Welcome to this week’s city spotlight fellow foodies! Jumping right into it, which city bolsters a park three times the size of Central Park, an art scene that rivals Los Angeles and is the birthplace of one of the most iconic catchphrases of all time? We’ll give you a hint — the only problem here is that this city’s food scene can be criminally underrated. Got it yet? We’re talking about none other than Houston “Magnolia City,” Texas.
When you think of Houston food, one word undoubtedly comes to mind: Tex-Mex. As we’re sure you could gather from the name, Tex-Mex is the oh-so-delicious love child of the United States and Mexican cuisines. Created by the descendants of the original Spanish-speaking settlers of Texas, the Tejano, Tex-Mex is characterized by the heavy use of shredded cheese, beef and pork, spices, beans and flour tortillas. Spoiler alert: It’s pretty friggin’ good. You can find Tex-Mex all over Houston, but we recommend checking out Hugo’s.
Hugo’s is centered in the heart of Houston’s Montrose area and brings authentic Tex-Mex to the forefront of Houstonian culture. Founded by the award-winning chef Hugo Ortega, the restaurant features playful dishes that range from the more traditional Pollo Asado con Salsa de Ancho (smoky grilled chicken w/ ancho chile sauce, avocado relish, potatoes and tortillas), to the truly unique Chapulines (pan-sauteed grasshoppers served with guacamole, tortillas and chipotle tomatillo salsa). Regardless of your preference, you’re sure to find a mouth-watering, authentic Tex-Mex dish at Hugo’s.
Now that you have your Tex-Mex fill, we’d be amiss to not mention another of Houston’s most celebrated foods — the Kolache. Originally a Czech pastry filled with sweets, the Kolache has evolved into all kinds of iterations, but in Houston, the savory side has taken precedent over the sweet. There are a plethora of Kolache shops to choose from in Houston, but look no further than the Original Kolache Shoppe, circa 1956. Now, they still have all the traditional flavors, ranging from apple and bavarian to raspberry and sweet cheese, but the savory side is where it’s at. The Beef Fajita Pepper Jack Cheese is a Texas-infused match made in heaven, while the Pastrami Bacon Cheese Jalapeno will have you ordering seconds (and probably thirds). Whether you sway more savory or sweet, you’ll always find something delicious at the Original Kolache Shoppe.
For a truly unique Houstonian dish, one should look no further than Vietnamese-Cajun Crawfish. This delicious, yet very non-traditional combination, has become one of Houston’s fastest growing fusions, and for good reason. It was made possible due to the massive levels of Vietnamese immigration during the fall of Saigon and South Vietnam in the ’70s, and as cultures meddled together, so did the cuisines. And our taste-buds definitely come out the victors.
There’s quite a variety of places to choose from for your Vietnamese and Cajun-infused dishes, but we recommend Cajun Kitchen down in Houston’s Chinatown. The classic mudbug boil gets some serious flavor infusion from far East influences — garlic butter, Thai basil, and crab legs all add their signature flair for a seriously awesome flavor combo.
Well, we’ve delved into the awesomeness that is Tex-Mex, we’ve had our taste of the sweet and savory with kolaches, and we’ve even sprinkled some Vietnamese flavor into the traditional crawfish boil, but how could we even mention Houston without Barbeque? Texas is literally filled to the brim with awesome barbecue places, and Houston is no exception. There’s all kinds of places you can loosen your belt and pig out at, but we definitely recommend checking out Blood Bros BBQ. Known for their downright zany creations, Blood Bros is a pop-up spot that opens up twice a month at Lincoln Bar on Saturday afternoons. Now, you could play it safe and have the standard brisket and pork ribs, but why would you when you could try the maple glazed, candied bacon pulled pork doughnut sandwich? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
If you couldn’t tell already, Houston has some serious eats. Whether it be the ever-evolving Kolache, a sweet and sugary twist on traditional barbecue, or the glorious fusion of American and Mexican cuisine, you won’t have any trouble finding a delicious dish in the Space City.