January 1, 2020

Fried Chicken - Houston

Fried Chicken Houston – August 2020 – Houston Foodie Friends Recommendations

#1 Chicken – 4621 Almeda
Al Aseel Grill & Café – 8619 Richmond
Alice Blue – 250 W. 19th Street
Barbecue Inn – 116 W Crosstimbers
BBQ Chicken Katy – 1519 S. Mason Road
Bonchon Korean Chicken
Breakfast Klub – 3711 Travis
Buffalo Grill – 4080 Bissonnet
Chicken Plus – 6210 N Wayside Drive
Choong Man Chicken – 1927 Gessner
Cleburne Cafeteria – 3606 Bissonnet
Dak & Bop 18th – 1805 W 18th Street
Frenchy’s Chicken – Multiple Locations
Goode Company Armadillo Headquarters -
Grace’s – 3111 Kirby
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken – 1815 Washington Avenue
Himalaya Restaurant – 6652 Southwest Freeway
Hotsome Chicken – 10020 Long Point Road
Jollibee – Multiple Locations
Jupiter Pizza and Waffle (Sugarland) – 16135 City Walk
Krisp Korean Fried Chicken = 9486 Long Point Road
La Lucha – 1801 N. Shepherd Drive
Loch Bar Seafood – 4444 Westheimer
Lucille’s Fried Chicken – 5512 La Branch
Max’s Wine Dive – Multiple Locations
Mico’s Hot Chicken – 1603 N. Durham
Soho Korean Fried Chicken – 9393 Bellaire Boulevard 
State Fare (Sugarland) – 15930 City Walk
Toreore – H-Mart – 1302 Blalock

2nd Hand Stores - My Favorite 2nd Hand Stores in Houston


The Google Map (Click on any of these in the sidebar to get full address)

Favorite 2nd Hand Stores in Houston

Screenshot of the map:




































































Mexican - Habanera and the Guero
























First things first, it is "ah bah neh' rah", and not "hah bah nyera". Habanera means "from Havana" (female). Which is why you are starting to see people using Latinx instead of Latino. Because the "o" indicates male, they started thinking if they put an "x" there it would also encompass females. But that's kind of getting silly cause, in Spanish whenever you go plural and its mixed female and male, the default is to just use the male "o". 

Be that as it may, I had the pleasure to return to HatG after the big Food Network remodel. I love the way it looks now. They did a fantastic job in my opinion. It is open, airy, the seating arrangements are super comfy. Just a great job by the Robert Irving crew.
















On to the food. I ordered the regular guacamole (enough for two or three as an appetizer) and it was so tasty that I finished every bit.

For my main course I went with the Tour de El Paso, which is a sampler of three El Paso style riffs on Mexican food, accompanied by rice and beans. Totally delicious and recommended. A flauta "drowned" in a delicious salsa verde was a high point.

















As I walked out I spied a serving of nachos at another table and just had to take a photo to show you.


















Mexican Candy - Leche Quemada

By combining milk and and sugar in a pot over low heat, with continuous stirring, to evaporate the liquid, a dense sweet candy is formed. I discovered the candies made in Kingsville by the Moreno family many years ago. They add lecithin which gives theirs a creamy texture that is terrific. Keep your eye out for them at the cash register on your next visit to your favorite Tex Mex. 














These photos are from Lila's Mexican Restaurant in Pearland, Texas. I had asked two Pearland police officers if they had any favorite hole in the walls for Tex Mex and they directed me to Lila's, which has been there for many years.

Back in the day, one of these candies, or a Mexican pecan praline would show up with the check, In Austin, one had the option of pineapple or orange sherbet or a candy, included with the dinner.

If you have any candy stories from your youth, feel free to share in the comments section below.




Economical Ethnic Dining in Houston - My Remarks on Various Cuisines Circa Late Nineties

 In the late nineties, I would go out at lunch time and sample the food at a different ethnic restaurant in Houston, return to the office, and write a brief review. At the end of the year, I used the office copier to put together a guide, to give as Christmas gifts to friends. The original Word document ended up floating around the web, picked up by many people in Houston, eventually finding a home at B4-U-Eat dot com, Houston's earliest restaurant guide, populated by personal reviews, predating Yelp. So many of these no longer exist. It's a document of Houston, circa late nineties. In addition, I made some remarks on various cuisines in my "Let's Talk About" section, as follows.


Mexican Food and Taquerias in Houston

All of the entries in the guide for Hispanic restaurants follow the same rule of alphabetization. They are listed by the first letter of the real name, ignoring the articles and other descriptive titles. For example, La Fonda Tipica Restaurante would be located under 'F' for Fonda. Taqueria Atotonilco would be located under 'A'. Restaurante Puerto Vallarta Ostioneria would be located under 'P'.

With a few exceptions, these are working class eateries, serving simple, typical, Mexican fast food, like you'd find in any city in Mexico. Whereas the typical Tex-Mex taco is a crispy fried tortilla, filled with lettuce, tomato, ground beef, the Mexican taco usually consists of two soft corn tortillas filled with one of several traditional meat fillings, onion, and cilantro. You'll note that sometimes I describe the food as Mexican, sometimes Tex-Mex, depending on my gut feelings. I think of Tex-Mex as being more heavy with the cumin and chile powder than traditional Mexican food.

In assessing the quality of a taqueria, you should be on the look out for better-than-average of any of the following:

  • The tastiness of the hot sauce.
  • The quality of the meat: freshness and flavor.
  • The chips are called totopos in Mexico. The Aztecs called tortillas tlaxcalli, and the chips have evolved out of the name, tlaxcaltotopochtli which incorporates the word for thunder and tortilla, so I guess we could say the meaning implies "noisy tortilla.

Are they greasy? Over-fried? One thing I've noticed is that our corn here in the States fries up a lighter chip than I've seen in Mexico. Mexican tortillas tend to soak up the fat, due in part to the quality of the corn, possibly due to the use of lard (called manteca) instead of vegetable oil, or possibly due to a lower frying temperature.

  • The lightness and delicacy of the rice and beans.

A typical taqueria will offer your choice of the following fillings for your taco:

Sesos: Cow brains.

Barbacoa: you'll see this translated as 'barbecue' but it is actually more akin to pot roast.

Carne asada: chopped beef ( res picado) similar to fajita meat, generally tough and chewy.

Pastor: a style of cooking (pastor = pastoral or country style) chunks of pork on a rotating spit. You'll see these as upright, vertical, roasters, usually with a pineapple and onion skewered on top. This is a style very typical of Mexico City.

Alambres: basically a shish kabob (alambre means wire). Sometimes a better cut of meat, sometimes not. Often served with grilled green onions on the side. Note (a la parilla usually means 'grilled' as in camarones a la parilla...grilled shrimp).

Pibil or Cochinita Pibil: usually shows up at better restaurants, This is a slow cooked pork roast, usually cooked with orange juice and garlic, very typical of the Yucatan.

Lengua: tongue.

Tripas: tripe.

Nopales: the nopal or prickly pear cactus, usually sauteed till tender, and a vegetarians best choice for tacos. Nopales are a little slimy, like okra, but not at all unpleasant.

Aguacate (avocado): When it is blended with lime, chiles, garlic, and onions, it becomes guacamole. The traditional Mexican avocado is small with a thick, black skin, and not as cloyingly sweet as our big old American green Haas avocados.

Most taquerias will serve up soups called caldos or sopas (note: 'soap' in Spanish is jabon, not 'sopa'). Many feature seafood (mariscos) or fish filet (pescado). While the fish is a fish, it's a pez; once it's caught it's pescado. If it comes from the sea, i.e., seafood, it's mariscos. Also on the menu, although usually just offered on the weekend are pozole, which is a chili flavored soup with pork meat and white hominy, and menudo, which is a chili flavored soup with pork or beef tripe. 

One of the signs of a good restaurant is if the pozole is served Mexico City style with chopped cabbage, onions, and radishes on the side for adding to the soup.

In Houston, you'll usually find a good ol' Tex-Mex plate of enchiladas, usually cheese or beef, served with refried beans (frijoles refritos) and Mexican style rice (arroz a la).

A very filling sandwich is the Mexican torta, which, when done right, will be a toasted, fresh, bolillo (a French bread type dinner roll), smashed flat and grilled, spread with frijoles, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and meat of your choice, re: the taco fillings, or, milanesa, which is a thin scallopine of meat, breaded with cracker crumbs and deep fried ( a battered, fried dish is called 'empanizada', by the way...Milanesa, or Milano style, refers to the cracker or bread crumb breading). Delicious when all the ingredients are freshly prepared.

burrito, I'm pretty sure, is a Californian invention. You find it in Mexico now, but I never remember seeing it on menus when I was growing up.. Basically it is a taco made with a soft, hot, flour tortilla (re: Taco Bell), rolled, sometimes deep fried but usually not. Burritos at taquerias can be big enough to be a meal in themselves.

flauta is a corn tortilla, stuffed usually with chicken, rolled tight, and deep fried. Very greasy.

Carne guisada is a stew, usually chunks of beef stewed with potatoes in a chile gravy. It can be very delicately flavored, with a light gravy, or dark and heavy with a lot of chile powder.

Tinga is another kind of stew, usually very spicy, which may show up on a menu.

If you can handle hot food and you see something on the menu that has the word 'chipotle' or 'chipotlado/chipotlada' in its description, this is the smoked, dried, jalapeno pepper, which gives a wonderful but fiery flavor to everything it touches.

Be sure to try an 'agua'. You'll recognize limonada as our limeade. But you need to try an agua de tamarindo (tamarind) which is very tart and tangy, or an agua de jamaica (jamaica pronounced. hah-my'-kah, is the flower of a type of hibiscus, what the Jamaicans call sorrel, and what we know as the flavor in Celestial Seasoning's 'Red Zinger' tea).

There is a traditional seafood cocktail from the state of Veracruz called, "Vuelve a la Vida", which translates as 'return to life'. Various seafoods such as shrimp, octopus, oysters, etc. are served in a sauce made of ketchup or tomato sauce, orange juice, onions, cilantro, and chile peppers.


Quick Dictionary of Mexican Foods and Terms

Huaraches. An open fried masa stuffed with goodies. Huarache is a sandal.

Gorditas. A fat tortilla type masa (similar to an El Salvadoran pupusa), stuffed pita bread style and griddle fried.

Sopes or Zopes. Open flat tortilla fat fried masa topped with goodies, very similar to a chalupa ( chalupa would be a thin fried tortilla).

Quesadillas. Two flour tortillas stuffed with a white mozarella type cheese, griddle fried until the cheese melts.

Horchata. A delicious rice based drink flavored with sugar and cinnamon


Indian Breads

Naan- a flat spongy bread, long, and oval, yeast based, fired up in a Tandoor oven.

Puri- a whole wheat dough rolled flat and fast fried to puff up. Usually served in threes with a yogurt dipping sauce.

Paratha- a flat bread like naan, but with a lot of butter blended in to the dough. As far as I can tell, Bhatura is the same.

Onion Kulcha- a naan which has been stuffed with sauteed onions.

Roti- the generic name, equivalent to our word, bread. Note: in Jamaican cuisine, roti is something completely different.


Quick Dictionary of Indian Foods and Terms

Tandoor- A large clay pot for barbecuing.

Idli- A spongy, moist, thick, flying saucer shaped steamed rice cake.

Sambar- A thin, vegetable broth, slightly sour and spicy, used as a dip with masala dosa or as a soup accompaniment.

Methi Vada- Donut shaped, fried, crispy rice cake.

Pakora- A batter made of bessan flour (ground chick peas), vegetables are dipped and then deep fried. Sometimes called Bhajia, for example, onion bhajias are thinly sliced onions, salted so that some of the water is drawn out, mixed with bessan and deep fried as little clumps.

Samosa- The triangular shaped, empanada like dough with a spicy potato or meat mixture inside.

Paneer- First you bring milk to a boil, then you add lemon juice, vinegar, alum, or some other acidic ingredient to separate the solids from the liquid. The solids are drained from the liquid portion and are then pressed into a soft cheese.

Rasam- Thin, spicy, tomato and tamarind soup.

Raita- Yogurt with onions and cucumbers.

Gulab jamun- Round fried sponge cake ball, dipped in rose flavored sweet syrup.

Pappadum- Crisp, lentil wafers, either baked or deep fried.

Palak- Spinach.

Mattar- Green peas.

Channa- Chick peas.

Keema- Ground meat.

Gobi- Cauliflower.

Aloo- Potato.


About Dosas

Dosas or Dhosas are a Southern delicacy, originally from Madras but now found all over India. Think of them as the Indian crepe or enchilada. These are lentil flour based pancakes, fairly large, stuffed traditionally with a mashed potato and onion mixture flavored with mustard seeds and turmeric. The dosa is made by grinding very fine a mixture of urad dal and rice flour, adding water to the right consistency, and leaving the batter to ferment so that gas bubbles form. Served with sambar which is a thin spicy vegetarian broth or soup, hot tomato chutney, and mild coconut chutney.

Here are several types of Dosas which may show up on a menu.

Plain Dosa: Crepe made with fermented lentil flour.

Masala Dosa: Crepe stuffed with the potato onion mixture.

Rava Dosa: Crepe made of cream of wheat and rice flour.

Pesara Dosa: Crepe made with moong bean flour, onions, chilies, and cumin seeds.


Other Related Vegetarian Dishes

Masala Vada: Crisp deep fried lentil patties.

Methu Vada: Urad dal lentil patties deep fried.

Dahi Vada: Methu vada soaked in yogurt, ginger, and chilies.

Idli: Steamed rice cakes.

Uthappam: Thick pancake made with fermented lentil flour, onions, and chilies.

Upma: Thick cream of wheat type pancake cooked with butter, ginger, onions, chilies, and cashews.


On your own - Guide to Houston's Ethnic Grocery Stores and Market Areas

RESEARCHED AND PREPARED BY:

JAY FRANCIS

Posted on b4-u-eat.com



6100 Hillcroft

A collection of Latin American and Pakistani stores and restaurants.

