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    How to Eat Like a Local in Houston

    Food Tour in Houston TexasI may live in Maine now, but Houston is where I was born and raised...well, I was born there, moved around the globe a lot, then settled back when I was in middle school and I am in love with the food and people of this town. Houston is a city on the move, extremely diverse (most ethnically and racially diverse city in US) and huge (4th largest in the US and growing). Unfortunately I was not able to include all of my favorite spots…seriously, go to Bellaire Blvd and follow your nose. You won’t be disappointed. Houston is a city where it does not matter where you are from or what you look like, all that matters is that you are there for your neighbor and enjoy good food and drink. So hop into your Houston rental car from Auto Europe and hit the streets. You are going to need that car, like I said Houston is massive.

    Part One: Breakfast in Houston

    Most Houstonians eat their breakfast on the go, or not at all. Yes, some people have the ability to go to a nice sit down place and enjoy eggs Benedict with a mimosa, but the vast majority do not. Houston is a large city on the go and the type of popular breakfasts show this. However, you are here as a visitor, so I am going to suggest some places that are good for sitting back and relaxing, while also suggesting places for when you have places to go and people to see. No matter what you plans may entail, your Auto Europe rental car will enable you to eat where you please.

    Juanitas Mexican Restaurant

    How to Find Juanitas Mexican Restaurant Directions

    Juanitas was a staple of ours when we lived in Houston. Friday night margaritas were a must here, but if I am going to be honest, while their lunch and dinner is great (their cochinita pibil enchiladas are amazing), their El Mañero breakfast is a must. Two sunny side-up eggs, a shredded chicken enchilada, jack cheese, crispy bacon and refried beans? Yes, please and thank you!

    Shipley Donuts

    How to Find Shipley Donuts Directions

    I have fond memories of waking up early for swim meets growing up. Well, not the early rising, but the breakfast along the way. If we didn’t have time to eat at home (which was usually my fault…I am not known for being an early riser) my parents would take us kids to Shipley Donuts, which can be found all throughout Houston and the surrounding areas. Their donuts are light and airy with not too much sweetness. Their jalapeño, cheese and sausage kolache on the other hand are to die for and a Texas tradition. Think of it as a Texas take on a Czech original that resembles a sausage roll. Do yourself a favor and get a dozen donut holes, Kolache and a coffee or chocolate milk. It’s the breakfast of champions.

    House of Pies

    How to Find House of Pies Directions

    A Houston institution that dates back to 1965 and open 24 hours a day, the House of Pies is a favorite of those looking to soak up the evening’s frivolities before turning in, as well as those needing to kick-start their morning. The chicken fried steak and eggs are a must when visiting this establishment. What is chicken fried steak you ask…delicious, chicken fried steak is delicious, so don’t miss it. Be sure to get a slice of one of their pies (if you can manage after such a hearty meal), I am a fan of the Key Lime and Texas Pecan pies.


    Part Two: Lunch in Houston

    It is now lunch time. So, you hop into your Auto Europe Houston rental car and look for something quick or on the go, I mean you have sights, family and friends to see right? Below are some of my favorite lunch spots. I will admit that two of them are in the Cypress area, which is between Houston and the Woodlands, but hey the places are good and staples of the community so I think you will enjoy them too.

    Captain Tom's Seafood and Oyster Bar

    How to Find captain Tom's Seafood and Oyster Bar Directions

    Captain Tom’s is an old favorite of my family. This is some of the best Gulf seafood for absurdly little money. I have been going to Captain Tom’s since I was around 5 years old with my father and grandfather. The Gumbo is the best I have had, including from New Orleans (my mother’s side of the family is from New Orleans). This eatery is what I consider to be one of the great cross sections of American life. You will find the sharply dressed businessman sitting right next to the lawn care workers and domestics. Everyone goes here, why? It is cheap, quick and good. I usually go for a bowl of gumbo, 1 dozen oysters, fried crab stuffed jalapeños and a michelada or two. Something to keep in mind, the seating is first come first serve bar style and for those counting calories may not be a fan, as the deep fryer is their main vehicle for cooking. Did I mention the place is essentially a big shrimping boat dropped on the side of the road? Because that is exactly what it is. Oh, and you they don't have traditional waiters, simply walk up to the bar and the nearest employee will take your order.

