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100 Favorite Dishes 2014: A Love Letter to Houston Food

Celebrating our city's diverse culinary scene.

100 Favorite Dishes 2014: A Love Letter to Houston Food

When I was preparing to move to Houston nearly a year ago, I heard a lot of apologies from people.

"Houston?" they would say, incredulously. "Wow. I'm sorry. Sounds like you'll be eating a lot of Tex-Mex and steak and nothing else."

I'll be the first to admit that I was concerned. I grew up in Corpus Christi, but I knew little about this northern region of the Gulf Coast and its culinary complexion. I was worried that the food here would be boring and fail to engage me in a way that would make me want to write about it. Sure, I'd heard Houston was a diverse city culturally. But then, I'd also heard that, food-wise, it was a bit of a beefy wasteland.

Now, I'll also be the first to admit that I was wrong about Houston. So were the naysayers who warned me about the city. We were all dead wrong.

It was the incredible food scene here in Houston that won me over almost immediately. Some of my first few meals here were had at H-Mart, La Mexicana, Eastside Farmer's Market and Tony's, which display the astounding culinary diversity this city has to offer. According to reports out of Rice University, Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the country, surpassing even New York and Los Angeles. Because of this multiculturalism, Houston's food scene is one big melting pot of greatness. Name a cuisine, and we've got it.

When people ask me how I'm liking Houston almost a year in, I have a hard time expressing how pleasantly surprised I've been by my immediate love for this city. Yes, the potholes are a problem, and I'm still not over my intense hatred of valet parking or my confusion at the way the weather changes so rapidly that it seems like the work of the X-Men. But the food and the profoundly kind and interesting people in the local restaurant industry, more than anything, have made me feel more at home here than anywhere I've lived before.

I came to Houston to learn about and write about the rapidly evolving culinary scene. Every day I learn something new, and every day my taste buds are delighted by a dish or two that I'm beyond pleased to have discovered. I could go on and on about the various reasons I've fallen so hard for this city, but I'm a food writer. I think my love story is best told through the dishes I've enjoyed since embarking on this journey.

So here, Houston: This is my love letter to you. Cheers.

Want to see more of this year's 100 Favorite Dishes? Check out our slideshow, "100 Favorite Dishes in Houston 2014: The List in Photos."

No. 100, Bangkok Fries at Boheme

307 Fairview, 713-529-1099, barboheme.com

At Boheme, the crispy shoestring fries are topped with sweet, crunchy charbroiled pork, a bit of vinegary hoisin sauce, homemade yellow curry mayo, cilantro and crushed sesame rods. Oh, and Sriracha. Lots of Sriracha.

No. 99, Almond Croissant at Phoenicia

1001 Austin, 832-360-2222, phoeniciafoods.com/locations/downtown-market

The almond croissant at Phoenicia has the same rich, buttery flavor as a plain croissant, but with an added sweet nuttiness. It's cooked perfectly: crispy at the ends and on the outermost layer of dough and fluffy on the inside. The croissant is topped with toasted almonds and powdered sugar for an incredible crunchy crust.

No. 98, Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro

Food truck, chilantrobbq.com

Kimchi adds a unique bite to the already slightly spicy, slightly sweet beef in the bulgogi tacos from Chi'Lantro, making the taco crisp and refreshing. Kimchi is my ideal summer food, but it's not really a meal on its own. Pair it with some beef and corn tortillas, though, and you've got yourself one heck of a tasty dinner.

No. 97, Soft Pretzel at ­Mongoose ­Versus Cobra

1011 McGowen, 713-650-6872, mongooseversuscobra.com

The salt-covered pretzels are made by Slow Dough Bread Co., then warmed at the bar and given a generous brushing of melted butter before being brought out on a big silver tray. They're served with Revival Market's insanely good mustard and spicy pickles made in-house at Mongoose.

No. 96, Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen

5161 San Felipe, 713-623-6100, adairkitchen.com

The huge Belgian waffle is crisp and golden brown on the outside and light and airy on the inside. It has deep squares that hold a generous amount of syrup and catch little bits of batter that fall off the chicken. The batter is crunchy and peppery with just the right amount of salt and heat to complement the sweetness of the syrup.

No. 95, Sweet Potato Gnocchi at ­Brooklyn Athletic Club

601 Richmond, 713-527-4440, thebrooklynathleticclub.com

This dish is wonderful not just because it features sweet potatoes so prominently in an almost pudding-like gnocchi, but also because the flavor combination of the potatoes, cream, apples, sage and mushrooms is so unexpected — and so divine.

No. 94, Foie Gras Mac and Cheese at BRC Gastropub

519 Shepherd, 713-861-2233, brcgastropub.com

BRC's best macaroni and cheese is served in a hot cast-iron skillet and topped with bread crumbs, more melted cheese, green onions and three oyster-size ovals of decadent seared duck foie gras whose flavor is present in the form of a velvety, meaty enhancement to the nutty and buttery raclette.

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13 comments
ACookNotAFoodie
ACookNotAFoodie

Pho Binh = Pho from instant powder, just add water. Never a good pho place unless they're cookin bones from scratch.

rachelili91
rachelili91

I have to say that I'm loyal to Oh My Gogi for kimchi fries-- no fake cheese there (after eating Oh My Gogi so many times, Koagie Hots' fries were a real letdown...) shredded cheese, chipotle mayo, sriracha, cilantro, onion and of course, bulgogi has won my heart over, time and time again.

Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks

The bottom 50 looked better than the top 50.

anaszeineddine
anaszeineddine

the Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro is a must try.

anas zeineddine and fabio meneg tried this it was delicious.

bronson
bronson

nice work, that's quite a selection of goodies!

Jilian Ryan
Jilian Ryan

Corry Cummings, a "few" options for your other meals in Houston

timblack2
timblack2 topcommenter

Thought for sure the Mcrib at one the area's 25 McDonald's would have taken top prize.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@timblack2  I really wanted to put Taco Cabana's queso on there. No lie.

yourdad
yourdad

@darjae  Can you read, dude? The list is called "100 Favorite Dishes" not "100 Top Dishes" and most certainly not "Darjae's 100 Top Dishes."

 
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