sure they bring you the jalapeno, lemon sauce), and by all means - have the Vietnamese coffee. (French press over condensed milk, served over ice). Open late. Inexpensive

The Gingerman, 5607 Morningside (713) 526-2770 This is the original Gingerman, located in the Rice Village, stocked with over 100 beers on tap, a cozy front porch and rear beer garden and a great juke box.

West Alabama Icehouse, 1919 West Alabama at McDuffie (713) 528-6874 Icehouses are a unique Texas thing. These are outdoor bars where people used to buy ice in the old days (this one dates back to 1927), where roughnecks were welcome in their dirty clothes after a hard days work. These days you might find bikers, yuppies, and college students sitting at the outdoor picnic tables … but it is unique, and if the weather is not cold and rainy, it is worth checking out.

(Robert Seale is a staff photographer with The Sporting News, the country's oldest sports publication. He is a frequent contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter and instructor at the Workshop & Luau.

Related Links:
Robert Seale's member page

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