    Zamani Grill

    How to Find Zamani Grill Directions

    So before settling down in Houston during middle school my family moved around a lot, due to my dad being in the Oil industry (I would later work in the same industry for a few years myself) and the majority of the time my family lived in the Middle East. Needless to say my family loves Middle Eastern cuisine. Shawarma is a household favorite and for us Zamani Grill has the best shawarma in town. Attached to a small halal grocery store, the Zamani grill has some amazing food. It is a small casual eatery, but they pack so much flavor into their food and it shows. If you are a fan of Shawarma, hummus and other mezzas on the go, then please do yourself a favor and head to Zamani Grill. Also, for Vegetarians, they have a great mixed vegetarian platter that consists of Greek salad, Baba Ghaniugem Hummus, stuffed grape leaves, fattouch, tabuli and pita and of course their Falafel is great too.

    Crawfish & Noodles

    How to Find Crawfish and Noodles Directions

    Many people may not realize this, but Houston, like New Orleans has a large Vietnamese population, which has brought and in Crawfish & Noodles' case, infused the delicious flavors of Vietnam into a taste that is uniquely Houstonian. Crawfish (or crayfish for everyone not from the south) is a staple in Louisiana and South Eastern Texas. There are many transplants from each state that go back and forth, making Houston a true melting pot. And with that the Viet Cajun crawfish was born. Traditionally crawfish season starts in January, peaks in April and lasts until July. Many people throw crawfish boils for friends and family throughout the summer along with their BBQ. Crawfish & Noodles adds their spin by using a delicious spicy lemongrass broth/sauce that you will be dreaming about for years to come. Warning: eating crawfish is a messy affair. Don’t wear anything you might regret getting stained. This goes for all boiled crawfish. Houston truly is a melting pot of tastes, cultures and people and the Viet Cajun crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles is a perfect representation of the city.


    Part Three: Dinner in Houston

    Dinner is the one meal of the day that almost all Houstonians have a nice sit down, whether it is at a restaurant or the family kitchen table. Below you will find a few staples throughout Houston. So, hop into your Auto Europe Houston rental car and tuck into some of my favorite dinner spots in Houston.

    Pappasitos Cantina

    How to Find Pappasitos Cantina Directions

    The Pappas family has started some of Houston’s most beloved restaurants and dare I say Pappasito's is the most treasured of the lot. This is what I may call up scale Tex-Mex. Now don’t get me wrong, nothing quite beats your local hole in the wall Tex-Mex establishment, but there is something special at Pappasito's that I just have not found anywhere else. Their tortillas are made fresh daily, the food is fresh and amazing and the margaritas are some of the best out there. Now I have heard that in some regions of the US margaritas are considered a fruity drink for those who don’t like the taste of alcohol. Let me stop you right there. Margaritas are a treasure in Texas. Everyone, and I do mean everyone over the age of 21 drinks margaritas in Texas, so be sure to have one while in town, but I digress. Pappasito's may look like a tourist trap on the outside, especially with its many locations and flashy decor, but let me tell you this is a local favorite. People celebrate birthdays, quiñceaneras, wedding rehearsal dinners, graduations, or even that it is Friday here. Get the beef and chicken fajitas and charro beans with the traditional table side guacamole. Yes, you can get other versions of the fajitas, but I am partial to the traditional. Fajitas should be skirt steak and chicken. While Filet mignon is delicious, it does not belong on a fajita. Also, keep in mind that Tex-Mex restaurants do not charge for the chips and salsa brought to your table upon being seated and Pappasito's, like many others pride themselves on the quality of their salsa. Many a person has filled up on this prior to their meal coming out. If you can’t tell by the wall of text Pappasito's is a very special place for me, my friends and family alike. I can’t recommend it enough.

