Chef Chat

Where the Chefs Eat: Hildebrand, Pellegrino and Edwards

I am always asking people where they like to eat. I'll go anywhere. A $1 fried chicken place in a gas station, a hole-in-the-wall strip mall affair on the west side, a hot dog stand on the sidewalk underneath a freeway -- if it's good, I'm totally game. And generally speaking, if a chef recommends a place, it's bound to be good.

Which is why I'm compiling a treasure trove of tips from our city's finest chefs to share with you, the lucky reader. Inspired by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau's "Where the Chefs Eat" tours of the city, I'm asking chefs to to share their favorite eats in Houston.

Today, we talk to chefs Ryan Hildebrand, Michael Pellegrino and Kaz Edwards.

Ryan Hildebrand

Executive Chef and Owner, Triniti

Standard go-to: "It would have to be Kata Robata, toro nigiri and anything else they feel like sending. I'm usually there for an early dinner into late night depending on the wine flow. The salmon nigiri, white tuna nigiri and lobster roll are other staples I tend to order as well. I could eat there every day."

Cheap eats: "It would have to be that taco truck at the West Alabama Ice House, Tacos Tierra Caliente. We don't do a lunch service on Saturdays, so every Saturday before service, we order about 20 tacos for the entire kitchen, usually barbacoa and beef fajita tacos."

Michael Pellegrino

Executive Chef of Max's Wine Dive

Standard go-to: "Le Mistral. This restaurant is a few blocks from my house. I love eating there. The food is on point and always finely tuned. The terrine de foie gras and amuse-bouche platter paired with a nice white Burgundy is, by far, my favorite five o' clock snack on a rare day off."

Cheap eats: "Hong Kong Dim Sum. They serve scrumptious dim sum all day. They offer great food at a fair price and you don't have to wake up early. That can't be beat. I get the steamed chicken feet, steamed pork spare ribs, Chinese broccoli -- truth is, I am a sucker for all types of broccoli, it has been that way forever -- and the pan-fried turnip cake."

Crawfish: "La Fisherman (1935 Highway 6 South). I have come to learn that crawfish is a religion in Houston. Everyone has their own temple that they are proud to proclaim, "This is where I eat bugs!" I love food. Crawfish is no exception. However, after battling a pound of crawfish with my chubby claws, I feel like I am being teased. I am usually still hungry. It is a crustacean tease! That's when I order the King crab legs boiled in that lovely crawfish nage. I become one happy, crawfish-eating pilgrim."

Kaz Edwards

Chef de Cuisine of Uchi Houston

Standard go-to: "I haven't really had time to eat out that much, but I've eaten at Underbelly, which I thought was amazing. Coppa has probably been one of my favorite places to eat. The chef there, she pretty much does everything, and everything I've eaten there has been good."

Cheap eats: "There's this place around the corner from Uchi called Aladdin. It's one of those places where all the food is laid out in front of you to choose, and we have probably eaten through the whole menu. Their cashew rice is great, the roasted cauliflower you can't miss, their hummus and bread cooked to order is always on point, and they have this fried potato ball topped with a meat sauce that is really good. And we always go for lunch."

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham