Food Fight: Gỏi vịt (Duck Salad)

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Minh T Truong
Thien An's version of Goi Vit
If you're looking for the perfect summer meal, something light, cool and flavorful, gỏi vịt, or duck salad, is the way to go. This Vietnamese dish embodies summer and is exactly what you'd want to eat on a hot day.

Shredded cabbage and red onions are the traditional base for the salad with tender duck meat topping it off. The dressing for the salad is a tangy concoction of nuoc mam, or fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Along with the base ingredients, additional fixings such as carrots, bean sprouts and cucumber can be tossed in according to taste to make different variations of the salad.

For this food fight we take a look at the two different versions offered at Thien An and Huynh. Both distinctly their own and both very good.

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The Five Best Underrated Tex-Mex Restaurants in Houston (According to You)

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Photo courtesy La Tapatia
Your number five pick serves traditional Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine for the best of both worlds.
You know how we always say the Houston trifecta is composed of barbecue, burgers and Tex-Mex? Yeah, well Tex-Mex is clearly the victor, as more than 2,000 of you voted in our poll to determine the most underrated Tex-Mex restaurant in town.

And the same thing that happened with the barbecue poll happened again: The first and second place winners are separated by ONE VOTE. Madness! These two spots also got more than double the third place restaurant, indicating a clear preference.

Some of you took to the comments to argue that spots like Spanish Village are clearly not underrated and therefore shouldn't be part of the poll, and it seems like most people agreed, as even lesser-known spots received the most votes.

So who gets the dubious honor of being named most underrated among the best Tex-Mex joints in the country?

Here are your choices.

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Ceviche Throwdown: Cuchara and Latin Bites Duke It Out

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Image by Cecilia Beaven
The actual duel won't be quite so messy.
Mexican ceviche and Peruvian cebiche are two very different beasts, as Cuchara owner Ana Beaven and Latin Bites owner Rita Castre frequently find themselves explaining to customers.

"A lot of customers ask why doesn't our ceviche have tortillas, and we have to explain that we don't have tortillas in Peru," Castre explains. "And Ana has the same questions when she has customers in from South America. They want to know where are the sweet potatoes?"

It's hard to say which type of ceviche is superior--Mexican or Peruvian--so Cuchara and Latin Bites are putting their goods to the test. On July 22 and 23 (that's Tuesday and Wednesday), both restaurants are inviting guests to come decide for themselves before a panel of judges makes a final ruling on Sunday, July 27.

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Killen's BBQ Bans Negative Comments from Facebook: Censorship or Smart PR?

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Photo via Killen's
Ronnie Killen would like you to stop saying nasty things on his Facebook (as if there's anything mean to say about that awesome barbecue).
In case you haven't noticed, there's a new box on Yelp right above the comments that contains the following message:

Your trust is our top concern, so businesses can't pay to alter or remove their reviews.

While the business review website is making an effort to convince people that the commentary posted on the site is unbiased, Facebook makes no such claim. That's why it was not unexpected to see a restaurateur admit to editing negative responses on his business's Facebook page yesterday afternoon.

On the page for Killen's BBQ, chef/owner Ronnie Killen wrote:

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We've Narrowed Down the Most Underrated Tex-Mex Spots...Vote Now!

Categories: Food Fight

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Spanish Village is one of your choices for most underrated Tex-Mex joint in town.
I never thought I'd say this, but here goes: Maybe, just maybe there are too many Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston.

I know, I know, is too much of a good thing ever bad?

Probably not, unless you're trying to figure out which Tex-Mex restaurants Houstonians think are underrated, and you discover nearly every person who submitted a comment named a different restaurant. There's no majority vote here, just a whole lotta differing (but much appreciated) opinions.

So, as we do every time we seek out your opinion on underrated food and restaurants, we've narrowed it down with a poll. All of the restaurants listed in the poll got more than one vote. Out of the 50+ recommendations we received, only 13 of them were mentioned more than once. Madness!

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The Most Underrated Tex-Mex Restaurants in Houston...According to You

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Don Carlos makes some mean Tex-Mex and isn't always mentioned in critics' roundups.
We have a joke here at the Houston Press that if we want people to read our stories, we need only to put "burgers," "barbecue" or "Tex-Mex" in the headline. Houstonians are very loyal to the trifecta that makes up what's arguably our signature cuisine: Meat, meat and Mexican food.

