This week, we check in with the chefs from the Benjy's family -- Joseph Stayshich, Mike Potowski and Daniel Nossa -- to find out where they like to chow down about H-town. While all the answers are thoughtful and give a good roadmap of great eats around town, Nossa, who calls himself the "sandwich guy" at Local Foods, is obviously a foodie. His recommendations are so detailed and specific that you might want to print this out and hang it on your refrigerator, or take notes as you go along.
Joseph Stayshich Executive chef, Benjy's in the Village
Standard go-to: Having kids, we tend to frequent spots that will appeal to everyone... We tend to find ourselves at Los Dos Amigos on Washington Avenue on Sunday mornings. One of the last holdouts of the old Washington Avenue (Pig Stand, anyone?), it serves great home-style Mexican breakfast that everyone in the family can enjoy. I personally like the huevos machacado. Plus, I get to ask my wife, "When are we going to get some chickens?" while looking out towards Wabash feed store across the street. We also eat a ton of Vietnamese food, Les Givral's is down the street, so we crush banh mi from there weekly. We also frequent Van Loc for their pho. My daughter Izabella loves to brunch it up at Pondicheri. Orange chocolate brioche, breakfast frankie, morning thali and masala eggs all in rotation over there.
Cheap eats: Easy -- tacos!!! My wife and I like the tacos at Tierra Caliente over by the West Alabama Ice House. They have great barbacoa and lengua. Lankford Market has awesome cheeseburgers! When I was younger, I would order them doubled up. As I have grown older, I realize that one of those tasty patties is enough. I go for the regular cheeseburger, so freakin' good! They have a variety of different burgers there and the kids dig their milkshakes. Don't forget the tots!
For a standout meal: Although I don't eat there often, I would say Oxheart is my standout place for a meal. When I travel, I always try to eat somewhere that makes me think about food and cooking differently, in a new light. Oxheart does that for me every time, and it's in my own backyard! Forward-thinking, third-coast cuisine...I have enjoyed several great meals at Provisions recently as well. Great bread service, love the ham of the day plate, and their pastas are ingenious and tasty. I am stoked about Coltivare, too!
Mike Potowski Executive chef, Benjy's on Washington
Standard go-to: Oporto. We like to order the specials, but we also get cheese and cured meats, crab and avocado crostini, piri piri shrimp, albóndiga marruecos. Also, Yum Yum Cha. Once again, we will order all the specials, and I love the chicken feet, honeycomb tripe, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, turnip cakes.
This story continues on the next page. Daniel Nossa Sandwich guy at Local Foods
Standard go-to's: I am a frequent diner on my time off, so there are several places that I often find myself going back to. At Cajun Kitchen, I like to start with two pounds of Thai-basil crawfish and go from there. I also like to make sure I can get the grilled oysters. I visit Plonk for the tuxedo halibut and mussels. I can recommend any seafood, especially the caramelized diver scallops, at Masraff's. The Margherita or the Godfather pizza at Capone's is even better the next day. My favorite spot for Korean barbecue, bibimbap and seafood pancake is Bon Ga. AKA Sushi has a happy and reverse happy hour, which I think offers best quality for price. I like to get the Bacon-Wrapped Cucumber at Mala Sichuan -- so simple but delicious. Oporto is a great date-night spot; order the piri-piri Shrimp and pork vindaloo.
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Cheap Eats: Al's Quick Stop has gyro and hummus for $4.50 each.This place is really great, because it is right around the corner from my apartment. At Little Jimmy's Deli, I'll get the sandwich/drink/chip combo. I recommend chicken salad or the roast beef ($8.50). I maybe head here twice a month for a quick bite when I'm out and about in the area. Aladdin's combination platter with one meat and two sides is $9.99, perfect for getting your hummus and baba ghanoush fix. Captain Tom's is my place for a Dozen Oysters ($6.95) and cup of gumbo ($1.95). Nothing like getting some delicious oysters and washing it down with a michelada.
Other faves: I am just a sucker for the Bellaire/Chinatown area. Here is a list of a few of the places I go that I would definitely recommend. I would say these are definitely word-of-mouth places: Thien Thanh for banh cuon, bun cha ha noi, cha ca thanh long; Bodard Bistro for nem nuong, family-style dishes; Com Tam Kieu Giang for Vietnamese Rice Plates; Vinh Hoa for $5 delicious lunch plates; Phanh Ky for comfort noodles for the current wintry weather we're having; Confucius is great value for lunch and dinner; and Kim Chau for bun bo hue. With a lot of these places I don't have a go-to dish per se; it just depends on what I'm in the mood for at that time, but I am always satisfied.
Want other suggestions from those in the know? For more of Where the Chefs Eat, see below:
- Ryan Hildebrand, Michael Pellegrino, Kaz Edwards
- Roberto Castre, David Guerrero, Hugo Ortega
- Anita Jaisinghani, Elouise Adams Jones, Erin Smith
- John Sikhattana, Ji Kang, Junnajet Hurapan
- Grant Gordon, Matt Marcus, Kevin Naderi
- Chris Shepherd, Ryan Pera, Antoine Ware
- David Cordua, Jonathan Jones, Randy Rucker
- Bryan Caswell, Randy Evans, Danny Trace
- Brandi Key, Monica Pope, Jamie Zelko
- David Denis, Jean-Philippe Guy, Philippe Schmit
- Rebecca Masson, Philip Speer, Chris Leung
- Seth Siegel-Gardner, Terrence Gallivan, Justin Yu
- Amalia Pferd, Sean Carroll, John Peterson
- Alex Padilla, Jose Vela, Mario Valdez
- Christine Ha and Alvin Schultz
- Ryan Lachaine, Lyle Bento, Victoria Dearmond
- Greg Lowry, Matthew Lovelace, Dax McAnear
- Lance Fegan, Travis Lenig, Steve Marques, Eric Laird