World Cup Food Challenge 2010

30 days, 32 national cuisines - are you ready?

I've organized the list by match group so you can plan your meals accordingly. For those less inclined to dine out, I'll be posting a menu with recipes on my blog and will be throwing a party for all contestants who complete the challenge!

Details at worldcupfoodchallenge(dot)blogspot(dot)com

Updated: June 09, 2010

South Africa vs. Mexico


Banana Leaf

9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Although South African cuisine is derived from a myriad of cultures, its culinary scene is often described as "Cape Dutch" as it was settled by Dutch traders who brought foods from colonies in the East Indies. As a result, Malaysian flavors heavily influence modern South African cuisine. Popular local dishes such as spicy curries, sambals and fish stews can be sampled from this Malysian cafe's extensive and exotic menu.


Out Of Africa

14019 Southwest Fwy, Suite 204, Sugar Land, TX 77478

Houston's very own South African restaurant blends Malay and Indian cuisines into one adventurous buffet where you can sample the national dish, bobotie, a ground lamb meatloaf-like hash with raisins and chutney. You can even order traditional trainsmash. You have to love a country that names its national dish "train" and "smash."


Leibman's

14529 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079

Founder and store owner, Etienne Leibman, emigrated from South Africa in the 1970's and stocks her small wine and food shop with the City's finest selection of imports from her native country. Need some Boerewors & Droewors or Black Cat Crunch? You'll find them here amongst aisles of specialty food products and fine wine.


Hugo's

1602 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

In a sea of tex-mex, Hugos stands alone in offering haute Mexican cuisine. The menu spotlights the type of fine dining menu items you would actually find in Mexico, such as an assortment of tender grilled meats that varies from quail to goat.


Pico's Mex-Mex Restaurant

5941 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77081

A menu rich in ceviches and moles makes Pico's a fine representation of the flavors of Mexico.


El Bolillo Bakery

2428 Airline Dr, Houston, TX 77009

The panaderia supplies the lifeblood of any Mexican neighborhood and nowhere in Houston will you find one more authentic, varied and delicious as El Bolillo.


Peli Peli Flame Pepper Fusion

110 Vintage Park Blvd Ste P, Houston, TX 77070

It is not the varied, global menu, but rather, the ambiance, that will transport you to South Africa in this new themed restaurant that is arguably one of the most romantic in town. Dine under a 30 foot acacia tree as you feast on South African specialties such as biltong (dried beef), Boerewars sausage and beef sosaties (kebabs).


Uruguay vs. France


Central Market

3815 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77027

As the result of CM's recent "Flavors of Argentina" festival, you can find Uruguayan classics such as choripan, milanesa and alfajores. You'll also be able to pick up a pasta course to go with them because Uruguayan cuisine, although very similar to Argentinean, is more heavily Italian and accompanies most meals with gnocchi or ravioli.


Chez Nous French Restaurant

217 S Avenue G, Humble, TX 77338

Award winning traditional French dining in an unsuspecting location serves up classics like chateaubriand, foie gras, vichyssoise and escargot along with a variety of rotating specials and a wine list of corresponding caliber.


Le Mistral

1400 Eldridge Pkwy, Houston, TX 77077

If the drive up to Humble seems a bit much, this more casual French bistro is just as authentic and tasty.


Brasserie Max & Julie

4315 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, TX 77006

For those more centrally located and a bit more hip, get your fix of cassoulet, steak frites or foie at this neighborhood brasserie.


Saldivia's South American Grill

Houston's resident Uruguayan restaurant serves a variety of parilladas and the popular Uruguayan sandwich, chivito. If you feel adventurous, try the morcillas and mollejas.


Argentina vs. Nigeria


Manena's Pastry Shop & Deli

11018 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77042

Transport yourself to a Buenos Aires cafe where you will sip richly brewed espresso while feasting on palmitas, empanadas of every variety and of course, alfajores. The cafe also offers a small selection of Argentinian groceries. For a true Argentinian experience, order some mate - you can even use the gourd you picked up at Central Market's Argentina Festival.


