Tag Archives: Houston

My Top 10 Restaurants in Houston!

When I arrived in Houston in June of 2016, my roommate Anne-Marie said to me “You could come back for the next ten summers and still not see all the restaurants worth seeing”. For those that don’t know, Houston is huge. It’s the fourth biggest city in the USA and it has a massive dining culture. Houstonians love to eat out, and it’s reflected in the sheer amount (and variety) of restaurants the city has to offer. In 2005 USA Today proclaimed Houston the “dining-out capital of the nation” and it’s been reported that the city’s residents eat out at restaurants more often than those from other major cities. Basically, it’s a great place to live if you’re a foodie, and one thing that’s interesting about Houston is its relative lack of national chains in favor of local ones. This is evident in the dominance of local families such as the Pappases and the Carrabbas which you may or may not see featured in this list (#SpoilerAlert). Anyway, with that said, there aren’t too many rules for this list; these are the top 10 restaurants I have personally eaten at, and given that I’ve lived next door to NASA for the past year, expect inclusions to come from South Houston and its outlying communities.

#10 Aiya Sushi & Ramen


Location: League City, TX

What to get: The Salmon Nigiri- it’s everything you want in raw fish; beautiful texture that’s soft to the bite and full of flavor.

What makes this place: You might have to wait a little longer than other sushi places, but it’s worth it because better attention is paid to the food. The best example of this is the Crunchy Roll, which I found to be neater and better prepared than at other nearby sushi places. The difference was that we were able not only to finish the Crunchy Roll this time, but not feel like ass afterwards.

Trivia: We went here on July 3rd before heading off to see the fireworks at the Kemah Boardwalk with some newlywed LSU graduates. I never know quite how much to order when it comes to sushi, but in this instance I actually under-ordered and headed back to the counter to ask for some more.

#9 Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Lobster Ravioli, of course. Don’t think I need to elaborate on why that’s the bomb.

What makes this place: The family history behind Carrabba’s is super interesting, and reading it one can see why the food here is so damn good. The family describes getting off the boat at Galveston and starting a legacy that began in the Houston area. When they got off that boat, they carried with them not just the Sicilian recipes they had been raised on, but a love of Creole and Cajun cooking- seafood in particular. There’s an eclectic mix here of traditional Sicilian fare and recipes which reflect the local produce of the Gulf. Did I mention their wood-fired pizzas as well?

Trivia: We came here sometime in 2016, where I immediately became impressed by the classy interior design and low, atmospheric lighting. At the time I described it as being a fancy, upscale Olive Garden, but in truth it’s much more than that.

#8 Aquarium Restaurant


Location: Kemah, TX

What to get: The Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake. I got this for dessert and honestly it’s one of the greatest cheesecakes I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a whole helluva lot in my time).

What makes this place: It’s a restaurant that’s also an aquarium, so there’s that. Aside from being able to engage in a staring contest with a moray eel whilst you eat, the food on offer is awesome (and pricey). Best for a special occasion!

Trivia: When we visited this place in July of 2016, we had just seen Finding Dory at the movie theater, and that was why we chose the Aquarium Restaurant (yep, that is the actual name) over the many others that the boardwalk offers.

#7 Sam’s Boat


Location: Seabrook, TX

What to get: Gotta be the crab cakes. As far as entrees go, I highly recommend the Blackened Mahi Mahi for lovers of quality ocean fish.

What makes this place: The atmosphere. The design of the building is interesting. I keep calling it “Sam’s Club” because it’s the size of a bloody warehouse. There’s a nice maritime aesthetic that blends well with the sports bar setup, and the patio offers a lovely view of Clear Lake.

Trivia: We ate here for July 4th, 2016 and after we finished our meal we were able to enjoy a view of the fireworks from one of the outside balconies.

#6 Ichibon Seafood & Steakhouse

Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Yaki Beef was exquisite, and everything you want beef to be; slender cuts of meat full of flavor and not too chewy.

What makes this place: Although you can get sushi here, what you really ought to do is come for the Hibachi experience. It’s a right laugh. Seriously- you need to try this at least once in your life because it’s like going to the circus. At the time my roommate Aaron and I were sleepy but once the spectacle started we were woken right up, the server flinging clumps of rice in our direction and setting off flames that made us go “WOAH” with wide-eyed astonishment. I can’t stress enough how much of a hoot this is- to say nothing of the gourmet cooking.

Trivia: When we visited this place in 2016 we were actually attending the birthday of a fellow alumnus of the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. In fact, the Blugolds at the table outnumbered the Texans!

#5 Pappa’s Seafood House


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Stuffed Crabs were particularly wonderful. You can get two or three, and you better have a darn good reason for not picking the latter.