Spicy Foods Grocery
Sheikh Chilli's Pakistani Restaurant
Mazatlan Seafood Restaurant
Chat 'n Paan Snacks
Azukar Salsa Nightclub

5000 Hillcroft from Harwin to Richmond

This is one of the better areas for Middle Eastern and Indo-Pakistani grocery stores, restaurants, clothing shops, and video stores. Places worth checking out include:

Jerusalem Halal Meat Market
Good meat market and sandwich shop with kabob sandwiches. Good Islamic stuff for sale.

Sri Balaji Bhavan Restaurant
Great place to get southern India foods including excellent masala dosa.

Standard Sweets
Another great location for inexpensive all you can eat Indian buffet.

Darband Kabobi
Specialty is Persian style chelo kabab with freshly made flat bread.

Asian American Food Market
One stop shopping for all your Indo-Pakistani groceries.

Cairo Palace Restaurant
Egyptian style restaurant and place to hang out with friends over coffee or tea.

Raja Indian Restaurant
Samosas, pakoras, thalis, and other fast food. 

Bellaire from Gessner to Beltway 8

This is one the great concentrations of Chinese and Southeast Asian grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, and more. I would recommend starting off some Saturday morning at Bellaire and 59 and making your way up Bellaire, stopping off at the two Diho Markets (One is "L" shaped, the other is a long "C" shaped strip mall), continuing west on Bellaire, stopping off at the market center where Corporate meets Bellaire (Treasure Island is located here), and finishing up on the other side of the Beltway at Hong Kong City Mall. Places worth checking out include:

Vietnam Coast II for black pepper crabs and other delicacies.
Santong Snacks for regional dumplings and noodle soups.
Treasure Island for dim sum on the weekends.

Long Point Market Tour

There are several Korean grocery stores and a pair of Korean restaurants worth your investigation on Long Point.

Hyundai Department Store
8624 Long Point

Teapots, videos, weird Korean knick knacks, Jesus paintings.

Dong Yar Market
(Next door to Hyundai Department Store)

Fermented soy bean paste and hot pepper paste in giant plastic tubs.
Dried anchovies.
Boiled royal fern.
Pickled vegetables.
Banana powder beverage.
Acorn barley tea.
Honey flavor twist snacks

Oriental Super Market (Recommended)
9501 Long Point

Piping hot Korean red bean pancakes shaped like fishes in kiosk outside. 3 for $1.00.
Udon noodle samples.
Fritter mixes.
Seasoned fish and kimchi with descriptions in Korean and English.
Pumpkin gruel beverage powder.
Giant beverage boxes of peach juice, citron tea, carrot juice, and Chinese date juice.

Korean Garden Restaurant
(Next door to Oriental Super Market) 

Well reviewed and recommended eatery for Korean foods. Also, down the road, Seoul Garden Restaurant with beautiful interior decoration ( waterwheel at entrance)

Memorial Market
1049 Gessner

Big grocery store with Korean, Chinese, and standard grocery store fare. 

Giant electronic kimchi pickling tanks.
Korean tatami spreads.
Exotic tea gift sets.
Korean deli, soup and sandwich shop. 

2600 Travis

The Cho Que Huong Center has the excellent soup restaurant, Pho Cong Ly and: 

Cho Que Huong Supermarket
Hong Kong Restaurant
Thien An Sandwich Shop
Lu Quan Cafe
Nguyen Hue Restaurant

2800 Travis

The Hoa Binh shopping center includes the Hoa Binh Vietnamese supermarket, one of the best in the downtown area and: 
Phnom Penh Tailor
Banh Me Ba Le Restaurant
My Phat Fashion
Pho Tau Bay

There are several other strip centers to the west on Smith with restaurants and specialty stores.

Downtown Chinatown. St Emanuel and Chartres at McKinney and Lamar

Several excellent grocery stores including Kim Hung and restaurants are concentrated right near the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Kim Hung Grocery Store
Very good Chinese grocery in a two story complex on St. Emanuel which includes eateries, liquor stores, clothing shops, and jewelry stores.

New My Canh II
Good choice for dim sum on Saturday mornings, and the starting place of Dorothy Huang's Chinatown tour through Leisure Learning.

The Lucky Inn Restaurant

Murphy Road/Wilcrest at Highway 59

A real mixture of Pakistani ( The Savoy strip center on Wilcrest...restaurant, grocery store, video store, and jeweler), Mexican taquerias, and one or two Chinese buffet style restaurants.

Cavalcade at Airline

A gem of a Thai grocery store, Asia Market, caters to the Thai, Laotian, and Cambodian community. Laotian soups and weird stuff to snack on, on Saturdays. Located on Cavalcade between Airline and North Main.

9600 Bissonnet just at Highway 59

An interesting mix of Pakistani halal style butcher/grocery stores, restaurants and an excellent Guatemalan restaurant ( one of the best in Houston ) called, Lo Nuestro. I've been told that the newly re-opened Koh I Noor Pakistani Restaurant is very good.

Shahenshah Restaurant
Timmy Chan's Chinese Restaurant
Islamic Books
Maki Masjid Temple
Quality Sweets Chaat Restaurant
Middle East Halal Meat
Afrikiko Nigerian Restaurant
Top Flite Club 

6065 Bissonnet

The Maru Ethiopian Grocery has unroasted coffee from various regions of Ethiopia, freshly made Injerra bread, teff flour, Bethany flat electric grills, Ethiopian clay coffee pots, and really fresh spices. You can buy the green coffee beans and roast them at home in your hot air pop corn popper (Wear-Ever Popcorn Pumper, available at second hand stores for about $5.00. Look for the ones which have ribs at the bottom, these will impart a spin to the beans to keep them from flying out. Use 2-3 tablespoons and roast for 7-15 minutes).

6611 Chimney Rock #10

Gran Tangolandia is your one stop shop for music from all over South America, and especially Argentina. They also stock giant bags of Mate tea, many different brands.

5406 Birdwood off North Braeswood at Braesmont

The Russia General Store is one of the coolest places in town to check out. They have Russian souvenirs including medals and pins from the Communist era, samovars, Russian style dry salami, sunflower halvah which looks a lot like something you might step in accidentally but probably tastes terrific, Russian malt beverages, lots of candies, Russian videos, music, and newspapers.

38281 Fondren

Andros Foreign Foods is a Greek oriented sandwich shop and grocery specializing in Greek videos, wines, coffee pots, spices, sailor caps, halvah, and various frozen and fresh goodies.

5600 South Gessner

Another big Chinese/Vietnamese venue. Includes:

Hong Kong Market

This place smells like a Hong Kong market. You can get ginseng, teas, herbal medicines, coconut graters, religious candles, all the cuts of meat for each critter you can think of (everything but the "oink" as they say). I noticed the packaged beef cuts say "Shoulder Road" instead of "Shoulder Roast". This was the forerunner of the new Hong Kong City Mall mega-complex on Bellaire.

Parisian Bakery
Huong Viet Restaurant
Vietnamese Noodle Shop Restaurant

7433 Bissonnet

A little cluster of West Indian places.

Caribbean Cuisine

You can get authentic Jamaican jerk chicken, Jamaican patties, roti, and curried goat here. Also, ginger beer, banana bread, jerk seasoning, and fried plantains.

Island Restaurant

Another West Indian restaurant which has not been tried by me but looks very enticing.

9500 Richmond

On both sides of the street, some interesting places such as the Sahara bakery, La Gran Sorpresa Restaurant, the World Food grocery store complex, Mi Pueblito Colombian Restaurant, and Dodo's Chicken.

11138 Westheimer at Wilcrest

The sign says "Oriental Foods" but this is Nippon Daido, Houston's Japanese grocery store. All manner of Japanese products, fresh flying fish roe, boiled lotus root, dried fish, fresh fish, chopsticks for beginners, sake, magazines, videos, this place has it all. Located in the same shopping center is a Japanese fast food cafe, and a Japanese travel agency.

7333 Hillcroft (between Bellaire and Bissonnet)

Droubi's Bakery and Imports - a nice Lebanese store, making some of the most delicious Middle Eastern style flat breads in Houston, which also sells a variety of foods from the Middle East (including Israel) and Greece, excellent selection of olives and feta cheeses, and a terrific steam table style lunch counter.

Harwin from Hillcroft to Gessner

This is another truly amazing by-way in Houston, full of discount perfumeries, sunglass stores, luggage stores, and more. One of the most interesting shops which you will find is on a side street. At 5615 Savoy Lane, you will find Paayal, an Indian store which stocks the wonderful stainless steel cookware and eating utensils, along with shelves and shelves of multi colored glass bracelets and other Indian curios. This is a great store. 


Economical Ethnic Dining Guide - 1997

 In the late nineties, I would go out at lunch time and sample the food at a different ethnic restaurant in Houston, return to the office, and write a brief review. At the end of the year, I used the office copier to put together a guide, to give as Christmas gifts to friends. The original Word document ended up floating around the web, picked up by many people in Houston, eventually finding a home at B4-U-Eat dot com, Houston's earliest restaurant guide, populated by personal reviews, predating Yelp. So many of these no longer exist. It's a document of Houston, circa late nineties.

Link to the Article Via Web Archive


A LISTING OF REASONABLY PRICED, SOMEWHAT EXOTIC 
RESTAURANTS FEATURING CUISINE YOU WOULDN'T NECESSARILY FIND
AT LUBY'S, MCDONALD'S, OR THE BLACK EYED PEA... WITH COMMENTS BY THE AUTHOR.

RESEARCHED AND PREPARED BY:
JAY FRANCIS

Posted on b4-u-eat.com

Restaurants that appear in gray have closed. 
Jay's listings are from the year 1995 but it's such a great information piece and contains such interesting listings that we are posting it as it originally read.

CAFE LATINA
DROUBI'S
CHINESE CAFE
CHINESE CAFE
CHAPULTEPEC
ANAND BHAVAN
CAFE MIAMI
LAILAI DUMPLING HOUSE
SHEIKH CHILLI'S
TAQUERIA DEL SOL
MERIDA
SUPER RICO
TAQUERIA MORELIA
HAVELI
MARIAM RESTAURANT
HUNAN VILLAGE
DANIEL WONG'S KITCHEN
DARBAND KABOBI 
LA ROSTICERIA 

EL PUPUSODROMO
CONG LY
VAN LOC
SAIGON PAGOLAC
PHO HUYNH
EL MIRASOL
EL CUSCATLECO
T&K CHINESE
TAQUERIA ATOTONILCO
INDIA GRILL
TAQUERIA LA TAPATIA
THAI RACHA
PIQUET MARKET
TAQUERIA LA FLOR
STANDARD SWEETS & RESTAURANT
FU KIM 
L. K.'S HONG KONG CHEF
SHANGHAI RESTAURANT 
RAJA QUALITY SWEETS & RESTAURANT 


YIT ING HO
LA SORPRESA
LA FONDA TIPICA RESTAURANTE
NEW MY CANH
MAI'S
GOLDEN POND
PAVANI
ANDY'S HOME CAFE
FIESTA LOMA LINDA
TAQUERIA TENAMPA
THAI SPICE
SHIVA
NEW PEKING
MARU GROCERY
PANDA GARDEN
PUEBLO CANTINA
WONDERFUL VEGETARIAN
OTILIA'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT 
LUCKY VILLAGE 

TIA MARIA'S 
LIDO
TAQUERIA TEPATITLAN
IMPERIAL PALACE CHINESE
RUCHI'S TAQUERIA EL RINCON DE MEXICO
MADRAS PAVILION
KANOMWAN
EL PARAISO
SUPRABHATH
GORDITAS AGUASCALIENTES
LONCHERIA LUPITA
EL REY
BLUE NILE
TIMMY CHAN #6
PHO BANG 



 

CAFE LATINA

Region or Ethnicity: Cuban

Location: 1972 Fairview
522-3394

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.

Brief Description: The food here is darn good. Depending on the day of the week, you will have a choice of about five specialties, as well as the always available fare on the left hand side of the menu. The menu is laid out in English, perfect for newcomers to Cuban food. Keep an eye out for the Cuban cook. Every so often, you'll see the kitchen door creep open and she'll peer out to have a look around, usually dressed in a dingy smock, with curlers in her hair and a hair net.

On the day we went, Monday, two of us opted for Congri (red beans and rice), sometimes called Moros y Cristianos, if black beans and rice, served with a salad and your choice of three styles of bananas/plantains, for about $5.00. Be sure to order the crispy plantain chips served with a bowl of garlic dipping sauce which is out of this world.

A flan for dessert, excellent flan, by the way.

Definitely worth a trip.

Update: There appears to be a new management. The restaurant has been newly decorated and is very attractive now. The food is excellent, probably the best Cuban food in Houston at the present time.

 

DROUBI'S

Region or Ethnicity: Lebanese and Middle Eastern

Location: 3223 Hillcroft
Telephone: 988-5897
Fax: 988-9506

Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: Droubi's is more than your one stop shopping location for excellent, freshly baked Middle Eastern bread and Middle Eastern foods. This location also features a small, cafeteria style restaurant with mouth watering middle eastern specialties. This is a great place to eat cheaply.

On a recent trip, I had a lunch of baked eggplant with tomatoes, sauteed potatoes, a small Greek salad, rice, and pita bread for less than $3.00. 

Droubi's has shawarma ( chicken or beef) on a spit and kebabs which are cooked to order.

Sweet tooth? Don't forget that Droubi's has a pastry section with freshly baked baklavas, kataifi, date cookies, and more.

Update June 1997: For $5.00, you can get a plate with two grilled Kofta Kebabs, Greek salad, and roasted potatoes.

