From 2012 to 2014, Houston Press ran a series called “Where the Chefs Eat,” (you can re-visit the entire series here) in which we asked some of Houston's most prominent chefs where they ate when they weren’t cooking in their own kitchens. Though it ran its natural course at the time, so much has changed in the Houston landscape since then that we’re bringing it back. For the new series, we’ll be putting the spotlight on one chef at a time. Want to find out where Houston chefs eat and some pro tips along the way? Come back often to discover the restaurants and dishes that spark joy for Bayou City's best toques.
Before making the move to Houston, Peter Petro visited the Bayou City on several trips that he describes as major food fests. “We ate all day,” he says, adding with a chuckle, “It was wonderful and miserable.”
The trips were necessary. As the executive chef of Bosscat Kitchen & Libations in Newport Beach, he would be responsible for the culinary operations at the Houston location, and despite 20 years of experience in the business (he graduated with a Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I., in 1996, has owned his own restaurant, and has been chef-owner and executive chef for several restaurants in Las Vegas and Southern California), Houston was at the time an unknown entity.
So he visited State of Grace and and feasted on enchiladas and giant beef ribs. He went to Underbelly and ate through a good portion of the menu. He ate through just about every highly regarded burger joint in Houston (Stanton's was a standout, as was Killen's Burgers) so he would have a point of reference from which to compare with his own.
Fast forward two and a half years. Petro now oversees four concepts, two in Houston — Bosscat Kitchen & Libations and BCK Kitchen — along with two in Newport Beach, with another Bosscat to come in Katy sometime in 2020. Outside the 70-hour work weeks and the time spent traveling (he flies to Orange County every other month) he spends as much time as he can with his wife and two kids, and they’ve carved a routine that often focuses on dining.
Here are Petro's favorite places to eat in Houston, in his own words:
I live in River Oaks near the restaurant, and I have two kids, one with severe allergies, so we pretty much go to all the same places.
For Barbecue, my “go-to” is Roegels. It’s a place that I take all of my out of town guests. Always a great meal. The Pastrami Beef rib is insanely delicious.
The family and I go to Kenny and Ziggy’s every Sunday or Monday. Great atmosphere, good selection of food and the servers always treat us right. It is consistently consistent, and I love that about them. Their matzo ball soup is some of the best I’ve had, and I’m always finishing whatever my kids don’t eat. The Romanian steak salad is also quite good, and when I’m in the mood, I’ll splurge on the cheesecake. My daughter always gets the chicken fingers. My son has deadly food allergies and almost died from eating an egg, so we really stick to places that we can trust, where we can feed him something, and Kenny & Ziggy’s fits the bill.
I’m Greek, so we go to Yia Yia Mary’s a lot. When we go, we get a Greek salad to share. I like their lamb skewers and have been known to order four for myself. Their chicken souvlaki and half roasted chicken are also good.
Central Market is another place we frequent. I’m there almost daily. They have such a variety and great selection of products that we always find something new to eat while we are there. My kids are in love with the rotisserie chicken there and it is always moist, juicy and delicious. It’s definitely an item that helps take some of the work out of cooking for me after a long week in the restaurants.
My wife is Vietnamese, so we spend all the time trying this pho place and that pho place. We like Pho A Hung by Night on Bellaire, but lately we have settled in at Pho Binh on Westheimer.
Finally, we go to Tan Tan on Westheimer for great Viet-Chinese cuisine. I always order the bo luc lac (shaking beef), salt and pepper tofu, and a green vegetable with garlic.
For cheap eats, it doesn’t get any better than Tacos Tierra Caliente. The tacos are reminiscent of the street tacos I grew up eating in Mexico when I was younger, and they’re the kind I’m used to getting in Southern California. The al pastor is on point here, and for the price (most are $1.50 to $2.00 each), they can’t be beat. I usually get three of every taco on the menu, chicken, beef and pork, al pastor, lengua — which works out to be 18 or 20 tacos at time.
Kid and allergy friendly:
The Downtown Aquarium is one of the best restaurants in town for people with allergies. They go so above and beyond. They see about 700 families in that location a week, so they’re dealing with it all the time. I put in my reservation and let them know there’s an allergy for my son. When we arrive, the hostess will go and get a chef, walk you to your table, and then the chef comes out and talks to you about your allergy. There’s a dedicated area in the kitchen with clean utensils and clean ingredients where they do everything from scratch. This chef had his own pot of oil, so even our french fries were clean fried. Watching your son start to pass out because he ate an egg — rushing him to ER — you appreciate places like the Aquarium that will go above and beyond.
Want other suggestions from those in the know? For more of Where the Chefs Eat, see below:
- Austin Waiter of Tony's
- Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse, Killen's STQ, Killen's BBQ and Killens TMX
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