Top 10 Restaurants in the East End
7. Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
Photo by Jeff Balke
At Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito, the house specialty is the trompo. It's not cooked the "authentic" way here -- the pork rotating on a spit, gyro-style, with slices shaved off to order -- but it's still good. (You can find authentic trompo at Karanchos if you're interested.) The taqueria keeps the trompo spit in the refrigerator to comply with Health Department regulations, then shaves pieces of the bright achiote-colored pork off and grills them before placing them into homemade corn tortillas that are golden and nearly crisp from their own turn across the griddle.
6. Champ Burger
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Champ Burger has been open since 1963, and the original owner, though retired, still pops in often to check on his creation -- which is usually manned by at least seven cooks during the busy lunchtime rush. Although Sparkle's Hamburger Spot may be more well-known as the East End's premier burger stand, Champ Burger one-ups it with breakfast tacos and its oft-touted "original Texas Size Steak Sandwich," basically a burger with a chicken-fried steak instead of a hamburger patty. All seating is outside the little burger stand, with tables either covered or equipped with large umbrellas to provide some shade. And although the Hershey's chocolate shake is our favorite, Champ Burger is equally well-known for its orange milkshakes, which taste like soft-blended Dreamsicles. Although Champ Burger finally takes credit cards after years of being cash-only, it's still only open during the week.
5. El Petate
Photo by Troy Fields
A homey Salvadoran establishment with seven-day-a-week hours and a welcoming dining room, El Petate is a great place to explore Salvadoran cuisine beyond just pupusas. Try the salpicón, tender shreds of beef that you tuck into fat corn tortillas, or satiny-soft Salvadoran tamales -- some stuffed with sweet corn and topped with tangy crema. But the pupusas -- homemade and hot off the griddle -- are the big draw here. And don't be afraid to dig into the communal plastic jar of curtido that's placed on your table when you order; the cabbage is for everyone to enjoy and the hot, fatty cuisine tastes so much better when perked up with some cool, crisp, tangy curtido.
This unassuming little brown brick building on Leeland (just before it turns into Telephone Road) has been serving hearty Italian-American meals since 1975. Frank and Debbie Mandola are still there most days, but their son Joseph has mostly taken over now and is always ready with a handshake and a smile for his customers. The popular lasagna and Italian beef sandwiches are now available at dinner, too, as the restaurant no longer just serves lunch. Even better: The Mandolas have an excellent and well-priced selection of Italian wines and beers to go along with your dinner, too, as well as a pleasant patio on which to enjoy them.
6917 Harrisburg Blvd., Houston, TX