Verts Introduces Houstonians to Germany's Most Popular Street Food: The Döner Kebap

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Chicken kebap on the left, veggie kebap on the right.
Schwarma. Gyro. Trompo. Döner.

The popular fast food has many names, but only one of them is taking Houston by storm: The döner kebap, a German street food staple brought to the Bayou City by two Austinites who own the restaurant Verts. Sound complicated? It's gets more tangled.

The Germans claim the döner kebap was invented in Berlin in the 1970s by a Turkish immigrant named Mahmut Aygun. According to an obituary in The Telegraph from 2009, Aygun was born in Turkey and moved to Germany at the age of 16. He opened a snack stall there and sold kebab meat cooked on a rotating spit and served over rice. After noticing drunk people struggling to stumble home with the food in tow or reticent to sit at his counter and eat, he decided to invent a more handy means of edible transport. He stuffed the meat into a pita and sent diners on their merry way.

The Telegraph reports that the first such sandwiches--if you can call them that--was served at Aygun's restaurant, Hasir, on March 2, 1972. Today, Verts Kebap is serving the same sort of meal right here in Houston. The first location on Yale north of Washington opened last week, and the owners are planning on opening at least four more locations in the coming weeks and months.

But Houston has Turkish food. We have trompo and gyros. What's the big deal with the döner?

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We've Narrowed Down the Most Underrated Pizza...Vote Now!

Photo by Leonel Nerio
The pizzas at Pizaro's are amazing and definitely not underrated. Check out the poll to see which are!
Last week, we talked pizza. No, Houston isn't generally recognized as a great pizza city like New York or Chicago, but your responses to our query about the most underrated pies in town reminded me of just how many pizza joints we have here. You even alerted me to some spots where I can get deep dish--a style I've been craving since I moved here from the Midwest (home of mediocre thin crust, but pretty good Chicago-style).

As usual, the votes were all over the place. Some of you love the convenience of delivery, while others go gaga over unusual toppings like crawfish and tandoori paneer. Some of you like wood-fired pies with thin crust, while others prefer thick, doughy pizzas or deep dish stuffed with toppings.

Thankfully, no one mentioned stuffed crust or breakfast pizza. Those are best left back in the '90s where they belong.

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BK Rodeo Burger Chicken Sandwich: A One-Dollar Disappointment (But Still Not Half-Bad)

Categories: Fast Times

Photos by Christina Uticone
Do I really have to write a "Where's the beef?!" caption?
I don't expect much from a dollar-menu sandwich. I just need it to taste good, and hopefully, be the actual sandwich that I ordered. For the eleventy billionth time, my fast-food order has been dead wrong. (This happens regularly, regardless of company, whether I order inside or use the drive-thru.) In this particular case I'm not surprised, as the sound quality of the drive-thru microphone at the Burger King on Kirby is comically bad -- I couldn't understood a word from the person who took my order, so this seems to be a two-way malfunction.

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Minimum-Wage Increase Could Mean Higher Restaurant Prices

Photo by Andinarvaez
Fast-food workers could soon be making more money.
Last Tuesday during President Obama's State of the Union address, fast-food workers and their fellow minimum-wage workers were an important topic. Obama called for the minimum wage for federal workers to be raised from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. He also called for an increase in the minimum wage across the country, a move that would help people in the restaurant, construction and retail industries (among others) to make a "living wage."

But while many see a pay increase as a positive step toward reducing income inequality, the restaurant industry worries that operators will have to raise food prices to respond to the higher labor costs. The National Restaurant Association reports that a higher minimum wage could lead to more expensive food, fewer employees, a drop in the quality of food that is served and fewer franchises.

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Rest of the Best 2013: Top Ten Drive-Throughs in Houston

Photo by Wesley Fryer
Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!

Here in Houston, it's usually really damn hot. Except for recently, when it's been too cold to move, and all we want to do is sit in our cars with our heaters on and let someone hand us food through a little window. OK, we want people to do that when it's hot, too. And when the weather is nice.

Look, we don't need a reason to sit in our cars like lazy bums. Drive-throughs are one of the best inventions ever. They save you the trouble of having to walk, except from your door to your car and back. They allow you to avoid human interaction by dealing mostly with a metal box from which a disembodied voice emanates. They make it okay to order a dozen tortillas and an extra large queso at 2 a.m. away from the prying eyes of the public.

