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Dining on the Rails

A guide to light rail lunching in Houston.

When owner Staci Davis decided on a location for her restaurant, Radical Eats, one thing was extremely important to her above all: Davis wanted her vegan paradise to have access to the new Metro light rail North Line that's currently being built along Fulton. When the line is completed, riders will have only a few short blocks to walk from the Moody Park station to her restaurant. For now, the construction and the dust are a bit of a nightmare, but Davis insists that it's worth it.

And at the new 8th Wonder Brewery that's being built in EaDo [see our "First Look," below], the planned Stadium stop on the East End Line will not only service the Dynamo's shiny new stadium, it will bring visitors to the craft brewery as well as to concert venues like Warehouse Live and restaurants like Huynh.

Light rail development — for all its many quirks and flaws (it's called the Danger Train for a reason sometimes...) — will ultimately be good for Houston. I hope. There's only so much unchecked growth and sprawl that can take place in a city before its residents and planners become stewards of the land, attempting to encourage progress while being smart about it at the same time. It's the way of all great cities, or at least it should be.

To that end, the light rail line we currently have gets a lot of flack: It doesn't run to the suburbs, it only trolleys back and forth between Point A and Point B, et cetera. But I'm one of the people who's found it supremely useful.

I ride the light rail to the Museum District and to Reliant Stadium so that I don't have to deal with parking. I ride it to my doctor's appointments or to visit hospital-bound friends in the Medical Center (or to eat at Trevisio) because the only thing more confusing than the hospital corridors themselves is trying to recall where you left your car. I ride it to the Best Block in Houston to see shows at the Continental Club, to get cocktails and coffee at Double Trouble, to eat brunch at Natachee's or dinner at t'afia. I ride it to the Preston station and get my movies at Sundance or my culture at Jones Hall.

And, as you would expect, I ride it to restaurants up and down the line. People will often complain about walking in the Houston heat — that's why we have tunnels, after all — but the funny thing is this: You get used to it. Really fast. And walking off a meal is one of my favorite activities to do outside of eating the meal itself. If more of us did this (myself included, as I don't walk nearly as often as I should), Houston would undoubtedly remove itself from the running each year as the Fattest City in America. Walking is good. Try it.

On that note, we've put together a handy visual guide — to scale, no less! — of all the lunching and dining options off the main stops on the light rail. Some will require a bit of a walk (perhaps five blocks at most) while others are literally right in front of the stop itself. If you use it online, you'll note that you can click on the restaurant names to be taken to a site about the restaurant itself. If you cut it out, you can use it as a visual reference when you take your first heady steps into the rail car before it rattles and shakes off into city.

Whatever you do, just remember to put in your $1.25 before you ride — getting a Metro ticket for failing to pay is about as much fun as coming out of dinner to see a parking ticket under your windshield wiper.
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RESTAURANT NEWS

The Coolest New "Restaurant" in Town
Grand Prize plans to host rotating lineup of chefs in kitchen.

BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT

Grand Prize Bar has been more than just a bar since it opened nearly two years ago — it's had a culinary history of its own nearly since its birth. Only a few months after Grand Prize began shaking up its first cocktails in July 2010, chef Adam ­Dorris and his cooking partner Will Walsh began serving their now-famous Ghetto Dinners to large and hungry crowds.

Popular British restaurant Feast kept the kitchen stocked with hearty pub food for a while, and many a beer dinner has been held in the large upstairs bar area. And a constant rotation of food trucks — working both on the street and in the bar's surprisingly large kitchen — kept patrons fed for months after the Ghetto Dinners went on a long hiatus.

Regular patrons noticed, however, that for some time the bar no longer had food trucks parked out front and that the kitchen had been dormant for a while.

"People are expecting food now," says Joshua Martinez, owner of The Modular. "They want food from Grand Prize, one way or another."

So he hatched a plan with Grand Prize owners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse to make that happen once again — and to satisfy an itch for his fellow food truck owners to get out of their trucks for a night and get back into a real kitchen. A kitchen with ovens and other cool toys, like a dehydrator and an immersion circulator.

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