 

CHINESE CAFE

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 5092 Richmond
9252-C Bellaire
12047 Northwest Freeway

Telephone: 621-2888 (Richmond)
771-4330 (Bellaire)

Hours: 

Brief Description: The Chinese Cafe, at its first location in the Diho Shopping Center on Bellaire, was one of the first Chinese restaurants to feature walk up and order service instead of table service, and the prices reflected this lower overhead. When you enter, you grab a printed menu to read while you're in line. There are also photos on the wall of selected dishes along with the prices. Also, there is a daily lunch special which includes soup and egg roll for under $5.00. It was a favorite for years, but due to the fact that the food tends to be on the salty side, and due to the proliferation of many new restaurants, we stopped going to this restaurant. 

Chinese Cafe has a location on Richmond. When we go to this location, we are generally ordering from the dieter's menu, an entree is about $6.00, comes with steamed rice, and serves two. The dieter's menu gives you your choice of steamed vegetables or steamed broccoli with chicken or shrimp, and it is truly a low fat high protein/carbohydrate healthy meal. 

One of the nice things about the Chinese Cafe is that you can order side orders of crispy pickled or sweet sour vegetables. My favorite is a side order of crispy cucumbers in a sweet vinegar sauce. Always be sure to check the daily bulletin board behind the cashier to see what specials are featured on the day you visit.

We've tried several of the Hunan and Szechuan specialties in the past, the country style tofu, kung pao chicken, and the stuff that comes with the dark hoi sin type sauce. 

Most of these dishes were way too salty for our taste.


CHINESE CAFE

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 5092 Richmond
9252-C Bellaire
12047 Northwest Freeway

Telephone: 621-2888 (Richmond)
771-4330 (Bellaire)

Hours: 

Brief Description: The Chinese Cafe, at its first location in the Diho Shopping Center on Bellaire, was one of the first Chinese restaurants to feature walk up and order service instead of table service, and the prices reflected this lower overhead. When you enter, you grab a printed menu to read while you're in line. There are also photos on the wall of selected dishes along with the prices. Also, there is a daily lunch special which includes soup and egg roll for under $5.00. It was a favorite for years, but due to the fact that the food tends to be on the salty side, and due to the proliferation of many new restaurants, we stopped going to this restaurant. 

Chinese Cafe has a location on Richmond. When we go to this location, we are generally ordering from the dieter's menu, an entree is about $6.00, comes with steamed rice, and serves two. The dieter's menu gives you your choice of steamed vegetables or steamed broccoli with chicken or shrimp, and it is truly a low fat high protein/carbohydrate healthy meal. 

One of the nice things about the Chinese Cafe is that you can order side orders of crispy pickled or sweet sour vegetables. My favorite is a side order of crispy cucumbers in a sweet vinegar sauce. Always be sure to check the daily bulletin board behind the cashier to see what specials are featured on the day you visit.

We've tried several of the Hunan and Szechuan specialties in the past, the country style tofu, kung pao chicken, and the stuff that comes with the dark hoi sin type sauce. 

Most of these dishes were way too salty for our taste.


CHAPULTEPEC

Region or Ethnicity: Mexican

Location: 813 Richmond
Telephone: 522-2365

Hours: 24 Hours

Brief Description: Chapultepec means hill of the grasshoppers (chapulin + tepec).

This is one of the great Houston institutions, a 24 hour Mexican restaurant, featuring 99 cent margaritas, a 24 hour Mexican breakfast menu ( Huevos rancheros or Huevos con chorizo $3.95, Chilaquiles con pollo y crema $4.95, Breakfast burritos $1.65, etc.), and an extensive Tex-Mex menu in the $4.00 to $8.00 price range.

The food is generic Tex-Mex fare. The salsa is not very exciting. In general the food is good, but not spectacular.

A lot of interesting looking people hang out here, it's a good place to people watch.

Chapultepec has an annex, with comedy improv on the weekends, so you can plan an evening of food and entertainment at this location.

There are daily lunch specials in the $4.00 to $5.00 price range, from 10:00 to 2:00, for example, a Mexican plate with taco, chalupa, rice, and beans. 

 

ANAND BHAVAN

Region or Ethnicity: Indian Vegetarian

Location: 6662 S.W. Freeway near Hillcroft
Telephone: 977-0150

Hours: Wednesday through Monday
11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Well, the Anand Bhavan recently established a vegetarian buffet at lunch time, but, you know, this is a place where you should get adventurous and try some of the Southern Indian vegetarian fare right off the menu. If you have never tried a Masala Dhosa, this is the place to have one. From there, you can venture out.

Recently, at one of Suneeta Vaswani's cooking class, she mentioned a curry dish of the south, based upon cream of wheat. If my memory serves me, it is called Uppahmah. Anand Bhavan had it. Also noted but not tried is a steamed Ghujarati dish called Dhokla, similar in consistency to cornbread, but wheat based and cumin flavored.

None of the menu items are expensive here. You can get full for about $4.00.

They have ice cream, and the flavors are as exotic as they come, being based on tropical fruits and flavors ( rose, pistachio, chikoo, halwa) which are indigenous to India. Be sure to save some room for one of these. 

Update: Ordering a mango shake, I was served the shake with a cup full of ice cubes, which was pretty awful. Be sure to let them know that you do not want any ice in your shake.


CAFE MIAMI

Region or Ethnicity: Cuban

Location: 

Hours: Until late

Brief Description: First, if you are a coffee drinker, this is the place to come for the best espresso in Houston. They use the Miami based Bustelo brand of coffee and it is strong and delicious.

Cafe Miami is possibly the best known Cuban cafe in Houston, and like others, offers daily specials, as well as a la carte and complete meals. Most everything here is fried, sometimes a little over fried, in my opinion. Pretty salty, too, but hey, that's the way they like it in Cuba.

You'll find fried fish, fried chicken, congri (rice and beans), ropa vieja, and other Cuban fare here. You can eat on the cheap by ordering a couple of stuffed potatoes ( papas rellenas) and a side salad, total cost about $3.00.

If you've never have a guanabana shake ( batida de guanabana) you must try one. Thick, ice creamy, with the flavor of guava. It is really delicious.


LAILAI DUMPLING HOUSE

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 9262 Bellaire Boulevard
271-0080

Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: This place is terrific. Be sure to stick with the noodle and dumpling dishes and you will be absolutely amazed at how cheaply you can eat here. 

Almost all of the dishes are in the $3.00 price range.

I recommend getting an order of fried dumplings, an order of steamed dumplings (vegetable), and one of the flat noodle dishes. 

Also worth trying is a "cold " noodle dish with shredded pork (my favorite). It's not cold, it's a room temperature dish like a pasta salad. You get a big bowl of spaghetti sized Chinese wheat flour noodles, a sprinkling of vegetables such as peas and
carrots ,spicy ground pork, and a peanut sauce topping ( like a sate sauce).

There is a second LaiLai on Main Street in the Medical Center area. I asked the ladies at my LaiLai if the menu was the same and they said "No, that one is under different ownership." 

So, stick with the one on Bellaire until your correspondent can check out the other LaiLai.

Update: On a more recent visit, the cold noodle dish was not as tasty as the first time, overloaded with too much Peter Pan Peanut butter ( I peeked in the kitchen when they were making it). Vegetable dumplings were excellent, however.

SHEIKH CHILLI'S

Region or Ethnicity: Pakistan

Location: 6121 Hillcroft
995-6768


Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 A.M.

Brief Description: I am not a very big fan of this restaurant, but there is one thing which you may wish to try at this establishment. I recently ordered a piyaz kulcha which is a naan filled with onions and spices ($1.49). It came with this exquisitely garlicky yogurt sauce, which I thought was terrific. 

I've tried Sheikh Chilli's a few times over the last 10 years, and find most things on the menu are just too greasy. Having said that, there are two dishes which they offer as specialties, Nihari which is a beef shank slow cooked with spices, like a stew; and Haleem, which is a lentil and beef dish. Cooking here is oriented toward meats and Islamic traditions rather than Hindu traditions (re: the presence of beef on the menu).

Prices are within our range of $4.00 to $5.00.

Update August 1999: Dirty, slow service, you can avoid this place.


TAQUERIA DEL SOL

Region or Ethnicity: Mexican

Location: 8114 Park Place
644-0535

Additional locations at 6648 Canal, 2807 Broadway

Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: Several people had recommended this combination taqueria and panaderia to me, as one of the best in the East End. We went on a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed with families, mostly eating fajita style taquitos.

Food is reasonably priced, tacos are in the $1.50 price range, tortas in the $2.50 price range, complete dinner plates around $6.00.

In all honesty, the food we tried pretty lousy, very greasy. In addition, the floors were filthy at the time we went, but this could have been a result of the number of families with kids throwing their trash on the floor, and lack of man power to do a regular and thorough clean up. However, the hot sauce was fantastic.

The one saving grace was the interior design. The walls were covered with kitschy paintings of Mexican themes, Aztec warriors, landmarks in Mexico, etc. One theme that popped up was that of the volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztacihuatl in the background with a foreground of an Indian prince and princess (the legend of the volcanoes). Unfortunately, the artist's perspective and skills were a bit askew, and the princess appears to be amputated at the knee, my wife calls her the "Truncated Aztec Princess".

Whether the art work justifies a trip out I-45 to this locale, well, I leave that up to you to decide. If I were heading out toward Galveston, I would opt for the superior Fiesta Loma Linda on Telephone Road, or just down the road, Indian food at the Taj Mahal.


MERIDA

Region or Ethnicity: Yucatecan/Mexican

Location: 2219 Fulton
227-7067

Additional location at 2509 Navigation ( the original location)

Hours: 24 Hours

Brief Description: A Mexican restaurant specializing in delicacies from the Yucatan state of Quintana Roo. Here's an opportunity to try out some regional cuisine by ordering one of the sampler plates for around $8.00. 

You'll get several variations on the masa tortilla, fried, gordita style, stuffed with beans or pork, typical of the Yucatan.

Food is good, but be warned, Yucatecan food is high fat (lard) and very heavy.

Be sure to try this place at least once.

Note: Next door and upstairs is an all night, night club, featuring live music....might be fun!

Update: Tried out the location on Navigation. Excellent guacamole and enchiladas. Worth the trip just to check out the crazy wall mural, one artist's conception of a pre-Colombian city nestled in a valley with rivers and greenery. Shangri-la meets Meso America.


SUPER RICO

Region or Ethnicity: Peruvian

Location: 6121 Hillcroft
779-1900

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 A.M.

Brief Description: "The authentic Peruvian spot in the heart of Houston" says the ad. Featuring live music on the week-ends, this place should be on your list to try out. Lot's of interesting things on the menu, some a little out of our price range, but worth checking out.

Chips come to the table with a green, spicy, mayonnaise based dipping sauce.

There is a daily lunch special which runs about $4.00 to $5.00 with such items as: Chicken stew, mussels soup, beef rib soup, chicken and rice, and Lima style tripe soup.

The specialty of the house is wood roasted chicken, and in addition to this, there are a variety of seafood selections and beef offerings in the $7.00 to $10.00 price range.

Picante de Mariscos ($10.00) is a creamy, etouffee type casserole of shrimp, mussels, scallops, squid, just okay, but it was served with the most perfectly cooked rice I've ever had in a restaurant. It really wasn't that spicy either (re: picante).

Jalea de Mariscos is a seafood platter of fried seafood selections.

On the week-end, seco y estofado de cabrito is offered, which is a goat stew in a cilantro sauce. I haven't tried this yet, as it was not available on the Sunday we visited.

Several Peruvian soups are featured ($7.00 to $8.00 price range): Parihuela, which is a fish stew; Chupe de Camarones, which is a shrimp soup; Sopa a la Criolla, which is a beef noodle soup.

Update: We popped in on a Saturday, around midnight, just to check out the band. The cover was $6.00 per person and the band was very good, consisting of a female vocalist and two acoustic guitarists. Most of the clientele were sipping Inca Colas and enjoying themselves. 

Note: there is a night club in this strip center, so parking is kind of 'iffy'. 

Update Two: On June 30, a group of nine visited Super Rico, to try some different dishes and share photos and stories of a recent trip that three made to Peru. We had the opportunity to sample a lot of stuff on the menu. Some of the dishes were not very good for personal taste issues, we suspect that the food was prepared as it is served in Peru. For example, several people did not like their Picante de Mariscos because the dish has a lot of squid and octopus, which tend to be tough. One other person and I tried the Aji de Gallina, which is strips of chicken in a yellow cream sauce, slightly spicy, but with an overall high salt content that made the dish unpalatable.

A wonderful beverage, non-alcoholic, called "Chicha", made with a special purple corn and fruit juices, was enjoyed by all, and is highly recommended.

The Jalea de Mariscos, which was deep fried squid, octopus, shrimp, served on a bed of lettuce was tasty. A dish called Salto de Mariscos, which was sauteed seafood, again, lots of squid and octopus, mixed with tomatoes and French fries, a little bizarre, since the fries were the frozen variety.

A seafood soup, very spicy, flavorful, but the person did not like the crab claws....the meat was hard to get at, and the soup was a little too hot for his palate.

All in all, I suspect everyone enjoyed the idea of the restaurant, but would tend to be more selective on what they order to eat on a future visit. Future visit? Well, if there is a night when some Peruvian musicians are playing, we'll probably go back. 


TAQUERIA MORELIA

Location: 7307 Bissonnet 

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 A.M.

Brief Description: Well, I popped into this little place to have a Milanesa torta, some fries, and a glass of agua de melon. The meal came to about $6.00, most of which came from the cost of my two drinks, and was okay. 

My observation is that this is a standard quality Mexican taqueria, not worth a special trip, but a good place to have lunch if you are in the neighborhood.

The menu was pretty typical of all taquerias.


HAVELI

Region or Ethnicity: Pakistan

Location: 9817 Bissonnet
776 9997
Fax: 776-0702 

Hours: Open 7 days a week. Lunch and dinner, hours unknown

Brief Description: There was recently a fairly favorable review of Haveli in the Houston Press, and I had been meaning to try this one for a while now. 

I will qualify what I am about to say by reconfirming that I do have a strong bias against Pakistani food, which I feel tends to be exceptionally greasy and salty.

