Texas Monthly: Houston is Chow Town

Here at Eating Our Words, we tend to agree. Houston is the best culinary city in Texas, and I'm not just saying that out of a sense of loyalty or native bias. Although from reading the Twitter account that Texas Monthly has set up specifically for the food section of the magazine (@TMFood), you'd think that we barely had any restaurants at all.

So it was a happy surprise to see that -- in addition to Pat Sharpe's review of BRC this month -- the normally Dallas-centric magazine had devoted a two-page spread in its August 2010 issue to Houston. I eagerly scanned the list of restaurants and quickly noticed something quite familiar about almost all of them. As she states in her intro to the list, Jordan Breal enlisted the assistance of Catalan executive chef Chris Shepherd to compile the list. And that was the key to the entire puzzle.

The restaurants that Breal highlights are: London Sizzler, Fu Fu Cafe, Jarro Cafe, Villa Arcos, Vieng Thai, Polonia, Cafe Lili, Banana Leaf, El Papaturro, Indika, My Dee Dee's Pie Shoppe and Sinh Sinh. If these sound familiar, that's because the list is virtually identical to the roster that you'll visit if you take one of the Houston Culinary Tours, offered by the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Trying to pimp out the little guys," Chris Shepherd replied via text when I asked him about the overlap. And I'm not complaining. Not only is it a spot-on list of some of Houston's best restaurants, it's also a great compilation of some of our lesser-known but extremely deserving ethnic joints. Shepherd knows his stuff.

And it turns out that the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau is behind the list in more than just a coincidental manner. "Actually, the story was inspired by the culinary tours," said the GHCVB's Lindsay Brown in an email. "Jordan, the writer, emailed me and asked for my suggestion on a chef who would introduce her to some of their favorite spots -- essentially a personal culinary tour."

I'm torn between being excited for the restaurants that were featured and being annoyed at what could be perceived as laziness on the part of Breal, who perhaps could have used the GHCVB's and Shepherd's assistance to create a list that doesn't directly resemble an existing series of culinary tours, especially without mentioning that these great tours are available in the city she was writing about.

But the GHCVB is happy: "We're thrilled with the piece, and I'm so glad the restaurants the chefs have chosen for the culinary tours are getting recognition," Brown wrote in her email.

And, in end, we probably should be too. After all, it's nice to be able to show the rest of the state that we aren't all Tex-Mex and strip malls.

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