Houston's Best Cafeterias: Hearken Back to the Good Old Days

Photo courtesy Luby's
This is a little fancier than I remember it being...
I haven't always been a food snob.

When I was little and my mom would teach night classes at the local university, my dad and I were left to our own devices for dinner. Because the man can do little more in a kitchen than boil water for pasta or make a cup of coffee, we often found ourselves at Luby's Cafeteria. I'd get macaroni and cheese and jello. He'd get the fried fish filet with tartar sauce. We'd always sit in the same seat, and the same servers would always greet us as we walked in and out of the bustling cafeteria.

Before I left home for college when I was 18, my dad and I shared one last meal at Luby's. It wasn't as good as I remembered, but there's a nostalgia attached to it--for me, at least--that makes the food that much better. Back in December, Katharine Shilcutt of Houstonia made a similar assertion about Luby's and the fact that most Houstonians remember dining at the chain at some point in their lives. And most Houstonians really liked it.

While I'm now much more inclined to seek out a hearty bowl of traditional pasta or pho when I want comfort food these days, there is something about the old fashioned cafeteria that I enjoy, that I miss, that I think others should give another chance.

Here's to the Houston cafeteria, in all its glory.

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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Ten Best Hot Dogs

Photo by Troy Fields
The dogs at this spot are gooooooood.
Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, 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 continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!

'Merica, man.

It's Independence Day. We've got patriotic pride coursing through our veins and an ache in our bellies for some classic American food. Enter the hot dog.

I know, I know, technically the frankfurter is from Germany and the wiener is from Austria, but the hot dog as we know it today--sandwiched in a bun and topped with condiments--is a distinctly American invention, no matter which origin story you believe.

So in honor of the overwhelming sense of pride we're feeling for our fair country (and because on the Fourth, you eat hot dogs...it's just a thing you do), we're rounding up the best dogs in the city. Due to a surge in the popularity of what one might call "gourmet hot dogs," there are a lot of those on the list. But don't worry. We haven't forgotten the classic dog either.

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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Ten Best Bloody Marys

Photo courtesy Beaver's
This stunning row of Bloody Marys is made from the best house mix in Houston.
Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, 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 continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!

People keep telling me that Bloody Marys are a morning drink--early afternoon at the latest. And it's not just my friends who give me crap for ordering the tomato and vodka cocktail at any time, day or night. It's the bartenders, too. Try asking for a spicy Bloody Mary at 11 p.m. and see how the server reacts.

It's cool, though. I don't mind the looks and odd reactions so long as I have a little something spicy and boozy to drink. And while working on this list and tasting Bloody Marys all over town, I had an excellent excuse to order my favorite drink.

If you do searches for the origin of the Bloody Mary online, you're likely to find a number of different stories, some claiming it was invented in Paris by a guy named Fernand Petiot, others that a chick named Mary at a bar called Bucket of Blood created the cocktail. Whatever the origin, the drink appears to have evolved since the early 1900s into something spicier and more complex than the initial mix.

These days, bars and restaurants attempt to top each other by making the spiciest mix or topping the drink with the most outrageous garnish. Here are the best of these "hair of the dog" cocktails in Houston.

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The 10 Best Local Foodies to Follow on Instagram

David Leftwich's Instagram account is a thing of beauty.
It's not yet officially in the dictionary along with selfie, crowdfunding and turducken, but food porn is definitely a real thing.

I need only to pull up Instagram on my phone to start drooling over my friends' photos of fresh, local produce; croissants at Common Bond; and burgers galore. While many local businesses have totally drool-worthy Instagram accounts, I prefer the personal ones not necessarily tied to any restaurant. I like to see what Houstonians are eating.

Here are some of my favorite folks to fawn over.

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Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Italian Restaurants

Photo by Troy Fields
A decadent dish from the number four spot on our list.
Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, 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 continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!

"The trouble with Italian food is that five or six days later, you're hungry again."

-Comedian George Miller

Ah, Italian food: One of the most recognizable cuisines in America, encompassing pasta and pizza, arguably two of best culinary inventions ever. Italian food is easy to get horribly wrong, though. Fortunately, for a city so proud of our Tex-Mex and seafood and so wild about barbecue and burgers, Houston has some truly great Italian restaurants.

This is thanks in large part to the port of Galveston, which saw wave after wave of Italian immigrants arrive on its shores and settle in the cities surrounding the east Texas coast. Not knowing what else to do and longing for the food of their homeland, they began to open restaurants. We wrote about some of these pioneering restaurateurs in our First Families of Houston Food feature back in February, detailing their histories and how far they've come.