That being said, I honestly find nothing to recommend about the Haveli. The dal was undercooked and salty, there were two fried dishes, a battered fried chicken wing and a fried fish dish, that were dripping with grease, the zucchini curry and the potato curry were so oily as to be unpleasant. Regrettably, I can't recommend the Haveli to anyone.

Having recently taken several of Suneeta Vaswani's excellent Indian cooking classes, with their focus on using less oil in traditional recipes, it has become very difficult for me to accept the high fat content of a restaurant like Haveli.

However, if anyone tries this place out and comes back with a more favorable impression, as we all know, in Houston, chefs at Indian-Pakistani restaurants are always switching around, please let me know asap.

Now, if I could only stop saying, "Haveli nice day".


MARIAM RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnicity: African-Nigerian

Location: 9725 Bissonnet
778 -8040


Hours: Open 7 days a week. Lunch and dinner, hours unknown.

Brief Description: The Mariam has been my first brush with West African/Nigerian food. I wandered in not sure what to order, hoping there would be either a menu or a buffet. There weren't either. However, through the help of a couple of patrons, I got my first taste of this cuisine. At the recommendation of one person, I was served with a bowl of yam starch, looking very much like bread dough, but with the flavor of potato and the textural quality of thick mashed potato or Play-doh. A bowl of water on the side, and a heaping portion of goat/okra stew. I believe the dish is called fufu. 

By the way, I happened to notice on a recent trip to Fiesta, in the ethnic foods section, that you can buy yam flour, for making your own fufu gunk at home. There's even a recipe for the stew on the package.

The goat meat was tough, but the flavor of the stew was wonderful, one of the tastiest concoctions.....I could taste chili peppers, garlic, onion, and okra. I suspect there is a bit of oil in the stew, possibly palm tree oil. Be warned.

Also recommended by a patron, but not tried.......rice and plantain to substitute for the yam flour.

The eating procedure appears to be thus: after dipping your fingers in the bowl of water at the start of the meal, you use your right hand to grab a piece of the yam starch, dip, roll, and pick up some stew meat and drop the parcel into your mouth.

The lunch came to $6.50. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there is a buffet for $10.00, which might present an opportunity to try several different dishes.


HUNAN VILLAGE

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 3311 S. Shepherd
528-4651
Fax: 528-5176

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., and until 11:00 P.M. on Friday and Saturday

Brief Description: So, I'm driving down Shepherd and I see the sign for Hunan Village, and just below the name, are the words "Healthy Choice", so I pull in to investigate. This is a small restaurant, so that, even though there is a smoking and non-smoking section, you really won't be able to get away from the smokers if the place is full.

The menu lists 6 diet dishes, consisting of steamed vegetable configuration with chicken or shrimp options, for around $6.00-$8.00. In addition, there are about 12 dishes featuring either strips of tofu or wheat gluten which has had the starch removed from it, which have been pressed and folded to simulate chicken. I got curious and, instead of going for something dietetic, I ordered the General Tso's vegetarian chicken. Hey, I really liked the texture and chewiness of the tofu (or gluten, I'm not sure which), it was a perfectly suitable substitute for chicken. General Tso's chicken is a high fat dish, and this was no exception, though. The sauce tasted great going down, albeit very sweet and syrupy, but I could tell that there was a lot of oil in this dish. 

I looked around at what was on other tables, the place had a good crowd of people, and no one was eating the 'healthy choice' entrees. Everything I saw looked well prepared and tasty, so I suspect I will definitely come back here to investigate some more entrees. This restaurant has a very large menu.

The price range appears to be in the $6.00 to $8.00 range, with a lunch special served daily from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. In addition, there are daily specials, such as Hunan Double Delight on Thursday and Scallops and Shrimp Hunan Style on Friday, for around $5.00.


DANIEL WONG'S KITCHEN 

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 4566 Bissonnet
663-6665
Fax: 663 6669 

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., and until 11:00 P.M. on Friday and Saturday

Brief Description: Like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, Daniel Wong has established a little restaurant on the site of the old Wok Bo, one of the worst Chinese restaurants Houston ever had. Daniel was chef at the old Ming Palace, next to the River Oaks Theater for 13 years, then had a restaurant on Richmond, and is now residing on Bissonnet. He is a master chef, and can prepare any dish you might ask of him. So, it is only natural that his own menu is filled with several of his signature dishes, some with tongue in cheek names such as "Road Kill Chicken: ( slices of garlic, onions, in a sweet, tangy sauce, and tender chicken).

Lunch menu prices run around $5.00 and dinner entrees are around $8.00 to $9.00, and everything on the menu read great, like you'd really like to try it, lots and lots of house specials. This is the only Chinese restaurant I've ever found that has dishes made with turkey breast . There are also several lamb dishes.

Try this restaurant soon.

Update: The shredded Tofu with Vegetables in a spicy sauce is excellent. Just the right amount of sauce, vegetables are crispy and varied (zucchini, celery, onions, carrots), tofu is moist and firm. Better with steamed rice than with fried rice. So is the Governor's Chicken ( the title of Governor in ancient China was 'Kung Pao').

Update June 1997: One of my favorite dishes ( $10.50, enough for two) has been the Crawfish Hunan Empress style. I look forward to this dish.


DARBAND KABOBI

Region or Ethnicity: Iranian

Location: 5760 Hillcroft
975-8350 

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., and until 11:00 P.M. on Friday and Saturday

Brief Description: Persian food....Of all the Middle Eastern cuisines, this is one of the most enigmatic. I have heard that there is a rich, full, tradition of gourmet delicacies, but my experience both in Iran and here, is that this cuisine is available only in private homes. For the most part, my memories of dining in Iran, were of little cafes, with open charcoal grills upon which skewers of ground lamb were slow roasted, and served up with the most bland, flavorless rice I've ever had. Still, Iranian food can be a lot of fun, and Darband Kabobi does its kabobs very well.

There are several choices to choose from as follows:

Kubideh Kabob- ground beef and onion.
Chengeh Kabob- cuts of marinated lamb.
Shish Kabob- beef chunks with bell pepper and onion.
Chelo Kabab- this is the one I remember most from Iran, it's the ground beef kabob served on a bed of white rice.

The price range of the kabobs runs about $5.00. And, they are served with a naan like bread which is baked in a large tandoor style oven. 

About sumac- You'll notice on the tables, a jar with a deep red powder in it. This is sumac, which I believe is powdered pomegranite seeds. Shake it on everything. It gives a tangy acidic bite to the food and is a traditional condiment through out the Middle East.

Kabobs are a perfect alternative to a burger.


LA ROSTICERIA

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico (Tex-Mex)

Location: 1713 Telephone Road
921-7046


Hours: 8:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M., and until 1:00 A.M. on Friday and Saturday

Brief Description: The name conjures up images of freshly roasted chicken on a spit over an open wood fire. However, it is only a name. In reality, this is a pretty bad Tex-Mex restaurant, not worth the trip. The food is greasy, salty, and poorly prepared.


EL PUPUSODROMO

Region or Ethnicity: El Salvadorian

Name: El Pupusodromo #2

Location: 6817 Bissonnet
270-5030

Hours: 8:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M., and until 1:00 A.M. on Friday and Saturday

Brief Description: What a clean, nice, El Salvadorian restaurant this is! They have five locations (12325 Vet. Memorial, 129 S. Frazier, Conroe, 5092 Renwick, and 2000 Wirt, Suite C., 6817 Bissonnet) and the one I've tried is the one at Bissonnet.

I had pechuga de pollo a la criolla ( $5.00), which was grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed onions and bell peppers, a side salad, rice, and two thick El Salvador style tortillas. It was delicious.

This restaurant features, of course, Salvadorian food, the most famous or known dish being the pupusa which is the thick cornmeal masa tortilla stuffed with cheese, pork, beans, or a mixture of the three, served with pickled cabbage on the side (usually from a big glass pickle jar looking affair, with plastic tongs).

There are a lot of regional dishes on the menu such as:

Sopa de mondongo ( cow foot and tripe soup) 
Sopa de res con arroz ( beef and vegetable soup)
Camarones a la criolla ( shrimp with sauteed bell peppers and onions)
Salpicon ( diced beef stew with mint and onions)
Yuca con chicharron (cassava...similar to potato with pickled cabbage and fried pork rinds)

The price range is $4.00 to $6.00.

Update: Went back and had filet of fish, grilled, and it was very good. Served with thick tortillas, a small salad, and (frozen) French fries. Try to get rice and beans instead of fries if you order this. Price was $6.00.


CONG LY

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Location: 2600 Travis
522-9694

10800-F Bellaire Boulevard
879-8185

11347 Veterans Memorial Highway
893-5654 

Hours: 7:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M.

Brief Description: This chain of Vietnamese restaurants specializes in, and serves only Pho soups. Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup, a beef broth flavored with ginger, anise, and cinnamon, simmered for hours, and to which are added rice noodles, various cuts of meat, bean sprouts, hot sauce, basil, lime juice, and more. It is a hearty breakfast or lunch, or dinner, basically it is a 24 hour a day kind of meal.

This is an excellent Pho restaurant chain for anyone, and is highly recommended for first time Pho soup adventurers. The menu is laid out in English, with a history of the soup, and details on how to order and how to specialize your soup. Most new comers start with Pho Tai, which includes only thinly sliced steak. A typical soup, large, will be less than $5.00. You'll learn a lot about Vietnamese cooking by reading the menu.

The restaurant gets really full at lunch time, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to people watch.

I'm told that there is another soup tradition besides Pho, a noodle soup called Hu Tieu, which I haven't been able to track down yet, though I hear there is a place in Webster which specializes in it.


VAN LOC

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Location: 3010 Milam
528-6441

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: One of our favorite Vietnamese restaurants, and an excellent choice for the sweet and sour soup, flavored with shrimp, a tamarind based soup broth, pineapple chunks, and lots of crispy Vietnamese style vegetables.

An excellent place to try various vermicelli (bun) dishes, especially the popular Bun Cha Gio ( vermicelli with crispy spring rolls).

We've never had a bad meal here.


SAIGON PAGOLAC

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Location: 9600 Bellaire
988-6106

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Years ago, we went to this restaurant to rendezvous with some friends who were strict vegetarians. However, as we started to take a closer look at the menu, we realized we had to have the wrong place because all the specialties were beef dishes!

In Vietnamese cuisine, there are restaurants that specialize in beef, served various ways in several courses. Referred to as seven course beef restaurants, or Bo 7 Mon ( or, Nha Hang Bo 7 Mon), there are only a few in Houston. I've been back several times, and the food has always been good, here. Be sure to come hungry as the 7 course dinner is a lot of food. Price is around $10.00 per person. Here are some typical beef dishes: grilled beef sausage, meatballs, Pho, thinly sliced and grilled beef, spring rolls.


PHO HUYNH

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Location: 3017 Milam
524-3788


Hours: 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Another great Pho restaurant, although non-smokers like me have a hard time here, as most of the clientele seem to have a cig burning all the time. 

A friend tells me that this is an excellent place to go for the Banh Cuon which is a kind of rice cake, although I've only had the soup here. This is a good place to check out what 's being brought to the table next to you and ordering the same.

Prices are very reasonable, in the $4.00 to $6.00 range.

Update August 1999: Apparently the original owner made a fortune in real estate and sold this restaurant to a very personable young Vietnamese man. The menu has expanded, the food is better than ever, the waitstaff is super friendly. He's thinking about getting rid of the "Huynh" since it is difficult for non Vietnamese to pronounce. He may change the restaurant name to "T & T", I don't know why.


EL MIRASOL

Region or Ethnicity: Tex-Mex

Name: Restaurante El Mirasol

Location: 6800 Avenue "E" at Wayside
928-6041

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. 

Brief Description: I'm going to be saying a few nice things about this place in a little while, but first, I need to regrettably advise that the food leaves a lot to be desired. I was in the mood for a combination platter and I ordered the Mirasol Delight, a chalupa, guacamole, two beef burritos, rice and beans for about $6.00. For drinks I had an Horchata ( a rice based, sweet beverage with a touch of cinnamon), which was excellent. The chalupa came with chopped brisket type beef and potatoes, as did the filling for the burritos. The meat looked very dark, like there had been a very heavy hand with the chili powder and tasted like it had been re-heated numerous times. Same story with the beans, you could tell that there was a lot of oil in them, and the rice was dry and over cooked. The guacamole was basically just avocado, with very little flavor.

My friend had the carne guisado, which looked exactly like the fillings of my chalupa and my burritos. He did enjoy his guisado, but it looked really over cooked to me.

Well, that is the bad news. Here is some positive stuff. El Mirasol has been featured favorably in several local reviews of inexpensive places to eat in Houston. They feature a breakfast with eggs, rice, beans, and tortillas for only $1.89. Menu items are in the $5.00 to $7.00 price range

The place is very festive, the walls are covered with bright decorations, lights, banners, etc. And, the wait staff is super nice. Everyone was so friendly.

Over the bar is a decoration, a giant sunflower ( Mirasol...sun watcher...get it?).

All told, I probably won't go back. But, if you are in the neighborhood, please give this place a try at least once, and let me know what you think.


EL CUSCATLECO

Region or Ethnicity: El Salvador

Name: El Cuscatleco

Location: 6041 Bissonnet
666-2690
Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: This is a small, 7 table, cafe featuring regional food, American food (such as hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.), and seafood. There's a short, chubby lady in the kitchen cooking up the food for what appears to be a mostly take out crowd. Relatively clean, the radio is tuned to KQQK, blasting out Tejano music. The menu features fish, steak, and shrimp dishes, served up with French fries and salad. I note that the menu offers 'al mojo de ajo' (garlic style) fish, but I haven't tried it. It might be good. Food appears to be fresh. There isn't a straight surface in the dining area, the tables are all lopsided.

