Like That Chain Restaurant? Try This Local One Instead

Categories: Local Spotlight

Pauliepasta.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Fresh pasta awaits you at Paulie's.
In the last couple of weeks, we've explored fun and funky Texas wines to drink in lieu of old standbys like Cabernet and Chardonnay and we've showcased local beers that can be enlisted to help wean your friends off adjunct lagers made by giant corporations. And just like we all have loved ones that won't drink anything other than Cupcake wine or Miller Lite, we -- me especially included -- all have loved ones that won't roam outside their comfort zone when it comes to restaurants.

Maybe they just really love the Cheddar Bay biscuits at Red Lobster (I know I do) or they just don't want to take a chance on venturing into a restaurant and paying for a dinner they might not like. Maybe they're just stubborn. Either way, none of these are excuses for refusing to try something new.

Instead of dragging your friends and/or relatives kicking and screaming to an Ethiopian restaurant, however, try introducing something new gently and kindly. If they just adore Big Macs at McDonald's, for instance, encourage them to try the delicious, fast-food-style cheeseburgers at Liberty Kitchen.

With that idea in mind, here's our list of ten local alternatives to popular chain restaurants. It's a chance for your loved ones to try something new and support their community at the same time.

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Photo by Robert Z. Easley
If you like: Olive Garden
Try: Paulie's

Paulie's makes Italian comfort food classics like lasagna, shrimp scampi and chicken parmesan in an equally comfortable setting. Except that -- unlike Olive Garden -- Paulie's pastas are made in house, just like nearly everything else the family-run restaurant serves (which includes inexpensive wine and absolutely terrific coffee and cookies). In fact, it may be even more approachable for someone who's dead-set on Olive Garden: The counter service is relaxed and casual, and the prices are right on point.
Alternate choices: George's Pastaria, D'Amico's, Collina's

If you like: Pei Wei
Try: Khun Kay

Like at Pei Wei, you order at the counter in this cozy Montrose restaurant owned by Thai expats Supatra Yooto and Kay Soodjai. And like Pei Wei's, much of Kay's food has been Americanized for a broader palate. (While this is one of the main reasons that some people don't care for Khun Kay, it's precisely the reason that others love it.) And just like Pei Wei, there's a broad selection of pan-Asian dishes to choose from, including everything from pad thai and "Thai tacos" to shrimp fried rice and cashew chicken.
Alternative choices: Jenni's Noodle House

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If you like: Chili's
Try: Barnaby's

There are several Barnaby's locations scattered throughout town, and all of them feature the kind of wacky decor and menu items -- gleefully giant salads, enormous burgers, grilled American standards like salmon and chicken and even baby back ribs -- that make Chili's so popular. There's also standard table service here, too, along with appetizers and desserts that put Chili's to shame: try the waffle fries with blue cheese fondue, bacon and green onions or the Chocolate Addiction Cake for dessert.
Alternative choices: Baba Yega


Location Info

Paulie's

1834 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Khun Kay Thai Cafe

1209 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Barnaby's

5750 Woodway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Goode Co. Seafood

10211 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

That Pizza Place on Ella - CLOSED

3322 Ella Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kam's Fine Chinese Cuisine

4500 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

McGonigel's Mucky Duck

2425 Norfolk, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Shepherd Park Draught House

3402 N. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Music

George's Pastaria

1722 S. Dairy Ashford, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

D'Amico's Italian Market Cafe

2802 White Oak Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Collina's Italian Café

3835 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Jenni's Noodle House

3111 S. Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Heights Asian Cafe

2201 Yale St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kim Son

10603 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Candelari's Pizzeria

25680 Highway 290, Cypress, TX

Category: Restaurant

Ragin Cajun

16100 Kensington, Sugar Land, TX

Category: Restaurant

BB's Cafe

2710 Montrose, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Bayou City Seafood n' Pasta

4730 Richmond, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Floyd's Cajun Seafood House

20760 Gulf Fwy, Webster, TX

Category: Restaurant

Joyce's Seafood & Steaks

6415 San Felipe, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Red Lion Pub

2316 S. Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Music

The Bull & Bear Tavern

11980 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Spanish Village

4720 Almeda, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

La Mexicana

1018 Fairview, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Lopez Mexican Restaurant

11606 S. Wilcrest, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Molina's Cantina

7901 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Baba Yega

2607 Grant, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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14 comments
Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

ProTip:  I was forced to go to Chili's a while back, and they'll still make the soft tacos, even though they've been off the men for years.

Sterling Holloway
Sterling Holloway

Why eat local just this weekend? I can't think of a good reason to eat at any chain restaurant.

Jonathan R. Cohen
Jonathan R. Cohen

Thank you. Thank you so much for this. Have a great weekend!

No
No

As a recent transplant from the Heights to Cypress, I can't thank you enough! I miss driving 10 minutes to get anywhere worth eating!

just saying
just saying

Let's give a shout out to their uber-worthy shrimp empanadas.  Their campechana rocks my world, and kills a hangover in a heartbeat.  That place is gold.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Both specifically selected because -- like CiCi's -- they offer pizza buffets.

Vernon Guy
Vernon Guy

They don't have the red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Goode Co. Seafood, but their hush puppies are maybe the best I've ever had.

Jamie Bowster
Jamie Bowster

Candelari's & That Pizza Place on Ella? Hmm...

Corey
Corey

 Do you know if they deliver? Bored as heck with cafe ginger, 369, and shanghai on westheimer. Magic wok's quality has steadily taken a nose dive, and Montrose Chinese is just plain blah. Maybe I should try bamboo hut on waugh..

Billy Radcliffe
Billy Radcliffe

McGonigel's salad with Scotch eggs. Dat dressing! Can't believe that General Joe's even exists in this city. TTLY GROCE.

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