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Food, Sights, Nightlife in Houston?

Huntsman

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Looks like I'm flying out to Houston tomorrow evening for three days or so. Am pretty bummed that the Museum of Fine Arts closes at 5pm -- as I likely won't be able to make it any evening.

Regardless, am looking for some things to do in the evenings. I'm going to be on the Western end of the outer belt -- the Rt. 10/Westheimer area. Foodwise, I plan to spend one night at Marks 1658, and need to fill two others. The Aquarium was recommended to me, comments? Definitely want some good local/regional fare. If there are any shopping districts that have independent stores convenient to walk around that would be fun -- Kema was suggested to me. Also any nightlife spots of mention, or places worthy of a photo-op.

Thanks...
 

aybojs

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The Aquarium and the Kemah boardwalk are Landry's owned tourist traps; avoid like the plague. The thing to realize with the Houston dining scene is that the fancy/trendy places just aren't all that impressive or interesting, and that the real good food is to be found at the myriad hole in the wall ethnic and "cheap eats" places you'll find scattered about on the fringes of town.

If you want to throw out more specific ideas of what you are looking for, I can point you in the right direction. As for nightlife, I can also recommend some bars depending on what you're in the mood for, but realize that the majority of high profile nightlife in Houston is towards the central area of the city, well away from where you'd be staying at.
 

raley

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What are you looking for in terms of nightlife? Wild and crazy, laid back, etc.

As far as food, Da Marco is probably the best restaurant in Houston. It is near Mark's on the eastern end of Westheimer. You are going to want to eat Mexican food though since you are visiting Houston. I recommend either Pico's on Bellaire or El Tiempo on Richmond.
 

Huntsman

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Thanks for the forewarning. Laid back is usually my style. I like (typically separately) seriously well-made classic cocktails, and food of every stripe. As I'll be in Houston the only ethnic food I want to eat is Mexican and BBQ, and also 'American' cuisine with a Texas slant for one night -- Marks was my plan for that, but I'll alter it if necesary. Hole-in-the-walls are fine by me; sometimes, I'm just there for the food. Looking around I found a place called Beaver's that does cocktails and BBQ? Comments? ~ Huntsman
 

Southern-Nupe

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Originally Posted by Huntsman
Looks like I'm flying out to Houston tomorrow evening for three days or so. Am pretty bummed that the Museum of Fine Arts closes at 5pm -- as I likely won't be able to make it any evening. Regardless, am looking for some things to do in the evenings. I'm going to be on the Western end of the outer belt -- the Rt. 10/Westheimer area. Foodwise, I plan to spend one night at Marks 1658, and need to fill two others. The Aquarium was recommended to me, comments? Definitely want some good local/regional fare. If there are any shopping districts that have independent stores convenient to walk around that would be fun -- Kema was suggested to me. Also any nightlife spots of mention, or places worthy of a photo-op. Thanks...
Whoever suggested the Aquarium should be shot, the food is horrendous at best, and is nothing more than a atmospheric trap.

If you like Mediterean food, I would suggest Cafe Mezza, located off of Westheimer. It's pretty cheap 12-20 bucks and the food is amazing, especially the Lemon-butter chicken, or Mango-stuffed chicken.

There are numerous wine-bars you may enjoy, as well as cigar bars (if that's of interest to you).

If you like shopping, you likely won't have to go far from the Galleria and Highland Park area. As for nightlife and bars, they are plentiful...it just depends on what you like. If you're looking for something low-key, I'd recommend a lounge, wine-bar, trendy sushi-bar, or martini-bar.

Also check out the museum district, if given the opportunity.
 

aybojs

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Ok, let me work with those:

Mexican: The big thing is to decide whether you're looking for Tex-Mex (e.g. chile con queso, fajitas, enchiladas in red sauce with cheddar cheese) or actual Mexican (mole, tacos that don't use lettuce, cheddar and tomatos, soup/caldo). If it's Tex-Mex, there are a lot of local chains that do a pretty solid, albeit not amazing, version of Tex-Mex: Ninfa's, El Tiempo, Cyclone Anaya's, Molina's, Pappasito's... out of those I'd recommend the original Ninfa's location on Navigation Street (somewhat in the ghetto). If it's traditional Mexican, there's a well-regarded fine dining place called Hugo's, which is located not too far from Mark's. There are, of course, lots of hole-in-the-wall places in both categories, but I'm not the best person to ask on those.

BBQ: Houston really isn't known for its BBQ, even though it is in Texas. Goode Company does a decent enough job, though it's a corporate chain and has that feel to it; Thelma's, Burns, Luling City Market and Hickory Hollow get good reviews as far as more local places go. I'll elaborate on Beaver's a little further down.

Believe it or not, Houston's other ethnic selections actually rival (and in my opinion, far surpass) the stereotypical Texas specialties. There are well-established Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian districts at different parts of the city, all of which have their own excellent ethnic restaurant scenes. Houston is also the second best city in the country as far as Cajun goes, and lots of bars/restaurants here do great things with crawfish boils and Cajun seafood. I'd say the only ethnic cuisine Houston doesn't do really well in is Japanese, and that's mainly because the trendy crowd has hijacked the whole sushi bar scene.