Here are some dishes you may wish to try:

Tamal- This is the Central American variety, large, with a smooth, dough-like texture to the masa, as opposed to the grainier style common to most of Mexico. This tamal is stuffed with potato and chick peas. ($1.00 each)

Pupusa- This El Salvadoran staple is a flat pancake-like corn masa, stuffed with a salty, white, mozzarella- like, El Salvadoran cheese, is grilled in little bit of oil and served with a large, serve yourself jar of pickled, chopped cabbage and carrots, highly spiced with red chili pepper. Pupusas are generally pretty salty, but this one was pretty good, for a pupusa. ($1.00 each)

The Mojarra frita is a whole fish, Tilapia, I believe, one person sized, which has been pan fried, and is served with white rice, frijoles refritos, a little lettuce salad, and tortillas. The tortillas are hand made to order and are thicker than Mexican tortillas. The fish is pretty good, seasoned only with salt and lime. ($5.00)


T & K CHINESE RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnic: Chinese, with an emphasis on Szechuan.

Location: 9140 Bissonnet ( in L-shaped strip center next to the more famous Imperial Palace restaurant)
981-8809 (Very little English is spoken)
Hours: 11:00 A.M.-9:30 P.M.

Brief Description: This restaurant does two dishes which I really like. One is the double spicy chicken and the other is the beef with Chinese cabbage. The last time I went in, during lunch, I was presented with the lunch menu, which looked pretty good. There were 4 people next to me who had some really interesting dishes on their table, including one dish which looked like some sort of beef in a thick brown soy type sauce, served in one of those devices with a Sterno heater to keep stuff hot. When I asked what it was, I was told, " That is for Chinese people, only. You won't like it." They also had a dish of stir fried greens, and what looked like spare ribs in a thick sweet and sour sauce, as well as the beef with chopped Chinese cabbage which I was familiar with. Well, since I wasn't 'allowed' to try the special dish, I just ordered my old stand-by, double spicy chicken. This is a two pepper dish and is pretty hot. A little on the oily side, but mighty tasty, and the chicken is always tender.

The lunch menu is about $4.00 and includes soup and egg roll. Night time entrees are in the $5.00-$7.00 price range and one entree will feed two people.

This would be a great place to go with 3-5 friends. And, if you know someone who speaks Chinese (which dialect, I have no idea), you might be able to try something exotic.


TAQUERIA ATOTONILCO

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 5960 Gulfton
668-0242

Hours: 7:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This is a pretty standard taqueria, and although the menu lists several seafood soups as specialties, I have only tried the tortas and gorditas, which are pretty straight forward. The name of this place is interesting. Atotonilco is a Nahuatl word for hot springs and is associated with four or five towns in Mexico which have thermal waters. There's one near San Miguel de Allende that I've been to, also the sight of a famous church from the 16th century that pilgrims visit regularly. Many of them come to flagellate themselves at this site, as part of their atonement for sins committed.

Taqueria Atotonilco is a spacious place, has a drive up window, and is located on Gulfton, a street in the area I used to jokingly call "The War Zone". I suspect I'm reporting on this place just because I've been there. If you want great Mexico style food, go to Otilia's, however. But, if you want something quick and you're in the neighborhood, this is an okay place.

They do have a pretty good juke box, and when I was there at lunch time, the TV was blasting away with a Mexican soap opera. The waitresses were nice, and the menu does have English translations for everything. 


INDIA GRILL

Region or Ethnicity: Indian 

Location: 5600 Hillcroft
266-6684

Hours: Sunday through Thursday: 11:00-3:00 and 5:30-10:00
Friday and Saturday: 11:00-3:00 and 5:30-11:00

Brief Description: A pretty good Indian restaurant which features an extensive buffet for only $5.00 at lunch time, dinner buffet is a dollar more. Food is on the mild to medium range of spiciness. Recommended dishes to try would be the pakoras, which are deep fried vegetables in a batter made from chick pea flour, and the Saag (a curried spinach). Instead of lentil dal, there was a chick pea dal (Channa Dal) for the rice. The restaurant also featured a turnip curry the day that I was there.

The owner appears to be a Sikh so you can expect some regional Northern Indian cooking. These days, however, most Indian buffet style restaurants offer pretty much the same format. Everything was fresh tasting, and not overly salty. 

My second visit was one Friday evening. I was pleased to note that the chefs do vary the offerings. The saag paneer was especially good that night and there was also an excellent vegetable curry with big chunks of cauliflower and carrot, and gulab jamun for dessert. Gulab jamun is a fried ping pong ball sized semolina/flour sweet which is soaked in rose water flavored sugar syrup.


TAQUERIA TEOTIHUACAN

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Name: Taqueria Teotihuacan.

Location: 4624 Irvington
Hours: 7:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This is a terrific restaurant, with hot sauces that are so good, they could win a prize in a hot sauce contest. The emphasis here is on fresh, home made food, and everything I saw being served looked terrific, from the caldo de res, to my tamales Tapatios ( large tamales, not too much oil, flavored with poblano pepper strips and chicken.....though you might ask them to leave off the cheese and chili gravy), excellent rice and beans, and hand made corn tortillas.

Prices are very reasonable and the menu features grilled meats, carnitas, 5 different enchilada selections, five chicken dishes, and more.

I hope you have an opportunity to try this place soon.


TAQUERIA LA TAPATIA

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 1749 Richmond Avenue
521-3144
6413 Hillcroft
995-9191
3965 South Gessner
266-4756
(Locations tried: 1749 Richmond Avenue and 6413 Hillcroft)

Hours: 9:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: I've liked this taqueria for a while now. Until I started working on this project, I would split my taqueria nights out between La Tapatia and Otilia's. I used to go to the Taqueria Aranda's on Irvington a lot, but their quality has gone downhill. 

The hot sauces are pretty good and the food quality is pretty consistent. The tables have ramekins with carrots and jalapenos, marinated in escabeche , which most of my friends are crazy about (ask for 'Chiles en escabeche', you'll get jalapenos and carrots, cooked until softened, in garlic, onions, and salted water, topped off with vinegar).

There's a Spanish speaking, Vietnamese waitress at the Richmond location.

They advertise fairly regularly in the Houston Press and often feature shrimp or seafood specialties on the week-end.

The menu is straight forward taqueria fare, but we've had good luck with their Tex-Mex enchilada plates (price range $5.25 for chicken, $6.50 for shrimp, $4.65 for cheese).

A couple of tacos here is a meal ($1.05 each) when you snack on the chips that come to the table. The quality of the meat and the preparation is better than average. The chicken tacos, shrimp tacos, and guacamole are great.

One burrito ($2.50) is pretty filling also.

On the week-ends, like everywhere, they feature pozole and menudo. I've had the menudo here and it is pretty good.


THAI RACHA

Region or Ethnicity: Thai

Location: 10085 Long Point at Gessner
464-7607

Hours: Monday through Thursday: 10:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This is a gem of a fast food Thai cafe offering authentic Thai food at very reasonable prices. It is one of our favorite places to grab a quick, economical meal in the Memorial City part of town. 

A friend of ours orders the Tom Kha Chicken soup which is a meal in itself for $2.60. 

We like the red curry chicken ($3.65), and the Pad Thai ($3.79 large). Also recommended are the garlic chicken ( $4.49) and the crispy egg roll ($.79 each).

We've also heard good things about the Thai chicken salad with lime ( $2.99). Try a limeade with your meal.

The place is clean and the people are very personable. There is even a drive up window.


PIQUET MARKET

Region or Ethnicity: Cuba

Location: 6053 Bissonnet
664-1031

Hours: Monday through Thursday: 10:00-9:00
Friday and Saturday: 10:00-10:00

Brief Description: This is a very popular local hang out for Cubans living in Houston. It is actually a combination fast foods store, specializing in Caribbean/Cuban items by the Goya company out of Miami, and a cafe featuring a special of the day, some snack food and a couple of Cuban dishes.

First the snacks. Priced at about a dollar each, you have your choice of an empanada which is a bit of ground beef flavored with onion and spices, folded into a dough and deep fried, fried pie style. There is a spicier Jamaican patty version also available, it's the more orange-y looking empanada. Also, there is papa rellena which is a deep fried mashed potato ball filled with spicy ground beef. You can make a meal out of three of these if you don't mind the high fat overload.

Come to think of it, Cuban food in general is probably one of the more unhealthy ethnic cuisines imaginable, very salty, lots of fried items...I suspect frying at high temperatures was an effective way of making sure your food was bacteria free...........

On the main menu, the day I was there, fried fish was the special of the day, served with the classic Cuban black beans on white rice, and a little yucca, which is a tuber, a starchy potato like veggie. The plate of the day is $6.00.

For about $7.00, they offer a Cuban steak with the same side orders. 

Update: Piquet has opened up a cafe on Bissonnet near the Maru Grocery, and several other small restaurants. Featuring a $5.00 daily lunch special, for example, on Friday, fried fish filets with delicious fried bananas and yellow rice. Hours are approximately 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.


TAQUERIA LA FLOR

Region or Ethnicity: Mexican

Location: 4328 Washington Avenue
880-1981

Hours: 6:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This is a favorite taqueria of ours.

First, the prices are super reasonable. Second, it's one of the only places I've ever found in Houston that has agua de melon to drink, a cantaloupe refreshment in a big glass for not very much money. Third, the food is pretty good. Sure, it's greasy just like most Mexican food, but it's prepared with love. Fourth, they serve really good crispy chips and hot sauce.

You can get a chile relleno taco here, or you can order your taco garnished with rice and beans which is a terrific way to have a taco. With rice and beans, the cost is only $1.25 each. 

But, the restaurant also features Mexican style plate lunches of carne guisada, pork al pastor, pork chops, enchiladas, etc. for $4.60 a plate.

You place your order with Mrs. Emilia Casillas, from Durango, whose steam table is right where you order, so you get to see what's in the kitchen and what's special for the day. The flour tortillas are home made and rolled out for your order, flipped onto a two burner comal, and served piping hot with your meal.


STANDARD SWEETS AND RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnicity: Indian 

Location: 5696 Hillcroft
974-7500
Hours: 10:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Boy, I really like this place. Their calling card says, "Best in the World". Well, that may be stretching it, but, for $3.00, you can get a great vegetarian buffet featuring spicy curries such as a yellow, almost mustard-y curry with crispy pakoras in it, a mixed vegetable navrattan type curry with big chunks of fresh cauliflower, spinach curry, and more. The naan and pappadums which come with the meal are baked to order and served hot out of the tandoor. There is also an option to add a couple of meat curries for one dollar more. Food is self service, so there is no tipping.

In addition to the buffet, this place has take out, and an extensive menu of additional dishes to order, parathas and dosas for about $2.50 each, for example. Huge trays of traditional Indian sweets, mostly confections made from natural fruits and thickened, sweetened condensed milk, are everywhere. This place must do a big catering business for parties. They even have fresh paneer (a simple cheese made by boiling milk and then straining off the milk solids by adding lemon juice, alum, or vinegar) for $5.50 a pound.

When you go to the register to pay, grab one of the cute little carved toothpicks and try one of the burfi's (Indian sweet). 


FU KIM

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese/Vietnamese

Location: Downtown


Hours: 11:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Is it a Chinese restaurant, is it a Vietnamese restaurant? A lunch buffet with macaroni and ground beef next to sauteed duck feet?

Well, the extensive $5.00 lunch buffet also has salt crabs, three kinds of Vietnamese and/or Chinese egg/spring rolls, Jell-O, ice cream, cheesecake, lots of green vegetable dishes featuring bok choy, broccoli, General Tso's chicken (here called General Tso's chicken), smoked chicken, sweet sour pork, fried tofu, get the picture? Lots of stuff to choose from for not very much money. One of the bigger all-you-can-eat buffets in town.

The food is okay, fairly tasty, kind of on the bland side, but not in a negative way.

A couple of hours later, I got really thirsty, so the salt content is pretty high, I'd guess.

I've been to the Fu Kim down town and on those occasions, had some very nice Vietnamese rice dishes, combination plates, etc.

I would definitely recommend you check out Fu Kim .


L. K.'S HONG KONG CHEF

Region or Ethnicity: Cantonese/Chinese

Location: 5112 Bissonnet at Rice Avenue
668 4431

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. Closed Sunday

Brief Description: It seemed that when I was growing up, the only Chinese restaurants in Houston were Cantonese. Of course, in the fifties, we hadn't been exposed to Hunan, Sichuan, Guanzhou, and basically, Chinese food in Houston was only Cantonese, we just didn't know it. Sweet and sour pork, moo goo guy pan, egg rolls, fried rice, spare ribs, know what I mean? These days most Chinese restaurants are going to feature dishes from everywhere including the most known Cantonese....but here at Hong Kong Chef, we find some veteran Canton chefs who proudly feature a menu of green pepper steak, almond guy ding, shrimp with lobster sauce, sweet sour concoctions, chicken kew, and more.

When you walk in, you're basically walking into the kitchen. The dining area is tucked in the back . There are several cooks who look like they've been doing this for years stir frying away over huge woks . 

Prices are reasonable, lunch combos with fried rice and egg roll are around $4.50. The cheapest is the Hong Kong Special of chicken chop suey, egg foo young, and steamed rice for $3.50.

Off menu prices, and I suspect they do a large take out are in the $5.00 to $6.00 range. Egg foo young is $4.50. Quart sizes for carry out are $5.25 to $6.25.

I suspect this would be a very good choice if you want to cut back on fat with some moo goo guy pan ($4.50) or freshly stir-fried shrimp with vegetables ($4.95).

A four person 'Happy Family' dinner with egg rolls, moo goo guy pan, shrimp with lobster sauce, sweet sour pork, and fried rice is $22.00.

Their take out menu says,
" Most honorable homemaker-career girl. Why slave over a hot stove after a hard day's work? Once a week to lend adventure and variety to your dining pleasure, why not let us be your Chinese chef? Try us! You'll be glad you did. Your guests will think you clever too! "


SHANGHAI RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese 

Location: 9116 Bellaire Boulevard
771-8082
Hours: Mon.-Friday. 11:00-3:00 P.M.
Saturday-Sunday 9:30 am-3:00 P.M.

