Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in most cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we'll be rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!
"I like to use 'I Can't Believe it's Not Butter' on my toast in the morning, because sometimes when I eat breakfast, I like to be incredulous. How was breakfast? Unbelievable."
Demetri Martin is a funny guy, but he's wrong. You really, really don't need to use I Can't Believe it's Not Butter to have an unbelievable breakfast. Instead, why not try incredible homemade salsa? Preposterously good Hollandaise sauce? Divine saffron yogurt?
Seriously, skip the faux butter (unless you're at a greasy spoon, then, by all means) and hit up one of these spots for the best breakfast in town. Not brunch, mind you. Put down the mimosas and Bloody Marys for a second and focus on the early morning, when all you really want are some perfectly fried eggs or fluffy pancakes. We'll get to brunch later.
But for now, rise and shine! And eat.
10. Taqueria La Macro This year's winner for best breakfast tacos is also on our list for best breakfast spots because duh. We're in Texas. If we had an official state breakfast, it would probably be breakfast tacos, and La Macro makes some of the best in town. This small taco shop just north of Downtown offers real trompo tacos, complete with grilled pineapple chunks on top. Owner Saul Obregon is always present with a warm smile, and his staff is ready to dish out heaps of chorizo or potato and eggs into hot, fluffy flour tortillas that never get gummy or tough. And the house-made green and red salsas don't mess around; they'll wake you up more than any cup of coffee could ever hope to.
9. Le Peep Although Le Peep does have a full lunch menu, its specialty is breakfast dishes. Le Peep's menu boasts everything from cinnamon rolls to Eggs Benedict, with traditional breakfast dishes (migas) and spins on favorites (granola almond pancakes), including a nicely sized section for the health-conscious. One of the most popular dishes is the Houstonian Skillet, which features "diced grilled chicken, mushrooms and broccoli served in a potato-filled skillet topped with creamy hollandaise sauce and two basted eggs." There are so many great breakfast items on the menu that you might have trouble choosing just one. Come hungry, and bring a friend.
8. Blacksmith Blacksmith is best known for its gourmet coffee and latte art, but the small kitchen also makes a mean breakfast. The menu was developed by Clumsy Butcher culinary director Erin Smith and features indulgent eats like homemade biscuits with crème fraîche and marmalade or the now-famous Vietnamese steak and eggs. The Vietnamese breakfast starts with a steak marinated in fish sauce, garlic and soy, which is then cooked in a cast iron skillet and topped with chicken liver pâté and two fried eggs. It's served with a French baguette, greens and mayo for a make-your-own-sandwich option. Sound like too much food? Impossible.
7. Tel-Wink Grill This is about as traditional an American diner experience as you can get here in Houston, where the bulk of our breakfasts consists of food with a Mexican or Asian influence. Not at Tel-Wink. The only vaguely ethnic food on the menu is picante sauce, and the pancakes and steak and egg plates seem to have maintained the same prices from when the diner first opened in the 1950s, inflation be damned! During peak breakfast hours (before 10 a.m.) a line will snake through the interior and out the door. As our own John Kiely once wrote of Tel-Wink, "Where else can you get two eggs, to your exact specifications, thick bacon at the nexus of chewy and crisp, a mound of Helen Corbitt-worthy hash browns, and two fist-size biscuits for $4.75?" Where else, indeed.
6. The Breakfast Klub Lookin' for some good ol' fashioned Southern cookin'? Look no further than The Breakfast Klub. Since it opened in 2001, it's become a Houston landmark, with lines out the door every day of the week, always filled with hungry people ready for the famous Katfish & Grits or Wings & Waffles. The Breakfast Klub is open only until 2 p.m. though, so start your day off right with the rib-sticking soul-food menu and service that is both quick and friendly. Don't bother taking leftovers home, though. It's the jazzy southern atmosphere that helps make The Breakfast Klub so delicious.
5. Ouisie's Table The great thing about Houston's breakfast scene is you can go greasy spoon with a place like Tel-Wink or upscale and sophisticated with Ouisie's Table and Elouise Adams Jones's wonderful potato "nest" eggs Benedict. If you're feeling like something a little healthier (but only a little), try the Gruyère quiche, or the spinach, harrisa and feta crêpe. Ouisie's is also known for its chicken-fried steak with biscuits and gravy, available at 7 a.m. every weekday. Ouisie's makes classic southern food trendy and elegant, from dawn all the way through dinner time, and it has numerous Houston Press awards as well as recognition from Texas Monthly to prove how great it is.
4. Pondicheri Indian food for breakfast? Indian food for breakfast! Though Pondicheri is more often thought of as a brunch and dinner destination, it begins serving breakfast at 7:30 a.m. every day, and there's a special $5 breakfast menu full of exotic treats. Try a bowl of uttma, a hot cereal made of stoneground grits, cauliflower, green peas and herbs, all topped with yogurt and peanuts; or if you're feeling more traditional, order the vanilla bean crêpe with your pick of strawberry, banana, blueberry, pistachio, Nutella, honey or Bournvita (a malted chocolate drink mix) for the filling. Chef Anita Jaisinghani is a master at combining Indian flavors and elements with more familiar breakfast items to create unusual and delicious morning pick-me-ups. And then there's the Bake Lab, featuring seasonally inspired scones and muffins.
3. La Guadalupana Three words: Ojo de buey. And here are three more: Breakfast all day. Not like all day until they close at 2 p.m. Except for Mondays and Tuesdays, La Guadalupana serves homemade Mexican pastries and traditional breakfast platters until 9 p.m. So if you get a hankering for a breakfast torta made with eggs, chorizo, chiles, potato and cheese on a talera bread roll for dinner, La Gudalupana's got you covered. The migas are another favorite, with tortillas, chorizo, bell peppers, and onions, all uniformly diced and tossed with scrambled eggs, resulting in a far more festive dish than the plain old egg-and-tortilla mish-mash that many of us grew up with. For an extra treat, get the cinnamon-spiced cafe de olla.
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2. Harry's Restaurant & Cafe I recently waxed poetic about my favorite dish at Harry's -- the baklava French toast -- but there's so much more to love at the reliable continental eatery. There's a bit of a diner vibe at Harry's, but the food is far better than your average country cooking, due in large part to the Mediterranean and South American influences that show up in dishes like the spitiko Greek omelet with feta and Monterrey cheeses, green onions, spinach and tomatoes; or the gargantuan churrasco platter. Of course, the plain ol' pancakes, omelets and breakfast sandwiches are great, too, thanks to fresh ingredients, good recipes and a little love from the kind folks behind the counter. Oh, and did I mention feta fries for breakfast? You're welcome.
1. Fountain View Cafe The pancakes at Fountain View Cafe are the stuff of legend: as thin as crepes, with a wispy lace of a crust on the outer edge and a soft, dense, vanilla-scented middle that requires neither butter nor syrup (which doesn't stop us from slathering them on anyway). They were on Katharine Shilcutt's list of 100 favorite dishes for two years in a row. The vanilla-infused flapjacks are one reason there's always a line at the 1980s throwback cafe -- that, and the quick, efficient counter service that delivers your cheesy omelets and crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside hash browns tout de suite while allowing you to kick back over a paper and bottomless cups of coffee. But really, it's the pancakes that keep Houstonians coming back for more (and more, and more). Thin and fluffy? Light and dense? How do they do it?!