Good traditional bars are tough to find in Houston; I'd be working in one if I could find one that fit me. If you like wine, try Cova Wines, Corkscrew, or 13 Celsius; there's also another hotspot with a chef-run kitchen called Max's Wine Dive, but I find it too trendy for my tastes. Downing Street is probably the best known cigar/scotch bar in town; I once attended an AskAndy meetup there, to give you an idea of the scene. I'm a regular at Beaver's, and I would rate them the best cocktail spot in the city; the BBQ however is in it's own little world... it's not bad, by any means, but the owners seem more interested in trying to be trendy and experiment with cutesy recipes rather than doing the traditional-style BBQ associated with Texas. I'd hit up Beaver's for a nightcap after dinner, and maybe order off the menu for bar snack purposes. I actually might be up there tomorrow or Wednesday night (they close Mondays) in case anyone might be interested in trying a mini SF member meet.
 

ChicagoRon

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Ruggles is a little on the upscale side, but not outrageous, and quite tasty.
 

raley

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Aybojs post is really good and informative. I am really partial to El Tiempo though, so I will put that in as my recommendation, though the original Ninfa's is quite good as well.

I also agree with the BBQ comments - Austin and its surrounding areas are probably the place to go for BBQ, Goode Company has always been pretty underwhelming for me, although I did eat there last night.

Again agree on the ethnic comments - one thing you might want to check out is Vietnamese if you are into that. Houston has a huge Vietnamese community and there are some great restaurants here. I'm far from an expert but I believe Saigon Pagolac is supposed to be pretty good. I've eaten there once, the seven course beef is pretty good/fun to eat. They serve beef in seven different ways and you dip these rice papers in water and roll them up like spring rolls with different vegetables, fish sauce, etc.

Another restaurant you might want to check out is Indika. A favorite food writer of mine recently named it his favorite restaurant in Houston. I'm not a big Indian food fan, so I've never eaten there, but I think it is a sort of fusion type of place (this is the writer I was referring to http://foodinhouston.blogspot.com/20...staurants.html ).

I don't really know much about the upscale bars, so will have to defer here to the others. Hope your trip goes well.
 

Texasmade

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I'd recommend Downing Steet also. FYI, you have to wear a collared shirt to drink there. Without one, they'll let you buy cigars only and you have to leave.

For bbq, I'd recommend Rudy's BBQ, the moist cut brisket. It's on the North side of Houston (I45 North right before Splashtown) and it might be a drive for you. They have best brisket of all the bbq places I've been to.
 

Huntsman

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Guys, thanks for the great recs -- I think I'm set now. Unfortunately, I've just arrived at my hotel after midnight local so tonight's shot -- too beat. Probably will skip the ethnic fare this trip as I've only two dinners left. Beaver's, one of the wine bars, and Downing street must be on my list (scotch fanatic). Perhaps I can sneak away and grab lunch at a q joint. I'm really hoping I can get things wrapped up Wednesday and hit the museum, but that's debateable.

Thanks for mentioning the dress code at Downing -- fortunately I always fly with a jacket (and usually a suit but not this time).

If there's a meetup, please post about it and 'll try and make it, just can't commit to anything as this is a business affair and it can run well into the evening.

~ Huntsman
 

ChicagoRon

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Originally Posted by Texasmade
I'd recommend Downing Steet also. FYI, you have to wear a collared shirt to drink there. Without one, they'll let you buy cigars only and you have to leave. For bbq, I'd recommend Rudy's BBQ, the moist cut brisket. It's on the North side of Houston (I45 North right before Splashtown) and it might be a drive for you. They have best brisket of all the bbq places I've been to.
+1000000000 on Rudy's!
 

Southern-Nupe

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Originally Posted by Huntsman
Guys, thanks for the great recs -- I think I'm set now. Unfortunately, I've just arrived at my hotel after midnight local so tonight's shot -- too beat. Probably will skip the ethnic fare this trip as I've only two dinners left. Beaver's, one of the wine bars, and Downing street must be on my list (scotch fanatic). Perhaps I can sneak away and grab lunch at a q joint. I'm really hoping I can get things wrapped up Wednesday and hit the museum, but that's debateable.

Thanks for mentioning the dress code at Downing -- fortunately I always fly with a jacket (and usually a suit but not this time).

If there's a meetup, please post about it and 'll try and make it, just can't commit to anything as this is a business affair and it can run well into the evening.

~ Huntsman

Definately go by Downing Street Pub...plus you'll get the usual spillage of females from Taco Milagro located next door. There are a ton of great Wine-bars in the city, if you're looking for something close by Downing, you might want to try the Wine bucket (intimate and cozy), or you can drive out a ways a try The Tasting Room(trendy), or 13 Celsius(beautiful architectural history).

For breakfast I can recommend nothing better than The Breakfast Klub.
 

Southern-Nupe

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Originally Posted by Texasmade
I'd recommend Downing Steet also. FYI, you have to wear a collared shirt to drink there. Without one, they'll let you buy cigars only and you have to leave.

For bbq, I'd recommend Rudy's BBQ, the moist cut brisket. It's on the North side of Houston (I45 North right before Splashtown) and it might be a drive for you. They have best brisket of all the bbq places I've been to.

We live in the Spring area, so the wifey brings home Rudy's all the time.

It's a far better recommendation than Drexler's.
 

unpainted huffheinz

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I used to go to Lupe's for fajitas - miles ahead of Ninfas. There are lots of small Tex-Mex places around town, some of them are very good and all are quite cheap.

Chicken Fried Steak is another regional 'delicacy' to sample. What was that old place that advertised that they were as big as a saddle blanket?

Houston has fantastic Vietnamese fare and it is also one of the few places in the US to get Chinese that doesn't suck.

Downing Street is a nice pub and it is near some of the better shopping in town.

Try to make it to the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.
 

Southern-Nupe

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Originally Posted by unpainted huffheinz

Try to make it to the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.

Great call on the Menil Collection, especially if you like Art...the best part is the fact that it's also free.
 

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