Brief Description: You are going to love this restaurant. This one is one of my favorite 'finds' while compiling this list. First of all the Shanghai is one of the few restaurants which doesn't secret away their specialties for 'Chinese only' on a special Chinese language menu. Their extensive menu lays out in English and Chinese their offerings. Here is a good place to be adventurous and try something new. I found the waiters and owners to be very accommodating. By the way, having said that, please don't get the impression that the menu is intimidating. Every page lists wonderful dishes which you may wish to try. They also feature an extensive lunch menu mirroring many of the entree listings.

Second, this is a dim sum restaurant, and a darn good one too, probably my current favorite one in Houston. The typical dim sum dish will be $1.65 with some fancier dishes around $2.25. Pork dumplings, turnip crisps, pan fried pork buns, baked scallions crisp, steamed vegetable buns, phoenix claw, fried shrimp and yellow chive roll, the list goes on and on. Probably, like us, you'll just have a peek at what someone else is eating at another table and ask for that, or, wait for the carts to come around with the days' offerings.

Because of the user friendly menu, I'm going to be visiting this place regularly over the next year.


RAJA QUALITY SWEETS AND RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnicity: Indian

Location: 5667 Hillcroft
782-5667
Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This is a very economical choice for a quick lunch or dinner. Typical price for a large serving of rice, topped with two vegetable curries is $3.00. For 50 cents more, you can add a naan. A lettuce, onion, cucumber salad is included in the price. If you want a tandoori chicken plate, the price is around $4.00 .

It's not really a full service restaurant, as you will order at the cash register (no tipping) and pick up your meal at the counter.

This restaurant also features a selection of Indian sweets, and offers banana and mango milk shakes.

The day I went, I had a lentil curry on my rice with a cauliflower curry. I could tell there was a lot of salt in the dishes, but all in all it was a tasty and very filling meal. 


YIT ING HO

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 907 Chartres (at McKinney)
227-1598
Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: Years ago, I had a very good experience at Yit Ing Ho. At that time, this restaurant featured a Dim Sum menu which was very good.

On recent trip back here, all that was available was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Regrettably, I must report that the food on the buffet was average to less than average.

When we went in, our first impression was favorable, everything looked freshly prepared. But, there was something about the seasonings that was off.....almost like the chef had a bad cold and couldn't get his flavors right. The egg rolls had too much five star powder. The noodle dishes had a funky taste to them. The meat dishes didn't have much a of a kick either. 

If anyone tries this restaurant please let me know your opinion as I would hate to leave a negative report in this column if the food improves.

The buffet is $4.00 for lunch and $5.00 at night.


LA SORPRESA

Region or Ethnicity: Colombian

Location: 7126 Clarewood
995-8611
Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Brief Description: I've never been a super big fan of Cuban cooking. It tends to be too greasy and too salty. However, I've always liked the idea of Cuban cooking, croquettes, empanadas, stews, rice served with beans, fried bananas, etc.

Well, in this little Colombian restaurant just off from Sharpstown Center, I've come pretty close to finding "Cuban" food done right. Perhaps Cuban cooking is just greasy, salty Colombian cooking, who knows?

First off, though, I need to advise that many of the menu entrees are over our $5.00 mark. A typical entree is going to be about $7.00. Having said that, you will be getting for your money, a very large meal, consisting of an entree meat ( I tried the chuleta de cerdo which is a thin pork chop, batter fried), lettuce and tomato, fried banana, and a big plate of white rice and beans. At other tables, I saw fried fish entrees which looked very good.

Also noted on the menu, but not tried are appetizers such as empanadas and bunuelos.....looking very tasty and not at all over-fried. 

And, several tables were being served the soup of the day, which is cheaper. On the day I was there, oxtail soup was featured. 

On Fridays, fish soup is available. Note: Colombians call their type of soup, 'sancocho'. The sancocho de pescado comes in a $5.00 and a $7.00 serving, and the $5.00 portion is more than ample, served as it is with a big plate of perfectly cooked white rice, and a salad with avocado slices. 

For those familiar with the famous Thai soup, Tom Kha Gai, you will get a hint of the same flavor, without the chile pepper fire, though, as sancocho is a coconut / lime based soup, yellow in color, possibly from saffron or Bijol (a cheaper coloring condiment popular in the Caribbean community). On the day I had sancocho de pescado, there was a very tasty piece of red snapper in it.

The place was very clean. Most everyone was speaking Spanish, including me, and I'm not sure how much English is spoken. However, the menu does a great job of offering an English translation.
I noted on the menu that La Sorpresa features a very large selection of tropical fruit juices, served either with a water base or a milk base. A Venezuelan friend advises that water based juices are called 'batidas' and milk based juices are called 'merengadas'.

There is a traditional Colombian dish called Plato Montanero, which is like a blue plate special, consisting of a small cut of beef topped with a fried egg, a cut of pork, rice, beans, fried banana, and avocado which you may wish to try. The portions are very large.


LA FONDA TIPICA RESTAURANTE

Region or Ethnicity: Colombian

Location: 6515 Bissonnet
272-6600
Hours: 11:00 A.M.-9:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Here is another really good Colombian restaurant featuring regional specialties of several different regions of Colombia.

The owners, Raul and Luz Helena feature a group of entrees such as : chuleta de cerdo ( crispy chicken fried style pork chop), sobrebarriega a la Criolla (which is similar to the Cuban ropa vieja, a kind of stew made with shredded meat as if you had shredded a pot roast, but probably a skirt steak cut of meat, simmered with tomatoes, onions, and spices), sobrebarriega a la parrilla ( a grilled thin cut of meat, probably skirt steak), various fish dishes, and a soup of the day menu.

Sancocho appears to be the Colombian word for a type of regional soup, a coconut and lime juice based broth. On the day I was there for lunch, for 5 dollars, I had a big plate of rice and beans and a sancocho de pescado, fish soup. The soup was thick, almost like coconut milk or rice flour, or onions, maybe all three, had been added. It was yellow, indicating that saffron may be in it, included a potato, a starchy vegetable which I believe is called yuca, and a piece of freshly cooked fish. Lime was brought to the table, and, upon squeezing half a lime into the soup, the flavors came alive. I really enjoyed this soup and would definitely have it again.

To drink, I had a Guanabana shake, and it was also wonderful.

The restaurant has a big selection of snacks.

I learned a little about the Colombian bunuelo. Not to be confused with the Mexican bunuelo, which is a crispy, deep fried, pancake type affair, the Colombians blend cheese (tastes like cream cheese to me), milk, flour, sugar, roll into a tennis ball sized croquette and deep fry until lightly browned. It is very tasty.

Also recommended are the empanadas, meat pies stuffed with potatoes, ground beef, onions, etc.

I noticed something called 'mordilla' on the take out menu, and I think this is a blood sausage.
This place is well worth trying. 

Note: their kids are completely bilingual, born and raise here. I was speaking Spanish with the owners and I'm not sure if they speak English.

Note: I learned that the people of Medellin's favorite traditional soup is sancocho de gallina, chicken head soup.


NEW MY CANH

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 2109 Walker
227-8238
Hours: Unknown 

Brief Description: This is another of my favorite places for Dim Sum, discovered through Dorothy Huang's Chinatown Tour which is offered by Leisure Learning and well worth signing up for. 

The New My Canh has a buffet bar in the back, and a menu to order from, but I suspect you'll want to try this place out on a Saturday or Sunday morning for Dim Sum ( Tiem Xam). The prices for the individual orders range from $1.50 to $2.50, and there are going to be up to 40 choices for you, either from the Dim Sum menu, or, selections from the carts which will roll by. 

If you stick to shrimp based dishes, the price for your meal can get up there. However, on a recent visit, seven of us had a substantial amount of dim sum and the bill came to $33.00.

Although the owner is Chinese, these days all of the staff is Vietnamese. They are very helpful and most are bilingual.

This is a great place to have coffee. Order the Vietnamese drip coffee straight, or with milk. The milk/coffee is typically iced, and I would recommend you get the glass of ice on the side. They use the Cafe du Monde brand from New Orleans, and it is really good.

The best things to try here are actually the fried things, and be sure to try some fried taro. Another one to try is this round sesame coated ball of sweet chewing gum consistency dough. It's tastier than it sound. I also like the big flat noodles with slices of beef.

I think you'll like this place.

Note: while you're in the downtown Chinatown, take a stroll through the Hung Lee supermarket. This is a great supermarket for vegetables, fresh fish, and all sorts of crazy oriental foods. 


MAI'S

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Name: Mai's (or, Mai's Kitchen).

Location: 3403 Milam

Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: A really great Vietnamese restaurant with an extensive menu and a lot of choices. You'll find page after page of soup and noodle choices as well as main entrees and some pretty exotic sounding dishes. Prices are comparable to other Vietnamese restaurants, in the $3.00 to $4.00 range for appetizers and soups and $6.00 to $9.00 for entrees (one entree is good for two people).

One thing that really impressed me, a lot of Vietnamese dishes are served with a plate of lettuce, sprouts, cilantro, etc., was how fresh the produce was and what a large portion was provided. On the day that a friend and I went, we stuck with our typical Vietnamese lunch of Pho Tai ( an anise flavored beef broth with rice noodles and thin slices of beef) and Cha Gio (a pork and rice noodle stuffed rice paper, rolled like an egg roll basted with sugar syrup and deep fried until crispy). 

On another visit, at a time when I had to cut my fat and sweet intake drastically, I had an excellent grilled chicken breast on a bed of vermicelli (Banh) served with a huge portion of lettuce, sprouts, carrots, and cucumbers. This could have been a meal for two people. A more condensed, lower cost version would be the bowl of vermicelli (Bun) with grilled chicken

For the weight watcher, a plate of varied stir fried vegetables and tofu in a light, hoi-sin type sauce is excellent, as are the vegetarian spring rolls, and the hot sour chicken soup with vegetables.

This place gets a very good lunch crowd, which will give you a great opportunity to take a peek at what the Vietnamese-Americans are having, and asking for the same.

This is a terrific restaurant.


GOLDEN POND

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 7668 DeMoss (By Sharpstown Center)
774-6688
Hours: 11:00 A.M.-9:30 P.M.

Brief Description: Tucked away in a little strip center just behind the Montgomery Wards is the Golden Pond. Also in this same area (not tried) is a Mexican Taqueria, a Korean grocery store, several Latin American night clubs, and a Korean restaurant.

The Golden Pond has one of the most attractive take out menus, visually, with color photos of typical Cantonese dishes, and features an all you can eat buffet for $5.00 at lunch and $6.00 at night. I guess all Chinese restaurants are moving in the all you can eat buffet direction.

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to order off the menu. Regarding the buffet, it is your standard, generic buffet, like you'll find in dozens of other restaurants. Nothing really bad, but nothing really outstanding either.

If you're in the area, and hungry, you may wish to check this place out, but based on the food on the buffet, the Golden Pond is not worth a special trip.


PAVANI

Region or Ethnicity: Southern Indian

Location: 7320 Southwest Freeway #104 (Between Bellaire and Fondren...Take Bellaire Fondren exit from 59 and stay on the feeder).
272-8259
Hours: Unknown, but closed on Mondays.

Brief Description: The definitive southern Indian restaurant in Houston, by which all others should be measured. This place is terrific, whether you're ordering off the menu, or sampling from the extensive buffet ($6.00 week days, $8.00 weekends).
Menu dishes are kind of pricey , but I suspect the portions are large and the food is first rate, based on everything I've tried. With the a la carte curries, you will get one choice of rice pilaf, plain rice, two parathas, or three puris. For $2.00 more, you can turn the a la carte into a thali which will get you a dal, sambar, rasam, raita, 2 puris, rice pilaf, pappadum, and gulab jamun for dessert.

Let me tell you about the great buffet. First, even though not advertised, you can order masala dosas for no extra charge when you get the buffet. They will bring them out, piping hot for you. You'll also see idli and methi vada on the buffet, the first being a steamed rice cake, the second being a crispy donut shaped, fried rice cake. There are several phenomenal hot sauces to compliment these snacks. 

There are raita, lassi, salads, onion lemon rice, plan rice, a biriani rice with goat meat ( hey, goat meat tastes good...try it), tandoori chicken, onion pakora, several wonderful vegetable curries, a dal dish, chicken curry, and more.


ANDY'S HOME CAFE

Region or Ethnicity: Tex-Mex

Location: 1115 East 11th Street ( in the Heights)
861-9423

Hours: 24 Hours

Brief Description: Andy's has been around forever. Always an extremely popular hang out for Hispanics, musicians, and Heights people, it is open 24 hours a day.

Andy's is famous for its cheese enchiladas which come covered in yellow cheese and a chili gravy, but also features Tex-Mex plates with rice and beans, caldos and menudos, burritos with carne guisada, etc. Prices are in the $5.00 to $6.00 range.

I recently made a trip back here, after years of avoiding the place due to a perception on my part of its cleanliness. It's a little bit cleaner these days. 

This is your basic Tex-Mex, and pretty average, in my opinion. Food is a little on the mild side as well. However, it is always full, so most people must like it, even though I can't get excited about anything they serve. 


FIESTA LOMA LINDA

Region or Ethnicity: Mexican (Tex-Mex)

Location: 2111 Telephone Road ( From downtown going toward Galveston, exit 45 south and go left on Telephone)
924-6074

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: For many years, the Loma Linda chain of Mexican restaurants were a Houston institution. The chain closed down in the early 80's around the time of the infamous 'oil bust'.. However, one family, personal friends of the original owner, have preserved the tradition at their Fiesta Loma Linda on Telephone road. For anyone who craves the Tex-Mex of their youth, this is a good place to go.

All of the standard Tex-Mex dishes are here, and the prices range from $5.00 to $7.00. I've tried the chicken mole and the stuffed peppers and they are pretty good.

The rice and beans are good as well.

