Only In Houston...

While finishing this week's cafe review off Thanh Phuong, the phrase "only in Houston..." kept wandering through my head.

"Only in Houston," I thought, "would a chef like Chris Shepherd offer to stage at a tiny, family-run Vietnamese place in Houston." And the "onlys" kept coming:

Only in Houston would directions to the best wine bar include the phrase, "Go past the methadone clinic and it's on your right just after the fortune cookie factory."

Only in Houston will you find a Vietnamese restaurant serving pupusas and curtido.

Houston's great wealth of diversity and its willingness to take all comers is what's made it the exciting culinary city it is today, a new "Creole" city of the South in the great tradition of places like New York City, San Francisco and New Orleans. And these "onlys" don't just show the quirky side of our city, they define it.

I turned to our readers for more suggestions.

Vietnamese references surfaced quickly, lending credence to my theory that Vietnamese food is now as popularly accepted in Houston as Tex-Mex.

"Only in Houston would the best and oldest pho restaurant be in a modified trailer on the side of a ditch, just like it would be in Vietnam," said Jason Borden.

Not to say that Tex-Mex isn't still wildly popular here. It still is, and likely always will be: "Only in Houston is there a Tex-Mex restaurant on every corner ... and two in between," said Kimberly Park.

Burgers were equally represented in the "onlys" as well, fitting as Houston was recently named the "Best Burger City" in America by Travel and Leisure.

"Only in Houston will you see a tiny burger joint get three stars from the daily's food critic... and no one raises an eyebrow," said local food blogger Albert Nurick. And reader Eric Sandler chimed in with a reference to our recent Burger Bracket:

"Only in Houston could you build a bracket of 16 locally owned burger places and have people offer so many alternative suggestions that you could list another 16 that would be just as worthy with no overlap."

Reader Brad Barber tipped his hat to the vast variety of foods available here: "Only in Houston can you not agree with your dinner group about which cuisine to eat, much less decide which place to enjoy it."

But not every "only" referenced our diversity: "Only in Houston will you find two Starbucks right across the street from one another. And then a third opened up inside a boookstore right next door," said Paula Murphy.

And some "onlys" were downright dangerous, as J.C. Reid recently found out in his post about Rudy's Bar-B-Q at 29-95: "Only in Houston when having a friendly discussion about BBQ are lines drawn and ammo inventoried beforehand," noted Donna Childers-Thirkell.

My favorite "only," however, captured everything I love about this city in a nutshell:

Only in Houston, wrote reader Gina Lee, "can you enjoy kimchee fajitas in front of a Chinese iglesia."

"True story."

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Katharine Shilcutt