100 Favorite Dishes 2012

No. 1, Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings at Underbelly.

Ain't that America? Just a little Viura for you and me... Jeremy Parzen

Keep on Truckin'

In-N-Out and Down the Road
Five chain food trucks we wish existed.

Two-Buck Chuck: the price is right.
Two-Buck Chuck: the price is right.

A few weeks ago, I was riding my bike past an otherwise quiet hotel parking lot on the edge of EaDo when I spotted it: a Taco Bell-branded food truck. The truck was dormant, its driver perhaps holed up in the cheap hotel, and I've yet to see the truck since. I wonder if it was just passing through Houston on its way to a market that's more welcoming to food trucks, although I admit I wasn't eager to sample its fare. Once you've made a late-night, half-drunk, face-size dent in a box of Doritos Locos tacos, you've pretty much experienced Taco Bell to its fullest.

Chain and/or fast-food restaurants have been entering the food truck game in larger and larger numbers each year, with Taco Bell as only one example. Applebee's and Sizzler both have their own branded trucks now, and the Huffington Post has recently proclaimed that it's only a matter of time before corporate food trucks "kill mobile dining's street cred for good."

The editor-in-chief of our paper even spotted a McDonald's food truck hawking Big Macs and fries outside of the Alley Theatre one odd night downtown — although the truck has since disappeared. McDonald's corporate office was of little assistance in trying to track down the ephemeral food truck, saying only:

"Approximately 85 percent of McDonald's restaurants are owned and operated by independent businesspeople. As independent owners, McDonald's franchise owners have the authority to make certain operating decisions as they relate to their McDonald's restaurant operations. As such, decisions regarding the use of a food cart are at the discretion of the Owner/Operator of each location."

Well, you know what, McDonald's? I didn't want to eat at your dumb food truck anyway. (No matter how much I like a quarter pounder with cheese every few months.) Thanks for nothing.

On the other hand, there are a few chains and fast-food restaurants I wouldn't mind seeing enter the food truck market, the Huffington Post be damned...

5. White Castle

There are no White Castles in Houston, which is enough of a travesty — the damn place invented sliders, show a little respect — but this oversight could easily be rectified by sending some of those tasty little squareburgers down Texas way on a truck. Think of the business it would do in potheads alone.

4. Red Lobster

Cheddar Bay biscuits. Outside of a bar, after a long and fruitful night of Lone Star consumption. Outside of a coffee shop and stuffed with sausage, eggs and cheese for the best breakfast sandwich ever created. On the edge of a park, where you could picnic on buttery biscuits and whatever else Red Lobster sells to your heart's content. The point is: Cheddar Bay biscuits. All day and all of the night.

3. Whataburger

What's better than a fast-food restaurant that's open 24 hours and serves super-amazing breakfast items like taquitos and chicken biscuits for a good chunk of those 24 hours? A food truck that's open 24 hours, stopping only to hit the commissary before getting back to the business of driving Whataburger Juniors with cheese and grilled jalapeños straight into my mouth.

2. The Cheesecake Factory

Forget the rest of the War and Peace-length menu here. I just want the cheesecake. All 56,092 flavors of it. On a truck. Preferably a tractor trailer-sized truck to hold all that fatty goodness, called "The Cheesecake Tractory."

1. In-N-Out Burger

The lines. Dear God, the lines. You'd need an entire parking lot just to hold the lines and the cars. This reason alone places In-N-Out Burger in the No. 1 spot. Katharine Shilcutt

Restaurant News

Openings & Closings
Picking a new name for Calliope's Po-Boy.

Starting off the week was news that chef Erin Smith is leaving Plonk. Her last day will be October 13 and after a brief trip to visit family, Smith will be back in Houston looking for her next adventure.

Eater Houston reported that the old NABI space finally has a new tenant confirmed: Pistolero's, from the same owner — Shawn Bermudez — of Royal Oak. According to editor Eric Sandler, Pistolero's will offer "a menu of Latin and Mexican flavors that will delight and pair well with tequila and lime."

Oh, and City Council members, guess what? Bermudez — a restaurant owner — is also a partner in popular food trucks Golden Grill and Koagie Hots.

Third Ward restaurant/culinary art gallery The Eat Gallery is moving, leaving behind its digs at 4420 Almeda and joining the co-working space at CoInside as the building's newest tenants.

"We have 11 days of food art during operating hours and seven curated experiences left at 4420 to laugh, eat, dream and party our way into new opportunity," wrote Eat Gallery owners/curators Danielle Fanfair and Marlon F. Hall. "Beginning October 1, our new homebase will be CoInside, Houston's progressive shared co-working space! Located at 1919 Houston Avenue in a beautifully restored firehouse, The Eat Gallery will continue to nurture dreams among innovative dreamers, believers and doers in The Heights!"

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