One of the nice things that Loma Linda does, is continue the tradition of puffy taco shells for their tacos and chile con queso. As you walk in to the restaurant, you'll see them being made behind a glassed in area of the kitchen.

If you leave your name and address, you'll be able to come in on your birthday for a free dinner, when you bring 3 guests.


TAQUERIA TENAMPA

Region or Ethnicity: Mexican and Tex-Mex

Location: 7038 Bissonnet
772-3232

Hours: 10:00 to 10:00

Brief Description: This would be an excellent restaurant to visit for anyone who is relatively new to Mexican food, taqueria style. One of the best bargains in Houston.

The owners are trying hard to establish a clientele by offering large portions of food for not very much money.

The menu is in English with excellent descriptions of everything which is offered. Prices are very reasonable in the $3.00 to $5.00 range, and there is a daily lunch menu which includes a very tasty bean soup and iced tea. 

Noting other diners, I was very impressed by the large bowls of beef and vegetable soup.

Having said this, I must admit that what I ordered, the home made tamales, were not very good. The dough was too sweet and kind of doughy.

On another visit, I had one gordita and one tostada for less than $3.50. A bowl of bean soup was included at no charge. What a bargain!

Several people with me had the beef fajitas, also a great deal. The fajitas were cut from round steak rather than skirt steak and were thicker and more tender than what is normally served at a taqueria.


THAI SPICE

Region or Ethnicity: Thai

Location: 5117 Kelvin
522-5100

Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: One of the newer Thai restaurants in town, and one which a lot of people are speaking very highly of. Many of the menu items are just on the outer edge of our price range, entrees run from $8.00 to $10.00 with some seafood dishes a little higher. There is, however, a lunch menu in the $6.00 price range.

The food here is good, although the chef seems to like his dishes sweeter than one might expect , and the atmosphere is very nice. They've built this restaurant out of an old bank or office building. One of the nice things about the menu is that everything is described very well.

The Pad Thai (noodles stir fried with vegetables and either meat or tofu) is a winner ($8.00) and the Green Curry ( $9.00) is good. The Siamese style whole fish ( $13.00) is okay, problem being that the chili sauce served to accompany it is very oily. I still prefer the crispy fish at Kanomwan on Telephone Road. Our friends tried the Tom Kha Gai and found it okay but not remarkable.

Update: Thai Spice has recently instituted an all-you-can-eat Sunday Brunch from 12:00 to 3:00. Price for the buffet is $10.00. I tried the buffet in May, and have mixed opinions about it. First, there is a lot of variety, here, an opportunity for one to try several new dishes. Outside on the patio, they are grilling chicken and beef skewers for sate. Inside, one table is devoted to lettuce and tomato salad with peanut sauce dressing, watermelon and orange slices, and a sweet, sticky rice dish with raisins. Appetizers include crispy spring rolls, soft rice paper spring rolls, crisped rice squares, a type of soft round dumpling flavored with either onions or corn. Two soups are featured, a kind of chicken/rice soup and a tom yam. Entrees include several red curries, stir fried vegetables, fried catfish, squid, etc.

I recommend you try this place to see what you think. I, personally, couldn't get excited about any of the dishes, seemed like something was missing, some spices or whatever. Maybe they've tried to tone down the food for American palates, I don't know. I guess I'm just a bigger fan of the way the chef at the Kanomwan cooks.


SHIVA

Region or Ethnicity: India

Location: 2514 Times (in the Village)
523-4753

Hours: Unknown

Brief Description: One of two Indian restaurants inside the loop, and one which a lot of people speak very highly of. Many of the menu items are just on the outer edge of our price range, entrees run from $8.00 to $10.00 with some seafood dishes a little higher. There is, however, a lunch menu in the $6.00 price range, and on Sundays, there is an all you can eat buffet, beginning at 11:30, for $8.00.

The food here is good, and this restaurant has won a lot of 'Best Of' awards over the years. I've known Ricki Oberoi, the owner, since the days when his family was operating Natraj in the Highland Village shopping center, and it's great to see that Shiva has gained such a following. Personally, I like the food, here, even though ordering off the menu puts one in a price range higher than the places around Hillcroft.

Update: A lunch buffet recently was an absolute disaster. The pakoras were greasy and over fried, the salt in the curries was overwhelming, the chicken was dry; I guess the chef was having a pretty off day.


NEW PEKING

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 5616 Bellaire Boulevard
662-0662 or 664-3009

Hours: 11:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.
7 days a week

Brief Description: A standard, Chinese restaurant, similar to so many others, featuring a lunch buffet for $4.25 and a dinner buffet for $4.99 as well as menu selections in the $7.00 to $8.00 price range. 

The food wasn't bad, but there was nothing outstanding that would warrant a special trip to this restaurant.


MARU GROCERY

Region or Ethnicity: Ethiopian

Location: 6065 Bissonnet
665-6608

Hours: Open for Lunch 

Brief Description: Maru has opened at the location of Awash, which was the definitive Ethiopian restaurant in Houston by which all others (were there any others!) can be measured. Awash appears to have gone out of business or changed owners. In its place is an African grocery store called Maru. 

This delightful place is part cafe, part grocery store. For example, you can check out an extensive variety of spices, freshly made injera, and coffee from 4 different regions of Ethiopia in the grocery store portion.

Each day, Maru features two dishes, priced at a very reasonable $5.00 which includes a vegetable, a meat dish and injera. You will want to finish off the meal with a cup of excellent Ethiopian coffee. Definitely worth checking out this place, the people are super friendly!

For those who have never tried Ethiopian food, you're gonna have fun here. You get to eat with your fingers.

This is a very spicy, chili laden cuisine. Similar to Indian curries in many respects. A flat piece of crepe like bread, called injera, made from a type of millet flour called teff , is laid out on your plate. Portions of various dishes are served atop, and a plate of injera, folded into triangles, for the table accompanies the meal. The injera is torn off into smaller pieces which are then used to scoop up the food.


PANDA GARDEN

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 5534 Weslayan
667-0880
(Fax) 667-9090

Hours: Lunch 11:00-4:00
Dinner 4:00-10:00
Opens at 11:30 on the weekend

Brief Description: This is a really excellent restaurant , with clean modern seating arrangements and a very attractive atmosphere. Although the prices at the Panda Garden are outside of our range, I felt it to be worth including as there is good value for your money here.

The luncheon menu price range is $5.00 to $7.00 and includes an entree, steamed or fried rice, hot and sour or corn soup, and a crispy spring roll. There are over 25 selections on the lunch menu, for example, asparagus with mushrooms, sauteed mixed vegetables, sesame chicken, kung pao chicken, chicken with cashew nuts, beef with broccoli, beef with fresh hot peppers, rainbow shrimp, pork with garlic sauce, and on and on. Many of the same dishes, and more are available a la carte or for dinner. Dinner a la carte entrees begin at $6.50 and go up to $12.00.

Another nice feature of Panda Garden is that a dinner menu is also available with soup, spring roll, and rice for a couple of dollars more. On the dinner menu, there are several additional gourmet entrees such as prawns and scallops Hunan style ($12.00), smoked salmon with garlic sauce ($15.00), sliced duck with young ginger sauce or with Beijing sauce ($11.00).

In the vegetarian column, Panda Garden offers home style eggplant ($6.50), vegetable with garlic sauce ($6.50), sauteed spicy green beans ($6.50), and bean curd Szechwan style ($6.50).

Update: On a recent lunch, we tried the mixed vegetables and the chicken in garlic sauce. Both were excellent. The hot and sour soup was too salty, however, and went untouched.


PUEBLO CANTINA

Region or Ethnicity: Mexican

Location: 2512 Times Boulevard ( in the Village)
524-8684


Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.

Brief Description: A friend and I tried this place for lunch, and thanks to a 2 for 1 coupon, we were able to try the grilled snapper with jalapenos, cilantro, and lime and the broiled snapper Pueblo with tomatoes, capers, jalapenos, and cilantro. These were two of the pricier entrees, clocking in at around $11.00 each. The fish filets were tender, and the flavorings were excellent. Served with a side of unspectacular black beans and rice, $11.00 seemed kind of pricey. There should have been a salad at least.

The hot sauce was very good, although the chips were overly greasy

Pueblo Cantina has a Saturday and Sunday brunch featuring such dishes (in the $6.00 price range) as huevos rancheros, spinach mushroom fritatta, chilaquiles, etc. which are served with potatoes and beans.

Happy hour is from 4-7 daily. Margaritas are $1.50 on Mondays.

Of the Tex-Mex entrees, there is a daily group of lunch specials in the $5.00 to $6.00 price range, featuring various combos of tacos, enchiladas, etc. Dinner prices for Tex-Mex are in the $6.00 price range. with fajitas or chicken entrees in the $10.00 price range.

Desserts include Kahlua custard, Cinnamon sopapillas, and Key Lime pie.


WONDERFUL VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 7549 Westheimer at Hillcroft
977-3137

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.

Brief Description: A specifically vegetarian Chinese restaurant, one of two in Houston which I know of, featuring a lunch and dinner buffet ($4.00 and $5.00 respectively) as well as an extensive menu of dishes.

The luncheon buffet consisted of several batter fried dishes, sweet potatoes, vegetable balls, a vegetarian lo mein, some stir fried vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, etc. salads, spring rolls, tofu dishes.....quite a large variety, actually.

Flavor-wise, nothing really was outstanding. Several dishes were greasy, others were salty or sour tasting, or over cooked....possibly due to the self destructive nature of a steam table buffet, food just can't be at its best.

Reading the menu listing, my appetite is whetted and I look forward to having an opportunity to go back and order from the menu. This restaurant specializes in using soybean or wheat gluten to create dishes with the same texture as pork, chicken, or beef. Prices range from $6.00 to $7.00 per entree.

Here is a partial list of some of the specialties listed:

Vegetarian steak
Hot and spicy vegetarian fish rolls
Sweet and sour delight
Finger flavored vegetarian chicken
Vegetarian duck in curry sauce
Vegetarian chicken in black bean sauce
Barbecued vegetarian beef with orange peel
Sauteed eggplant in special sauce
Sesame vegetarian chicken
Sauteed soybean gluten and peanuts in hot pepper sauce
Sauteed fried tofu and vegetables in spicy hot sauce


OTILIA'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 7710 Long Point near Wirt Road ( You can cut over from I-10 on Wirt, by the Ikea, and turn right on Long Point)

Telephone: 681-7203

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.

Brief Description: This place is a winner. Of all the restaurants I have had the pleasure of trying here in Houston, Otilia's is one of those which I truly love and always recommend as one of the "must try" restaurants in our city. Here is a family, the husband was an engineer, who bought an old Whataburger on Long Point and started up a little restaurant from scratch, serving exquisite Mexican food from Oaxaca and Veracruz, based on the family recipes of his wife, Otilia. Everything is good here, but you will want to try the Chiles Rellenos which are done better here than anywhere else in Houston.

Also on the menu and highly recommended is an enchilada dish called 'Tacos Potosinos', enchiladas done in the style of Guanajuato or San Luis Potosi, which carrots and potatoes

Friday nights, there is usually a special, and if you're lucky, it will be the super picante shrimps in chipotle sauce. Also featured now on the weekends are several special mole dishes.

You can also get Pozole, served Mexico City style, here.

Update 1997. Well, the food here continues to be fantastic. A group of us went here one Saturday night in August. I had a perfect chile relleno stuffed with ground beef and melted cheese. Others in our party had chile en nogada, also delicious, cecina Huastecana, which is a thin strip of steak served with rice and beans. Otilia's now offers several choices of beans, black refried, standard pinto refried beans , and beans a la charra. 

For dessert, the house specialty, pastel de cuatro leches, 4 milk cake, which everyone swore was the best they had ever had.


LUCKY VILLAGE

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 7964 Westheimer
780-4387

5901 Westheimer
783-8218 


Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.
7 days a week

Brief Description: This place is a winner. Specializing in all you can eat buffet style Chinese food, this is one of the best which we have found in Houston. Big variety, everything tasting fresh , and reasonably priced. Lots of choices for dessert as well which is unusual for a Chinese restaurant. 

We haven't tried the location at 5901 Westheimer.


TIA MARIA'S

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico (Tex-Mex)

Location: 4618 Dacoma
680-0825

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.

Brief Description: Within a quarter mile of each other, there are several Mexican restaurants tucked into a little area where Highway 290 meets 610. Lola's, Little Mexico, and Tia Maria's. So far, Tia Maria's is the only one tried and from all accounts, this is classic Tex-Mex. The $8.00 Deluxe dinner is huge, consisting of a sort of chile relleno ( stuffed pepper but without the egg batter), two enchiladas, rice, beans, taco, chile con queso, and guacamole. The enchiladas and chile relleno come with that brown chile gravy so common in Tex-Mex and Northern Mexican food and the food is real salty here. Service was good enough.


LIDO

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Location: 3201 Travis
523-9295


Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This place is a real winner, one of the best places we have tried. You'll need to order off the menu at lunch, as the lunch buffet is okay but nothing spectacular. But, when you order from the menu, you will be assured of top quality, freshly prepared food, some of the best you can eat. The son of the owners, who has taken responsibility for operating the restaurant is a great person to chat with about food, roller skating, 50's lounge music, art, Houston, or Harley Davidsons. Get to know this guy, he's great.

When in doubt, order from the House Specialties section of the menu.

We've tried the following, all of which are terrific and each serving is large enough to serve two: Vietnamese Lemon and Garlic Steak ($7.00), Vietnamese Lemon and Garlic Chicken ($7.00), Lemon Pepper Chicken ($7.00), Vegetables with Vermicelli ($3.50).

Update: The fish in sweet and sour sauce ( fried flounder the night we tried it) is absolutely excellent.

