Sunday, August 9, 2009

Houston’s Hidden Gems

The thing I love about Houston is that there’s rock star food around every corner. And I’m not talking about the Catalans, DaMarcos, Textiles, and Reefs. I’m talkin’ tiny, hole-in-the-wall, mom ‘n pop, I-give-you-$10-and-you-give-me-change, delicioso restaurants that shock you to the core. I mean, come on -- we live in a city where the best tacos are handed to you through the window of a truck. Where people pay tolls for Chinese take-out. Where strip malls can house the city’s finest.

We are blessed to have some of the best ethnic restaurants in the country and too often we take them for granted. Few cities have the range of ethnic cuisines that we do, and even fewer represent them respectably. But Houston exalts the little guys hiding in every nook. Just don’t avert your eyes or you’ll miss them.

Tucked into a nondescript block of Beamer well south of Hobby airport lies the Pho Binh trailer and the best soup in Houston. Double true. No, it’s not a truck. It’s a trailer: a temporary building with a weensy kitchen and two tiny rooms packed with tables. The gracious staff turns out bowl upon bowl filled with broth so pure you want to bathe in it. Meats like chicken, rare beef, and pork meatballs, are moist-tender-delicious, and the long, smooth noodles slip-slide down with the greatest of ease. It is, quite simply, perfection in a bowl. That said, be sure to get there early; they run out of this pho goodness each and every day.

I snorted a little when my friend told me -- with a straight face -- that the Chevron station at the corner of Lawndale and Broadway had amazing tacos. She seemed fairly adamant about it, though, so I decided to play along. And in we walked. Right up to the taco stand encased in a gas station’s food mart. And I traded my skepticism for a plate of humility, for I what I received was fluffy eggs and sweet, smoky chorizo softly wrapped in warm housemade tortillas. Simply fantastic. So convinced was I that these tacos would suck that I didn’t even tote my camera. This picture was taken with another friend’s iPhone. Tee hee!

Barbecue joints are to Houston what weeds are to my yard: prevalent. But Pierson’s is different. Located on a desolate strip of TC Jester, Pierson’s brightens up a converted house with a humble nod. Enter the miniscule, formica'd dining room, place your order at the counter, and grab a seat -- if you’re lucky -- at one of the three tables. Soon you will be rewarded with tender brisket and the best ribs in town, all served with a hearty, unassuming smile. Meats are well smoked: crisp-charred on the outside to protect a moist and juicy interior. Even the potato salad and slaw are deserving of fanfare. But seriously, if this brisket were a man, I’d marry it.


Katharine said...

Oh, how I wish I wish I wish that Pho Binh was closer. That drive is absolutely brutal. But it's so worth it. :D

Now you have me thinking about pho for breakfast again tomorrow morning... Hee!

Michael said...

You should check out La Brocante restaurant on Kirkwood and Richmond. Definitely little known but some of the best French food in town