Suya Hut

11611 West Airport, Houston, TX 77477

This traditional Nigerian restaurant featuring suya, their national dish, is a sort of Nigerian bbq, served in kabob form and traditionally eaten with miyan soup or a rice dish.


Finger Licking Restaurant

9811 Bissonnet St# N, Houston, TX 77036

Ok, so I've never been here and per the reviews, I'd never go or recommend going, but for the record, Houston DOES have more than one Nigerian restaurant.


El Gaucho Cafe Llc

3820 S Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77063

A traditional Argentine steak house, Gaucho serves parrillada for two for only $31.90. Each cut of meat is served with ample chimichurri, the salsa of Argentina. For the true taste of Argentina, ask about their upcoming tango classes and milongas.


Argentina Cafe

3055 Sage Rd, Houston, TX 77056

You will find the best Argentinean pastries at this unassuming cafe laid out in the crowded, bustling style of Buenos Aires - medialunas, empanadas baked in flaky, Argentinean style dough, and of course, alfajores. Espresso is made with all the detail and love of the Italian culture that permeates Argenetina.


Korea vs. Greece


Super H Mart

1302 Blalock Rd, Houston, TX 77055

This national Korean grocery chain boasts everything from an entire aisle devoted to kimchi to an inner food court where you can find the classic Korean dish, Bibimbop.


Korea House

10078 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055

Feast on traditional Korean BBQ or head to Korean Noodle House for Jjambong, the spicy seafood noodle soup that is a national specialty. Korean Noodle House is in Spring Branch at 1415 Murray Bay St and will appear on this list one's CS decides to actually add my listing.


Alexander the Great

3055 Sage Rd Ste 170, Houston, TX 77056

Authentic Greek owned and run with everything from traditional dishes such as dolmathes, saganaki (flamed tableside) and moussaka to live music and belly dancing so that you can feel like you actually went to Greece. My favorite part of the menu is that they offer a "Greek Village Salad" in addition to the usual Americanized version that is more like a traditional Greek salad.


Yia Yia's Roadster Grill

5210 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401

Cheap and tasty gyros made by a local family of Greeks, all served up in a former Taco Bell. It's the essence of Houston with the taste of Greece.


Ekko Fuels & Oil

5216 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77056

Yes, it is a gas station, but it also serves up some of the velvetiest moussaka and most authentic Greek combo plates in town. If you like gas station Greek, try Al's Quickstop on Waugh for the cheapest, most scrumptious gyros around.


England vs. USA


Feast

219 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006

Although an adventurous mix of modern European fare, one of Houston's most acclaimed restaurants is also your go-to place for British classics such as black pudding (if you think its a dessert you really need to go), fish pie and sticky toffee pudding. Each of these dishes is prepared more artfully and with more flavor than you'll find in your standard British pub. Feast gives British cuisine a good name!


Red Lion Pub

2316 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019

Eating at this authentic pub will make you feel as though you stepped into your average London joint right down to the dark woods and the prices, which have seemingly been translated directly from the pound to the dollar. Despite the steep pub fare prices, you will find the utmost British experience here such as fine fish and chips, curry night (Wed.) and even the epitome of British luxury cuisine: roast beef on Yorkshire pudding. Wash it all down with an all-Irish Black and Tan.


Black Labrador

4100 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006

Generous, tasty portions of British classics such as Shepherds Pie, Bangers and Mash, and Fish and Chips are served up in a delightfully cozy atmosphere tucked into a brick building shared with a library and a jazz club. We think that's very posh.


Firkin & Phoenix

1915 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098

Order a pint of choice from a fine British/Irish draft selection and then select from a menu of pub favorites such as Cottage Pie and Bangers and Mash. The most English thing about Firkin? They refer to a bowl of curry as "fine fare."


