Houston's 5 Ugliest Restaurant Buildings

Categories: Top Five

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Photo by ThisIsIt2
Stop! Don't say it! This isn't a mean-spirited post designed to mock restaurants for the sake of pageviews. Because let's be honest -- most of Houston is pretty damned ugly, and the great thing about living here is showing people the beauty that lies underneath the tangle telephone poles and billboards.

So it goes with Houston's restaurants, too. And if there's one thing we have plenty of in this city, it's ugly buildings. Here are our five ugliest.

5. Lucky Burger

Is that supposed to be a giant barrel on top? If not, then what? Why is it bright blue? All these questions and more can not be answered by a trip inside. But you can get some damn fine fast food while you're there.

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Photo by Erika Ray
4. Sparkle's Hamburger Spot

Burger stands in Houston aren't traditionally architectural gems anyway, but Sparkle is one of the less attractive examples, even with its bright blue paint. Maybe it's the super-welcoming burglar bars, or the fact that there's zero shade to stand in while you wait the 15 to 20 minutes (on a good day) for your order to be ready.

3. Aladdin

Like much of Montrose, Aladdin looks scary as hell from the outside -- all crumbling stucco and dilapidated railings that constantly threaten to collapse into the street traffic below -- but is actually fabulous inside.

2. Ruth's Chris

The bright red and black awning that marks Ruth's Chris on Richmond seems so starkly out of place with the rest of the concrete, brutalist-lite building that the entrance almost seems as if it's the start of a prank, like that awful Febreeze commercial that's been airing lately.

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Photo by Alex
Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful?
1. Anything in a strip center

...although that's roughly half the restaurants in Houston. You'd think that because they're so predominant, it would have gotten easier by now to convince wary friends that a place is good even if it's sandwiched between a Smoke 'n' Toke and a payday loan place on Gulfton. But books will always be judged by their covers -- and restaurants are no different.

I'm tooling with a theory right now in which one of the main reasons Houston is so ignored on the national scene is because so many of our great restaurants are in shitty, suburban strip malls. But it's a great Catch-22: These amazing restaurants have moved into low-rent areas (as with places like Roberta's in Brooklyn) because it's easier to take bigger risks and open fledgling businesses when your overhead is low. Alas, eight lanes of Westheimer traffic don't have quite the allure that Williamsburg does...



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Location Info

Sparkle's Hamburger Spot

1515 Dowling, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine

912 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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13 comments
adriennebyard
adriennebyard

Roberta's is in Bushwick. There's no allure to Bushwick.

dcc624
dcc624

Having spent a large part of my life working in strip center resturants I simply will not eat in them. There make ready space is so small they cannot properly prepare food without cross contaminating it. And cleaning is also a problem.

Megan
Megan

I always thought of the structure on Lucky Burger as a fez, minus the tassle.  Fezzes are cool.  :)

Stating the Obvious
Stating the Obvious

Okay Katharine, I normally dig you, but all strip-center restaurants???  Coppa, Brasserie 19, Dumpling King - okay that one is questionable, but I loves me the slutty mannequins, Morton's, State Grill, Smith and Wollensky, Up, McCormick and Schmidt, RA, Oporto, Arpi's Phoenicia, Jonathan's the Rub, Moe's????

I realize we are talking architecture, not the inerds, but c'mon!

Avian
Avian

Peking Cuisine has the best Peking duck in the city but it's situated next to some kind of latino nightclub (?) with blacked out windows and a tiny tiny spec's.

CMN
CMN

ruchi's on shepherd & w.alabama falls under the strip center category, but it also worth noting for its extreme ugliness.  of course, this stops no one at 2:30am, including me.

Stripped
Stripped

I've been wanting to try V's Thai on the westside after seeing so much love on it, but the ugly strip center is daunting.  I managed to close my eyes and dart into Mexico's Deli over there though, and was glad I did.

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

Casa Grande on N. Main is pretty ugly, but a lot of fun if you go on the right night.

Helen
Helen

The best sushi restaurant when I lived in San Diego was in the saddest, dingiest little strip mall with a 7-11 and a Planned Parenthood for neighbors. And by best, I don't mean my personal favorite (though it was), I mean universally regarded as THE best in the whole city, can't get a seat without a reservation. Even beautiful towns have fantastic restaurants in ugly strip malls, it's not just us.

I don't think it is restaurants in ugly strip malls holding Houston back from national recognition. I think it's just the usual East Coast/West Coast elitism, same as always. We're backwater hicks in flyover country. If it ain't barbecue or steak or smothered in gravy (chili or cream), no one wants to hear from Texas. And if they do, it's Austin or Dallas they're interested in.  In my experience, Houstonians seem MORE prejudiced against restaurants in ugly strip malls or rundown old buildings or sketchy areas than people in LA or San Francisco (and I would hazard NYC as well) because real estate is so much cheaper here.

dcc624
dcc624

Never worked in one just kept the utilities going.

I have seen things that would make you sick.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

Supposedly, according to Swamplot, that Ruchi's will soon be gone, replaced by - you guessed it - mid-rise apartments.

CMN
CMN

blech. the new residents will surely be upset when i show up in the middle of the night for fajitas. regularly.

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