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Any recommendations for Houston?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I'm going to be there for three nights (Fri, Sat, Sun) next weekend and would be interested in any recommendations.

Thanks, h_s.
post #2 of 19

I once met an exceptional bartender by the name of Bobby Heugel (I think) in Houston, who was working at a divey BBQ joint called (of all things) Beaver's. He presided over a really tight and excellent cocktail bar and made me excellent drinks. He and his business partner recently opened their own place called Anvil Bar and Refuge; I've not been, but from the quality of the cocktails I had at Beaver's and the good things I've heard from my friends in the cocktail community, I certainly would not miss it.

 

~ H

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Definitely going there. Thanks for the rec.

h_s
post #4 of 19
Heugel also owns or consults with a bunch of other places in Houston. The Hay Merchant is their beer bar, then there's Underbelly right next door. People seem to like Underbelly, I'm not really a huge fan though. The concept is better than the execution for the most part.
I'd say go to Pass and Provisions for food, it's actually two restaurants, Pass which is only tasting menus, and Provisions which is more casual and serves pizza and pasta and stuff a la carte. I've only been to Provisions, but it's probably my favorite restaurant in Houston right now. The cheese plates are worth ordering, as are pretty much all the pizzas and pastas. The desserts are hit or miss, I like the cakes for two they usually have, they're giant though, and I remember being impressed by the Neapolitan.
If you want BBQ, Gatlins is probably the best in Houston. They'll sell out very early though, and I don't remember if they're open Sunday.
For Mexican, Hugo's is interior Mexican and probably the best Mexican of any kind in the city, and you'll have a million options for Tex Mex that are all different and usually decent. Ninfa's is probably the most famous, they're pretty good. It's disgustingly unhealthy, but their queso flameado is basically perfect. You have to go to the one on Navigation though, it's the only one actually still owned by the family and by far the best.
For Indian, Indika is upscale Indian in Montrose, it's near all the Bobby Heugel places. I've never had anything I didn't like there. I'm spoiled by NY Indian, but cheap Indian here is usually greasy and not very good.
I'm probably forgetting a bunch of places. For pizza, Dolce Vita has good Neapolitan style, it's probably the best in Houston. Maybe Frenchy's on Scott St. for late night drunk fried chicken. Oh and for something other than food, Mortar is a pretty good clothing store in Montrose. They have weird hours though, I'd call or email to make sure they're actually open, but they're usually open weekends I think.
post #5 of 19
Leave as soon as you can would be my advice.
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by landshark View Post

Leave as soon as you can would be my advice.
That too.
post #7 of 19
its impossible to get a drink at anvil on the weekend. bobby's blown up. all of alex's suggestions are solid and it really depends on what youre looking for. upscale to downscale east to west theres a ridiculous surfeit of eating options. personally id grab a taco off the street for lunch and head for a churrascaria for dinner. no thinking involved, especially if youre with a group of many
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trompe le Monde View Post

its impossible to get a drink at anvil on the weekend.
What if we go early, before dinner? 6ish?
post #9 of 19

Well, that is fortunate and unfortunate. I am not surprised though; his drinks at Beaver's were exceptional -- I suppose I was there in '08. He also introduced me to Sotol, which I have been trying to get a bottle of ever since.

 

I also had scotch at a bar called Downing Street, which was fine but in no way exciting. So many places now may have 50 scotches on the menu that this is now shockingly passe.

 

~ H
 

post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexg View Post

For Mexican, Hugo's is interior Mexican and probably the best Mexican of any kind in the city, and you'll have a million options for Tex Mex that are all different and usually decent. Ninfa's is probably the most famous, they're pretty good. It's disgustingly unhealthy, but their queso flameado is basically perfect. You have to go to the one on Navigation though, it's the only one actually still owned by the family and by far the best.

Ninfas was sold years ago and is really bad these days. I'm sure the famous Navigation Ave location is not under the Laurenzos family control either.

AAMOF, Mama Ninfa Laurenzo's son finally had a winning concept with his El Tiempo tex-mex restaurants. That would be where to go for a Ninfas experience. One of them is on Washington Ave. and another on Montrose Blvd ( as well as a few more locations ). Neither is as good as Hugos on lower Westheimer, but El Tiempo is considerably lower priced and is tex-mex versus Hugo's version of "gourmet" Mexican food. Hugo's is a converted commercial structure and is a nice room too. But stay away fron Ninfas, it is terrible.

For us old folks RDG restaurant and bar on Post Oak Blvd is excellent. it's predecessor was Cafe Annie originally on Westheimer and Fountainview, and then at another Post Oak Blvd location. I know the Schiller Del Grande people and would highly recommend their locations to anyone. At one time Robert Del Grande was a pretty well known trend setting chef. And Post Oak Blvd is a different vibe than Montrose-lower Westheimer.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by rnoldh View Post

Ninfas was sold years ago and is really bad these days. I'm sure the famous Navigation Ave location is not under the Laurenzos family control either.

