By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Molly Dunn
By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
Formerly Pho Huynh, Huynh is a family-run establishment that has been serving homestyle Vietnamese cuisine in the East End for over a decade. The warm, modern interior is much more elegant than the restaurant's nondescript strip-mall exterior suggests. Generous portions and a plethora of familiar Vietnamese dining options make this place a popular lunch and dinner destination, and it's widely regarded as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city — not just in EaDo. My personal favorite meal at Huynh is the hu tiu xao do bien, or wide rice noodles that have been smoked and pan-fried before being topped with a medley of seafood and vegetables.
2. The Cajun Stop
The Cajun Stop is as close to a real New Orleans po-boy shop as we've had in Houston since Original New Orleans Po' Boy on Main Street closed. Owner Lisa Carnley recently changed the name — formerly Calliope's Po-Boy — to reflect the fact that she — a Cajun girl from Houma, Louisiana — had decided to stop in Houston and make it her home after Katrina. If you find yourself craving a few pounds of plump crawfish or a roast beef po-boy with a generous application of gravy, the festive, friendly Cajun Stop is your best choice.
1. Cafe TH
The old Thiem Hung Bakery was reimagined and reinvented by former patron Minh Nguyen, who bought the place — recipes and all — from its former owners in 2006 and proceeded to update the Vietnamese menu as well as the interior. The result is a vibrant, cozy neighborhood cafe that harkens back to the good old days of a bustling East End Chinatown and evokes a French bistro vibe at the same time (especially on Thursday and Friday nights, when Cafe TH serves a prix-fixe evening menu). In addition to its trademark banh mi, don't miss Cafe TH's dark, rich pho or the hearty beef soup served with French bread, banh mi bo kho. And vegetarians, take heart: Cafe TH offers plenty of vegetarian options as well as vegan pho. Yes, vegan pho.
RARE BEER ON THE RUN
Growler's Beer & Wine bringing CrafTap system to Montrose.
The craft beer community in Houston doesn't let much slip past them. Growler's Beer & Wine owner Doug Bunze found that out late last year when a few eagle-eyed craft beer fans tracked down the store's Web site and Twitter account after he posted a Craigslist ad about job openings at the upcoming craft beer retail spot.
"The Google spiders haven't even found the Web site yet," Bunze laughed. "You couldn't just Google us." The Web site and the store at 1005 Waugh have since populated into Google as well as Google Maps.
News of Growler's spread quickly on Twitter, although the store's Twitter account, @Growlersmontros, had fewer than 200 followers last week and only six Tweets. Look for that number to grow rapidly as opening day approaches, however.
"We are going to concentrate on social media and building a presence there," said Bunze. "The community here is just so passionate. I've already met so many people who are just crazy about craft beer."
Bunze admits his craft beer knowledge is still growing. To help offset that, he plans to staff the store with knowledgeable people who are just as passionate as his customers. "We are going to do it by committee," he said. "I'm not picking what beers go on. That will be up to the employees." He said the store plans on steering clear of beers you can find in the coolers. The store will have a few mainstays but wants to focus on more limited and rare selections.
But the highlight of the new store itself isn't the high-capacity walk-in cooler with its custom steel racks fabricated in-house or the wraparound wood-top bar. The star of Growler's is the CrafTap system it will be using to fill to-go containers.
Similar to a commercial bottling system, the CrafTap uses carbon dioxide to create a counterpressure pour. When beer is poured into a container under pressure, the carbonation in your beer stays in solution, resulting in a pour with very little foam. Additionally, since the CrafTap pressurizes the vessel, your beer is coming into very little contact with oxygen and receives a seal similar to those in commercial bottling and kegging. This, along with heavy-duty plastic caps, "offers a theoretical shelf life of up to a year," Bunze said.
While we probably wouldn't hold onto a growler full of beer nearly that long, it should be stable for extended periods, meaning you'd be free to pick up a half-gallon growler of a very limited beer and not feel obligated to drink it the same day. Think of the possibilities: Pick up three or four gallons of beer over the course of a month, for example, and then have your very own rare-beer house party with fresh draft beer. The store should be receiving its CrafTap fillers — the first and currently only outlet in Texas to use the system — within the week.
In addition to draft beer, Growler's will be stocking bottled beer in several commercial coolers so that you can build your own mix-and-match six-pack. Bunze admitted they haven't gotten pricing nailed down just yet, but look for news soon. And although beer is mostly what we discussed last week, Bunze said the store will not be limited to beer, as the name would imply. It plans to offer wine as well.