BRC Gastropub

519 Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77007

Go the homepage of BRC and you'll see the world "American" featured at least 5 times. Touted as a "revolutionary American gastropub" I can think of few places that encompass American dining so well. From bbq to burgers, cheese mac or grilled, right down to the finale of USA classics such as shakes, chocolate chip cookies, a Snickers themed dessert and the ubiquitous bread pudding, this is the place to experience American food. Even the name is obnoxious. Yet any pub that pours a fine selection of American craftbrew says that there is still much to love about the old USofA.


Mo's A Place For Steaks

1801 Post Oak Blvd Ste 1e, Houston, TX 77056

Is there anything more truly American than the old fashioned, testosterone fueled steakhouse? It may be difficult to define the cuisine of the USA, but few will argue that 1)Americans like menus with dishes from all over the world and 2)Americans love ordering a giant chunk of meat and calling it a fine dining experience. The name says it all, this is a place for steaks, but it also offers a variety of dishes listing as many nationalities as possible: ceviche, Chilean sea bass, Australian lobster, "Sicilian chicken" and sushi. Steak sauces vary from chimichurri to bearnaise and desserts strawberry shortcake and a $9 cookie. The wine list is dominated by California and your encouraged to conclude your meal with a cigar on the patio. Now that is American.


Algeria vs. Slovenia


Saffron Moroccan Cuisine

2006 Lexington St., Houston, TX 77098

Houston lacks an authentic Algerian restaurant but luckily, the dishes of Algeria are very similar to those of Morocco. Enjoy the belly dancing at Saffron while feasting on merguez, the spicy lamb sausage that is a quintessential dish of Algerian cuisine. Order from an array of couscous dishes, finish off with a cup of mint tea, and don't forget the honey (Algerians are the 2nd largest consumers of honey in the world).


Russian General Store

9629 Hillcroft St, Houston, TX 77096

While there is no uniform cuisine in this country of over 40 distinct cultures, Slovenian cooking is heavily influenced by border country's such as Croatia and Hungry and its specialties can be found at various Eastern European stores such as this one.


Phoenicia Specialty Foods West

12141 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

While you may be hard pressed to find authentic Slovenian dining in town, you can wash down your meal like a true Slovene with a fine selection of wines from all the major Solvenian wine regions: Podravje, Posavje and Primorska.


Germany vs. Australia


Rudi Lechner's

2503 S Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77063

Traditional German outfits, German music and all the schnitzels you can imagine make this place THE German dining experience this side of Fredericksburg.


Kaiserhof

10630 Commerce Row, Montgomery, TX 77356

Those up for a bit of a drive will find what is reputedly the best German cuisine around with the added plus of an authentic biergarten because seriously, how DO you enjoy schnitzel if not in a biergarten?


Cyclone Anaya's

1710 Durham Dr, Houston, TX 77007

While Australian cuisine is difficult to define, much less find, perhaps the most we can hope for is an Australian chef. While we used to be able to see the Australian influence at his former joint, Gravitas, Chef Jason Gould's recent departure and new gig at Cyclone's leaves us desperately in need of a local Aussie fix.


Outback Steakhouse

13240 Northwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77040

Did I really just go there? Unfortonately, yes. Houston Aussies need to step it up. Until then, see above for English restuarants such as Feast and Red Lion where you can eat popular Aussie Dishes such as fish and chips and meat pies. Don't forget to stop at Phoenicia and stock up on your Vegemite.


Pete's Fine Meats & Deli

5509 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77056

This family owned neighborhood butcher has been supplying Houston with exotic meats since the 1960's. Pick up some kangaroo fillets and alligator meat, go home and through them on the barbie and call yourself an Aussie.


Serbia vs. Ghana


Cafe Pita

10890 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77042

Influenced by Mediterranean, Turkish and Hungarian cuisines, Serbian fare can be found locally at this Bosnian cafe in Westchase, including the famous national dish of cevap.


Balkan Grill

14045 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

A more formal approach to Bosnian/Serbian dining in Houston, Balkan Grill serves the traditional cevap along with gulas (the local version of Hungarian goulash), dolmas and sarma cabbage rolls.


Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

9400 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77063

While the most traditional West African cuisine in town can be found at the above mentioned Suya Hut, we need to venture to Ethiopia to capture some of the more sophisticates subtleties of Ghanian flavors. You won't find the national dishes of Ghana here like jollof rice and fufu (mashed plantain), you will find a rich, distinctly African dining experience that represents the blend of tribal and global cultures with exotic ingredients and flavorful spices. You'll also eat with your hands!


Netherlands vs. Denmark


Little Dutch Girl

210 Gentry St, Spring, TX 77373

This little sundries shop in Spring promises to stock everything from Holland including imported Dutch foods like Stroopwafels, Douwe Egberts Coffee & Tea, Dutch Cheese (is there more than Gouda?), more than 30 kinds of Licorice as well as Dutch Cookies, Chocolate and Candy. Now, Dutch food is so famously bad that troops being fed by Dutch cooks in Afghanistan actually made Foreign Policy headlines as "The worst part of the war" so go at your own risk.


Nielsen's Delicatessen

4500 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77027

Those who criticize Houston for lack of a proper deli are obviously yet to discover Nielsen's, which has been serving up an assortment of meats, cheeses and lovingly prepared sandwiches to our local Danish community for over 55 years. Liverpaste on rye will have you feeling mighty Danish real fast. Also see Cafe Zol, a quaint mix of Swedish and Danish tapas with a broader European influence. After countless times of trying to add it to this list, CS just wouldn't let me. It's on CS, I just can't add it.


Japan vs. Camaroon


Kata Robata Sushi and Grill

3600 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098

Former Kubo's chef, Hori-san, churns out what is arguably the best Japanese and the closest thing to Japanese fusion that we have in town.


Osaka Japanese Restaurant

515 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

Japanese born but Texas trained, Osaka's chef serves up some of the best loved sushi in town at affordable prices.


Umai Japanese Restaurant

8400 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Innovative Japanese dishes for the non-sushi eater in a most nondescript Bellaire strip, including the bargain priced $9 "Texas sized" bento box.


West Africa Communications Inc

1319 Belham Ridge Ct, Spring, TX 77379

I have no idea what this business does or even is - I just put it here so that I could tell you that West Africa is much better at generating futbol teams than it is at churning out restaurants, so see above for Nigerian and Ghanian food because that's as close as you are going to get to Camaroon.


Italy vs. Paraguay


Da Marco Cucina E Vino

1520 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77008

Marco Wiles's Northern Italian menu features classics such as osso bucco and the most succulent of gnocchi along with oxtails and calf liver for the more adventurous. Whatever you order it will be sure to overwhelm you with pleasure in this long touted "best of Houston."


Vinoteca Poscol

1609 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

If Poscol were only slightly more crowded and the service slower, it would feel just like Italy...add a few hams hanging from the ceiling. One of my personal favorites and my choice for most authentic Italian in menu and setting.


Ristorante Cavour

1080 Uptown Park Blvd, Houston, TX 77056

Fine dining in the true Italian style of three courses: antipasti, primi, segundi; each served in opulence in one of Houston's only grand hotels.


Nundini Enterprises Inc

500 N Shepherd Dr Ste B, Houston, TX 77007

A panini and gelato bar hidden in an importer's warehouse, Nundini supplies Houston with all the Italian essentials from 5 gal buckets of olive oil to San Marzano tomatoes.


Goya Foods Of Texas

5750 Brittmoore Rd, Houston, TX 77041

Paraguayan cuisine may be similar to Uruguay and Argentina (see above) but does have a number of regional specialties as the result of the guarani indigenous culture. Houston falls short on Paraguayan restaurants, but thanks to Goya's superpowers of mass-hispanic importation, you can buy traditional foods such as bollos de yuca (mandioca) and chipas (patties made from yuca flour) at your neighborhood Fiesta.


Lemon Tree Restaurant

12591 Whittington Dr, Houston, TX 77077

All Peruvian fare aside, Lemon Tree is Houston's go to spot for chicha, the ever popular (and traditional Paraguayan) fermented corn beverage. Order anything labeled "asado" and you'll be sticking to the Paraguayan diet regardless of the restaurant's Peruvian roots.