AAMOF, Mama Ninfa Laurenzo's son finally had a winning concept with his El Tiempo tex-mex restaurants. That would be where to go for a Ninfas experience. One of them is on Washington Ave. and another on Montrose Blvd ( as well as a few more locations ). Neither is as good as Hugos on lower Westheimer, but El Tiempo is considerably lower priced and is tex-mex versus Hugo's version of "gourmet" Mexican food. Hugo's is a converted commercial structure and is a nice room too. But stay away fron Ninfas, it is terrible.

They sold licenses to other restaurants to use the name Ninfa's, which is why the original is the only one worth going to. Apparently it's also part of a different restaurant group now (and partially owned/controlled by Bobby Heugel), but the chef has been there for a while and there haven't been any major changes to it since being owned by the family. I'm not old enough/haven't been in Houston long enough to have gone to it when it was still under their control, but I can vouch for the food being pretty good, and none of the Houston food reviewers say anything about the quality going down recently. I don't really like El Tiempo. It's fine, but basically as expensive as Hugos for food not nearly as good. I've never left there thinking the food I ate was worth what I paid for it. If I'm going to be shunned for suggesting Ninfas though, I can change my Tex Mex suggestion to Teotihuacan. Their snapper al cilantro is good, and they have awesome green salsa.
post #12 of 19
We tried to meet up at Anvil Saturday evening but it was packed - it's a really small place - like 7 -10 booths / tables from what I saw. Ended up getting brews at the relaxed Royal Oak down the street. Hay Merchant looked reasonably open but I passed on it - next time I will give it a shot, though.

I've heard great things about Hugo's but never been - likewise RDG bar.

BBQ - the standards are Goode Company and lately Rudy's. The wife likes this one obscure BBQ place that I can't recall. Greek at Niko Niko's is great but again it's a smallish place, but they also have outdoor dining so that's good this time of year.

ETA: it's Blake's BBQ. She likes it, I've never been.
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexg View Post

They sold licenses to other restaurants to use the name Ninfa's, which is why the original is the only one worth going to. Apparently it's also part of a different restaurant group now (and partially owned/controlled by Bobby Heugel), but the chef has been there for a while and there haven't been any major changes to it since being owned by the family. I'm not old enough/haven't been in Houston long enough to have gone to it when it was still under their control, but I can vouch for the food being pretty good, and none of the Houston food reviewers say anything about the quality going down recently. I don't really like El Tiempo. It's fine, but basically as expensive as Hugos for food not nearly as good. I've never left there thinking the food I ate was worth what I paid for it. If I'm going to be shunned for suggesting Ninfas though, I can change my Tex Mex suggestion to Teotihuacan. Their snapper al cilantro is good, and they have awesome green salsa.

None of the existing Ninfas have anything to do with the original Laurenzo family. According to this Wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninfa's the original location is controlled by the Legacy Group of restaurants ( with a slight connection to the original Mama Ninfa ), and is probably better than most other Ninfas but not as good or revolutionary as the Ninfas of the 1970, or 1980s.

Ninfas son Dominic Laurenzo controls the El Tiempo restaurants and he also has a Continental place on Washington Ave. called Laurenzos. I do think El Tiempo is lower priced than Hugos but probably not by much. If I only had a weekend here, I would try Hugos first.

+1 to the Goode Co. I've been going there since 1978 and it's sort of an institution.

Since Hopkins is only here for a weekend, a lot depends on where he is staying. Where are you going to be Hopkins?
post #14 of 19
Would help to know more info (i.e., age, marital status, interests, means of transportation, where you're staying, etc.) but I'll recommend the following and keep it simple...

For amazing BBQ, check out Otto's BBQ. Fantastic stuff. Google for locations (all over town).

For top notch (and fair priced) burgers, try Hubcap Grill in downtown. Near the courthouses. They do have somewhat strange hours so call ahead to be sure.

For a social scene, go by Celtic Gardens in midtown/Wash Ave. area. A bit of a meat market but they have a great outdoor patio area and drink prices are decent. Good service.

For a quick and cheap bite to eat (not healthy so be warned), go by one of the many James Coney Island locations throughout the city - "Texas Style" hot dogs would be my recommendation.

Hope this helps!

E63
post #15 of 19
IMO either hop a little farther out for Rudy's, or make the trek to Austin/central tx for BBQ. The enthusiasts will say that Google/Otto's will give you the wrong impression of Texas Q.

The concept of "high-end" tex-mex a bit perverse, as the cuisine itself has a fairly low plateau. Personal opinion = tex-mex joint is more about the ambience, guacamole, and margarita. i.e., its more of a place to hang out, than to go just for eating. To that end there are many good places that fit the bill.

I dont wholly, or even moderately agree with Robb Walsh's list, but its hard to argue that he hasnt got a very comprehensive grasp of the Houston scene, esp when it comes to low key and divey joints. This could be a good starter guide:

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2010/07/robb_walshs_100_favorite_houst_97.php
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