What makes this place: The Houston Press describes the Pappas family name as “the most famous name in Houston”. These guys are everywhere, and at each one of their eateries you are guaranteed top notch food. The quality and range of seafood here was second to none, and the high prices are justified. Whether you are looking for fried seafood or naked fish, gumbo or steak, or lobster fresh from the bay, this place is a true fisherman’s dream.

Trivia: My roommates and I hit up Pappa’s Seafood House for July 4th of 2017, although it was quite by accident. We had intended to grab some sweet-ass BBQ at the nearby Bone Daddy’s establishment, but found that it was closed. It’s funny because we tried to eat at Bone Daddy’s on four separate occasions this summer, but each time they were mysteriously closed for business!

#4 Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: Anne-Marie swears by the Linguine Alfredo. I got it on our second trip and it is best had with chicken. Easily the creamiest linguine dish this side of the Atlantic.

What makes this place: The authenticity, without a doubt. This was far and away the most authentic restaurant we have been to in the USA. It’s a small, indie restaurant with a cozy feel. It’s how I imagine the mom & pop eateries of New York’s Little Italy to be. It’s out of the way and not too flashy, but it’s a real hidden gem. There’s no neon or anything, just this simple, homely atmosphere. The staff are all sweet as pie and make you feel like family.

Trivia: The second time we came here Anne-Marie was handed a side of garlic bread, which I assumed for some idiot reason was given to us as a sharing basket. So I reached across the table to grab one, prompting Anne-Marie to exclaim “OI” in her best cockney accent. I’ve never seen her look so shocked. Within seconds she burst out in fits of French laughter, genuine teary-eyed hysterics, at my faux pas.

#3 Yard House


Location: Friendswood, TX

What to get: The Spicy Jambalaya has overtaken Pistol Pete as my favorite thing to come out of Louisiana. It’s influenced by Spanish and French cooking and personally I can’t think of a more holy culinary marriage. Andouille Sausage and Blackened Shrimp…that’s why this was actually my OFFICIAL favorite meal of the summer.

What makes this place: Its combination and range of American and local favorites. It’s kind of like an upscale sports bar. It’s a great place to go if you’re out on a Friday night seeing a movie or going on a date. Definitely a place to wear ya khakis and button-downs. You can get quality ribs here, fresh seafood, fancy versions of American pub classics, pizza, fried chicken, the lot!

Trivia: The only negative about our trip was that we spent the whole time regretting not getting the tower of onion rings, which we not-too-subtly stared at on the table opposite.

#2 Lupe Tortilla


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Chipotle Smoked Ribs are utterly divine. An interesting, Tex-Mex twist on one of my favorite dishes.

What makes this place: The patio is lovely. Come here on a cool, summer evening and watch the sunset whilst drinking margaritas and eating scooped guacamole off of warm and toasty tortilla chips.

Trivia: Our waiter sounded like Aaron Paul circa “You ain’t seein’ the basement, bitch!

#1 Saltgrass Steakhouse


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Prime Rib is my favorite cut of steak because of the one I got here. The meat was soft and succulent, and complete with this creamy lump crabmeat topping.

What makes this place: This is about as Texan as it gets. This local chain is based in Houston and it exemplifies everything that’s great about the Houstonian dining experience. I really don’t think there was anywhere else I could have put in the top spot. It’s very expensive, so come here on a special occasion, but you really get your money’s worth. The servers are incredibly professional and have the most Texan cufflinks. The interior aesthetics of this place are truly amazing, and the steak here is the best anywhere. And that’s why I suggest that if you are in Houston (or Texas for that matter) for just one day, then eat here. These folks know what they’re doing. Just writing this is giving me serious separation anxiety.

Trivia: We first came here on August 8th, 2015, a Saturday, for what stands as the greatest and most storied dining experience in the history of my travels in the USA. It kind of transcended the food itself, because of all the emotions at play. At the time, we had just driven from Wisconsin to Texas to help Anne-Marie move in for grad school. We were drained both physically and emotionally, but this meal was the highlight of our trip. We wanted a quintessentially Texan experience to mark our introduction to Texas, and we got it.


Long Day’s Journey into Lemonade

It’s the last week of July and the height of summer here in Houston. For the majority of the last month we’ve experienced the loudest and most apocalyptic thunderstorms you can imagine on a daily basis. Most of the time they last little over an hour, but during that hour it would rain so violently you can hardly see ten feet in front of you. It makes things like driving and working outside practically impossible, and the volume and ferocity of the thunder would make our little Border Collie’s hair stand up on end. It makes you think of a Spinosaurus, and she starts whimpering and pacing nervously. This was literally a daily occurrence, whether it was short-lived or hours of bunkering down counting our non-perishable foods. It was as sure as the sunrise and the grand orchestra of the cicadas in the late evenings. But about a week ago the storms calmed, and we’ve had several days of cloudless skies and uninterrupted sunshine. The temperature in Houston is punishing, and the muggy, humid air of the swampland upon which the Magnolia City was built feels prickly against your skin. The bush crickets and all the other singing insects seem to be out in full force, the anoles and the geckos are so abundant that trampling one underfoot seems inevitable, and hot damn are the hornets here fat as hell. But it’s perfect pool weather.