New Zealand vs. Slovakia


Spec's Wines Spirits & Finer

2410 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006

Get thee to a Specs to garnish all supplies for kiwi-style drinking such as ample bottles of Steinlager and a variety of New Zealand whites. You can also buy a variety of mild and sharp cheddars from the smaller island down under along with imported avocado oils, first used in cooking by the Kiwis in the 1990's.


Hearsay Gastro Lounge

218 Travis St, Houston, TX 77002

One of the few spots in town still serving New Zealand's quintessentially gamey and once favored by all chefs, lamb. It has now been replaced by more local or Colorado pastures on the modern menu.


Polonia Restaurant

1900 Blalock Road, Houston, TX 77080

Heavily influenced by it's neighbor, many of Slovakia's national dishes grace the menu of Houston's resident Polish restaurant. These include a variety of pierogi (the Slovak version is called Bryndzove halusky), blood sausages and potato pancakes (Lokse).


Kolache Factory

5535 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77007

The prolific remnant of Texas' Czech heritage, Kolache Factory may churn out jalepeno sausage kolaches by the masses, but they also bake more authentic Czech/Slovak style kolachkys. These are the open faced pillows of dough that you see with cheese or sweet toppings. For those heading to Austin or willing to make a trip for authentic Czech pastries, stop at Hruska's in Ellinger, an assuming service station on the side of 71, for fluffy pillows of kolachky goodness in every variety imaginable.


Cote d'Ivoire vs. Portugal


Oporto Food and Wine Bar

3383 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098

While Houston is generally lacking in Iberian cuisines, Oporto is a shining star in that otherwise abysmally black sky. Other than Phonecia, this is the only place in town to get Linguica, the distinct and flavorful Portoguese style sausage. A tapas bar in essence, the menu at Oporto is expiremental but stays true to traditional dishes in Bacalhau, caldo verde and ample use of piri-piri, all complimented by the largest selection of Portuguese wines in the City. The irony of being voted "Best Spanish Restaurant of 2009" only serves to drive home the local ignorance of Iberian cultures, but don't let it fool you - Oporto serves some authentic dishes from the other side of the peninsula, all Spanish misconceptions aside.


Brazil vs. North Korea


Emporio Brazilian Cafe

12288 Westheimer Rd Ste 210a, Houston, TX 77077

In a sea of churrascarias, Emporio claims to serve the "true taste of Brazil" in authentic, home cooked dishes. Make sure to try the feijoada, a black bean and meat stew that reached across all ethnic backgrounds to become the national dish. Run by true Brazilians, Emporio will be sure to throw a good party in honor of any Brazilian win. They will also be showing all Brazilian games.


Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse

12000 Southwest Fwy, Meadows Place, TX 77477

A local hangout for the Brazilian expat community (you won't find any Brazilians at Fogo de Chao unless entertaining clients), Tradicao serves the familiar all-you-can-eat meat on a stick and endless buffet, but for a considerably cheaper price in a far more Brazilian atmosphere- Sharpstown.


Kahlua Disco

7633 Dashwood Dr, Houston, TX 77036

The host of the annual Brazilian Carnival Houston is also hosting a party for the Cup premiere where you will be sure to find every Brazilian in Houston. If that does not satisfy your need for samba and caipirinhas, head to the Omni hotel on Sunday for a Brazilian pool party featuring churrasco and samba lessons.


Bonga Korean Restaurant

9861 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055

Northern Korean cuisine differs only slightly from that of it's hippie brethren to the south, so you best be careful of what you order to make the trip authentic. Stick to the least flavorful, non-spicy dishes you find on the menu and whatever you do, do NOT eat cold noodles!


Nam Gang Restaurant

1411 Gessner Dr Ste A, Houston, TX 77080

Ok, so this isn't technically North Korean either, but what do you want from me on the subject of a country known more for its famine than it's cuisine? Regardless, the only thing totalitarian about this authentic, inexpensive bulgogi is that its totally tasty.


