East Downtown Houston, the area jammed in between Montrose, Upper Kirby and River Oaks, is a triangle of land formed by Highway 59 to the north-west, Interstate 45 to the south-west and the freight railroad stretching from Commerce to Cullen. The area is now picking up as an urban walk-able pocket, the best (if the only one) within Houston. While a number of chains are setting up shop here, we explore some of the best spots that native Houstonians continue to frequent for their unique flavors and dishes.
This place has been around for over a decade, serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine, and is regarded among the best across the entire city. Family-run it may be, but the food at Huynh is absolutely top-notch, and the interiors will surprise you, being such a contrast to the nondescript strip-mall exterior of the place. Portions are generous and first-timers are likely to over-order – not that you’ll mind bagging the leftovers for a second round.
Another Vietnamese classic, Mama La and her Kim Son restaurant were the ones to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to Houston in 1982. Kim Son may be a little high on the grandeur scale, with its huge space and countless tables, but the food lives up to the decor, and some of the dishes like charbroiled Vietnamese fajitas bring together a delicate fusion of the old and the new. The menu is humongous and many of the regulars are yet to work their way through the entire list.
A new-age restaurant with its own brews, the Moon Tower Inn is the place to go if you like experimenting with your food. Try the Cheech and Chong Burgers, and pick a picnic table to devour them on. The seating is all outdoors, and the place is open till 2am in the morning. Their varieties of hot dog will entice no end, going from rabbit, deer and duck to elk an boar meat for something on the wilder side.
This New Orleans style restaurant serves some great Louisiana cuisine, and their gumbo is definitely one to have when you’re there. The servings are large and the menu keeps rotating, so watch out for new items every time you visit.
An amazing Texas-style barbecue joint, this place serves possibly the best steaks and tacos in the area. Located in a strip center nestled between the George R. Brown Convention Center and Lucky’s Pub, near the BBVA Compass Stadium, Papa Charlie’s has a rustic feel. Ordering is easy, with choices taken at one end of the counter and orders placed on your tray as you move along, so that you can sit down to eat a meal within just five minutes. The decor is whimsical, with animal silhouettes painted on the floor and sports screens everywhere.
For the vegetarians and vegans there’s no need to fret in Houston because the old Thiem Hung Bakery, redesigned as, simply, Café TH is the place to go to if you’re looking for variety and taste. The place has an elegant French bistro vibe with a Southeast Asian touch, with food to match. Their vegan pho is a brilliant addition, and though the place does serve meat, the vegetarian options are equally plentiful and varied.