My roommates and I have taken advantage of this by hitting up the pool in our apartment complex almost every day this past week. We supplement morning workouts with lengths, triceps dips and swimming acrobatics, we sit in the dappled water and chat about the teachings of B.F Skinner whilst listening to the Trolls soundtrack on the new Bluetooth speaker, and some days we even mix some drinks and have our own little cabana party. Yesterday was definitely the latter! A few months ago, Lauren Gleisberg did a post on her blog about this Strawberry Ginger Lemonade she makes in the summers. My best friend Anne-Marie and I made a note of it on our phones to remind ourselves when summer came to try it out. We both follow and adore Lauren, who produces great content in the way of fitness plans, workout challenges, and cookbooks. If you’re a woman looking to get fit and connect with a whole network of others like you, then you should absolutely check out Lauren’s Insta or her blog and get involved.

Anyway, we couldn’t find the right day or time to cross this lemonade off our bucket list, until yesterday’s perfect conditions presented themselves. I’ll leave a link to Lauren’s blog post here, which contains the recipe. It is super refreshing and the ideal poolside beverage. If you want you can supplement it with something a little stronger. Lauren recommends Vodka, and I think something like Southern Comfort would be a good mix with this as well. If you really want to elicit that ginger flavor more, Anne-Marie suggests mixing it with a ginger beer. It’s very easy to make and won’t take up too much of your time. We did it in about half an hour or so. It seems the lemonade and our time spent poolside was the exact therapy I needed. My anxiety had me in a spiral earlier in the week, so I took a break from blogging to clear my head and reevaluate some things. And now that my little hiatus is over, it’s absolutely appropriate that I get back to work with this post right here. I hope you enjoyed reading and I hope you are tempted to try the lemonade (or any other of Lauren’s products and advice) out for yourselves!

Here are some pictures of the finished product! Hope you are all having a kick-ass summer.

The Time I Got Bon-dangled by Border Patrol

Well I finally made it back to Houston. It’s my fifth stay in the United States and the fourth year in a row I have roomed with my friends for the summer. My return to Texas is also something of a farewell tour; come next year it is likely that my pals will be living in a state with a less punishing climate, and begin their life together as husband and wife. Their wedding will ensure a sixth visit to the US of A, but the years of the mythical summers will come to an end. So it is that this year then becomes my last chance, at least for a while, to see more of what Houston has to offer. The plane came in to land around suppertime and everything was much as I had left it and it was bright in the evening. Out of the window I had an unobstructed view of the low, gray buildings and the low, dark hardwoods. The grass was pale and everything had the sticky quality of a swamp. As we got closer to the runway, more buildings came into view; car dealerships with seas of glimmering car-tops and modest, gray motels, and every building site and industrial complex was low and spread out among the swamplands.

I figured at this point that I’m a seasoned traveler. I’ve been here five times now and twice to the Big Country- so what did I have to fear? No doubt I would be akin to an old guest at a nice hotel, the kind that makes jokes with the doorman and has his lucky room reserved for him by the winking desk clerk. But no, that wasn’t the case. As a general rule the folks at border protection are largely a humorless bunch- and this is no more true than in the case of those who guard the shores of the USA, the nation that, although built by immigrants now considers it something of a curse word. There is something very detached about the way the officers at customs interact with us travelers. The lady who dealt with me asked me to scan my fingers and have my photo taken, before suddenly informing me that I was to be escorted to Immigration for some unspecified reason. I said “Okay” and reached for my passport before she snatched it away and put it in a folder.

“Oh, you’re keeping that are you?” I asked.

“Yes, of course I am” she snarled, in this real patronizing way as though I knew what the hell was going on. She stared me down for a few seconds like I had insulted her, as I looked around for where Immigration was. She pointed me in one direction, before yelling at me to come back and wait for an agent who would escort me. I get taken to this little waiting room and left among a bunch of other miserable looking travelers who similarly have no idea why they have been disallowed entry. Across from me is a mother from India balancing a baby on one arm whilst trying to rein in a screaming naked toddler with the other.

One of the officers came over and demanded the mom get the kid some pants. The mom tried in vain with her one free arm to get the child into some pants whilst he made a screaming wheel of himself on the floor. The officer then came over again and yelled at the woman to control her kid, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this lady had the odds stacked against her. This pattern repeated itself for about 45 minutes and the naked kid started attacking his mom. Everyone watched without saying anything as the little kid- who had been screeching without pause for the better part of an hour now- started clawing at his mother’s face, gauging her eyes, and pulling her hair out. There was murder in his little eyes. Finally the officers, who found there was no luck to be had in screaming at this woman themselves, brought her husband in, and it wasn’t long before he lost his temper and tried to smack the kid like he was a housefly. At this point the officer strode over and wagged her finger an inch from the guy’s face and said several times “NO. NO. YOU CAN’T HIT KIDS IN OUR CULTURE,” in the kind of voice one would use for a disobedient dog. I half expected her to follow it up with “BAD BOY”.

