Stop! Don't say it! This isn't a mean-spirited post designed to mock restaurants for the sake of pageviews. Because let's be honest -- most of Houston is pretty damned ugly, and the great thing about living here is showing people the beauty that lies underneath the tangle telephone poles and billboards.
So it goes with Houston's restaurants, too. And if there's one thing we have plenty of in this city, it's ugly buildings. Here are our five ugliest.
5. Lucky Burger
Is that supposed to be a giant barrel on top? If not, then what? Why is it bright blue? All these questions and more can not be answered by a trip inside. But you can get some damn fine fast food while you're there.
Burger stands in Houston aren't traditionally architectural gems anyway, but Sparkle is one of the less attractive examples, even with its bright blue paint. Maybe it's the super-welcoming burglar bars, or the fact that there's zero shade to stand in while you wait the 15 to 20 minutes (on a good day) for your order to be ready.
Like much of Montrose, Aladdin looks scary as hell from the outside -- all crumbling stucco and dilapidated railings that constantly threaten to collapse into the street traffic below -- but is actually fabulous inside.
2. Ruth's Chris
The bright red and black awning that marks Ruth's Chris on Richmond seems so starkly out of place with the rest of the concrete, brutalist-lite building that the entrance almost seems as if it's the start of a prank, like that awful Febreeze commercial that's been airing lately.
1. Anything in a strip center
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...although that's roughly half the restaurants in Houston. You'd think that because they're so predominant, it would have gotten easier by now to convince wary friends that a place is good even if it's sandwiched between a Smoke 'n' Toke and a payday loan place on Gulfton. But books will always be judged by their covers -- and restaurants are no different.
I'm tooling with a theory right now in which one of the main reasons Houston is so ignored on the national scene is because so many of our great restaurants are in shitty, suburban strip malls. But it's a great Catch-22: These amazing restaurants have moved into low-rent areas (as with places like Roberta's in Brooklyn) because it's easier to take bigger risks and open fledgling businesses when your overhead is low. Alas, eight lanes of Westheimer traffic don't have quite the allure that Williamsburg does...