I never truly realize how much I miss Houston until I get there. I haven’t managed to stay away from the city for more than 9 months since 2004, when I started my freshman year at Rice. I didn’t really have any feelings in particular about Houston when I first got there–it was just ‘that place where Rice was’–but have since decided that it’s a very underrated city. Sad. If nothing else, it should be better known for its food, which I would argue is on par with the cuisine in New York, San Francisco and Chicago–and those places don’t have the Texas barbecue, which I hear is also pretty good (I can only speak from the vegetarian side of things).
I had two mental checklists when I was in Houston over winter break- one of people I wanted to see, and one of places where I wanted to eat. I am pleased to say that I only missed seeing a couple of people (those darn med students)- and that I made it to all of the necessary restaurants.
We start with Taco Cabana:
…which is very good for fueling up before shooting a bowl game. Also, get lots of extra pico de gallo. That’s key.
This wasn’t restaurant food, but my friend Niki makes a mean 8-layer bean dip, and her boyfriend makes a mean Screwdriver:
Killer New Year’s Eve combo.
Niki is also a supremely talented baker:
On the dessert note, I made a special point to go to Swirll, the frozen yogurt place in the Village. They’ve ramped up the selection there in the past year, so it’s way more fancy than it used to be. As far as I’m concerned, though, you can’t go wrong with plain tart yogurt and lots of toppings:
This is about a third of the topping selection.
Now. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been to Niko Niko’s (for Greek food) and Mai’s (for Vietnamese food). Mai’s was the first restaurant I ate at in Houston, and I made it a point to bring everybody who ever visited me at college to the late-night place of awesome. Niko Niko’s is just plain tasty.
Falafel plate. Dr. Atkins would cry at the sight of the pita + mountain of rice.
Vermicelli bowl (spring rolls in the background). I ate the whole thing. Yup.
Mai’s, unfortunately, doesn’t have bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) on their menu, but that’s really no biggie- the good sammich place is right across the street and down a few blocks.
This picture doesn’t do banh mi justice at all, but I’m including it anyway.There’s also marinated tofu on the sandwich; the bread has been coated in olive oil and baked to a crispy goodness.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures at Patu (otherwise known as The Place With The Best Pad Thai in the Whole World Exclusive of Thailand). I guess I’ll probably have to go back sometime…