Chinese-Style Barbecue at Willie's

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Years ago, when I was consulting in the Bay Area, I would drive to this street called Castro in Mountain View whenever I got the craving for traditional Hong Kong-style barbecue. I'm talking small diners with char-siu barbecue pork and roast duck hanging in the window. If you've ever been to a Chinatown, whether in New York or San Francisco, or if you've roamed the streets of Hong Kong, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Inside, the lights are fluorescent white, the decor no-nonsense laminated tabletops and plastic, red-upholstered chairs. I've been to enough of them that I can picture what one looks like without even going into it.

There are several of these barbecue places that come to mind in Houston, but today, I'm going to point you in the direction of Willie's Barbecue (9896 Bellaire Blvd Ste M, 713-270-6000) inside the Golden Foods Supermarket, in the strip mall center behind Sinh Sinh Restaurant.

I have it on good authority that Willie's supplies several of the Chinese barbecue houses in Houston with everything from Chinese roast pork, to char-siu (barbecue pork), to roast duck and chicken. So in lieu of going to one of the restaurants supplied, why not go to the source?

Barely more than a counter and window, Willie's offers the basic Chinese barbecue at below-restaurant prices, without any sacrifice to quality. You can order to-go, or order to eat in at the small side fluorescent-lit side area, where you'll find a handful of laminate tables and no-nonsense chairs.

They have hot, prepared Chinese dishes like steamed savory egg custard, Chinese meatloaf, and a variety of Chinese greens that you can choose if you want to build a Panda Express-style to-go box.

It's not upscale, but it's cheap, tasty, authentic Chinese barbecue. A one-item barbecue plate with one meat, one vegetable and white rice is ridiculously priced at something like $2.99, and they give you so much, you'll have enough left over for breakfast or an afternoon snack. If you're on a low-carb diet, forgo the rice altogether, and get your fill of roast pork with the crispy skin and glistening red char-siu pork by the pound.

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