We Don't Have It All: My Top 5 Gaps In The Houston Food Scene

Categories: Top Five

BurmeseTeaLeafSaladHP.jpg
Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Lahpet, Burmese tea leaf salad

To say that the Houston food scene is "diverse" is certainly accurate. But that doesn't mean we don't have room to grow in terms of broadening our culinary options (and I'm not just talking about bringing the cronut to H-town). Here are five foods/cuisines/eating establishments that I think are missing from Houston.

5. Fasnachts. "Omg," I hear you say, "Holy #obscureregionalfood, Joanna. Why should I care." Okay, I acknowledge that unless you are 1) of German/Polish heritage 2) from Pennsylvania, you may not have heard of these delightful potato doughnuts fried in lard. But some of the best regional and ethnic foods (Philly cheesesteaks, hummus, bubble tea, etc.) are now global favorites, so why not my hometown donut? I swear that if Shipley's started offering fasnachts, they would easily outsell kolaches.

4. South East African Food. Houston needs more restaurants that serve African food, period. And, here's a newsflash: Africa is not a country, it's a continent comprising 54 nations and God knows how many thousands of indigenous ethnic groups (Thank you, Brits, for haphazardly drawing borders), each of which has made contributions to the cuisine we generalize as "African." The foods of various regions and countries of the continent are moderately represented in Houston thanks to Lucy Ethiopian and Finger Licking Bukateria , but largely absent are the cuisines of Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and other countries. I don't know about you, but I want some ugali.

FasnachtHP.jpg
Photo by The Raunch Dilettante
Not just donuts, but fasnachts.

3. (More) Middle Eastern Desserts. Not to say you can't find any Middle Eastern sweets in Houston, for there's good stuff to be had at Abdallah's, Phoenicia, etc. Some extended exposure to Arab cuisine, however, has alerted me to the fact that there's more, so much more, deliciousness that needs to spread to Houston. I'd give my non-existent first-born child for some good kunafa or nammora or actually any of the variety of sweet-savory Middle Eastern desserts that pair cream or cheese with honey and fruit. Leads welcome.

2. Old-School, Over-the-Top Ice Cream Parlor. Yes, I am a broken record, but almost seven months later nothing has emerged despite some feline assertions to the contrary. I know, I know: it's coming. And maybe the wait will make that first sundae taste all the sweeter ...

1. Burmese Food. Myanmar may be one of the most "closed" nations in the world, but its incredible food has nevertheless made it to the United States. Burmese cooking fuses elements from Thai, Chinese, and Indian cuisine to produce singular dishes such as lahpet (tea leaf salad), palata (fried bread with egg or mutton), and si gyet khauk swè (wheat noodles with onions, duck, and pork). Though I don't mind the excuse to go to San Francisco for Burma Superstar, I'd rather put my flight money toward eating Burmese food three times a week or more in Houston.


Location Info

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge

6800 SW Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Finger Licking Bukateria

9811 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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44 comments
joshwebster
joshwebster

What about a good German place? If we have one, I haven't found it.

wcfc7
wcfc7

there is an authentic ice cream parlor in old town richmond, close to the railroad musuem. it's the real deal. 

Joëlle Eid
Joëlle Eid

KUNAFA! Also, more middle eastern bakeries in the loop so I can get my cheese man'ouche on. Sure, we have Phoenicia and can go out OTL for other stuff, but I want a small, breakfast-only spot. Yumsville.

Lisa Guaqueta
Lisa Guaqueta

Peruvian, Venezuelan, and other Latin American countries...not everything south of the border is Mexican food.

kevin818
kevin818

For #3, Joanna, check out The Sweets Factory on Hillcroft, near Jerusalem grocery story.

Gregory M. Buchold
Gregory M. Buchold

I've been talking up the Burmese gap for a while. Maybe my comments about visiting a good place in the D.C. area circulated through Chowhounds. I don't see Laotian or Nepalese either. And why is there no good Afghan food? I'm surprised that Noma hasn't spawned Skandanavian food emphasis or foraged food the way that El Bulli provoked molecular gastronomy. How about Portuguese or food from Macau?

jencorona
jencorona

Try Ephesus on South Mason for kunefe!

nomadsheart
nomadsheart

I second the call for a good Moroccan restaurant - not just tajines and couscous, but merguez, bistell'a and more...like Cafe Mogador in NYC.  Or a high end concept like Aziza in San Francisco.

