Will You Be My Valentine, Houston? 10 Reasons to Fall in Love With the City's Food Scene

Yes, yes, we've all bitched at some time in our lives that Valentine's Day is an arbitrary holiday created by greeting card companies to make money while simultaneously forcing single people to re-examine their sorry existences, and because of this, we've all become huge grouches. Until, that is, we actually do have someone to share the holiday with. Then it's totally a worthwhile endeavor.

The thing is, I don't think you need an actual person to get you giddy about love on Valentine's Day. This year, I'm declaring my love for something else. I'm declaring my love for Houston.

I moved here about seven months ago, and in that time I've totally fallen in love with this city. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy Houston as much as I have, but the food, more than anything, has won me over. This year, I'm thrilled to have Houston as my Valentine.

Here's why.

10. Food trucks Though there are seemingly endless arguments between Houston food truck owners and Houston lawmakers regarding where and when and how close and for how long food trucks can park, there's no denying that our restaurants on wheels are thriving. A number of food trucks including Good Dog Houston, Eatsie Boys and Bernie's Burger Bus have gone brick and mortar, while some restaurants have started rolling out food trucks as a separate business venture. And the best part is you can now get just about any kind of food you crave from a truck: sweets, salads, Korean food, Cajun food, tacos, pizza and everything in between.

9. Celebrity Chefs Monica Pope was on "Top Chef Masters," while Rebecca Masson was on "Top Chef: Just Desserts." Christine Ha, Alvin Schultz and James Nelson were all on "Masterchef" (Ha won), and Bryan Caswell competed on "The Next Iron Chef." And then there are all of our James Beard winners and nominees, among them Hugo Ortega, Chris Shepherd and Justin Yu. Thanks to these folks, Houston's getting a lot of national attention.

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8. Breakfast tacos If there's a better breakfast option than tacos, I don't think it's been invented yet. From the drool-worthy trompo tacos at Taqueria La Macro to La Mexicana to Chiloso's to Laredo Taqueria and Brothers Tacos, there are really too many places to list them all. And the great thing about breakfast tacos is everyone does them a little different. Different salsa, different meat, different tortillas. Variety (and breakfast tacos) is the spice of life!

7. Barbecue When most people think of barbecue, they think of places like Kansas City, Memphis and Lockhart, Texas, but Houston has several places that could give any barbecue big-wigs a run for their money. Gatlin's BBQ wows with ribs, while newcomer Killen's Barbecue (soon to be a brick-and-mortar restaurant instead of just a weekly pop-up) kills it with brisket. Virgie's Bar-B-Que has been on Texas Monthly's famous barbecue list twice, while unassuming Brooks' Place delights diners with great meat from an unexpected place. So move over, Lockhart. We've got this covered.

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6. Spicy food Whether you want spice from habañeros, bird's eye chilies, gochujang or wasabi, Houston's restaurants offer it all. We have wonderful, spicy Mexican food, of course, but we also have even spicier Thai curries, Korean dumplings, sushi, stir-fry and chicken wings, and we embrace it all. Bring on the ghost peppers, mala sauce and Tabasco, chefs, cause Houstonians can definitely handle it.

5. Chains that started here Houston brought the country Carrabba's (now in 32 states), Pappas concepts like Pappadeaux and Pappasitos, The Tasting Room and Ninfa's (among other restaurants), sharing our great food with America. We still have all the originals right here in town as a testament to the sometimes humble beginnings of great concepts. Thanks to Houston, the rest of the country has Tex-Mex, casual Italian and lots of wine. You're welcome, America.

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4. Burgers I honestly didn't really think I liked burgers when I moved here. I was accustomed to dry, overcooked patties and lackluster toppings. I figured, why bother? But Houston has proved me so, so wrong. I'd go so far as to call Houston the burger capital of the country, thanks to the incredible variety and quality of our local restaurants' creations. From "gourmet" burgers like those at Plonk, Hubcap Grill and Bernie's Burger Bus to more old-school burgers like the great one I just discovered at Alamo Drafthouse (yes, the movie theater), great burgers are everywhere in Houston. And now I can't stop eating them.

3. Gulf seafood Shrimp. Oysters. Crab. Flounder. Red Drum. Amberjack. Blackened. Fried. Broiled. Grilled. Raw. Baked. Stewed. Steamed. All of it is wonderful, and all of it is fresh and plentiful in our gulf waters. Here in Houston, we're incredibly fortunate to have a cornucopia of fresh seafood in our backyard and great chefs and cooks who know how to make it shine.

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2. Chinatown Chinatown has become my favorite neighborhood for food in Houston. I don't think I've ever had a bad meal there, regardless of where I eat. Sometimes I find myself at a well-established restaurant like Fu Fu Cafe, while other times I wander into a small, hole-in-the-wall joint and end up having one of the best meals of my life. And of course, Chinatown is home to so much more than stir-fry and wontons. There's Chinese seafood, Chinese noodles, Vietnamese pho, Vietnamese sandwiches, Malaysian cuisine, dim sum, Mongolian cuisine, spicy Hunan stir-fry, sweet shaved ice and so much more. Every trip to Chinatown is a wonderful, delicious culinary adventure.

1. Tex-Mex This is what I miss most when I'm gone from Texas. It's what I crave when I need comfort food. It's what I expect at parties and celebrations. Tex-Mex tastes like home to me, and here in Houston we have some of the best Tex-Mex in the state. Everyone has his or her favorite spot, of course, but it's difficult to go wrong with fajitas at Ninfa's, tamales at Irma's, enchiladas at Le Mexicana, tacos at El Ultimo, carnitas at Molina's or a little bit of everything at El Real. Every day, I'm thankful for my diet staples like chips, salsa, queso and tacos, and every day I'm thrilled that I get to live in a city that does all of them so darn well.

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