My God in Texas. What a roadtrip.

I’ve been raised in Houston, and such was my barbecue exposure: Goode Company, Demeris, Pappa’s, Rudy’s, and during my college days Mikeskas and Ruby’s. Always with the same problem: dry flavorless brisket. It was a recent trip to California that I had some of the best brisket of my life, and I knew this couldn’t stand. I decided to do my research and find the best barbecue in Texas, declared by consensus.

And here I am. Partly on my personal quest to vindicate Texas and to see off a longtime Texas friend who was going off to law school out of state. The brisket. My God, the brisket. The ribs, sausage, pork shoulder are good, and in lesser places would be the highlight, but the brisket reigns supreme. The salty, smoky flavor permeates throughout the meat, which falls apart like Cuban ropa vieja. I had an Amadeus moment, wanting to scream to the heavens why and how they could get such flavor in such a cut of meat. Don’t even have to bother with the sauce. Too salty or fatty? That’s called flavor. Bread fixes that.

Best barbecue in the world? Most probably yes, but we shall see. City Market and Kreuz are next, but at this point, the brisket is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Now for logistics:
Left Houston at 7:30 and got there around 9. There was a line out the door, and had to wait 15 minutes, but they only ran out of turkey (which I will try next time). I wouldn’t dare get there before 9 in any case. No biggie, you can always store the stuff in a cooler. It’ll still be good by lunchtime. Hell, by dinnertime the next day it’ll still be the best barbecue in Houston.

516 Main Street
Lexington, TX 78947
(979) 773-4640




I have a few favorite areas in Houston, and the corner of Airline just south of 610 is one of them. Down here is the meeting of several of Houston’s culinary gems: Canino’s grocery outlet, Taqueria Tacambaro, the back of Canino’s, and Connie’s Seafood (which deserves a writeup on its own).

Canino’s is a produce and grocery outlet where you can get local and imported fruits, vegetables, and spices for a real bargain. It exists as a sort of terminus and more accessible part of the whole Houston Farmer’s Market on Airline complex. In Canino’s it is shaded, you have carts, there are labels, you can pick however little produce you want, and you can pay with credit card, assuming you have a purchase of $5 or more.

Not so much the case with the back of Canino’s, Houston’s Farmer’s Market. Here, the big discounts begin, assuming you are willing to carry around your wares, and buy in bulk with cash. Not to worry much, as in the summertime, a dollar will get you 2 pounds of tomatoes or peaches, or a pound of mushrooms. Dried chilies are sold by the pound, and I am sure the even deeper discounts come if you speak Spanish (which I am working on). Some of this stuff isn’t local, per se (lots of stuff comes straight from Mexico), but most are fresh, and bleedingly inexpensive.

You can also find Taqueria Tacambaro back there, tucked away.  Best barbacoa taco in the city. make sure it’s Tacambaro; there’s a crappier taco stand that’s more prominenet.

I just came back from Canino’s and the back of Canino’s with 2 grocery bags full of produce, $15 poorer. Behold, my take (except for the Tapena):

Where else can you eat like a yuppie for 2 weeks on $15? Man, I love Houston’s hispanic community.

There’s something visceral and somewhat sado/masochistic about having an outdoor music festival in Houston in June. That said, what a party Houston turned out in Elanor Tinsley! They thankfully closed down Allen Parkway and turned what was a peaceful park along the bayou in to a fairground of rock. Headlining was Girl Talk and Flaming Lips, with awesome appearances by Mix Master Mike and Slim Thug. I’d say, much more alt and cool than other Summerfests (headliner TimMcgraw? ZZZ…).

Sunday afternoon on the second day of the festival, it started raining, turning the bayou ledge in to a sludge, giving no mercy to those stuck there all day, and raining out Dead Prez (which was a damn shame; they started at the same time as the Flaming Lips, and like hell I’m missing them.).

Also, giant ball:

Kinda awesome how you have 3 people from Austin staying over at your place in Houston to go to a music festival. Oh, and the Mayor of Montrose has apparently legalized cannabis, so go tell your local cops this if they bust you. :p

Rock on, Space City.

I was going to burst on here with my recap of Free Press Summerfest, but I just got wind of some sad news on Houston’s restaurant scene: two founders of Houston institutions have recently passed on, Frenchy’s Chicken founder Percy Creuzot and Mr. Kanomwan himself, the “Thai Nazi” and miraculous deliverer of delicious Thai food and good times among my fellow coworkers.

Both will be missed dearly, and Houston will be that much poorer without their colorful influence. The Frenchy’s empire will remain; there’s too much money and the family looks to be more involved in the business. Kanomwan, however, I wonder and fear, may possibly pass with it’s amazing proprietor. Thoughts and prayers to the families of these amazing individuals, and may their legacies live on in their institutions!