No one seemed to be checking on us and no one told us why we were here or how long we would be delayed. I swear that room was a Kafkaesque nightmare. We were infinitesimal drops of spray against the high stone walls of bureaucracy. I could observe the officers joking with each other, but as soon as they interacted with us they fixed us with these mechanical eyes, and all sense of human empathy was lost. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Ray Bradbury recently.

Anyway, we were a right motley crew in that waiting room. There were a dozen of us from a dozen different corners of the Earth with a dozen different problems. We were told that we couldn’t leave the room or use our phones. One British girl who was there for having her green card stolen was only allowed to go for a piss with an armed escort. Most of the people’s issues that I witnessed seemed to be mere bureaucratic errors. I overheard things like “Look, lady- just because you have been approved to adopt this baby, doesn’t mean you have completed the adoption progress. You need to go back to Pakistan and call this number…” or “Ah, so it looks like glitches in the fingerprint scanners are logging people as having criminal records, so we have to wade through your criminal history”. It turned out that the reason for my being there was something like this- somewhere down the line there had been a misunderstanding or misstep in their system. I got interviewed by a guy with a thin, downward-curling mouth and steel-colored eyes, who responded to even the most straightforward answers I gave him with a confused “huh”. I guess my student visa from five years ago had confused their system, which is strange, because I have visited the USA in 2014, 2015, and 2016 all without incident. The guy grumbled at me to call a number and sent me on my way, two hours after I had landed.

I got a call from my friend, who informed me that there was an active tornado warning and that he, his fiancee, and their puppy Adelaide had locked themselves in the bathroom and turned out the light. I had to watch out that I wouldn’t get blown halfway to Cuba as soon as I stood outside. But first I had to worry about where the hell my luggage was. I was late, so none of the conveyor belts had bags on them, and I was the only passenger left in the area. I asked the only folks around- a couple cleaners- if they had seen my bag. The answer was that, since it had been so long since my plane landed- or indeed any planes had landed- that I would have to find the nearest British Airways agent and hope that my bag wasn’t destroyed as a potential bomb threat. I passed through a set of doors that informed me I wouldn’t be able to return through, and in the distance in a long, empty room, I spotted my bag casually abandoned beside a wall. I picked it up, and left with the feeling that the day’s drama was behind me.

I went over to the first cab I saw and asked if I could use it. The taxi driver asked where I was going and I told him “NASA Space Center”. He said okay and for me to get inside whilst he loaded my bags. Then, inexplicably, he ran over to his supervisor and had a short, animated conversation. The driver came running back and asked me to leave my bags in the car and convince his supervisor I needed a cab. I did this, and the driver then ran over to us and exclaimed to his supervisor “He asked me to take him to the hospital, I swear!”

“No I didn’t,” I said.

“Get this man’s bags. You can’t take him,” the supervisor said.

“But HE came to ME,” the taxi driver protested.

“Get his bags, now,” the supervisor demanded. Turning to me, he said, “I’m sorry sir. Go to that cab over there. He will get your bags.”

The cab driver, visibly irritated, grabs my luggage and complains that I should get my own bags.

“Really,” I say, “I can go over and get it, it’s fine.”

“No, you don’t have to do it. He’s gonna do it for you, sir.”

The cab driver protests some more and I go over and take my bags off him. The supervisor apologizes to me and I get in the cab he indicates to me. I see them start to argue behind me. I tell the new cab driver “NASA, please” and we finally get going. A couple minutes pass before the driver tells me, “Yeah, that driver back there is gonna get suspended for a week now. Not your fault though”.

We drive into the night and the traffic on the freeway is almost non-existent. The trees give way to lots, and the lots become billboards; blazing violets and reds and blues of neon. We pass by every kind of cuisine imaginable. Everything is lit up, and you can hardly see the clouds for the great roadside advertisements. Soon we pass by the heart of the city and Minute Maid Park, and the whole thing never loses its grandeur. All the verticality of the city is condensed to this one, bright nucleus of skyscrapers that stand above the rest of the city, which spreads suddenly flat in all directions around it.

When I get to the apartment complex it’s raining but the storm has passed. I enter into the old place and Addie starts going mad, springing off her back legs five feet in the air. My friends had ready for me a homemade pizza, a slice of ice cream cake, and a cold glass of Jarritos waiting for me. We all heaved a sigh of relief, and thus, the summer of 2017 began.