Early spring may just be one of the nicest times to visit our city. It's usually when the influx of family and friends trying to escape their drawn-out winters get a quick hello in before the sun scorches the Houston earth for the unforeseeable future.
And for me, one of the most important things about seeing friends and family (besides spending time together and making memories and shit), is figuring out where to take them to eat. It's the perfect chance to show off what our city has to offer and keep them coming back for more.
I asked the Eating ... Our Words team to tell us their favorite bars and restaurants when it comes to taking out-of-towners. Here's how they answered:
John Kiely: Most visitors expect seafood, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. What they get is Danton's, overlooking the freeway. Always a hit. If the guests are boisterous, then Goode's Seafood Company. It's like a party, with fish.
We take every breakfast visitor to La Mexicana for Tex-Mex and an agua fresca de melon in a lovely Montrose setting.
For a drink, Goro & Gun, 'cause I like it there, that's why.
I'm related to some jet-setters, so last month we took them to Coppa in the Village for dinner, those awesome house bellinis, and espresso next door at Fellini. They jetted off happy.
Mai Pham: It really depends on where the out-of-towner is from and what they like to eat. Killen's Steakhouse is a must for a steak lover. To me, it personifies what a Texas steakhouse should be. It's upscale without being too stuffy. It has the warmth of a mom and pop, but then wows you with a great wine list and some of the best meat you'll find anywhere.
Another favorite is Hugo's. Mexican food -- traditional Mexican, not Tex-Mex -- of the upscale variety like the kind you get at Hugo's -- deep, rich moles, and traditional preparations like conchinita pibil -- is hard to find outside of Mexico proper, and Hugo's always does an amazing job, not to mention their fantastic Sunday brunch.
I like to surprise people with the quality of sushi we have here in Houston -- for that, it's a visit to Kata Robata for their omakase with chef Manabu Horiuchi. I also like Tiny Boxwood's for an afternoon lunch, or weekend breakfast.
I'll hit Bellaire Boulevard for pho at Pho Dien, or Cantonese food at Shanghai Restaurant (9116 Bellaire Blvd) or Hong Kong Food Street. For Tex-Mex, we frequent Lupita's in Sugar Land for their sizzling fajitas.
If it's crawfish season, I like to show off our Viet-Cajun contingent. Crawfish & Noodles is great for garlicky crawfish, cua rang muoi, or salt and pepper blue crabs, and their turkey neck.
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Nath Pizzolatto: West Alabama Ice House - I've been living in Houston for 15 years, and so I tend to bring visitors to town to the spots I've built the most affection for over that time, rather than the newest or trendiest places. This laid-back beer bar largely populated by regulars, including a significant biker population, is one of my favorite spots when I want to be somewhere welcoming and friendly. It's not a hip place, somewhere to go to see and be seen; it's just a neighborhood icehouse, one that always keeps the beer cold and the vibe warm, and will occasionally host crawfish boils, chili cook-offs, and the like. Plus, while you're there, you can try the barbacoa tacos at the Tierra Caliente truck permanently parked across the street-- only $1.50 each, and for my money, the best barbacoa in town.
The Hay Merchant -- This is where I take beer lovers. The selection and presentation can't be beat, the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and you can always have some fun coaxing your friends into trying the more adventurous food items, like the pig ears. It's a great way to start (or end, or continue) a night out in Montrose.
Molly Dunn: When my friends and family visit me in Houston, we always seem to end up at Adair Kitchen. It's a casual place, and I know we can easily find a table. The wait staff is friendly and there's something for everyone on the menu. An order of the cheese plate with a bottle of wine to start, followed by a scrumptious plate of chicken enchiladas, or roast chicken and vegetables just like mom made, is how I like to catch up with out-of-town visitors.
Nicholas Hall: I try to take out-of-towners to places that I think make Houston what it is, from a food perspective. I can't see the point in taking visitors to a restaurant they could just as easily visit in any other city, and that goes beyond just chains. Most major cities have a good Italian restaurant, for example. That said, a few of my favorite places for showing off our fair burgh:
Himalaya: Top-notch Indo-Pak is quite a bit harder to come by, and Himalaya has firmly established itself as an essential and essentially Houston restaurant.
Spanish Village/Ninfa's on Navigation: OK, so we all cry about the Tex-Mex and BBQ pigeonholing that goes on, but there are worse reputations to have. We could be known for Five-Way Chili... Seriously, though. TexMex is part of who we are, God bless it, and we need to rep it well.
Gatlin's: See above. Also, I went to school with Greg (senior/freshman split, and we hardly knew each-other, but still). Also, also, people want BBQ in Texas, and I refuse to send them back with tales of mediocre meat.
Chinatown: Yeah, I know that's not a restaurant. That's many restaurants. That fact is it's one of our city's finer bounties, and while you may argue that certain coastal cities have their own versions fit to shame ours, I think it's worth the argument.
Brooke Viggiano: Max's Wine Dive is usually the first stop for long weekenders that want a Friday afternoon brunch. We get fried chicken wings, jalapeno-corn cakes, that stellar egg sandwich and a decently priced bottle of Champagne to kick the weekend off.
We'll usually bar hop around Market Square, then hit up BB's Cafe for late night po' boys and the gravy-queso-and-roast-beef-topped Tex Cajun Virgin fries. Everyone that's had them asks for them on subsequent visits.
Other usual suspects include brewery visits (Saint Arnold's or Karbach), Moon Tower Inn, El Rey for late night/early morning tacos, and the occasional barbecue at Gatlin's or Pizzitola's. We mostly stay in my neighborhood, but next guest that comes into town I'm taking them for pho, crab legs and crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles, whether they like it or not.
What are your go-to spots to bring out-of-towners?
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