Update: There is a dish which is very traditional, served for lunch or dinner in Vietnam. Lido lists it a peppery fish hot pot. Catfish is simmered in a thick caramel fish broth, and it is truly delicious. Note: I am not a big fan of catfish, but catfish turns out to be a great fish for simmered stocks as it absorbs flavors marvelously. Be sure to remove the catfish skin, which tends to be slimy, and I think you'll really enjoy this. The restaurant also serves a very respectable Pho Tai and a hot and sour shrimp soup ( one of my favorites).

Update 1999: Restaurant has closed but may re-open at a new location.


TAQUERIA TEPATITLAN

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 10 Locations around town
4721 North Main (The original location)
9219 Jensen
2124 North Main
1623 Spencer Highway
5708 Chimney Rock
5545 Southwest Freeway

Hours: 8:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.

Brief Description: This group of taqueria's serves up standard, generic, Northern Mexican fare. Nothing to get excited over. They do, however, offer a daily plate lunch for around $6.00, featuring a meat of the day (carne asada, bistec a la Mexicana, carne adobado, etc.), rice, beans, tortillas, and guacamole. 

Tacos are in the $1.25 price range.


IMPERIAL PALACE CHINESE CUISINE

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 9160 Bellaire Boulevard
773-3838

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.
Until 11:00 on Friday and Saturday

Brief Description: This is one of the great Houston restaurants, a truly gourmet restaurant, owned and operated by chefs from several regions of China. There are some expensive dishes on the menu, but the portions are huge. Can be shared by two people, and, the lunch menu while small offers one of the great bargains in quality and quantity for not very much money (example, the Shrimp Chow Mein on the lunch menu gets you soup, two large scoops of perfect, golden not brown, fried rice, six shrimp freshly cooked, vegetable, and egg roll... there is no better in Houston and the cost is less than $5.00).

You will be amazed at the variety of dishes available here, and I recommend you just look around at what is on the other tables, to make your decision on what to order.

This is also a premiere Dim Sum restaurant. During the week days, you order from a menu. On the week ends, the carts come around.

Update: This restaurant was the location of a shooting in late December, 1996. A member of wedding party who was asked to leave, returned with a gun and hurt two off duty policemen acting as security guards at the restaurant. The week following this tragic incident, we had lunch here and the food was not up to the usual standard. We hope that this was a short term problem and that this restaurant will not suffer in the long run.

Update August, 1997. I don't know what has happened to this place. As you can see by my above review, this used to be one of my favorite places. But, based on a recent luncheon here, I cannot recommend this place anymore, at least for their fixed price luncheon specials. Four of us ordered very different dishes from the lunch menu, yet they all came in this very bland uninteresting sauce. However, I hope to go here on a Saturday morning for Dim Sum, which I hope is still great, and will let you know.


RUCHI'S TAQUERIA EL RINCON DE MEXICO

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 4 Locations around town

3766 S. Gessner at Westpark
3202 SW Loop and Main
5201 Richmond Avenue at Sage
2651 Richmond Avenue at Kirby

Hours: Open 24 Hours

Brief Description: This group of taquerias serves up standard, generic, Mexican food. The location I tried was the Richmond at Kirby location, right across the street from Pappasito's and Ninfa's. Prices are very reasonable and the menu features grilled dishes, seafood, tacos, burritos, and more. I had a Milanesa torta for $3.50 which was pretty good.


MADRAS PAVILION

Region or Ethnicity: India

Location: 3910 Kirby, #130 
521-2617

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.

Brief Description: A terrific new restaurant, featuring vegetarian dishes from southern India, with an excellent $7.00 buffet for lunch. One of the nicer, newer Indian restaurants in town and well worth a try. Masala dosa is included with the lunch buffet.

I've noticed that they try to vary the lunch menu on a regular basis.

The menu lists 12 dosas, ranging in price from $4.00 to $6.00, and 5 types of uthappam in the $5.00 price range.

Update: Lunch consisted of idli, methi vada, some mild vegetable curries with basmati rice , a masala dosa on the side. Everything cooked with minimum oil and salt. Really tasty and light. Thoroughly enjoyable lunch.

Update 1999: This place continues to amaze and delight. Still, one of the best if not the best Indian restaurants in town. If you can call ahead one day, you can make a special request for the stuffed baby eggplants. It's not on the menu, but the chef may do them for a special party or get together.


KANOMWAN

Region or Ethnicity: Thailand

Location: 719 Telephone Road 
923-4320

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Closed on Sundays

Brief Description: What can I say about this terrific restaurant, long one of our favorites in Houston, about the cranky owner/waiter, and the divine crispy red snapper in a sweet and spicy sauce? 

Everything here is good, the red curry and tom khai gai are as good as any I have had in Thailand.

No alcohol is served, so bring your wine or beer with you.

Get a group of people together and cruise on over to Telephone road to the Kanomwan ( it means sweets or dessert in Thai). 

Start off with the soup and crispy spring rolls, order a fish for the table, and a red chicken curry, a couple of other dishes to your liking.

Update March 1997: On a recent trip, the Tom Kha Gai was very salty. Still this is one of the best restaurants in Houston.


EL PARAISO

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 2320 Crocker at Fairview 
524-0309

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Brief Description: An extremely popular little restaurant in Montrose. Great juke box, attentive help, friendly fast service, and piping hot dishes. No regional food that I can tell from the menu, just basic Tex-Mex. I had a combination plate, rice, beans, enchiladas, tacos, tamal, and chile con queso. The meal was around $5.00. It was tasty and not too salty. I'll try this place again.

Update May, 1997: A group of us met here for a Sunday breakfast. I, however, opted for tamales, and they were excellent. They were thick and very nicely seasoned with chili peppers.

This is becoming one of our favorite places to eat real Tex-Mex.


SUPRABHATH

Region or Ethnicity: India

Location: 5600 Hillcroft
266-6684

Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.
7 Days 

Brief Description: A very intriguing Southern Indian, vegetarian restaurant, with very tasty food and a wide selection of vegetarian dishes. I had the "Spicy Mysore Dosa" which set my mouth on fire due to the abundance of chili powder. 

Definitely worth a visit, and, here is something that sets this restaurant apart from others. I quote from their brochure:

" Godsend for a busy lifestyle.....are you tired of cooking a meal or going out to dinner after a hectic day of work?

Super Carry Out Special.

One week worth of food, $15.00 for two person, $25.00 for four persons includes 3 varieties of sambar, 3 varieties of rasam, 5 varieties of curries, one chutney, $1.00 off if you bring your own containers"

What a deal!


GORDITAS AGUASCALIENTES

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 6102 Bissonnet, at Rampart ( Near Cafe Miami)
541-4560
Second location on Irvington near Patton

Hours: Unknown
7 Days 

Brief Description: Mexican Street Food? What a terrific discovery! This place specializes in all of the typical food and snacks that one sees the street vendors making in all parts of Mexico, food that looks delicious but is seldom tried in Mexico over concern for hygiene.

Well, wait no longer. Here you can sample sopes, gorditas, huaraches, quesadillas, and more. Most of these are a variation on a thick, shaped piece of corn masa, grilled of deep fried, and then stuffed with beans, chorizo, cheeses, chile peppers, or potatoes. In a town of numerous Mexican restaurants, this is the most Mexican, and is highly recommended.

Prices are very low, most snacks cost $1.75, and an order of three is more than enough food. Huaraches, one of which fills up a plate and is a meal, are about $4.00 each.

Also featured are aguas frescas ( Mexican slang tidbit, "echandole las cuatro aguas" is to criticize someone severely) of lemonade, melon, watermelon, tamarind, and probably the best I've tasted in Houston.


LONCHERIA LUPITA

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: 7710 Bellaire Boulevard at Fondren by Sharpstown Center
777-8889


Hours: 10:00- Unknown
7 Days 

Brief Description: This place is absolutely terrific and deserves your visit just as soon as possible.

Loncheria Lupita is spotlessly clean and the food is excellent.

I discovered this place through an advertisement in one of the local Spanish language newspapers. The ad said ( translated): "Authentic Huastecan dishes which you will find only at .....Loncheria Lupita." 

Huasteca. This is the region that hugs the eastern Mexican coastline south of Monterrey through Tampico, Ciudad Valles, Ciudad Victoria, and San Luis Potosi. 27 years ago, during my college days, I used to explore this area in my old Gremlin, en route to Mexico City and other areas south. I'd pass time over Christmas break in Ciudad Valles and Ciudad Victoria. On one trip around Easter, I attended a birthday party in Ciudad Valles at which a dish called Zacahuil was served. This terrific dish was like a large tamal, spicy meat covered in masa, perhaps 2-3 feet long by 1 foot wide, wrapped in layers of banana leaves, and buried on top of hot coals on the ground. It tasted fantastic, incredibly spicy and succulent. For years afterward, I tried to find a recipe in a cook book, without success. Then on a recent visit to El Tajin, the ruins of which are in the Totonac/Huastec region north of Jalapa and south of Tampico, I learned that the market vendors sold zacahuil on Sundays. I got up early, made my way to the central mercado for my first taste of zacahuil in about 25 years. Well, what I got was very greasy shredded pork with chunks of corn and masa, spicy and tasty, but certainly not the tamal I remembered from Ciudad Valles. 

Now, all of these years later, there is a Huastecan restaurant right here in Houston, which offers zacahuil and tamales on the weekend. I guess if one waits long enough, the world's regional dishes will show up at a restaurant in Houston. 

I have not had the opportunity to try their zacahuil yet, but I can sure tell you about the enchiladas Huastecas. For $6.50, I was brought a plate with 5 homemade masa tortillas folded over an exquisite red sauce and cheese, french fries, frijoles refritos, lettuce and tomato salad, two strips of avocado, and a slice of that thin grilled steak that the Mexicans call cecina. It was excellent, more than I could eat, actually. So, I doggie bagged my meal, and ended up eating the rest on the way back to my office as it was really tasty.

There are four or five enchilada dishes to choose from, and some stews, fish, shrimp, etc. I suspect everything here will be very tasty, and I'm looking forward to getting over here on a week end to try the zacahuil.

Update June 1997: Well, I finally tried the zacahuil and it was terrific. Imagine if you will a baked tamale masa dough colored red from the addition of chile peppers, then broken up into chunks to which are added succulent tender pieces of roast pork.

I met the owner / cook, a delightful young woman from the region south of Ciudad Valles around the town of Xilitla. She is married to a Chinese man whom she met while working at one of the Dynasty Chinese restaurants in town and they have two children with a third on the way. The Loncheria Lupita is her project. 

Update 1999: This place has unfortunately closed.


EL REY

Region or Ethnicity: Mexico

Location: Washington Avenue at Shepherd
802-9145


Hours: 6:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.
7 Days 

Brief Description: This place offers tacos for 99 cents each and po-boy type sandwiches for around $3.00. Portions are large and most of the offerings feature roasted chicken. There is a rotisserie on site and you can also pick up whole roasted chickens to go. 

I tried an Acapulco sandwich which is chicken, cheese, chipotle pepper sauce, and several tacos with different seasonings. The food was marred by the fact that there were bits of chicken bone in the filling. I didn't enjoy my meal here very much.

The place was clean, and I especially liked the counter stools which gave the place a feel of a 1950's hamburger joint. 


BLUE NILE

Region or Ethnicity: Ethiopia

Location: 9400 Richmond 
782-6882



Hours: 11:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. Sunday through Thursday 
11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. Friday and Saturday 

Brief Description: This place is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. The food had a fresh, clean taste to it. Spicy, but not heavy handed ( Note: I don't know what it is, but I do get heart burn whenever I eat Ethiopian food, regardless of the restaurant. If you have a sensitive tummy, you might want to pop an antacid before you tackle Ethiopian food.)

The day which I went for lunch, the extremely friendly waitress offered me coffee and extra portions of several lentil dishes at no charge. I felt so good after I finished my meal here. 

I recommend the vegetarian platter ( $6.50) which comes with a salad, five vegetable dishes, and injera. But, really, anything here is good.

They have live music on Fridays and Saturdays ( sometimes) and when they do, the music will start about 10:00 and really get hopping around 11:00. One Saturday we went around 7:00 and had the place all to ourselves. 


TIMMY CHAN RESTAURANT #6

Region or Ethnicity: Chinese

Location: 5210 Bissonnet (Only location tried)
666-3388

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.
7 Days 

Brief Description: If I were to shortlist the top five lowest price, best value restaurants in Houston, this location would be on that list. Dollar for dollar you'll get bigger portions here than just about anywhere else.

This is essentially a take out or fast food operation. Originally called Timmy Chan's Chicken and Rice, they feature both Chinese food and fried chicken. Lots of people come here to order a big bucket of fried chicken.

For me, my favorite things to order are Cantonese, the small order of chicken chow mein or chicken chop suey, with white rice and fired biscuit. For less than $4.00 you get two scoops of rice, and enough entree for two meals.

You can also order various dishes by the pint or quart for take out, a very economical way to handle your next party food.

This is a messy restaurant, noisy as the television is tuned to soap operas during the lunch hour. This place gets absolutely wild around lunch time, with everyone in the somewhat disorganized kitchen going nuts trying to get the orders out. It's a heckuva lot of fun to watch. But, when they are really running behind, I place my order and then walk over to the Bert Wheeler liquor store and window shop for ports and sherries for about 15 minutes.

Timmy Chan's also has a drive through service.

Their sauce based spicy dishes such as Kung Pao, Sichuan, or Hunan style chicken are good as well, although this is by no means gourmet Chinese food. 

Update August 1999: The restaurant at this location has closed!


PHO BANG

Region or Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Location: 9300 Bellaire Boulevard
270-6681

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.
7 Days 

Brief Description: A Pho noodle soup restaurant, but also featuring entrees, Pho Bang appears to be either a franchise or part of a chain, as there are locations in several other cities around the U.S. listed on their menu.

Food wise......well.......I've had better. I had a Hue style noodle soup, the broth of which is almost barbecue sauce-like.

My dining partner had a stir fried chicken dish over crushed rice. It wasn't very good. It might be best to stick with the soups.

Prices were comparable to elsewhere, around $4.00 for soups, and $5.00 for entrees.