Monday, March 31, 2014

Westside (Sad) Story

"What do you feel like having for dinner?" my wife asks.

"I don't know, I don't feel like driving in to town." I reply.

The look of dejection on our faces says it all. My response has seriously limited our options for a good meal. Living in the Katy area has a number of perks; good schools, a plethora of grocery store options, retail places galore. The one thing Katy has a dearth of is great restaurants. It seems the Houston dining culture's evolution from a steakhouse heavy, franchise dominating landscape has yet to reach this little pocket on the westside of town. While a number of privately owned places have struggled to stay afloat, the franchises keep moving in. There are throngs of families waiting outside of Olive Garden and Chuy's on weekends, but an 8 PM reservation at Katy's sole highly acclaimed establishment, La Balance, is not hard to come by. Some use the excuse of Katy being a family oriented community, but that doesn't answer the entire question.

Do I expect a family of four to sit down and order a frilly French meal? Of course not. But how has the barbecue revolution not reached the westside of town (Brooks' Place is the closest and even that is on the fringe of the Katy/Cypress border)? Katy has a Rudy's BBQ and Spring Creek outpost across the freeway from each other, yet the only buzz generated from a privately owned joint came from a controversial picture hanging up in the lackluster place's restaurant. Why are there no good Italian places that one could bring the kiddos along for? And if you're looking for any cuisine that derives from Asia, forget it. Again, it's chain places or nothing. I tried one Indian place in Katy upon the recommendation of a Houston food writer. Let's just say I'd rather drive the 35 minutes to Hillcroft and Highway 59.

There are a few solid food options in Katy, the aforementioned La Balance being one. Marini's Empanada House on Mason Road makes delicious empanadas and has a wonderful craft beer selection, all for an affordable price. Alicia's Mexican Grille is a more budget-friendly, less hectic Tex-Mex option to Lupe Tortilla's, and the food is consistently solid despite them having several locations in and around Houston. I've also previously sung the praises of the Peruvian inspired Pollo Bravo, which has a location in Katy. Then of course there is Mission Burrito, my favorite among the burrito chains in the Houston area. But, if not in the mood for a Hispanic influenced meal, you're mostly out of luck if you're west of Highway Six.

Hopefully the culinary growth of Houston keeps migrating to the suburbs. There is hope for the future, as there are reported plans for a permanent Bernie's Burger Bus depot in Katy in the coming years, which would be a welcome addition to a seriously lacking burger scene - Smashburger or Mooyah, anyone? The westside of town also got its own food truck park just south of I-10 on Highway Six and, while not quite in Katy, is a reasonable drive.

While I love exploring The Heights and Montrose areas and enjoying the amazing food they have to offer, it would be nice to be able to get excited about a meal that didn't require a half hour's drive each way. Hurry up suburbanites, come out of your shells and support the new places that open in your area. I promise, the endless breadsticks will still be there next weekend.

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