Top 10 Restaurants in the East End
The East End is undergoing some necessary growing pains right now as a new generation of Houstonians rediscover the neighborhoods right next door to downtown. Construction of a METRO light rail to connect the East End with the main line has had Harrisburg torn up for some time, but is nearly complete. The much-anticipated Dynamo stadium in EaDo has already hosted one successful season and the Dynamo are now headed to the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs. And these are just two of the things attracting business to the east side of town.
Photo by Marco Torres True facts.
Moon Tower Inn owners Brandon Young and Evan Shannon aren't just planning on reopening Moon Tower itself on Canal Street in the coming months -- they're also opening two additional concepts in their East End neighborhood. The Gift Horse Lounge will be a "small neighborhood bar with good drinks and great prices," said Young in August, while The Slice and Foam Co. will sell New York-style pizza by the slice and craft beer. And the Laurenzo family is betting on Navigation by opening a new, $1.75 million El Tiempo alongside longtime Tex-Mex warhorse Ninfa's.
Add to that the recent listing of the old KBR site -- a 136-acre parcel of land with stunning skyline views of downtown and a location directly along a scenic portion of Buffalo Bayou -- and you'll see the East End is ripe for further redevelopment. Although what will be done with the acreage is still up for debate, one thing is certain: The East End is changing rapidly, and this entire Top 10 list could well be moot this time next year.
So gather ye taquerias while ye may and enjoy the spots that have anchored the East End for years, places like Fiesta Loma Linda, 888 Chinese, Taqueria Alma Latina, Villa Arcos and Merida -- and our ten favorite places below.
Disclaimer: The cartographic basis for selecting these restaurants was the official map of the East End, which roughly places its boundaries at Clinton Drive to the north, I-45 to the south, 610 to the east and parts of 59 to the west. That means nothing in EaDo, which will be a separate entry coming in the next few weeks, but plenty in neighborhoods such as Eastwood, Magnolia Park and the Second Ward.
10. Taqueria el Alteño
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
The atmosphere at Taqueria el Alteño is the main draw, as the food is simply average-to-good. That said, the food is simple, sturdy and inexpensive -- so there aren't any real complaints there (and the chilaquiles with crema at breakfast are genuinely outstanding, even if they come with french fries). Tortas are enormous and so are the refreshing licuados, which are served in fishbowl-size glasses. On Sunday mornings, a live emcee croons norteño favorites and makes general commentary on everything from the weather to the sports scores from over the weekend. In a hurry? There's a drive-thru, but you'll miss the friendly service and live music inside.
9. El Greco
This hybrid Greek restaurant/panaderia offers a cuisine not often found in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood -- but this cross-pollination of cuisines is very Houston nevertheless. One side of the giant strip center that houses El Greco is a nicer-than-normal panaderia with cafe tables and chairs, while the other side offers homemade Greek food from owner Anestis Papadopoulos, who once owned an auto parts shop down the street. His pita bread is as good as his pastries, and his pastichio comes topped with a thick, fluffy mantle of nutmeg-warmed béchamel sauce. Gyro meat can occasionally be tough, but El Greco's strong Greek coffee will help overcome one of the rare poor meals here.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
The beloved East End gathering spot for live music, coffee and open mike nights was recently sold by longtime owners Lupe and Sid Olivares to a pair of Houstonians who are fast becoming fixtures themselves: Kent Marshall, owner of TK Bitterman's and Market Square Bar & Grill, and Keith Adkins of Fontana Coffee Roasters. Marshall and Adkins have already brought some big changes to the space, including a great new tap lineup of local and craft beer. The limited food menu has so far remained intact, but daily specials like a Swiss chard quiche (made with chard from The Last Organic Outpost) are being added. And although the new team plans to move away from live music, husband-and-wife team Lupe and Sid will still be around: Sid still plans to do art nights and Lupe will still rock the weekly Beatles nights.