Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Houston Fed 50: Nos. 50-46

If you have any questions about how this list came to be, click here for a brief outline on the ground rules for my fifty favorite places in and around Houston. Over the next ten weeks, I'll be posting a fresh batch of five places each week to eat and drink around our great city.

No. 50 Bill's Cafe (Kingwood): This list would not be complete without at least one good old fashioned greasy spoon, and Bill's Cafe perfectly fits in that niche. Housed in a small building off of Loop 494 in Kingwood, as the sign will tell you, Bill's has been "serving the world since 1945." One look inside the place and you'll be inclined to agree with that timeline. The smell of sizzling flat tops and fryers fills the air, and the walls are adorned with hats left behind by the construction workers and blue collar types that have frequented Bill's for years. It's a great place to get cheap, greasy burgers. Their appetizers are mostly different forms of fried bites ranging from pickles to mushrooms to mac n cheese, all offered at a by-the-piece price. If you're fortunate enough to come in on a night when they're serving chili, don't pass it up. It's a great version of Texas red, adorned with diced onions and chopped pickled jalapeños. 
The monstrous Wicked Philly from Papa Geno's
No. 49 Pappa Geno's (Multiple Locations in Houston): With the unholy amount of smoked meat I consume, I try to eat a little healthier during workday lunches. When that plan inevitably fails and I throw caloric caution to the wind, I end up at Pappa Geno's for a Wicked Philly. This mammoth of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich is topped with grilled onions, mayo, and spicy giardiniera pickles on a sturdy sandwich roll. Not a fan of spice? Pappa Geno's array of sandwiches has something for just about everyone. With locations off of Ella, on Bellaire between Chimney Rock and the Bellaire triangle, and on north Eldridge, you have plenty of opportunities around the city to ruin your diet. 

No. 48 The Curry House (Humble): If you are a fan of ethnic food and live in the Humble/Kingwood/Atascocita (HKA) area, then you've suffered as I have with the dearth of any acceptable options on the north side. Well friends, I am happy to report that things are looking up. The Curry House opened in August just off of Highway 59 and FM 1960, specializing in cuisine from both Northern and Southern India. While I did have a less successful experience dining a la carte off of their dinner menu, the lunch buffet ($9.95 weekday, $12.95 weekends and holidays) is varied and more interesting than many of the Indian buffets I've eaten at in our city's great Mahatma Ghandi District. 
Though they cater to the masses with the standard versions of butter chicken and saag paneer, The Curry House shows a deft hand with a great goat curry whose heat builds by the bite. A beetroot masala was available on one visit, which offered a great sweetness and textural difference on the plate. The Curry House does cook in accordance with Muslim Zabiha regulations, which should come as welcome news to Muslims in the HKA area.
Empanadas, papa rellena, croquetas de jamon, and tamal from Café Piquet. Use the sauce at your own risk.
No. 47 Cafe Piquet (Bellaire): The melting pot that is Houston is a large part of what makes our dining options so vast and plentiful. Unfortunately, there is not much Cuban influence in that pot. Cafe Piquet is one of the few reliable Cuban options I've found around town. Family owned and operated for nearly twenty years, Cafe Piquet serves a traditional Cuban sandwich and several standard dishes like ropa vieja, pernil asado, and picadillo. I cannot confidently proclaim that Piquet offers a world class representation of Cuban cuisine, but the food is always solid and the Cuban coffee is robust. With no real lunch menu, this is definitely a restaurant that is more financially palatable for dinner. If you're like me and get sporadic cravings for Cuban food, Piquet will hit the spot.
Brisket, ribs, and boudin from Southern Q. Photo courtesy of Bryan Norton
No. 46 Southern Q BBQ and Catering (North Houston): One of my favorite things about Houston's barbecue culture is that there are varying styles of barbecue available throughout the city. Austin, widely considered the current Texas BBQ Capitol, seemingly has a quality joint at every street corner. Unlike Houston, though, the vast majority of Austin joints serve some version of the heavily black pepper rubbed Central Texas style 'cue that has taken the entire country by storm in the wake of the Franklin fame. Though I firmly believe that few things in the culinary world are as carnally enjoyable as a peppery, fatty slice of brisket, I also appreciate different styles of smoked meat. Enter Southern Q owner and pitmaster Steve Garner. 
Steve and his wife Sherice began serving East Texas style barbecue out of a trailer in North Houston a few years ago, and moved into a permanent location on Kuykendahl just off of FM 1960 in early 2015. The Garners make garlic tinged sausages at the restaurant as well as one of the best links of smoked boudin you're likely to find around the city. Those liver spiked links served with firecracker saltines would be worth a visit all on their own, but Southern Q is upping their brisket game as well. My most recent visit rewarded me with some great slices lined with a jet black, crunchy bark that had been missing on previous stops. Houston barbecue is growing by leaps and bounds, and Southern Q is a welcome addition to the scene. 

1 comment:

Kim said...

I grew up going to Bill's, and I love that it made your list! I have fond memories of the fun, dive-y atmosphere, and greasy, delicious food. Excited to go through your list!