Honduras vs. Chile


Mi Bella Honduras Restaurant

1806 Wirt Rd, Houston, TX 77055

Try a baleada. It's the new pupusa. Yet another form of tortilla with bean and stuff on top, the national dish of Honduras is a simple yet satisfying and relatively unknown dish in our world of pupuserias. More familiar favorites like carne asada and pollo frito may top your baleada of choice. In the mood for escargot? Try the Honduran specialty, sopa de caracol, a coconut milk based snail soup. Beware of dark lighting and blaring latin music.


Cafe Red Onion

3910 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098

A pioneer in the Latin fusion trend that has since swept the Nation, this local Honduran chef has created a pan-Central American menu with distinctly Honduran influences most notable in a dessert menu full of guava, mango and guanabana. Try the Central American version of tres leches - a rum and mango topped spin that I consider much improved upon the blandness of the ubiquitous Mexican dessert.


Américas Post Oak

1050 N Post Oak Rd # 200, Houston, TX 77055

Though I would be one of the last people to recommend this chain of Latin Fusion theme parks, few restuarants come close to capturing the varied cuisines of a vast and diverse country such as Chile. A mixture of Peruvian, Argentinian and distinctly European cultures, the cuisine of Chile is vaguely resembled in the tangled menu of Americas. Having hired two of Houston's most talented chefs to spice up the menu, I would further recommend the Woodland's location (not CS add-friendly) for its emphasis on seafood and even broader selection of Chilean wines, which is by far the best in Houston that I've found aside from Spec's (wtf, Houston?). Just stay clear of the desserts which have not been modified in decades and are characterized by some interesting misnomers such as "creme brulee catalana" that will leave any knowledgeable diner wondering 'well, which one is it?'


Spain vs. Switzerland


Rioja

11920 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077

Head over to Westchase for Houston's most authentic Spanish dining experience. Traditional tapas such as patatas ali-oli, gambas and croquettas make the perfect prelude to the paella mixta with house-made chorizo. Make sure to save room for dessert because this is the only place in Houston that serves authentic Spanish desserts such as tocino del cielo and natillas in addition to the ubiquitous flan. Even better, the prices are affordable, allowing you to order a bottle of Rioja or splurge on that Priorato to compliment your meal - because Spanish food without wine is not Spanish food at all.


Andalucia Tapas Restaurant & Bar

1204 Caroline St, Houston, TX 77002

If it is the quintessential Spanish dining experience that you seek, more atmosphere than food, than this Spanish venture by the former Mi Luna owners offers flavorful, well-prepared Andalusian dishes in a romantic, dark woods dining room complete with murals of bullfighters, flamenco dancers and everything you could want to complete that Spanish tourist fantasy.


Roland's Swiss Pastry

9434 Old Katy Rd, Ste 310, Houston, TX 77055

First, for the German side of Swiss cuisine, few places could be more appropriate than Roland's, a former Swiss cafe taken over by a German chef and his wife. The result is all the pastries and breads you would expect from a Swiss bakery with an emphasis on the locally quite rare Black Forest Cake and linzertorte.


Andres Pastry Shop

2515 River Oaks Blvd, Houston, TX 77019

This authentic French patisserie and bistro offers one of the more authentic tastes of Alpine Swiss flavors in town, from the quiche lorraine to the tarte lyonnaise, along with a seductive pastry case filled with pithiviers, napoleons, Swiss fruit tartes and tarte l'operas.


Melting Pot Restaurant

6100 Westheimer Rd, Ste 146, Houston, TX 77057

After celebrating the culinary diversity of our fair City, I am ashamed to conclude on this note, capable of invoking the essence of French Swiss only with a chain mass-marketed to teenagers on prom night. ::Sigh:: A breath of fresh air in our apparently anti-Swiss local is Cru, a wine bar in the Woodlands that offers a proper cheese and chocolate fondue in a bistro atmosphere. Raclette, nowhere to be found in possibly the State of TX, would be your adventure. You can procure supplies at any local Specs or Central Market.