Houston Art and Food Scene

Houston 2010

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
December 2, 2010

Here’s a two-day itinerary for exploring Houston, highlighting the culinary and art scenes.

Continental Airlines offers over 10 non-stop flights daily to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Both airports are Continental hubs.

Houston is chock-full of museums. The Houston Museum District, located near the Rice University campus, features 18 diverse museums — including Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum, Czech Center Museum, and Holocaust Museum.

For modern art lovers, Montrose is the place to be. Within three blocks of one another are the Rothko Chapel, The Menil Collection and the Cy Twombly Gallery (part of The Menil Collection).

Rothko Chapel
1409 Sul Ross St
Houston, TX 77006

Rothko Chapel

The Menil Collection
1515 Sul Ross St
Houston, TX 77006

Twombly Gallery
1501 Branard St
Houston, TX 77006

For contemporary art, 4411 Montrose is a complex that houses top-tier art galleries, including Peel Gallery and Shop, Anya Tish Gallery, and Barbara David Gallery. It’s a pleasure to browse, shop and chat with the gallery staff and owners.

4411 Montrose
4411 Montrose Blvd
Houston, TX 77006

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of Houston restaurants. While Tex-Mex is what first comes to mind, there’s so much more going on. Houston’s large Vietnamese and Mexican populations help diversify the city’s cuisine, and there are also restaurants featuring innovative locavore fare and head-to-toe carnivorous feasts.

1600 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

Hugo’s authentic Mexican cuisine is beloved by Houstonians. Indeed, the food is delicious, prepared and served with care. For an appetizer, do not miss the lechón — achiote rubbed tender suckling pig served with habanero salsa and tortillas. The red snapper ceviche is refreshing and fresh as can be, as are the shrimp sautéed in lime garlic oil and served with arroz blanco and cactus salad.

Pho Binh Trailer
10928 Beamer Rd
Houston, TX 77089

Of the three Pho Binh restaurants in Houston, this trailer is the original. While it was a little out of the way, this was my favorite meal of the trip. I’ve never had pho this fresh and good! The broth is so pure, light and flavorful — authentic. The restaurant was packed when I arrived for breakfast. They also serve lunch and dinner. The combo includes rare steak, brisket, tendon, and tripe, and you can always add a meatball for an extra dollar. I am sure to return to this inexpensive, comforting and delicious eatery next time I visit Houston.

Bootsie’s Heritage Cafe
112 Commerce St
Tomball, TX 77375

Bootsie’s Heritage Cafe is not exactly in Houston; it’s in Tomball — about a 45-minute drive, but Bootsie’s focus on playful locavore cuisine is worth the trek. The tasting menu is just $35, and a great way to experience Bootsie’s philosophy — using fresh ingredients from within 15 miles of the restaurant, and playing with mother nature’s gift using sheer creativity. Two of my favorite dishes were the goat cheese with watermelon crisps and pickled watermelon juice (photo above), and the fresh vegetable boudin-stuffed squash blossoms (picked just two hours prior to dinner), tempura-fried with spicy Sriracha mayo.

219 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

Feast is a remarkable restaurant that promotes head-to-toe eating — similar to Fergus Henderson’s St. John’s in London — but Feast is gaining a lot of acclaim for its own innovative and delicious cuisine.

The menu is divided into two halves: regular favorites and daily specials. One of the favorites is the Bath chaps — pork jowl rolled around tongue, brined, cut into slices and pan-seared (photo above) — with garlic rutabaga and mustard greens. Tender, fatty, and rich, it’s a real treat.

Two sides that I can’t stop thinking about are the Exmoor toasts (bread crisped in pork fat then slathered with clotted cream and topped with white anchovy — dear lord, this is good!), and bubble and squeak (cabbage and Brussels sprouts in heavily buttered mashed potatoes).

Feast just recently opened in New Orleans, too!


Comments (1)


Apr 23, 12:02 PM

We just had lunch at Pho Binh – fantastic! It was a new discovery even for my Houstonian in-laws. Thanks for the great rec!

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