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Top 10 Restaurants in EaDo (a.k.a. Old Chinatown, a.k.a. East Downtown)

Top 10 Restaurants in EaDo (a.k.a. Old Chinatown, a.k.a. East Downtown)
Photo by Alex Luster

So you're not comfortable with the EaDo sobriquet. I don't care. The damn thing has stuck. It's short, easy and to the point. (Besides, the more important question is what to call that weird DMZ area on South Shepherd that's not quite Montrose, not quite Upper Kirby, not quite River Oaks and not quite anything else. I suggest SoSh, as in, "Let's go get sloshed on SoSh!" I'll see myself out, thanks.)

Regardless, EaDo already has a website -- which is like the modern-day equivalent of establishing countries through the cunning use of flags -- so the battle is over. Accept it and move on. EaDo is drawing people east for the first time in a long while, and I'm going to embrace that change.

Besides the spiffy new BBVA Compass Stadium (for the Dynamo) and a light-rail line that will eventually run through EaDo and down Harrisburg into the East End, the area is attracting everything from Aerosol Warfare's homebase and craft breweries -- the Eatsie Boys are opening 8th Wonder soon -- to wine bars and restaurants. Music venue Warehouse Live is still one of the best in town at attracting interesting touring acts,and that little intersection of The Lofts at the Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, the Dynamo home and all of the bars surrounding Warehouse Live is just about the closest Houston comes to having a seriously dense and walkable urban presence.

Note: For the purposes of this post, EaDo is defined as the triangle bounded by Highway 59 to the northwest, Interstate 45 to the southwest and the lines of freight railroad that stretch from Commerce to Cullen.

10. Not Jus' Donuts

Not Jus' Donuts is an appropriate name for a place that doesn't sell any donuts at all, right? It's not like the name implies that there are other things besides donuts here but also donuts. Regardless, the goodies that Not Jus' Donuts bakes every day make up for the weird donut deficit. For 13 years, Myrtle Zachary-Jackson has been making some of the city's favorite pound cakes, cupcakes, wedding cakes and cookies -- just remember that you'll need to order ahead for the big stuff.

Top 10 Restaurants in EaDo (a.k.a. Old Chinatown, a.k.a. East Downtown)

9. Texas Bar-B-Que House

Some may scoff at the inclusion of this restaurant on the list, to which I say: Dude, there are only about 15 restaurants in EaDo right now. Give it some time. Also: Texas Bar-B-Que house has outlasted a lot of restaurants in the area, having served barbecue to downtown workers for over 50 years. It's not the best barbecue in town, but it's a good spot for a chopped beef sandwich on fluffy white bread surrounded by people from every walk of life -- suits to hard hats and everything in between.

8. District 7 Grill

District 7 -- sister restaurant to the chrome-plated diner underneath the Pierce Elevated in Midtown, as well as Table 7 Bistro downtown -- is so well-hidden on its side street in EaDo, you'd never know the cozy cafe was there unless you were looking for it. District 7 is only open for lunch during the week, but it's packed during those five days with downtown workers looking to indulge in its huge menu of burgers (everything from beef and buffalo to salmon and seared tuna) and tandoori pizzas on naan.

Kim Son's elegant entryway.
Kim Son's elegant entryway.
Photo by Dawn McGee

7. Kim Son

Since 1982, after she fled her first restaurant in Vinh Long, Vietnam, Mama La has been sharing authentic Vietnamese food with Houstonians. Kim Son sparked our love affair with Vietnamese food, so even if you think the massive restaurant is passe, show a little respect. A sumptuous interior is as comfortable as the food itself. The charbroiled Vietnamese fajitas are a fusion of both the old and new worlds, and the Vietnamese crepes, garlic butter fried shrimp and sugarcane shrimp are not to be missed.

 

Alamo's tamales.
Alamo's tamales.
Photo by Troy Fields

6. Alamo Tamale

Alamo isn't much to look at -- from the inside or the outside, save a pleasant-enough side patio that was added in recent years -- and its machine-made tamales are pretty par for the course. But its homemade tortillas and hand-rolled tamales are out of this world. The tamales are perfectly plump and filled with just the right amount of savory pork (because no one needs chicken tamales; stop it). The important masa-to-meat ratio is always precise here, with the meat incredibly moist and well-seasoned. You won't need any of the incredibly benign salsa that's served alongside your tamales, owing to the grease that seeps out from the filling (which, at times, can be a little on the heavy side -- but it's a price we're willing to pay). Order ahead by the dozen, or you'll be stuck eating whatever's on the steam table if you simply show up for lunch.