Their awesome culinary legacy is alive and well in Houston at these top ten Italian eateries.

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The Ten Summer Openings We're Most Excited About

Photo courtesy Bernie's Burger Bus
Get excited for chef Justin Turner's first brick and mortar restaurant!
Just as the warmer weather, longer days and lack of school bring out the blockbuster films in Hollywood-land, summer is generally a time to welcome a slew of new blockbuster restaurants in Houston. Last summer was fairly slow for restaurant openings, but this year is poised to shake up the H-town dining scene in a great way.

Get ready for new ways to satisfy your hunger after strolling through museums, new spots to get your drink on and lots and lots of doughnuts. From food trucks going brick and mortar to chefs and restaurants imported from across the country, the Houston restaurant scene will be positively hopping now through August.

This list isn't everything set to open soon, of course--just the places we're most excited to try. As is always the case with restaurant openings, some of these may get pushed back to the fall (or later). But for now, these are the projected blockbuster hits of the summer season.

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The 10 Best Macarons in Houston

Categories: Sweets, Top 10

Photo by _FXR via flickr
Macarons are popping up all over the place, but we have the ten best places to buy the French treats.
We've written about macarons, noted their rising popularity over cupcakes and have suggested them as holiday treats or gifts for friends and family. But we have never ranked the ten best macarons in Houston.

Our great city has a multitude of shops selling the French cookies and it's no secret why they are appearing everywhere. Macarons are made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar; once they're baked and cooled, a thin spread of ganache, buttercream, fruit jams or preserves is sandwiched between two cookies of the same size. Macarons take much skill and practice to create. But when they're done right, the result is magnificent.

People travel all the way to Paris just to try the macarons at Ladurée, one of the most popular patisseries in the world. Over the past few years, America has embraced the macaron craze and brought the French treat across the ocean. To help you find the best of the best in the Bayou City, here are the ten best macaron shops in Houston.

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The Ten Most Common Grilling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Photo by Molly Dunn
Don't let that grill get too hot, otherwise you'll lose your eyebrows when you open the lid.
"Do I still have eyebrows?" my fiancé said to me a couple of weeks ago after he was standing too close to my parents' outdoor grill.

You see, we turned the grill on, started talking and forgot to turn the heat down. Once we opened the grill, a blast of 650-degree heat came shooting out, burning (or singeing) anything it touched. In this case, it was my fiance's eyelashes and eyebrows. They were both scorched.

As funny as it was (sorry, Randall), it was also dangerous. That's the last time my family will forget to turn down the heat on the grill before taking off the lid, or at least won't neglect the rapidly rising temperature.

Because we don't want you, dear readers, to scorch your face or torch a piece of meat, we spoke with two chefs who know a thing or two about grilling, chef Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse and Killen's BBQ, and chef Edelberto Goncalves of Fielding's Wood Grill, to find out what the most common grilling mistakes are and how to prevent them.

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10 Best Summer Drinks to Keep You Cool

Categories: Booze, Top 10

Photo by Wicker Paradise via flickr
Whether you're at the beach or at the pool, you'll want something cool and refreshing to drink this summer.
During the summer, we all want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, but living in Texas, more specifically Houston, that length of time outside tends to shorten as we get closer to three digit temperatures. Sure, water can help you stay hydrated and cool off your body, but so do other tastier cold drinks, like cocktails, teas and other fruity creations.

Have some fun in the kitchen this summer and whip together a few of these ten best cold drinks. Make your taste buds dance while you keep your body nice and cool all summer long.

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Ten Best Alternatives to Beer (For Those Non-Hop Heads Among Us)

Photo by Morgan
Drastic times, man.
With the summer and Memorial Day approaching it's time to gather 'round the grill with friends and family and a nice cold brewski. Unless, of course, you're one of those crazy many people who just don't really dig beer.

For folks like you, there's always wine, of course, and cocktails, but those just don't have the same summery connotations as an icy can of Lone Star or a bottle of Saint Arnold Summer Pils.

Fret not, though, dear beer-despiser! There are a number of alternatives (not all of them tasty, mind you) to the traditional brew. From ciders to malt liquor, there's a refreshing brew out there to satisfy any taste. Unfortunately, the alternatives tend to have low ABVs, but that just means you get to drink more delicious Smirnoff Ices!

Here are the ten best alternatives to beer. And by best, we mean only.

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