Over the course of the next few months, I'm counting down 100 of my favorite Houston dishes. I chose some because they are such quintessential Houston creations, others for their cultural or historical significance, and others because they are just so damn tasty. Share your own nominations in the comments.
#71 Paella at Rioja on Kirkwood
Rioja's paella is made with lots of seafood, including mussels, calamari and fish, with big chunks of sausage. But it's the rice that really makes the difference. A Valencian short grain rice is cooked al dente and smothered in savory sauce, like a big vat of seafood risotto. You can get it at lunch with two tapas appetizers for $13.
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Paella is one of those dishes that can leave you completely indifferent or knock your socks off--depending on the skill of the cook and the quality of the ingredients. I remember taking a detour while driving in Spain to eat a definitive version of paella at a little inn. It turned out to be old-fashioned Valencian paella made of cheap white rice, vegetables, beef and snails. It was very disappointing. Rioja's, on the other hand, is one of the best I've eaten.
Rioja recently revived its famous summer pig roasts. Suckling pigs are cooked in an outdoor oven on the patio for these fiestas. If you'd like to be notified about the next suckling pig chowdown -- or schedule one for your group, go to Rioja's website and sign up.
The list to date:
#100: Green Chile Chicken Kebabs at Chatkhara Grill #99: The All-Day Burrito at Cherry Top Bakery #98: "You Buy We Fry" Trout Basket at Hank's Fish Market #97: Chicharron de Barriga at La Michoacana Meat Market # 10 #96: Pakistani Breakfast at Kings Chicken #95: Fried Mojarra at Taqueria Jesus Maria #94: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake Ball at Coffee Groundz #93:Cheeseburger at Leonard's Famous Burgers #92: Lasagna at Doyle's #91: Cochinita Pibil at Tacos La Bala #90: Fajita Tacos at Taqueria El Charro #89: Kubideh and Zereshk Polo at Kasra Persian Grill #88: Trentino Gelato's Dulce de Leche at Shisha #87: Deviled Eggs at Nielsen's Deli #86: Italian-Cuban Sandwich at Logan Farms #85: Vegetable Trio in Sichuan Sauce at Spicy Sichuan #84: Salchi-Burger at Brisa Cocina #83: El Ultimo Taco Truck's Breakfast Tacos #82: Kielbasa on a Sizzling Comal at Polonia #81: Shrimp and Grits at Bistro Alex, Hotel Sorella #80: A Bowl of Chili at James Coney Island #79: Lamb Dumplings at Lucky Pot #78: Crazy Irishman Sushi Roll at Soma #77:Tesar's "Magic" Burger #76: Mac n' Cheese at Two Saints #75: Spicy Armenian Kebabs at Café Rita #74: Jalapeño Gefilte Fish at Rustika #73: Greek Burger at the Hubcap Grill #72: The Basil Inferno at Thai Bistro