Yes, yes, we're all heartbroken over the United States' heartwrenching, nail biting loss to Belgium on Tuesday. We're bitter and angry but damn proud of our team (especially Tim Howard--hey, Superman!).
Just because the home team is out of the running doesn't mean we're going to stop watching games and celebrating the cultural melting pot that is the World Cup, though. There are still a few more weeks of matches, and these are bound to be the most exciting yet. World Cup fever is far from over.
If you're like me, though, you're more interested in the booze and bar food that accompanies watch parties than the actual game. I'm happy to cheer on the United States but there's only so many times I can watch a ball dart back and forth on a screen before my eyes start to glaze over. I get most excited when they break from the soccer to talk about cultural elements of Brazil or whichever team happens to be playing. I'm a terrible fan, I know.
In honor of the eight remaining teams who will duke it out in the quarter finals, we've compiled a list of eight restaurants that will give you a taste of the culture of those teams. From the simple (France) to the obscure (Netherlands...?), here's where to get a taste of the top eight teams' regional cuisines.
Note: Not all of these places have televisions. This is more for cultural immersion than soccer.
Argentina Tinto Grill If you're a fan of Pampa Grill, you'll love Tinto, which was started by a few folks who broke off from the Pampa clan to open their own restaurant. It's small but quaint, and the parrillada platter can't be beat. The mixed meat grill comes with three different types of meat--skirt steak, flank steak and sausage--each of which is smoky and juicy, dripping with succulent fat and only lightly seasoned. If you want a but of heat, pile on the homemade chimichurri sauce. The menu also contains a number of Italian and Mediterranean-influenced dishes, but don't let that confuse you. Due to waves of immigration in the 19th and mid-20th centuries, spaghetti is almost as popular in Argentina as beef. And at Tinto Grill, it's just as good.
Belgium Café Brussels Though we're still a little mad at Belgium, we can acknowledge one thing: The country makes some damn good beer. For the best selection of Belgian beer in town, head to Café Brussels. While there, curb your hunger with La route de Bruxelles, a delectable selection of mussels in various sauces. That dish also comes with a flight of Belgian beer for $28. Of course, you're going to want a side of frites and homemade mayo as well, so you'd better bring a friend to share.
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Brazil Chama Gaucha You want Brazilian food, go to a Brazilian steakhouse. At Chama Gaucha, the owners and cooks hope to bring the Brazilian experience to life with the full churrascaria experience; Flip the card on your table to the green side, and servers will come by with plate after plate of grilled meats. Flip to the red side, and they'll stop bombarding you with steak, sausage and all manner of skewered meat. It's a great place for a big family meal because, well, there's just so much food. It may not all be traditional (the salad bar is more of an American institution) but the massive servings of meat barbecued on giant skewers is distinctly South American.
Colombia Mi Pueblito Mi Pueblito is one of only a handful of Colombian restaurants in Houston, and it's also the best. The sprawling menu has just about anything a Colombian ex-pat could crave, as well as all the dishes necessary to indoctrinate a Houstonian in the ways of the cuisine. It's more than just a restaurant, though. There's also a great bar with handcrafted cocktails and a bakery that pumps out authentic Colombian buñuelos and panaderia. And if you stop by now, during World Cup season, yes, you will see hoards of excited Colombian fans. Actually, you'll probably see them there any time of year, and they'll welcome you to the fold gladly.
Costa Rica Churrascos Because there's no dedicated Costa Rican restaurant in Houston, Churrascos is the next best thing. A friend of mine with Costa Rican heritage went wild over the gallo pinto and the lomo latino, proclaiming them as close to his grandmother's food as anything he'd had in Houston. Of course, Churrascos is known for the signature churrasco steak, and that never fails to please. Nor do the fantastic cocktails or the divine dulce de leche cake. No, it's not all purely Costa Rican (the chef, Michael Cordúa, is from Nicaragua), but it is all excellent.
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France Bistro Provence Genevieve Guy, the owner of Bistro Provence, is French herself, so she maintains the highest standards at her restaurant on Houston's west side. The food is upscale French comfort food, and the digs are rustic and inviting. The food focuses on Provençal cuisine, but there are also French mainstays like onion soup and escargots on the menu. The wine list is also excellent, featuring the best selection of French wines outside of a wine merchant. Of all the French restaurants in Houston, Bistro Provence provides the most authentically French experience.
Germany King's Biergarten Craving a German pretzel, some schnitzel or some bratwurst? King's Biergarten has all that and, as the name suggests, quite a bit of beer to go with it. The German and Austrian restaurant has been serving Pearland since 2011, but before that it was a bratwurst stand that fed customers of the nearby carwash. Today, King's Biergarten hosts huge Oktoberfest parties in an actual biergarten, and though you can no longer get your car washed while enjoying bratwurst, you can feast like a king on spaetzle, sauerkraut and as much wurst as you wish.
Netherlands House of Pies Look, there is no such thing as a Dutch restaurant in Houston. In fact, there don't really seem to be any purely Dutch restaurants in America. When you look up Dutch cuisine online, the options don't look super appetizing, which is surprising because the Netherlands are known for their great art, much of which consists of still lifes of magnificent feasts. Be that as it may, Dutch food is somewhat of a mystery aside, of course, from Dutch apple pie. Yes, I think we can all agree that Dutch apple pie, traditionally featuring a crumb or streusel topping, is delicious. So here's my advice: Go to House of Pies. Pick up a Dutch apple pie to-go. Go home and eat it with a cold Heineken. Woo hoo, Netherlands!