I’ve been reading all sorts of negative reviews about this place, and I think the heart of the problem is that people come in to T’Afia expecting a gastronomical revolution. I think they need to take a step back and look at the restaurant for what it is, which is local food done right, simply prepared, elegantly presented, with the finest ingredients all brought to us by farmers who share our same area code. As with most nice places, the lunch menu offers an excellent value for the price, here a seasonal three course prix fixe menu for $22. Note that they only have this on Friday. Don’t bother with the website for a preview of what’s for lunch; the menu will most probably be different from what’s on the site.
That’s kinda too bad for me, because I’m terrible at remembering this kind of stuff, since I tend to focus on the macro of a dish. I did snap some pictures of the bread, my wife’s tomato and cheese salad, the chicken apple sausage and bean soup, and my entree, skirt steak with vegetable medly. The bread was yeasty and thick, and was disappointingly cold, but the butter presentation was cute. The salad was dazzlingly fresh, especially the tomatoes, which were sweet and ascerb with amazing depth of flavor. The soup was simple and solid, but perhaps a little too simple. I was clamoring for a kick, like maybe some chiles.
The skirt steak was excellent, with that crisp along the edges, but tender on the inside, done medium rare. This is the standard in which I will hold future fajitas. It was perfectly seasoned, salty to pair with the sweet, fresh vegetable mix. For dessert, I had what I would describe as peaches and blueberry on a biscuit, and I think the timing on the ripeness of the peaches was off, but with some of my wife’s ice cream, the dish leaps a few bounds towards perfection.
Service was courteous, and as with the nature of a prix fixe menu, the dishes came out quickly. You will be charged for water, but it’s only a dollar for the table. Just prepare yourself mentally for that.
Would I return? Yes, at least four times a year, one visit for every season as the menu turns. I may be back for more summer fare as we come in to the season proper. God, I love seasonal restaurants. You can taste the freshness.

3701 Travis Street
Houston, TX 77002-9505
(713) 524-6922

Bleh. Valet parking is typically your only option. Get your dollar bill ready. Also, this place is next to the Breakfast Klub, which I badly want to go to, but the line to get in snakes around the restaurant!

On a recent trip to California, I had the foolish notion to order salsa with my eggs. This is what I got, and the moment this hit the table, I felt homesick. Taste? Where are you?

OK, two restaurant posts and two Thai places, but I swear there’s more to Houston than these. I think I’m on a Thai fix right now. I also went to La Madeline that day, and I don’t think that would warrant a write-up. 
Besides, this place is radically different from Thai Nazi. One of the best parts of Thai food is the spread, the glorious variety of flavors you get to try if you go with people willing to share and eat family style. If you go alone, or with people unwilling to share (or if you’re unwilling to share!) or if you order poorly (that would be me), you may have a bad outlook on Thai cuisine. This is where the Thai buffet comes in. Normally, I would blanche at a buffet, usually representative of ridiculous excess and emphasizing quantity over quality, but if done right, a buffet can offer variety and the opportunity to try anything without much risk.

The best Thai buffet I have encountered is Patu’s in Rice village. For $8.95 lunchtime entrance fee, you get a full spread of wonderful variance. There is Pad Thai, a mainstay, here judiciously eggy with meaty tofu. Fried rice is rich with vegetables and generous with egg and flavor. Satay chicken sits at the end, for the less adventurous, but it is delicious nonetheless, as long as you don’t forget the sauces right behind you.  I hear most everything else is varies day to day, but what stood out that day was the tofu done either curried or gingered. The tofu had that great meaty texture on the outside, and was tender within, and was a great canvas for the sauces’ flavors. White chicken coconut soup was tangy with ginger, and accompanied beautifully with all the entrees.

To end were small little dishes of baby tapoica and coconut milk with bits of corn niblets thrown in for texture. I prefer them without the corn, but liked it so much I went through 4 saucers of the stuff. Yes, I know the nutrition information of coconut milk.

This is life well lived.

Patu’s Thai Cuisine
2420 Rice Boulevard
Houston, TX 77005-3203
(713) 528-6998

Parking is kinda tricky. Suggest settling for parking spaces up to 2 blocks away. Besides, you’d probably need the walk afterwards.

Stumbled upon this house in the Montrose while walking through the neighborhood. Wife dubbed it the “villain’s lair.” Looks kinda like an S&M hobbit hole to me. Gets a B+ in Zombieproofness.

No soup for you!

I am reticent to post this, but since this is the first post of a blank blog that hasn’t even been Google Botted, then I feel that it is safe to reveal this to the world: Houston has a Soup Nazi, and he runs a Thai restaurant. Not just any, mind you, but possibly the best Thai restaurant in the city. Tucked far in the back of a strip mall, a couple miles south of the Fifth Ward in the Greater Eastwood neighborhood lies Kanomwan. It opens for lunch at 11:30, and at 11:00 you can  typically find the parking lot already half full of people idling in thier cars or waiting outside the locked gate.

Why? For 2 reasons: 1, mainly because the food is good. Damn good, and most dishes are very distinct from each other, such as the sliced chicken with cashew in red sauce, or the beef with straw mushroom and green onion with oyster sauce (don’t mistake this for a “safe” Americanized dish! The beef is fried and salted to a crisp then lightly drizzled with oyster sauce which match perfectly with the soft umami quality of the mushrooms).

But for the second reason why people line up before the place even opens? The  60-something gentlemen who owns and runs the place, the Thai Nazi,  does almost all waiting duties by himself. If you don’t get there early, you won’t get your food for a loooong while (45+ minutes, or so I hear). I suppose there’s a trust issue between him and his support staff, since he is the only one who will take your order, and is the only one to take your money. I halfway wonder if he also shuffles back and supervises the kitchen as well. Ponder the logistics of serving 50+ people this way, and I kind of understand his demeanor, which is unfriendly in a team-building sort of way between you and your fellow diners. Best choose quickly what you want, and order by the letter and number loudly and clearly. Sometimes he will disagree with what you choose and pick something else for you. Just roll with it, I’m sure it will be delicious.

There have been reported incidents where customers get uppity, and it will always end with the same results: no Thai food for you. Next!

P.S., I have at great risk of being banned from the place obtained images of Thai Nazi’s menu, which I include below.