If Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly took you on a tour of the best bites in Houston, Texas, here are the spots he'd be sure to include.
'Houston' on Serious Eats
Bryan Caswell fills us in on his top five burgers in Houston, from a traditional patty melt to a triple jalapeño'ed "belly burner".
This steak, onion, fresh jalapeño torta on a large, hefty telera roll is sure to please fans of the Mexican sandwich.
Barnaby's plus-sized take on that taqueria staple, the torta, is a comfort food feast, much like the rest of their offerings.
Danton's in the Museum District in Houston is known for its locally attuned Gulf Coast seafood preparations. Concerning seafood in Houston, "locally attuned" means plenty of dishes from New Orleans and nearby south Louisiana. Well-suited for lunch at Danton's is their take on the Big Easy staple, the Shrimp Po Boy ($12.95 with a side).
Like the restaurant itself, the tortas at Maria Selma are easy to overlook, but both can be very enjoyable, especially the Al Pastor version.
The multi-colored Jive Turkey at Kraftsmen Cafe in Houston might be a bit funky, but it is a terrific sandwich.
Paulie's Pork Tenderloin with Cajun Mustard sandwich features plentiful slices of moist, flavorful pork tenderloin piled between the two halves of a fresh, airy bun and complemented by a fair amount of pleasantly piquant Cajun mustard, Bibb lettuce leaves, and slices of ripe tomato.
The Torta de Tinga at 100% Taquito is one of those messy, mostly unsightly savory treats that manages to get consumed in a near-instant.
Ponzo's Original Sub is nothing fancy, ground-breaking, or even unusual; it's just a very satisfying traditional Italian-American sandwich done right.
Leonard's Famous Burgers is about as old-fashioned a burger experience as you can hope for. There you'll find crisp, juicy, salty, greasy burgers with the works.
A few weeks back I was sitting at the Anvil Bar in Houston, picking at a few well-seasoned, tender lamb meatballs and sipping on a Sazerac—my drink of choice whenever I check out a new craft cocktail bar. It's my yardstick. One I'm intimately familiar with. A classic drink simple enough that any bartender should have its recipe down to muscle memory, but complex enough that the difference between a perfect one and a just ok one comes down to the fine points of finesse.
In Houston, "Chinatown" should probably more aptly be named "Asiatown," or perhaps even "Vietnam-town," as the population there is by no means solely Chinese. I might suggest calling it "Little Saigon," but there's nothing little about it either. Occupying a 6 square mile area, it's bigger than New York's Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Lower East Side, East Village, West Village, Flatiron District, and Tribeca combined. Heck, there are single mega-supermarkets in Houston's chinatown that are big enough to house the entirety of New York's Chinatown. Bigger doesn't always mean better, but in this case I can say that the Vietnamese food in Houston's Chinatown is some of the finest I've had anywhere outside of Vietnam.
The Grilled Cheese with Ham is one of the enticing takes on familiar-sounding sandwiches at Revival Market in Houston.
Delicious as this plate was, all I could think to myself was, "my god, when was the last time a person actually finished this thing?" Am I alone here? Any big breakfast eaters out there? Tell us about the biggest breakfast you've ever had!
Featuring pork cut from a trompo, pineapple, melted cheese and more, this torta from Mexico's Deli is one of the many temptations at this quaint and great-value west Houston sandwich spot.
The first hint you're in for something special at Gatlin's is when Mary Gatlin—mother of Greg Gatlin, the man in charge of the pit—leans over to you and recommends you try the dirty rice. And man, it's good. Hot, musky, riddled with chopped chicken liver and giblets, it's served with a smile but eats like a punch in the mouth. It only goes up from there.
When queried about it, the affable cashier offered that it was "like Chick-fil-A, on steroids." Though meant as compliment, that phrase does not do much justice to the Crunchy Chicken sandwich ($10.50) at Local Foods in Houston.
Rice is situated near the heart of Houston, which boasts some of the best and most diverse eating options in the country. Chinese, Cuban, French, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese eateries are represented, and often more than one of each, plus there are several cafés including a dedicated crêperie.
The 2 Meat Combo with corned beef and roasted turkey at Kenny & Ziggy's in Houston is a slightly less traditional if still delicious way to enjoy "one of the best delis in the country."