Best Of :: Food & Drink
There's a reason Tiger Den was so heavily mobbed when it first opened. The tiny shop in Chinatown's Dun Huang shopping plaza was one of the first places to actually deliver on the promise of scratch-made tonkotsu pork broth and house-made noodles. Though it has quieted down a bit, owner and chef Mike Tran has made great strides in consistency, delivering authentic Hakata-style thin-noodled ramen in four flavors and at prices that won't break the bank. At its most basic, tonkotsu ramen runs just $8 and comes with three slices of melt-in-your-mouth pork chasu, wood ears, onions, egg and bamboo shoots. The spicy miso, which comes with similar toppings, is fantastic, as is the garlic black bean ramen, ringing in at a mere $9. At those prices, you'll even have plenty of money left over to order a beer or sake, or several appetizers from Tiger Den's robata menu, to make a truly fine meal.
Head to this Heights kitchenette for not one, not two, but four drool-worthy skillets of macaroni and cheese. Each dish comes hot and bubbling with a crisp, buttery crust and molten, gooey core. Go au naturel with the classic American and aged cheddar skillet; dive head-first into one loaded with sweet and succulent lobster meat and herbs; or go for the gold with a sausage, bacon and chile-loaded affair to remember. An always changing mac of the day — which has been known to include everything from chili-cheese dogs and tater tots to smoked salmon and cream cheese — rounds out the fantastically cheesy quartet.
The Urban Harvest Farmers Market at Eastside Street is the place to be on Saturday mornings. From 8 a.m. to noon, numerous vendors set up stations to serve their specialty goods, be they fruits, vegetables, macarons, breads, cheese, coffee or olive oil. You can purchase groceries from local producers, such as Atkinson Farm, Airline Seafood, Tavola Pasta and Tejas Heritage Farm, or grab a few desserts and prepared foods from Sinfull Bakery, Shade and Canopy, and Revival Market. If you miss the market on Saturday, you can stop by on Sunday as well, but there are fewer vendors then.
My Food Park HTX opened in late 2013 and brought a cornucopia of food-truck cuisine to the west Houston Energy Corridor. With three and a half acres of land, there's always a place to sit and dig into your food — not many food-truck parks have such relaxing seating. The lineup of trucks changes each day, but you can always count on My Food Park HTX to have movie nights each Friday and Saturday, as well as other special themes throughout the week, including Hump Day Wednesdays and Magical Mondays. Pop a squat at a picnic table for an afternoon weekday lunch, or kick off your weekend with dinner and a movie. Stay late on Saturdays to munch on sweets from the likes of Zeapod Cakery and Sno Cone City HTX.
If you want killer frites with house-made roasted garlic aioli, a fantastic warm goat cheese and hazelnut salad, or classic boeuf bourguignon, get your butt to this French restaurant in Rice Village. Café Rabelais isn't open at all hours of the day, but when it is, these folks are dishing out incredible food in a quaint and rustic French country restaurant. Satisfy any midday hunger pangs with a braised pork shoulder sandwich with honey thyme sauce, pickled onions and carrots for less than $10, or stick to the daily selections of fish and quiche. The menu changes daily, but that's to ensure each dish uses the freshest ingredients. The vanilla ice cream profiteroles or a succulent poached pear are a great way to end a romantic evening.
Rebecca Masson, a.k.a. The Sugar Fairy, made a name for herself nationally as a competitor on Top Chef: Just Desserts in 2011, but she also has grabbed Houston's attention with exquisite treats from her custom bake shop, Fluff Bake Bar. Various coffee shops and markets in the city sell her unfrosted cakes, cookie sandwiches and French macarons in surprising flavors, such as Werther's Caramel. Her edgy style and adventurous palate help her create finger-licking-good sweets you most certainly want to pair with a glass of milk — or wine. Recently, Masson announced she will open a brick-and-mortar bakery in Midtown after a successful Kickstarter campaign, and along with her delicious cookies, cakes and brownies, she'll be serving wine and beer. Soon you'll have a central place to grab Masson's beautiful and flavorful desserts, rather than searching the city for one of those comforting Fluffernutters.