Jay Ford
Jay Ford

Haggis is bloody delicious done right and fresh. There is an old-time soda fountain...relatively nearby, Old Time in Rosenburg. It's worth the drive. Indonesian. There are maybe a couple of hole in the wall places - the better of them serving mainly Chinese. Why we don't have a fancy bistro midtown for this yummy and yet largely unknown cuisine is a deep mystery. Once word got out, there would be a four-hour wait at least the first year of it's existence.

carriebwc
carriebwc

Bagels, bagels, bagels.  I know, there are two places that have decent bagels in town.  In a town of four million.

Kim Hogstrom
Kim Hogstrom

Haggis? Only available in a can. Maybe there is a reason....

Emily Kelly Hilton
Emily Kelly Hilton

I MUST HAVE THIS SALAD! Dang it. Didn't know what I was missing.

ekhilton
ekhilton

Great stuff - thanks for the enlightenment!

BobbyFreshpants
BobbyFreshpants topcommenter

I want Australian. Meat Pies, Pavlova, Lamingtons, Neenish tarts, Chicko Rolls, Bacon and Egg Roll with BBQ sauce. MORE LAMB!

A lamb kebab on the way home after a night on the drink, extra chili sauce, oozing down your hand as you sit in the gutter to intoxicated to care what everyone around you thinks, not worrying about a PI because they don't exist. 

Snitzel at the pub with chips (fries) and salad washed down with a cold schooner of VB. 

FRL713
FRL713

I just want to be able to get a taco downtown.  How does such a gap exist in Houston, TX?  The dearth of taquerias downtown is a major gap negatively affecting my personal food scene.  

A casual "fast-food" ramen shop would be nice too.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

What about Moroccan? Love a good tangine, can't find a decent one here at all..

LaurenK
LaurenK

Interesting list. For me, the biggest "gap" is good upscale Middle Eastern (or Middle Eastern fusion) food. At least as far as I've been able to tell, all the good Middle Eastern is cafeteria style or at least very casual. Which is fine, but sometimes I want that style of food and also want waiter service and a decent atmosphere.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Hear-hear, or there-there, or something, anyway, agreed, Ms. O'Leary!

reyna.melissa
reyna.melissa

@wcfc7 If you could get the name, I'd love to try there ice cream. Thank you

jsoleary
jsoleary

@kevin818 thank you, kevin. Any more comments on the kenufe? I like mine melty-crunchy.

jsoleary
jsoleary

@tiltingwindmills I edited a travel guide to Eastern Europe and that shocked me into the reality that all former soviet block countries are not the same in terms of cuisine. Lithuania certainly has a robust tradition of dumplings, differentiated by region. Good call!

jsoleary
jsoleary

@Gregory M. Buchold You are right on all counts. It was hard LIMITING this list as I didn't want to start naming random countries and their cuisines. I focused on Burmese, fo example, because I think it's spectacular. But don't even get me started on the lacunae in afghan/iraqi food...

adambevo
adambevo

@Becci Himes Agreed.  A good doner kebap food truck would kill here.  Best drunk food ever.


jsoleary
jsoleary

@Becci Himes How about a decent street doner kenab? The key is accessibility post-bar hopping. We need food trucks.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@nomadsheart Heads-up they have excellent merguez at Specs in midtown.. Kind of pricey but delicious.


gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@FRL713 You could go visit the taco nazi (Sharaby) at Fusion? Although if you want authentic, I know what you mean..

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Thank you!

tinyhands
tinyhands

@LaurenK Which category do you put Garçon in? Also, I wouldn't call Café Caspian "upscale" but its got waiter service and a decent atmosphere.

kevin818
kevin818

@jsoleary The Sweets Factory has kenufe.  Or, at least, something very similar too it; names may be different.

jsoleary
jsoleary

Also, it's not that Skandanvian food isn't on my radar. I went to a terrific place, ironically in Barcelona, that made a high art of smoked fish and toasts. I guess I was reluctant to mention it because I feared a pedestrian IKEA reaction...

wadfw
wadfw

@wcfc7 @reyna.melissa Another Time is a great place, food  is just as  good and the ice cream, etc.  Worth the drive.

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