Where the Chefs Eat: Benjy Mason, Mark Decker, Richard Knight
Photo by Mai Pham "The turkey neck at Crawfish & Noodles may be the single best dish in town," says Benjy Mason.
This week, our Where the Chefs Eat series visits the The Heights-area chefs of Treadsack, the restaurant group that includes the ever popular Down House, D & T Drive Inn, and the opening-in-the-near-future Hunky Dory and Foreign Correspondents. We asked them the regular questions, and we got some amazing answers, because these are chefs who love to eat. Happy reading and get ready to take some notes.
Culinary Director, Treadsack
Photo by Mai Pham Benjy Mason
Standard go-to: Well, we don't go out as often as we used to since we had a baby, but my wife and I love going to Kata Robata. The sushi there is the best in town, in my opinion, and the dishes from the kitchen are great, too. We like to order too much food and drink Asahi Super Dry, try the spicy soy ramen and the omakase sushi. We often end up going to El Tiempo for fajitas (with a side of melted butter!!!) and margaritas on a Tuesday. I also really love the food at Provisions and often end up having lunch meetings there; the bar is a great place to eat.
Cheap Eats: I eat at Asia Market at least once a week, usually more. I love love the Koa Nam Tod (crispy fried rice balls crushed with nam and herbs), the fried egg salad (ask for it off-menu), and the stir fried ong choy with pork belly added. When we have time to drive, we like to go to Desi Grill (12672 Veterans Memorial Dr.) for the best naan in town, killer dal makhani, and the opportunity to have dinner in an old dairy queen booth in a car wash.
Favorite neighborhood: I, of course, love eating out on Bellaire Boulevard. There are so many amazing restaurants out there that it's hard to single just a few out. I love the Beijing-style Chinese food at Xiong's, especially the dumplings. I lived in Beijing for a few months and it is definitely the closest thing to the food there that I have had in the States. I've always loved everything I've had at Fu-Fu Cafe, and I love to get dim sum at HK Dim Sum. I think that the braised turkey neck at Crawfish & Noodles may be the single best dish in town, it blew my mind the first time I had it. Add in a few pounds of crawfish, some salt and pepper crab, some raw beef salad, and a bunch of beers and you have yourself a night.
Head Chef, Down House
Photo by Julie Wilhite Mark Decker
Standard go-to: I eat at Asia Market at least once a week. My go-to is the kee mao noodles, spicy. I am a sucker for the koa nam tod with lots of nam prik pla spooned over the dish. The crunch from the rice with pieces of sausage all dressed-up with fish sauce and chilis, it takes willpower to share that dish. And every so often I will get the tom sap. It's a sour soup base with lots of beef offal. The sweetbreads really make that dish. Mala Sichuan is another go-to spot. I enjoy cumin, so the cumin beef really hits home. I also order the mapo tofu, funky stick chicken and dan dan noodles a lot. For a different texture-type dish I like the chengdu mung bean jelly. Then before leaving I like to get an order of red oil dumplings, to be eaten right out of the fridge the next day.
Cheap eats: For the cheap I head to Shri Balaji Bhavan. I change up the app between the papdi chaat, pani puri or the bhel puri at $2.99 each. For the more substantial part of the meal I usually get the rava masala dosa $5.69, the cheese uttapum at $6.49 or the chhole bhature for $4.99. About halfway through the dosa I mix both sauces together, because I can never decide which sauce I like more. Asia Market works well in this category also. For a filling meal I usually get the som tum with the fermented crabs and a large side of sticky rice for $8.50.
Other favorites: I like Nam Giao (6938 Wilcrest Dr.) for their banh nam and banh beo (rice cakes) -- it's really hard to stop eating these. Gilhooleys (cash only) for the oyster shrimphooley, fried oysters and boudain link. The patitas de puerco en escabeche at Caracol would make a killer sandwich. Sheba Cafe has really good injera. The kitfo (not for everyone) and yedoro wat are full-flavor deliciousness.
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1307 Enid, Houston, TX
3600 Kirby, Houston, TX
5526 Washington Ave., Houston, TX
9888 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX
6251 Bissonnet, Houston, TX
222 Ninth St., Dickinson, TX
4720 N. Main St., Houston, TX
9889 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX
9889 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX
5655 Hillcroft St., Houston, TX
11360 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX
9348 Bellaire, Houston, TX
807 Taft, Houston, TX