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The Five Best Hidden Restaurant Gems in Pasadena

A brand spankin' new snow cone joint to remind you of your childhood.
A brand spankin' new snow cone joint to remind you of your childhood.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

Here is what I knew about Pasadena before exploring it recently and chatting with the locals about food:

1. It exists.

2. It is located southeast of Houston.

3. It has a reputation as a culinary wasteland filled with chain restaurants and mediocre hole-in-the wall Mexican joints.

After a few sojourns down to the "Strawberry Capital" (something else I learned about Pasadena--it hosts a large strawberry festival every year), I discovered that the city isn't so culinarily deprived. Yes, there are a number of chain restaurants, and yes, I believe there might be a pupuseria or taqueria for every five or so citizens.

But the local establishments in Pasadena aren't bad at all. In fact, they're somewhat nostalgic. I found a burger place that makes classic roadside burgers and a snowcone joint with the same wonderfully wistful fake fruit flavors I remember from my childhood. There's Cajun soul food, doughy pizzas and, yes, a fabulous Mexican restaurant or two.

Order the enchiladas norteños and thank me later.
Order the enchiladas norteños and thank me later.
Photo courtesy Tostada Regia

5. Tostada Regia La Tostada Regia is actually a local chain with outposts on Airline, Long Point, Park Place and I-10 East, as well as a hopping location in Pasadena. It's not so hole-in-the-wall as places like El Rey on Preston Road or Pupuseria y Restaurante Martinez (both worth a try), but what it lacks in mom-and-pop charm it makes up for in great, dependable food. Open for breakfast and lunch, La Tostada Regia is known for its tostadas and giant tortas, but I prefer the trompo tacos and the enchiladas norteñas, with their ruddy red seasoned corn tortillas and creamy queso blanco.

Oh, the joys of a syrupy snow cone.
Oh, the joys of a syrupy snow cone.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

4. Dollar Daze Snow Cones This place isn't exactly a hidden gem. In fact, the brightly painted snow cone shack is hard to miss, and that's how I found it a mere week after it opened in front of a car wash that's been there "forever," according to a Dollar Daze employee. The small shaved ice shack is getting in more syrup flavors every day, but for now, cool off with a bright green lemon lime or cherry cup (or mix them, as I did). The flavors might not be what you expect from the gourmet sno-ball shops in Houston offering strawberry and Thai basil or grapefruit and cardamom treats, but there's something wonderfully nostalgic about cherry syrup made with red dye that'll turn your tongue a shocking shade of crimson.

Note: Dollar Daze does not appear to have an address, but it's on Red Bluff Road a few blocks north of Spencer Highway.

This story continues on the next page.

 

The doughy stuff that memories are made of.
The doughy stuff that memories are made of.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

3. Pizza Agave To be honest, I have no idea why this place is called Pizza Agave. As far as I know, you get tequila and mezcal or agave nectar from the agave plant, not anything pizza-related. Regardless, this is a great little pizza shop nestled inside a gas station convenience store. There's a coal pizza oven inside the small space, and the pizza is the type I remember eating at birthday parties as a child--somewhere between gourmet, wood fired pies and delivery pizza. It's doughy and clearly hand formed, and though the slice I got could have used another several minutes in the oven to get the cheese bubbly and the crust more toasted on the bottom, but the tomato sauce is bright and acidic, the pepperoni spicy and the crust wonderfully doughy.

Next time I'll remember to photograph first and eat second.
Next time I'll remember to photograph first and eat second.
Photo by Mike C.

2. Credeur's Cajun Cookin' Be forewarned: Credeur's is so popular, it often sells out before closing time at 3 p.m. That's what happened on my most recent trip to the Cajun eatery for some crawfish étouffée and buttermilk pie, and unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the food on a previous trip because I was so excited to eat it. Credeur's serves everything cafeteria style, and diners can choose from a variety of Cajun classics that are every bit as good as what you'd find in the bayous and backwoods of Louisiana. Though I'm a Danton's devotee when it comes to most Cajun food, this little family run joint could certainly give any Houston Cajun restaurant a run for its money. If you've been in search of smoked boudin, crawfish-stuffed pistolettes and catfish po'boys like mama used to make, look no further.

Burgers and fries with sides of fried rice or fried oysters at Star Burgers.
Burgers and fries with sides of fried rice or fried oysters at Star Burgers.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

1. Star Burgers What do you get when you cross an old fashioned Texas drive thru burger joint with a Chinese restaurant and plant it near the Gulf Coast? You get Star Burger, a classic burger shack that also serves some great seafood fried rice and baskets of fried shrimp and fish. It's the burgers most come for, though, and they never disappoint. Each burger is grilled fresh to order, and the cheese is placed on top while the patty is still on the grill, allowing it to melt into the meat. The bun is also toasted on the grill, and the whole thing is topped with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and mustard, in true Texas style. The patties are thin and crisped on the outside, but even though they're almost flattened, they spread flavorful juice throughout the veggies and bun. Order a cheeseburger basket for just over $6, and you'll get fries and some of the most crispy onion rings in town with your burger.

Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Pizza Agave

2501 Preston Ave.
Pasadena, TX 77503-3732

281-487-0667

www.pizzaagave.com

miles
Tostada Regia

2328 Southmore Ave.
Pasadena, TX 77502

713-475-5999

www.tostadaregia.com

miles
Star Burgers

2213 Strawberry Road
Pasadena, TX 77502

713-477-0097

miles
Credeur's Cajun Cookin'

7127 Spencer
Pasadena, TX 77505

281-930-7268


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