Cheeseburger at Sparkle's Hamburger Spot.
Cheeseburger at Sparkle's Hamburger Spot.
Photo by Erika Ray

5. Sparkle's Hamburger Spot

Sparkle's is known for its popular hamburgers, famous shakes and a long, long wait. Regulars know to call ahead before even setting out for the Third Ward burger shack, and you'd do well to listen to their advice. Not your standard burger stand burger, Sparkle's beef patties are much, much larger than you might expect, and maybe that's what takes them so long to cook. Also available are french fries, onion rings, chicken-n-waffles, and Kool-Aid (for a dollar). To-go orders only: There's no indoor seating available, and outdoor seating is limited to a picnic table that looks ready to give way in the next strong breeze.

Lunchtime tacos at Brothers.
Lunchtime tacos at Brothers.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

4. Brothers Taco House

Although some people are huge fans of Brothers' daily lunch specials, the breakfast tacos are equally notable. On a hot griddle behind the steam table, you can see a lineup of ladies making the fluffy flour tortillas (and only flour; no corn here) fresh as you order. And from the belly of the kitchen, you can hear an anvil chorus of line cooks chopping and hacking meat apart to fill the metal bins on the steam table with carnitas, lengua, chicharrones, deshebrada and -- on the weekends -- barbacoa. The chicharrones are stewed in a mild red sauce that's enhanced with the addition of some of Brothers' flavorful green salsa, but the lengua requires no additional accouterments at all.

 

Huynh's pleasant dining room.
Huynh's pleasant dining room.
Photo by Stephanie Meza

3. Huynh

Formerly Pho Huynh, Huynh is a family-run establishment that has been serving homestyle Vietnamese cuisine in the East End for over a decade. The warm, modern interior is much more elegant than the restaurant's nondescript strip-mall exterior suggests. Generous portions and a plethora of familiar Vietnamese dining options make this place a popular lunch and dinner destination, and it's widely regarded as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city -- not just in EaDo My personal favorite meal at Huynh is the hu tiu xao do bien, or wide rice noodles that have been smoked and pan-fried before being topped with a medley of seafood and vegetables.

Roast beef po-boy at The Cajun Stop.
Roast beef po-boy at The Cajun Stop.
Photo by Troy Fields

2. The Cajun Stop

The Cajun Stop is as close to a real New Orleans po-boy shop as we've had in Houston since Original New Orleans Poor Boys on Main Street closed. Owner Lisa Carnley recently changed the name -- formerly Calliope's Po-Boy -- to reflect the fact that she -- a Cajun girl from Houma, Louisiana -- had decided to stop in Houston and make it her home after Katrina. If you find yourself craving a few pounds of plump crawfish or a roast beef po-boy with a generous application of gravy, the festive, friendly Cajun Stop is your best choice.

Everything can come topped with a fried egg at Cafe TH.
Everything can come topped with a fried egg at Cafe TH.
Photo by Troy Fields

1. Cafe TH

The old Thiem Hung Bakery was reimagined and reinvented by former patron Minh Nguyen, who bought the place -- recipes and all -- from its former owners in 2006 and proceeded to update the Vietnamese menu as well as the interior. The result is a vibrant, cozy neighborhood cafe that harkens back to the good old days of a bustling East End Chinatown and evokes a French bistro vibe at the same time (especially on Thursday and Friday nights, when Cafe TH serves a prix-fixe evening menu). In addition to its trademark banh mi, don't miss Cafe TH's dark, rich pho or the hearty beef soup served with French bread, banh mi bo kho. And vegetarians, take heart: Cafe TH offers plenty of vegetarian options, as well as vegan pho. Yes, vegan pho.

Check out our other Top 10 neighborhood lists:

Top 10 in Montrose Top 10 in the Heights Top 10 in Rice Village Top 10 on Washington Avenue Top 10 in the East End Top 10 in the Galleria Top 10 in Midtown Top 10 in Memorial Top 10 in Upper Kirby Top 10 in Greenway Plaza Top 10 in The Woodlands Top 10 in Spring Branch Top 10 in Little India Top 10 in Far Northwest Houston Top 10 in Chinatown



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