Nostalgia Is a Two-Way Street at Mai's

Categories: Local Spotlight

_MG_0415.jpg
Photos by Troy Fields
Last week, we visited C&D Burger Shoppe for a heady dose of nostalgia along with our burgers and Frito pies. And although I didn't grow up eating C&D's mini burgers, the wood-paneled restaurant possessed such a striking sense of place that it was easy co-opt other people's nostalgia as my own.

This isn't the case at Mai's, whose chief draw before it burned down was the nostalgia that people felt for the place that fed them their first Vietnamese food or reinforced their alcohol-sodden stomachs with bun and pho after a long night out. Despite having my first pho at Mai's, I have no love for the place. Any nostalgia I may have ever felt for the restaurant has been erased by years of bad service and worse food.

_MG_0241.jpg
Mai's new bar will provide ample opportunity to make more memories.
Yet I recognize that I'm in the minority here, and that many more Houstonians will likely fume and spit at my cafe review of Mai's this week. And that's okay; nostalgia is a two-way street, and what comfort you find in a plate of bo luc lac may not be the same comfort others will find.

Instead of further ragging on Mai's -- which, to be fair, is a Houston institution despite my feelings on the matter -- I'd rather hear our readers' stories about the place. I'm interested to hear how nostalgia affects your view of Mai's, I'm curious to know about the stories you've heard and memories you've made there over the years.

So let's have it. What's your strongest memory of Mai's?

Check out this week's cafe review, then head to our slideshow to see more photos from Mai's brand-new building.



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords
My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
Drew Alvarez
Drew Alvarez

Please list the ten places that are better than Mai's. My girlfriend's parent's are coming in from Colombia and I'd love to take them to one.

Mel23
Mel23

The waiter who always sings out loudly in Vietnamese as he's working. He's always super-happy for some reason.

Amanda
Amanda

Late at night after a long day of drinking for my birthday I was quite drunk.  Sitting at the table with several friends I spy this lady looking at me weird, maybe I was the one looking at her weird to begin with.  I suddenly get this crazed look in my eyes and yell out "What the FUCK are you looking at?"  It quickly became a screaming match between the two of us.  Then the waiter comes over and tells us he has a new table for us on the other side of the restaurant.  The night ended with saki bombs and a new found respect for just how much you could get away with at Mai's if you were a regular who tipped well.

ConiglioJn
ConiglioJn

c'mon Katharine, that tweet was a bit over the top; but then, I suspect it was to drive traffic to your site, and engage the polarized opinion about Mai's.

I mean, how does your last sentence about being 'content' square with eternal suckiness?

Fawnhall2g
Fawnhall2g

The once down-to-earth and plainly pleasant daughter, now surgically enhanced and driving a Range Rover, greeting me at the door dressed for the pages of Town & Country.

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

2006, 2:30am, on the verge of a brownout, ordering the biggest combo meal on the menu with the most things on it that I had never heard of.  After finishing, I wished I had taken another shot or two, so the brown would have been black.

ec
ec

Mai's went downhill after 1990.    Food was never authentic nor was it great.  It was cheap was about the only good. thing.

guest
guest

Maybe you should just go eat all your meals at El Real. I'm sure they'd be happy to peel back the aluminum foil on one of their frozen enchirito dinners for you.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

So very very tired of Guest and his foxes and their lame harassment of El Real.  No one is making you eat there.  Just move on.  I hear there's a new Tex-Mex place opening in The Woodlands.  Go get em.

Fox Mulder
Fox Mulder

isn't it also deliciously ironic that – in light of the recent Esquire magazine SNAFU – the food at El Rey is actually better and more authentic than El Real?

if this misnomer would have happened to any other restaurant in town, EOW and 29-25 never would have mentioned it. it's another example of these pubs being in Caswell's pocket

wise ass mexiqueen
wise ass mexiqueen

My most consistent memory is being treated like garbage by the servers. The food was never "bad," perhaps hit and miss / knowing what to order and what to avoid. But anyone going there for a sober lunch or dinner was probably fooling themselves if they expected stellar Vietnamese. Especially in this city, where there are SOOOO many superior choices for Vietnamese food. It was always about the hype, convenience and the coffee. Some good times, but with age comes wisdom.

Jim Washburn
Jim Washburn

I don't live in Houston and have been to Mai's only a few times.  Experiences have been everything between great and awful.  Fried spring rolls were fresh, hot, and delicious one time, cold, stale, and inedible the next.  A stir-fried soft-shell crab with jalapeños and onions was one of the best and most memorable dishes I've ever eaten.  Service has been mediocre at best, offensive at worst.  I think the potential for consistent excellence is there, but the place needs much better management.

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

Tiny girls in sparkly dresses puking in the bathroom.

Feldman
Feldman

My strongest memory of Mai's is eating there for the first time and realizing what I had been missing all these years. Why hadn't I tried bun with chicken or shrimp? Why hadn't I eaten spring rolls with peanut sauce before? After that, I tried Vietnamese food with reckless abandon and credit Mai's for my love of Vietnamese food as a cuisine.

Now Trending

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

Loading...