Ten More Places I Shot As a Photographer, Want to Try as an Eater

In September, I wrote about ten Houston restaurants I wanted to try, having photographed them for the Houston Press. Since then, I've shot another large batch of restaurants and made a new list.

These assigned restaurants included a lot of places I've been and even frequent, so there weren't as many new places to choose from, but I still managed to pull together a list of places I'm looking forward to trying because, in Houston, there seems to be an eatery everywhere you look.

10. Hunan Downtown

One of the most fascinating excursions in this round of restaurants was a trip into the downtown tunnel system. I was really surprised at how crammed full of people and eating establishments it was. But, it wasn't until I emerged on the surface that I found the first restaurant on my list, Hunan Downtown.

It's clearly built to be upscale with its modern interior and fine dining atmosphere, but I wasn't nearly as impressed by the decor as I was by the food I saw being served at lunch. Everything looked delicious. Unfortunately, I didn't have time for a bite then, but I'll make time soon.

9. Red Pier Asian Bistro

Despite being right next door to Les Givral's, a favorite place of mine, I never noticed Red Pier. It's a shame, because it looks like a really nice place. The interior is clean and modern, and the photos of dishes in the front window look really appetizing.

There are a lot of good Vietnamese joints in Houston and I've heard and read enough about pho in the last six months to make me want to blow up Twitter with a grenade made from rice noodles, but the reasonable prices, nice atmosphere and menu options will definitely get me in the door.

8. Korma Sutra

Despite the unfortunately corny name, I liked this place the minute I saw it. It's beautifully decorated and, like all good Indian restaurants, smelled amazing when I opened the door. Also, the staff was friendly and inviting, an always welcome sign whether you are doing a job shooting photos or sitting down for dinner.

Since going in there, I've heard great things about the food. I'm dying to try the spinach potato cakes and the seafood ratan.

7. Just Dinner

Every time I looked at the folder of photos I had created for this place, I read "Just Diner" and thought it was some home-cooking breakfast place. My misspelling was clearly not the only thing that was off.

This tiny house on Dunlavy is easy to miss, but clearly worth seeking out. The food offerings look beautiful and fresh, and the interior seems comfortable and homey - definitely a good date night option.

6. Tex Chick

The first time I heard about this place was when it was featured in the 2010 Best Of Houston issue. I loved walking into this teeny tiny space and being welcomed by the staff and friendly-faced patrons. It feels like a little shack on the beach despite being in the center of the Montrose. I should note that I drove past it several times before realizing that the bright blue building with the "Puertorrican" Restaurant sign is the place. I had to look really close to see "Tex Chick" on the window.

I'm dying to try the breaded steak and mofongo, which sounds as awesome to say as it must be to eat.

5. Dharma Cafe

I used to rehearse right around the corner from Dharma Cafe when it was located in the warehouse district. It was one of those places I always wanted to try but forgot about when the topic of where to eat came up. After its move to Houston Avenue, the same thing happened, which is why I'm glad I was reminded of it during my assignment.

It has always seemed a bit like a hippie hang - more like the kind of restaurant you'd see in Berkeley, California than near the central police station in downtown Houston, but the food looks fantastic and I see lunch there in my near future.

4. Veracruz Restaurant & Cantina

A number of the restaurants I was given this time were taquerias in parts of town I probably wouldn't normally venture after dark. Veracruz sits on Irvington on the near northeast side and looks unremarkable from the outside. But, inside is a lovely dining area with extremely friendly staff.

Judging by the many positive comments left around the internet about this place, I'm guessing the food is great as well. It certainly looked that way on my visit and I'm always game to add another Mexican restaurant to my list of favorite haunts regardless of the location.

3. Heights West

When I pulled up to Heights West on Ella just to the northwest of the Heights, I thought to myself, "I played a couple gigs here years ago." Sure enough, when I walked in I remembered the configuration with the bar up front and a spacious now-dining area in the back.

Fortunately, the place looks a lot better now and, most importantly, the food looked amazing. The chef was sitting out front having a glass of wine with some regulars and even offered me some lunch, which I politely declined. If there is such a thing as an unpretentious French restaurant, this is definitely it, and I'm hoping the food lives up to the vibe.

2. Texas Cafeteria

I've known about Texas Cafeteria for many years. My grandparents lived right down the street in Timbergrove Manor my entire life and my grandfather occasionally stopped in there for breakfast, but I was never fortunate enough to visit with him.

When I walked in, I immediately wanted to stay and eat. The long cafeteria aisle was quiet after lunch, but it was clear this place is packed for breakfast and lunch and with good reason. There's nothing like getting in a line and walking out the other side with a tray full of home cooking.

1. Bocados

I've driven past Bocados many times and never known what kind of restaurant it was or if it was any good. There are a number of Mexican places I frequent in the Montrose area. Each one has advantages - best atmosphere, best food, best patio, open late, good margaritas, etc. Bocados looks like it could easily make the rotation, and I look forward to giving it a try soon.

For full disclosure, I did stop there recently and had just enough time for a margarita and some guacamole, both of which I devoured furiously. The margaritas alone may get me back on that patio before the food, though I'm sure it is equally delicious.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke