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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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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Nobhill Tavern, Las Vegas

Having driven past Michael Mina’s XIV several times while on the Sunset Strip, I was disappointed to hear that the space is now for many private events and is no longer a fully functioning restaurant. Of course, I say this as though it happened yesterday, but it’s actually been almost a year. Thankfully, Stephen and I tried out one of his Las Vegas establishments, Nobhill Tavern, and had a delicious meal with excellent service. Unlike XIV, which was supposedly marred by an identity crisis in menu (and service), Nobhill Tavern shines in its creative interpretations of classic American fare.

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The Restaurant at the J. Paul Getty Museum

There are a lot of reasons the Getty is so popular in L.A. Beautiful architecture framing gorgeous views of the city, interesting art exhibitions, and relaxing gardens, all for free (or $15 if you drive there and park) makes a museum-going experience that is fun and enjoyable for casual museum-goers and families.

Currently, there is a great exhibition called L.A. Style on the late Herb Ritts’ black and white photography. The exhibition is quite large, one could easily spend a good hour at least looking at some truly iconic shots of famous celebrities and oiled athletes. After I spent a few hours wandering around the galleries and examining the Ritts show, I headed over to The Restaurant for lunch and tried their three course tasting menu inspired by Los Angeles and the Getty’s recent, L.A. focused programming.

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Golden Deli, San Gabriel

After almost four years of living in Los Angeles, one gets used to planning forty-minute drives to the other side of town for awesome pizza or some crazy food truck. This time, our destination was a family-style, couldn’t-find-it-unless-you-were-looking-for-it establishment that served incredible Vietnamese cuisine. Back home in San Diego, I had a standard rotation of my favorite Vietnamese places, but in L.A., a decent Pho Citi partially addressed, but did not fully satiate a periodic hunger for delicious Vietnamese food.

Golden Deli Restaurant is in the San Gabriel Valley, which necessitates braving I-10, plenty of traffic lights on long stretches of local roads, and crowds of hungry, mostly patient SGV insiders that know all the neighborhood gems. Once you’re about to be seated however, the wafting aromas of steaming soup and barbecued meat dissipates any transport-related frustrations, succumbing to a suddenly very apparent craving in your core that simply wants something, anything, from their menu.

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