    Perry’s Steak House

    How to Find Perry's Steakhouse Directions

    Perry’s Steakhouse is one of Houston’s most famous restaurants and now has locations in Colorado, North Carolina, Illinois and Florida, but there is something to eating in the city that spawned the restaurant. My favorite is the pork chop. Seriously, this pork chop is a thing of beauty and even has ribs attached as well. For those looking to save a couple of dollars, check out their lunch menu, as the pork chop is $14.95 instead of dinner’s $39.95. My wife swears by the cherry pepper calamari, which of course means I steal a few bites while she isn’t looking. But seriously, get the pork chop. That and a couple of sides is more than enough for 2. Also, many of their specialty cocktails are amazing when paired with dinner, not to mention their extensive wine selection.

    Rainbow Lodge

    How to Find Rainbow Lodge Directions

    If you are a fan of wild game, good bourbon and amazing ambience then the Rainbow Lodge is for you. This is where my wife and I would spend our anniversary every year. Whether you are planning on sitting at the beautiful hand carved bar and order some “Bar Bites” or have a relaxing dinner at a table, I cannot say enough good things about the Rainbow Lodge. If I am sitting at the bar I will usually have a glass of bourbon, wild boar tacos and the smoked duck gumbo, but if I am in the mood for a full meal I am always drawn to the mixed grill. The Brunch is also a town favorite. Seriously, go to the Rainbow Lodge.


    Part Four: Breweries and Distilleries in Houston

    Houston traditionally has not been known as a beer and spirit town, well consuming it yes, but not so much producing it. That has changed drastically in the past few years. It seems that every week there is a new brewery or distillery opening and they all have their specialties. Below are a few of my favorites. I can assure you that no matter where you go you will sure to be in for a good time. Fair warning, Houstonians are a chatty bunch and love to hear about your life’s story, especially while enjoying the local libations.

    Bearded Fox Brewing Co.

    How to Find Bearded Fox Brewing Directions

    Great small, local brewery located in a parking lot full of warehouses in Cypress. Their beers are very much in line with the recent unfiltered microbrews of New England, Michigan and the rest of the country. I am a particular fan of their Aunt Rose Red Helles and Stone Cold Fox Stout. Their beers are available by the pint and both 64oz and 32oz growlers. Kids and dogs are very much welcome at the Bearded Fox Brewing tasting room as well. You will also be able to find a local food truck outside most days. This family run establishment is very much one of my favorite spots in the Houston area.

    Saint Arnold's Brewing Company

    How to Find Saint Arnold's Brewing Company Directions

    Visiting Texas’s oldest craft brewery is a great way to spend the day in Houston. Their Santo (a black Kolsch) and Fancy Lawnmower (German Kolsch) were mainstays in my fridge. Take a tour of the brewery, sample some of their delicious brews and toast to the friends you have made during your time in Houston. You will find many of Saint Arnold’s beers at any backyard BBQ or dinner party in Houston. It is a local favorite for a reason. Seriously though, try the Santo. It is delicious.

    Yellow Rose Distilling

    How to Find Bearded Fox Brewing Directions

    Proudly calling attention to being Houston’s first Legal whiskey distillery, Yellow Rose Distilling is quickly becoming a favorite with Bourbon lovers. Not only are they making popular bourbons and rye whiskey but are winning awards along the way. They have been honored as best in class for their Outlaw Bourbon at the American Distilling Institute and Double Gold at the San Francisco Artisan Spirits for their Straight Rye. So swing on by the tasting room, take a tour of the facilities and sample one of Texas’ up and comers.


    Part Five: Honorable Mentions

    These are places I like, but maybe they didn’t quite make the list. You will see that I don’t have any BBQ places in the main list, but I do in the Honorable Mentions. There are two reasons for this. 1: The Hill Country is where you are going to find the historically “best” BBQ in Texas (Lockhart was named the Texas BBQ capital by the Texas Legislature) and 2: I grew up where the best BBQ you can find is at your neighbors on a Saturday in the summer. That isn’t to say there isn’t great BBQ in Houston, because there most definitely is. So if you find yourself with enough time and want to hit these additional spots in your Houston rental car, then I highly recommend you do. One more thing, in Texas there is a difference between what we consider BBQ and Grilling. You would never invite someone over for BBQ and serve hamburgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken. That would be considered grilling, which definitely has its place. BBQ is large amounts of meat smoked low and slow for hours and like grilling, best enjoyed with the company of friends and family with plenty of beer and iced tea.

