There's been an explosion in Tomball's growth over the past few years. There have been infrastructure improvements, such as the 249 Toll Road and the Grand Parkway expansion, new shopping centers and, of course, new restaurants. That means that these days there are many new dining choices, in addition to well-established, respected eateries. Here are our five top restaurant picks in Tomball.
5. Saigon Pho, 28301 Tomball Parkway, Suite 300. Tucked away in the corner of a relatively new strip center is Saigon Pho, a wonderful little mom-and-pop restaurant. The menu includes Vietnamese food such as pho, vermicelli bowls, fried rice plates, curries and post-meal treats such as coffee, pastries, bubble tea and macaroons. A house special, the French-inspired bò lúc lac, is sautéed tender, each bite savory with a hint of sweet. The hot pepper tofu is pan-fried until crisp, stir-fried with fresh vegetables and sauce, then served with a large mound of rice. There are also other kinds of Asian dishes, such as the pad thai, pictured above.
4. Café Marrese, 11729 Spring Cypress. Just on the outskirts of Tomball, family-owned Café Marrese offers brunch, lunch and limited dinner service. One notable dish is the “Bianco Omelet,” a pillow-like egg white and Swiss cheese omelet filled with crisp turkey sausage, spinach and vegetables. Mildly spicy salsa comes alongside. The thick, slightly sweet house waffles are crisp outside and satisfyingly soft inside. The excellent sandwich options include the “Virginia Press" — tender ham, cheddar, apple and a savory tomato-infused mayonnaise on crispy-toasted ciabatta.
Also, the in-house coffee program is top-notch. Traditional espresso beverages are available, such as lattes and cappuccinos, but one of the must-try options is The Cuban on ice. It’s reminiscent of an ice-cold glass of chocolate milk, intensely smooth and with the barest hint of coffee. In the mood for something even more dessert-like? Try The Marrese, a blend of honey and earthy rosemary with bold coffee flavor that makes it the perfect after-meal drink.
3. Gianna Italian Kitchen, 28301 State Highway 249. The next-door neighbor of Saigon Pho, Gianna appears on the outside to be a modest little Italian eatery. Inside, though, it's a classy affair with sleek wood floors, intimate lighting and a mature atmosphere that's perfect for a quiet date night. While there are the many traditional Italian staples to try, the chicken alfredo is a definite yes. Tender cuts of chicken and al dente pasta smothered in rich, thick alfredo sauce make for a quite satisfying experience. The lasagna comes in big slices covered with tomato sauce and cheese that have been broiled to a lovely brown. There's also a full bar.
2. Mel’s Country Cafe, 24814 Stanolind. Mel’s has been serving Tomball for decades with generous portions of Southern food and hospitality to match. The atmosphere is timeless, from the eclectic interior to the simple chairs and tables lined with red-and-white diner tablecloths. There’s nothing fancy about Mel's: no pretentious or avant-garde attempts at Southern food, just hearty dishes for prices that can’t be beat. Try the chicken-fried steak, available in eight-or 16-ounce portions, perfectly seasoned with a flaky crust and warm white gravy. An order of onion rings, thickly sliced and fried with a wonderfully crisp, well-seasoned buttermilk batter, is enough to feed a small army.
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Adventurous (and extremely hungry) diners can try to get their photo on the wall with the Mega Mel burger challenge. It includes one and a half pounds of ground beef, a pound of bacon, a quarter-pound of cheese and trimmings and has to be consumed in under two hours. Diners considering attempting this feat should ask for pictures first. They might change their minds.
1. Tejas Chocolate Craftory, 200 North Elm Street. If meat and chocolate are a match made in heaven, then Tejas Chocolate Craftory is quite possibly heaven on earth. Tejas’s barbecued meats are wonderfully smoky and beautifully seasoned. The beef short rib is a gem: A cocoa-spice rub combined with judicious time on the pit results in a crisp char. The fats have time to render to a buttery consistency that brings together the spices and meaty flavor. There are classic sides, but the real “must order” is the carrot soufflé, a custard-like dish that is just sweet enough for grownups. Generously sized breakfast tacos are available before 11 a.m.
The in-house chocolate is as impressive as the barbecue, made onsite with single-origin cocoa. Tejas offers traditional chocolate truffles, such as the Madagascar single origin, as well as more inventive creations such as Bananas Foster, refreshing mint chocolate, mellow-sweet honey-lavender or an adventurous jalapeño fig made from locally sourced fig jam and drizzled in jalapeño-caramel sauce. The Old Fashioned Whiskey chocolate, topped with candied orange, is always a favorite. The truffle ingredients change with the seasons, so don't expect to find the same thing twice.