by Nikki Metzgar - 206 Reviews - 77 List
People say that Texans are obsessed with being from the Lone Star State. I always think, "Hey! That's not fair; we're a balanced and normal group of people!" But then I realize that I'm always talking about some combination of Houston and Texas toast, so maybe it's true after all. Here are a few of my hometown favorites that make me love to live here.
Updated: July 30, 2010
I've come to expect a lot from a breadbasket--despite the fact that it's free and I've done nothing to deserve it. The pre-meal flatbread at Kasra, served with feta cubes, mint leaves and radishes, is fresh, warm and uncommon. The effect is a satisfied feeling that I've come to associate with my meals there. The pomegranate chicken, slow-cooked lamb shank with sour cherry sauce and the kebabs are all delicious entrees, best finished off with a hot cup of tea.
This is my favorite place to go with a big group of people. Always order the mezze combination (sub shanglish for foul moudammas) and order a hookah in one of their crazy flavors like Incredible Hulk. The food is some of the best Lebanese in town and you can linger for hours on the patio.
My single favorite dish of food in all of Houston is the ma po eggplant at QQ. It is insane: 3 whole eggplants battered and fried, somehow maintaining their shape, a crisp exterior and a perfectly moist interior then doused in a tingly Sichuan pepper sauce. It's not spicy exactly, but definitely tongue numbing. The first time I had it, I had to go home and Google the pepper to see if the effects were normal. Don't worry, they are.
All good Texas girls drink their beer but when it's time for a cocktail I always head to the Volcano. I love the focus on vintage drinks like the Singapore Sling, Pimm's Cup and best of all the Bloody Mary. The Volcano version is a pint-glass portion garnished with a celery stalk and skewer of pickled vegetables and summer sausage.
There are a dozen coffee shops in Montrose to choose from but Taft Street has this unnameable X-factor that sets it apart. It's not just that there is always an available chair, or that the friendly baristas who remember your name constantly offer to top off your drink. Somehow, something odd or heartwarming is happening every time I visit.
Bubba's and Houston have a lot in common. Just looking at its derelict exterior cast in the shadow of a freeway, people would never want to visit. But once inside this oddball establishment, the people are friendly and the burgers are kick-ass. There's nothing better than a double patty buffalo burger, a bag of Zapp's chips and a cold bottle of Saint Arnold scarfed at a picnic table shaded by Westpark Tollway. Really.
Sunny, cozy and somehow designed so that it's impossible not to stumble across just the right book, Brazos is a book-nerd sanctuary. Best of all, the store hosts several readings every month that bring famous authors like Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing to Space City. Oh, and they're almost always free. So, maybe that's the best.
My visits to this Japanese novelty store are like one prolonged squeal of delight. All the merchandise is either miniature or shaped like an animal. Coffee cup painted with conga line of baby bears? I'll take two. Car shaped boiled egg mold? Don't mind if I do.