    Whataburger

    How to Find Whataburger in Houston Directions

    Yes there are those who prefer California’s In-N-Out Burger, but true Texans know the wholesome goodness that is Whataburger. Honestly, they are good all hours of the day. Their taquitos and honey butter chicken biscuits are amazing for breakfast (their biscuits and gravy aren’t too shabby either). The burgers and chicken strip baskets are great any time of the day too, not to mention the salty goodness that is their fries. Oh and did I mention the size of their fountain sodas? Let me put it plainly, their medium is the size of extra larges at most fast food establishments. My go tos are honey butter chicken biscuit any time after 10 PM and before 10 AM, chicken strip basket for lunch and an A1 thick and hearty burger with jalapeño for dinner. A note to the wise, don’t eat all 3 of these in the same day. Are they delicious? Absolutely, but like the old adage states “all things are good in moderation.”

    CorkScrew BBQ

    How to Find CorkScrew BBQ Directions

    CorkScrew BBQ started as a food truck and is now one of the best BBQ places in the state. I love BBQ, it is one of my joys in life. The only reason I am wary to put this in the main list is due to one reason. They run out, which honestly is a sign of good BBQ, as they only sell what they have and don’t sacrifice quality over the ability to make an extra buck, but I would hate to recommend a place to you and you not show up early. And you do need to get there early. If you don’t, well, better luck next time. If you do decide to wake up early and be in line then I suggest you get the brisket. You are in Texas and the king of Texas BBQ is brisket. Of course get other meats and sides too, but please be sure to get the brisket. We take pride in it down here.

    Rudy's BBQ

    How to Find Rudy's BBQ Directions

    Okay, Rudy’s BBQ are all over Texas. It is the closest you will get to “fast food” BBQ, but I can assure you there is nothing generic about it. Texas is known for the BBQ and I like to say that Rudy’s is proof of that. Not because it is the best, or the most award winning, but because they have multiple locations, smoke everything in house at the location and it is consistent across the board. I think I am explaining this wrong. Rudy’s is good BBQ for Texas, but what Texas just considers to be good is better than what most states claim to be great. Their jumbo smoked baked potato loaded with cheese, sour cream, butter and spicy chopped brisket is my go to. I love it. Every time I fly in to visit the parents I have to stop here. Many of them are also gas stations and convenient stores, which is nice. Grab yourself a Shiner Bock (another Texas staple) and some meat by the pound. I promise you won’t regret it.

    Roostar Vietnamese Grill

    How to Find Roostar Vietnamese Grill Directions

    Roostar Vietnamese Grill is another lunch favorite of mine. I used to frequent here when it was known as Vietnam Pablano during my lunch breaks, while working in the Oil Industry. They have hands down the best bahn mi that I have ever had. Everything is fresh and delicious. I still crave the snap of the fresh jalapeño and cilantro in that sandwich. They also have tofu and veggie options for any vegetarians in the group. Seriously, I would wait in lines out the door for this and I am so glad to see they are doing well. Now I am going to be sad for the rest of the day that I can’t have a bahn mi, but you can and you very much should. Be sure to add avocado for extra goodness. Oh yeah, Houstonians like to put avocado on everything, you should too.

    HEB

    How to Find HEB Directions

    Okay, HEB is not a restaurant, but a grocery store and in my opinion it is the best grocery store in existence. Just walk inside and see just how spoiled Texans are when it comes to their favorite grocery store. Their meat and produce selections are out of this world, their beer and wine selections are great and…I just think everyone should see it. Believe me you will be jealous. Just go. Seriously, go.

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