Houstonians like to tout our city's vibrant ethnic tapestry, especially when it comes to food. Chinatown. The Mahatma Gandhi District. Little Nigeria. All areas in which various cuisines cloister tightly together, affording the opportunity for a dumpling crawl across Bellaire Boulevard or a chaat sampling down Hillcroft.
But the real beauty of Houston's ethnic tapestry is in the spots where all those threads blend together: Mexican, Korean, Vietnamese, European, Thai, South American. And one of the best places in the city to explore the world in one weekend is in Spring Branch. Here you'll find Polish restaurants down the street from Argentinean, Thai sharing a strip center with Mexican and taco trucks of every stripe up and down Long Point -- the main artery that runs through the center of it all.
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, Spring Branch is defined as bordered by Clay Road and Highway 290 to the north, Beltway 8 to the west, Katy Freeway to the south and Loop 610 to the east, but excludes the Memorial Villages (as those are categorized as Memorial).
10. Korea House
Korea House is decorated in a cute, traditional manner to match its traditional Korean food. Koreans, Americans, Korean-Americans and plenty of local chefs who crave Korean food have made it a favorite destination. Popular dishes include meats grilled or barbecued in the traditional way: galbi (short ribs), rib-eye and Korean bacon. Side dishes of banchan are made fresh and include cabbage, chive pancakes and tofu. Soju (a Korean distilled spirit similar to vodka) is served at the end of the meal, although you can get Korean beer too. Private rooms are available for larger parties, and you'll automatically be seated in one if you come with lots of friends.
There's a solid comfort-food menu with meat loaf, pot roast and burgers at lunch time, and ambitious New American cuisine preparations of fresh seafood for dinner. Don't miss the crab cake Benedict on Hollister's terrific Sunday brunch menu. But the real charm of this neighborhood cafe is in the incredible service -- the owners are genuinely interested in everyone who walks in the door. And they've been so successful with their little restaurant, a second is opening on Washington Avenue next year.
Real Polish kielbasa, homemade sauerkraut, kwas soup, terrific latkes, silky golonka, fat gołąbki and three kinds of pierogi are the irresistible lures that bring Houston's Eastern European community to this schmaltzy little Polish restaurant not far from the area's Polish Catholic church. Don't even bother trying to get in Polonia on Sunday when the after-church crowd packs the place. And if you want to go full-tilt Polish, order some vodka to go with your meal.