Churrascos, Houston

Seems like ages ago when I was in Texas last. If you couldn’t tell, this KbK has been in some sort of extended hibernation as I began my graduate program in England and got settled with my new living situation.

This is the latest part of my Texas series, about 8 months delayed. Stephen took me here for my 22nd birthday, recalling positive dining experiences with his father when he still lived in Houston.Image

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Buffalo Grille, Houston

I absolutely love brunch. I already love each of the “normal” meals, but brunch is extra special because it is impossible to be in a bad mood while having brunch. Usually brunch time means you got to sleep in and/or it’s the weekend. And because it’s such a filling meal, with both salty and sweet elements, you’re pretty much set for the rest of the day until dinner. I could eat brunch every day.

Now, the Buffalo Grille in Houston is not a brunch-only sort of place, but I was in my brunch mood (which was heightened by the general happiness from being on vacation) and everything that touched my mouth was awesome. It kind of reminded me of Urth Caffé in Los Angeles, only with Texas-sized portions, a general embrace of fried elements, and of course real maple syrup.

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Chuys, Houston

I had the best steak fajitas when I was in Houston. They were so good that when I crave steak fajitas now, I am specifically craving Chuys’ steak fajitas. Chuys, a chain that started in Austin, is another one of Stephen’s top spots. Boasting a cantina vibe, deep margaritas, funky decor, and honestly fantastic Tex-Mex cuisine, this is a place that makes the Tio Lio’s or the El Torito I know a few miles away in San Diego as interesting and tasty as stale white bread.

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Becks Prime, Houston

One of the things that I find awesome and unexpected about traveling regionally in the US is the wide range of popular “chain-type” eateries to which I am completely oblivious. Californians are often cited for their self-centric tunnel vision in many areas, and I am not an exception. As a teenager, after having visited a Potbelly and a Soup Box (this was in Chicago), the experience was both eye-opening and left me wishing they each had locations somewhere in LA or San Diego (they didn’t).

These are the sort of chains that everyone nearby loyally knows and loves, but might not have national infamy (like McDonald’s or ChickFilA) or be so individualistic that they land on city culinary lists targeting visitors. Nonetheless, they warrant a mention and a visit because they are just good, solid places to eat. This is what a place like Beck’s Prime means to me.

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Mission Burrito, Houston

Earlier this summer I visited the great state of Texas. I was especially excited for this trip because Stephen, over the course of the past few years, has continuously extolled the virtues of authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, which is as delicious as it is ubiquitous in Houston, his hometown. According to him, Mission Burrito is the Mecca of his Tex-Mex belief system. We stopped by the Mission Burrito location that he dined at practically every day during high school right after our flight. The generous, Texas-sized portions, hearty, full-bodied flavor, and casual atmosphere was exactly what I needed.

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Patina Restaurant, Los Angeles

Pricey. Pompous. Petite portions. These are all words that could be associated with Patina Restaurant, located right at the foot of the breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. However, after a wonderful experience at Ray’s, which is one of the restaurants belonging to the Patina Restaurant Group, I was excited to try the famous LA establishment that is the namesake of the internationally renowned restaurant empire. The aforementioned adjectives can be used to critique fine dining in broad strokes, but Patina Restaurant allows you savor not only each delicious morsel of food, but also each careful pause in the warm, enthusiastic service from the waitstaff, and every word in the dinner conversation as a result of a relaxing, quiet restaurant environment.

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Ray’s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In my opinion, Ray’s at LACMA is the most impressive museum restaurant in the city; so good that it actually doesn’t need to be qualified as a “museum restaurant” and can stand on its own with some of LA’s more acclaimed establishments. My boyfriend and I really enjoyed our relaxing weekend lunch together at Ray’s and our touring of some current exhibitions. The combination of fresh, well-prepared food and interesting artwork were central to a memorable and fun day. Ray’s is absolutely not the mediocre and depressing museum café with club sandwiches and canned soup. Though the prices are high, we left feeling like our splurge was money well-spent.

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