Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Houston Fed 50: Nos. 45-41

Over the next several weeks I am highlighting my 50 favorite places to dine around Houston. If you missed the first five spots revealed last week, click here. A list of ground rules is available for anyone curious as to how I went about the selection process.
Rotisserie chicken with rice & spicy fried cassava (think yucca) | The dangerously good green sauce from Pollo Bravo.
No. 45 Pollo Bravo (multiple locations): I would come here just for the sauce. There is no simpler way to say it. Pollo Bravo specializes in flavorful rotisserie chicken served with small cups of a mayonnaise based green pepper sauce that has me completely hooked. While they won't specifically tell you which peppers are used, Peruvian aji peppers seem to be the consensus amongst the dining community. The sauce is as wonderfully spicy as it is diverse. When picking up a to go order, I always request an extra sauce to utilize later in the week (pro tip: it's great on eggs). That's not all that makes Pollo Bravo one of my favorite quick stops. Billing itself as a Peruvian-Mexican hybrid, Pollo Bravo offers dishes like Peruvian style ceviches and crispy taquitos. Although there is no shortage of rotisserie chicken options in our city right now, Pollo Bravo is the one I'd recommend.
The Burger Joint is serving up some of the best burgers in Houston right now.
No. 44 The Burger Joint (Montrose & food truck): With so many places around the city to get a hamburger these days, it would be easy to overlook The Burger Joint's opening late last year in the former Little Bigs spot on Montrose. One trip there confirmed the reviews I had been reading about The Burger Joint; this place is a worthy hamburger destination. They offer both your standard burger toppings as well as more specialized burgers like the Greek inspired "opa!" lamb burger and a Korean influenced kimchi burger. For those not afraid of heat, the fire burger with spicy sauce that's topped with both jalapeño and serrano peppers is a great option. The shakes are solid, and the queso fries are a delightful indulgence. Kudos to The Burger Joint for executing their patties at a juicy medium. Many places claim to do it, but few achieve a good pink center in burgers these days. I was impressed that my burger was cooked properly both at the restaurant and on a recent order I picked up from their food truck.

No. 43 Tita's Taco House (Humble): Quick, name a restaurant around town that lets you pay via the honor system. Don't feel bad, I couldn't either until I went to Tita's Taco House, where you place your order, eat, then go to the register where they ask you three simple question. How many tacos did you have? Did you add cheese to them? Did you have anything to drink? Once you've provided your answers, you get your bill for the meal. Tortillas are cooked fresh to order, though they sometimes have a small stash of flour already made that morning. The corn tortillas, my personal favorite, almost always take a couple minutes to cook once you place your order. Tita's offers a rotating selection of different types of taco fillings; everything from barbacoa to chicken mole to short rib, chorizo and egg to poblano and cheese and more are available on a given day depending on availability. Each taco starts with a smear of homemade refried beans on the tortilla followed by a generous but not overstuffed amount of whichever meat or vegetable you choose. Three tacos will satisfy any moderately hungry diner, and at two dollars per taco, it's a fantastic bargain for food this authentic. Sauce bottles are available for you to dress your tacos, and they are your standard red and green chili styles. Both are serviceable, but use them sparingly; these tacos are just fine without them. Located in a small house on Wilson Road in Humble, Tita's is a family run place through and through. The colorful murals that adorn the walls are as amusing as they are random: a Muhammad Ali wall here, a New York skyline there. There is really nothing not to like about Tita's. My only complaint about would be that they are only open for breakfast and lunch (closed Sundays), and I am a big fan of a good taco dinner.

No. 42 Brother's Pizzeria (multiple locations): If you have ever tried to talk to a New Yorker about eating New York style pizza anywhere outside of their home state, you've likely heard all of the griping. "Eh, they don't know what New York pizza is, the crust is all wrong." Being from New York myself and being raised by my father who spent the first 48 years of his life living in Brooklyn, I have heard it all. When my family moved to Texas, my father's culinary heart remained in The Big Apple. In the early 90's, the discovery of Brother's Pizzeria - at that time located in the food court of West Oaks Mall - was the answer to my father's greasy pie dreams. Brother's departed the mall food court ages ago and has since opened outposts on Highway 6 off I-10 (the location I can vouch for), in Garden Oaks, and in Cypress. Perfectly thin crust and dripping with grease, this is the pizza I grew up with and the flavor I crave. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy most styles of pizza from Neapolitan to deep dish, but a simple New York pie with pepperoni brings me back to childhood.

Blueberry pancakes as big as your face from Pecan Creek Grille
 No. 41: Pecan Creek Grille (West Houston): I never realized how much I missed living near a place that serves good, straight-forward breakfast until I moved 40 miles away from Pecan Creek Grille. My current suburb has thus far proven to be a wasteland for breakfast food, which has me longing for the fluffy pancakes and weekend specials of pulled pork hash that Pecan Creek provided me with for years. There's nothing fancy going on here- just good folks serving good breakfast to eager crowds for a fair price. You may recognize the dinner plate sized pancakes at Pecan Creek Grille; they're a tradition the owners brought over from their days at the famed Houston breakfast spot The Buffalo Grille. If you live on the west side of Houston, forgo the griddle at home one weekend and let Pecan Creek take care of you and be glad that you live close by.

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