And in our fair city, you can get just about any kind of food you want from a drive-through. That's a reason to hop in the car and celebrate.

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Officially Kind of Obsessed With Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Nachos

Categories: Fast Times

Photos by Christina Uticone
830 calories for $3.01. Now that's calorie-dense nutrition.
Before we talk about how the new Taco Bell Grilled Stuft Nachos taste, let's all agree that the spelling is stupid and move on. I'd like to not move on -- cutesy, pointless misspelling is a pet peeve -- but the fact is, no matter how the thing is spelled, the Grilled Stuft Nacho is downright delicious. Like, I've gone back twice since eating my first one, because they are so tasty, satisfying and -- best of all -- so freaking cheap, about a buck-fifty apiece. Tack on an order of Cinnabon® Delights™ like I did, and the whole order comes to a whopping $3.01.

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Burger King's 'Big King' Is Nothing Like a McDonald's Big Mac

Photos by Christina Uticone
I loved this burger. (Now that's a whopper.)
That Burger King expects us to see their new double-decker "Big King" sandwich as some kind of NEW menu item is a little insulting. I don't even eat Big Macs, and I knew this was a straight copycat before I took the first bite. Here is the sandwich description from the Burger King website:

Our new BIG KING™ Sandwich features two savory fire-grilled beef patties, topped with, melted American cheese, fresh cut iceberg lettuce, crisp onions, crunchy pickles, and featuring a sweet thousand island style dressing, all on a warm, toasted, sesame seed bun.

Once you recover from the grammar that just happened, I'm confident that you will see -- as I did -- that even on spec, this sandwich is nothing more than a freaking Big Mac.

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Top 5 Nastiest Fast-Food Desserts (Who Came Up With These Atrocious Foods?)

Photo by pchow98
McDonald's apple pie: better left in the box.
As Christina Uticone has so skillfully showed us, not all fast food is created equal. And the good, the bad and the ugly can also be found in the dessert section of the menu. Here are my top 5 nastiest fast-food desserts.

5. Apple Pie (McDonald's). Not the worst, but could be better. Could be a lot better. As a child I heard a rumor that McDonald's used raw chopped potatoes instead of apples in their pies. The fact that I believed this assertion testifies not so much to my juvenile gullibility but rather to the pie's suspect interior fruit texture.

4. Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie (Long John Silver's). The crust is tolerable, the filling ghastly. Seriously, pineapple is the fruit they choose to combine with cream cheese? Go back to the kitchen, Captain Silver, and test cherry, strawberry, raspberry, etc., and then we'll talk.

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Making the Case(-ing) for Dunkin Donuts' Spicy Smoked Sausage Breakfast Sandwich

Categories: Fast Times

Photos by Christina Uticone
Not cute.
It was my husband who spied the sign as we pulled through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. "New Smoked Sausage Breakfast Sandwich--have you had it?" Josh asked. We had just finished a workout, and were still in our sweaty sweats--what better time to zip through a fast food joint "just for coffee"? Talk about a recipe for weight-loss success.

I relented--"Well, it is for work ..."--and we agreed to split the latest, new-ish item to grace the DD menu. Some of you may remember the first incarnation of this item, the Smoked Sausage Breakfast Sandwich; it was so popular, they brought it back and added a spicy ("taste bud-raising") Andouille-smoked sausage.

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Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche Is a Delicious Mouthful (in More Ways than One)

Categories: Fast Times

Photos by Christina Uticone
Mushroom magic? Maybe.
In spite of the incredibly stupid commercial for Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt on a Brioche bun (see above), the actual sandwich itself proved to be irresistible. And even though I wasn't impressed by Wendy's efforts in the pretzel bun department, I found the idea of sweet brioche, smoky bacon, and earthy mushroom (never mind the burger) too tempting. Even the NPR report on the dangers of trans fats that was on the radio while I waited in the drive-thru line couldn't deter me -- I would have my "Melty. Bacony. Mushroomy. Brioche-y" burger if it killed me.*

(*According to NPR, it will.)

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