We've already asked you to vote on underrated burgers and barbecue, so now it's time to complete the sacred triangle. With the incredible number of Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston, this is no easy task. Where to begin?!

I have a suggestion, if I may, that may sound strange. Houstonia Magazine just published a list of the 15 best Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston, and while I hate to direct you away from our charming site, it's a damn good guide.

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Are Restaurants That Don't Take Reservations Shutting Out Certain Guests?

Categories: Food Fight

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Photo by Troy Fields
Cotivare has been doing well in spite of being known for long waits due to a no reservations policy.
Recently, my editor posed a question: Why don't some restaurants that clearly get a lot of business take reservations?

I explained that individual restaurants likely have different reasons for that choice, but that it's becoming an increasingly popular option. First come, first served.

She went on: But could that be keeping a whole segment of the population from dining there. Young people are much more likely to wait a few hours for a table than older people, she reasoned. Young people stand in line for concert tickets or video games. Why not dinner?

While I can't personally attest to seeing a younger crowd at places like the uber popular Coltivare, which hasn't taken reservations since it opened, instead opting for a waiting list policy, I do think it's an interesting question. Though I get uncomfortably hungry, I have no problem waiting upwards of an hour if I know the end result (an awesome meal) will be worth it. My parents, on the other hand, would rather restaurant-hop until they find a shorter wait.

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Cronut Craze: Taste-Testing "Cronuts" at Kroger in Meyerland & Pearland

Categories: Food Fight

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Photo by Molly Dunn
The Kroger in Pearland spells cronuts with a "K."
Last week we pitted the dosants from Pena's Donut Heaven against the cronuts from River Oaks Donuts in a "cronut" food fight. The Pearland doughnut shop (Pena's) came out victorious because of its flaky layers, sweet glaze (in a variety of flavors) and overall taste.

A couple of our commenters mentioned that the Kroger in Pearland (11003 Shadow Creek Parkway) just down the street from Pena's and the Randalls in Meyer Park (4800 West Bellfort Street) both offered croissant doughnuts.

So, of course, further research was required.

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Has Torchy's Tacos Been Ripped Off Again?

Categories: Food Fight

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Photo courtesy Torchy's Tacos
Tacos are a contentious beast. And delicious.
Bandito's Taco Grill in Rosenberg makes some good looking tacos. They're also, according to a few tipsters, a little too similar to tacos they've seen at another restaurant, Torchy's Tacos. And they also resemble the tacos at Texas Taco Co., whose former employee was sued by Torchy's for allegedly stealing proprietary recipes. The common denominator in both of the thorns in Torchy's side? A fellow named Adrian Hembree.

According to a reader, who emailed us recently asking us to look into Hembree's dealings in Rosenberg, the entrepreneur and restaurateur is using Torchy's recipes again. Back in October, we told you about a lawsuit brought against former Torchy's cook Mario DeJesus, accused of stealing the Torchy's "Taco Bible" with all its recipes and giving it to Texas Taco Co. The suit states that DeJesus began working for Texas Taco Co. shortly after he was fired from Torchy's for the theft, and then Texas Taco Co. began producing products startlingly similar to those sold at Torchy's. The president and secretary of Texas Taco Co.? Adrian Hembree.

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Issue at Woodlands Salata Raises Question: Should You Bring Outside Food to Restaurants?

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Photo courtesy Salata
No salad for you!
On Friday, the Chronicle's Syd Kearney reported on a brouhaha going down on Facebook.

Apparently two mothers and their kids had gone to Salata, a fast casual salad restaurant with locations all over Houston, and encountered an issue when they sat down to eat their meals. Employees of the Market Street Salata in the Woodlands informed the mothers that they couldn't bring outside food into the restaurant, and if they wanted to eat the Chipotle burritos they had brought for the kids, they'd need to leave.

The mothers, incensed that they had to take three children and meals and eat outside in the "95 degree heat" (Note: The high on Friday was 91), took to social media to complain about Salata.

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