Grab your Thor wig, an extra phone charger and plenty of cash, it's Comicpalooza time. One of the nation's premiere comic and pop culture conventions is celebrating its 11th year in Houston. As usual, the convention takes place inside the massive George R. Brown Convention center across from the beautiful Discovery Green. After day one of the three day festival, we've got your guide for what and where to eat and drink on days two and three.
For an event of its size and prestige, food options have always been paltry at Comicpalooza. Vendors are spread out and hard to find, choices are limited and the event makes no effort to utilize the adjacent Discovery Green space for food trucks or outside vendors.
That said, visitors who don't mind leaving the conference for an hour or two will enjoy a plethora of surrounding dining options. From swanky hotel bars to classic Tex-Mex and the best restaurant in Houston, the walkable options aren't too shabby. Nor are the concessions inside, if you know where to look. Just be ready to shell out the dough, and don't try to bring outside food or drink inside.
Breakfast options inside GRB consist of one overcrowded Starbucks with a 20-30 person line around 11 a.m.. Our suggestion, head across the street to the lobby of the Hilton-Americas. The Starbucks there had no line on Friday morning. But more importantly, there's a Pappasito's Cantina at the far end serving fajitas, queso parilla and breakfast margaritas. What are breakfast margaritas? They're margaritas you order for breakfast — duh.
Why not ensure the best Comicpalooza experience possible by kicking things off with an order of queso and a cocktail or three?
Once inside the first level showroom floor, you may notice that areas marked "Food Court" are more accurately described as "Table Courts". They're little more than groups of tables surrounded by handfuls of food kiosks. Some of which are as appetizing as a high school football stadium concession stand. But the gems are there if you look hard enough. There are at least two barbecue stands selling Brooks Family Barbecue. A small three-meat plate with sides is only $13. An appropriate price by barbecue standards anywhere.
Another solid option is the Halal Guys kiosk tucked against the far back wall (southeast) of the first floor exhibition room. For $13 you'll get a classic halal bowl with beef and chicken, rice and veggies, plus packets of their signature white and hot sauces. Just take it easy on the hot sauce or you'll be out another $5 for a bottle of water.
Fans looking to imbibe need only to search for the Saint Arnold branded tailgating tents scattered throughout the convention. These hide mobile bars with full cocktail, beer and wine options. Think stadium prices and movie theater servings.
Other dining options inside include several Chick Fil A tables on all three floors of the convention center, a Chinese take-out looking kiosk on the first floor labeled "Asian Stir Fry", at least two Space City Spudz stands (as far as we could tell the only food truck present at the event) and a Southside Flying Pizza stand also on level one.
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For visitors looking to enjoy a fine dining experience during their stay, the area offers several outstanding options. Just across the street, in the lobby of the ultra-luxurious Marriott Marquis, you'll find Xochi. Considered the best restaurant in Houston, chef Hugo Ortega's award winning crown jewel is an absolute master class in interior Mexican cuisine. Adventurous diners can eat housemade queso fresco topped with and assortment of sauteed insects, a puffed black corn tortilla filled with stewed rabbit, or an authentic Mayan stone soup — richly chili broth boils over from the hot volcanic stones dropped inside.
If you're looking for a view, try The Grove on the edge of Discover Green. It's prime location under a grove of oak trees and against the downtown skyline provides outstanding views both day and night.
At the end of the night, the lobby bar at the Hilton-Americas provides a relaxing and relatively uncrowded respite from the bustling venue across the street. While drinks are characteristically expensive in keeping with a luxury hotel bar, the free wifi, comfortable couches and top shelf booze make it a night cap worth splurging for.