I'm always excited to visit a new city so when I found out I was headed out to Houston for a conference, it set my proverbial tail a-wagging! When I am in a new city I look for places the locals would frequent because they typically deliver good eats at a reasonable price. Eat at the hotel restaurant?! I don't think so and here's why. Unless you like over-priced, under-whelming food, it's rarely a good idea to eat at a hotel restaurant. UN-less you're in Las Vegas and you have no other choice. So here's what I found in Houston...
My first stop was the Hearsay Gastropub and Lounge which is a wonderful looking urban space. Outside there's a large vertical retro sign, small patio on the sidewalk. Inside is where it gets really interesting. Very tall and deep building with bricked facing and a staircase in back that leads to a dining area overlooking the main space, kewl! I stop in for brunch and grab a BLT made of thick slices of pork belly and packed with lettuce and tomato. Messy but good, in all honesty I might have preferred straight-up bacon.
My second visit was for dinner and at night, Hearsay takes on a totally different feel, great for a date. A large party of us sat upstairs and the waitress (Jacqueline) did a fantastic job with two large groups and the stairs to negotiate. My brisket sandwich and fries were great and I have to give Hearsay a solid thumbs-up for both my visits. It's a very cool and hip spot with great decor and an interesting menu, you can't beat that!
I next strayed into MKT Bar which is part of Phoenecia Specialty Foods. Phoenecia is a sort of a local Houston Whole Foods Market with all sorts of interesting food-stuffs and a hot bar. In back, they've got their MKT Bar with a small stage, full bar with beer on draft and wine for a casual meal. The night I popped in, the MKT bar was really busy. A local crowd was cheering on the young band on the stage and waitstaff was sort of short-handed. When I was finally able to wave down a server, I ordered two apps: a queso with chips along with some hamburger sliders for good measure!
The queso comes our first, a tangy mix of cheese served with baked pita chips which makes for a cheesy crunchy mouthful, yum! When the plate of sliders show up, all I can think of is whoa! The sliders are thick and with three, they made up a large meal. Seared high quality ground beef with crispy bacon and home-made pickle slices were all well put together as a sandwich. I really enjoyed my brief visit to the MKT Bar if you're in the area, it's definitely worth a casual and filling meal.
And finally I did Brooklyn Meatball Company for a quick lunch on my last day. Located in the tunnels below Main Street, Brooklyn Meatball is owned by Joey Galluzzi, a gentleman that competed on America's Next Great Restaurant (runner-up). And yeah, the food here is good. $10 for a four-meatball sub in spicy marinara and nicely melted mozzarella. The meatballs had a bit of crust and were delicious paired with marinara and fresh roll. A drizzle of balsamic and sprinkle of arugula made for a nice touch and while the Brooklyn Meatball Company may not look like much from the outside, they deliver excellent eats.
So there you go, a whirlwind trip through some Houston eateries and I definitely enjoyed myself. I also tried Huynh and Fusion Tacos which were not quite as impressive. My rule of thumb is to never eat at hotel restaurants and these eateries show you why you can get a better meal for less money when you're willing to walk off the beaten path. But isn't that the way things are with most things in life?! So rock and rocket on, Houston. Over and out...
Hearsay Gastro Lounge 218 Travis Street Houston, TX 77002 713.225.8079
Mkt Bar 1001 Austin Street Houston, TX 77010 832.360.2222
Brooklyn Meatball Company 930 Main Street Houston, TX 77002 713.632.8225