Over the course of the next few months, I'm counting down 100 of my favorite Houston dishes. I chose some because they are such quintessential Houston creations, others for their cultural or historical significance, and others because they are just so damn tasty. Share your own nominations in the comments.
I got pho number 6 (tai nam gau) with rare steak, brisket and crispy fat the first time I ate at the original Pho Binh on Beamer. The beef broth was rich and salty with lots of spicy aromas, it had a deep, satisfying homemade flavor. Pho is traditionally made with caramelized onions and star anise, but my breakfast companion speculated that the kitchen changed the spice blend from summer to winter. She thought she detected more cinnamon in the winter broth.
I heard that Pho Binh will bring you extra fat if you request it, so I asked the waitress for some. She brought me a little bowl with beef fat that had been skimmed off the soup and poured over green onions. It made the soup a little richer. I tore up some herbs and threw them in, then I chewed up a jalapeño slice and ate the soup while my mouth and throat were on fire. ¡Que rico!
"This place is an eyesore, but they have the best pho in town," a Vietnamese guy in a windbreaker and flip-flops at the next table told me. Opened in the early 1980s, the original Pho Binh in the south end of Houston is said to be the first pho restaurant in Houston. There are some rickety buildings tacked onto the original trailer. The whole thing overlooks a swampy bayou.
Outside the front door that Saturday morning, there were several men crowded around a picnic table in front of the restaurant eating their breakfast noodles and smoking cigarettes in the cold fog. It reminded me of descriptions I have heard about the pho stands of North Vietnam, where the dish originated.
The other two locations of Pho Binh (on Beechnut and Mangum) are larger, more convenient, and offer more complete menus. But pho fanatics all agree--the original Pho Binh on Beamer has the best pho in town.
The list to date:
#100: Green Chile Chicken Kebabs at Chatkhara Grill #99: The All-Day Burrito at Cherry Top Bakery #98: "You Buy We Fry" Trout Basket at Hank's Fish Market #97: Chicharron de Barriga at La Michoacana Meat Market # 10 #96: Pakistani Breakfast at Kings Chicken #95: Fried Mojarra at Taqueria Jesus Maria #94: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake Ball at Coffee Groundz #93: Cheeseburger at Leonard's Famous Burgers #92: Lasagna at Doyle's #91: Cochinita Pibil at Tacos La Bala #90: Fajita Tacos at Taqueria El Charro #89: Kubideh and Zereshk Polo at Kasra Persian Grill #88: Trentino Gelato's Dulce de Leche at Shisha #87: Deviled Eggs at Nielsen's Deli #86: Italian-Cuban Sandwich at Logan Farms #85: Vegetable Trio in Sichuan Sauce at Spicy Sichuan #84: Salchi-Burger at Brisa Cocina #83: El Ultimo Taco Truck's Breakfast Tacos #82: Kielbasa on a Sizzling Comal at Polonia #81: Shrimp and Grits at Bistro Alex, Hotel Sorella #80: A Bowl of Chili at James Coney Island #79: Lamb Dumplings at Lucky Pot #78: Crazy Irishman Sushi Roll at Soma #77: Tesar's "Magic" Burger #76: Mac n' Cheese at Two Saints #75: Spicy Armenian Kebabs at Café Rita #74: Jalapeño Gefilte Fish at Rustika #73: Greek Burger at the Hubcap Grill #72: The Basil Inferno at Thai Bistro #71: Paella at Rioja on Kirkwood #70: The Big Adrian Burger at Adrian's Local Café #69: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Bar at La Paletera #68: Indonesian Deviled Eggs at Rice Bowl II #67: Al Pastor Quesadillas at Tierra Caliente Meat Market #66: Boudin Kolaches at Shipley's on North Main #65: Banh Cuon at Tay Ho 18 in Hong Kong City Mall #64: Cumin Lamb at Chinese Halal Cuisine on Bellaire #63: Stuffed Artichoke at Mint Café on Sage #62: Italian Sausage Pie at Russo's Coal Oven Pizza #61: Tom Kha Gai at Thai Choice on Wilcrest #60: Torta Cubano Estilo Mexicano at El Amigo Taco Truck #59: Whataburger Triple Meat, Triple Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños #58: The Banana, Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip and Dulce de Leche Empanada at The Original Marini's #57: The Barbecue Brisket and Egg Breakfast Taco at Plantation BBQ Trailer #56: Chicken-Fried Steak at Frank's Chop House #55: Catfish and Grits at the Breakfast Klub #54: Bun Bo Hue at Kim Chau #53: Beef Tips at Davis Meat Market #52: Moules Frites at Jeanine's Bistro #51: The Fajita Taco at the Taconazo Truck #50: Frito Pie at the Rio Verde Taco Truck #49: Ceviche at Yelapa #48: African-American Beef Links at Bar-B-Que Done Right #47: Pasta with Fresh Peas, Ham and Mushrooms at Ciao Bello #46: Ice Cream at Hank's #45: Oysters with Lardons and Leeks at Brocante #44: Steak Tikka at Himalaya #43: Barbacoa Soup at De Buey Y Vaca #42: Banh Mi Xiu Mai at Don Cafe #41: The BBQ Burger at Guy's Meat Market #40: Indian Borsch at Indika #39: Mole Poblano at Hugo's #38: Banh Bot Chien at Tan Tan #37: Soft-boiled Quail Eggs with Asparagus Tips at Chez Roux #36: Surf and Turf Salad at Que Huong #35: Breakfast Tacos at Laredo Taqueria #34: French Fries at Little Big's #33: The Picnic Platter at the Grove #32: Cheese Enchiladas with Fried Eggs at Los Dos Amigos #31: The Sampler Plate at Café Lili #30: Elysian Fields Lamb and Mushy Peas at Tony's #29: The Cheeseburger at Christian's #28 Couchon de Lait at Stella Sola #27: Warm Glazed Donuts at Shipley's on Ella #26: Fried Shrimp at Segari's #25: Special Enchiladas-A-La-Taylor at Spanish Village #24: Pasta with White Truffles at Da Marco #23: Green Falafel Sandwich at Zabak's #22: The Roast Beef Poor Boy at Mama's Cajun Cuisine #21: Goat Buttermilk and Pecan Pie with San Leon Rum Ice Cream at Haven #20: The Pork Chop at Perry's on Scarsdale #19: Barbacoa Tacos at Gerardo's #18: Tex-Cajun Poutine at BB's Cajun Cafe #17: The "Instant Vintage" Burger at Rockwell Tavern # 16: Enchiladas de Tejas at Molina's # 15: The Reuben at Kenny & Ziggy's #14: Cassoulet at Feast #13: Chicken Fried Steak at Ouisie's Table #12: Fried Chicken at Frenchy's #11: Crispy Pork Belly with Steen's Cane Syrup at Catalan #10: Crispy Skin Snapper at Reef