5 Things to Eat and Drink in Houston
This time of year, conversations at Chow Bella staff meetings tend to turn to who's eaten what and where. With the summer travel season in full swing, we bring you Food Tours, our writers' suggestions of what to eat and drink out of town.
Photos and collage by Lauren Saria From top left: walu walu at Uchi, cocktails at Anvil, chocolates from The Chocolate Bar and beers from The Hay Merchant
Though Houston is better known as a business center than a tourist destination, there's plenty to see, do, and eat here. As is the case with everything Texas-related, this place is large -- in both square miles and volume of worthwhile restaurants. What that means for most visitors is that you aren't going to get to taste it all.
For a short visit with enthusiastic gastronomic aims, we'll recommend focusing your energy on the Montrose neighborhood, located in the heart of Houston. It's a food lover's paradise, where you can stand on the steps of one excellent eatery while staring at the windows of another. It's also where we did most of our dining on our recent summer getaway. (P.S.: The nightlife in this and the surrounding areas is a blast.)
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Lauren Saria Machi cure from Uchi in Houston
If you've heard about Uchi and imagine it to be a high-end contemporary Japanese restaurant where reservations are a must, then you're right. But that doesn't tell the restaurant's whole story. Transplanted from Austin, courtesy of James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole, this hip eatery has another side that's more approachable and much less expensive. To catch it, you'll have to show up early -- as in, before the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. At that time, even without a reservation, you can snag a seat at the sushi bar (and we do recommend the sushi bar, where you can chat it up with the friendly and knowledgeable staff) and partake in what they call "Social Hour." The special menu, which is available from 5 to 6:30 p.m., features some of the restaurant's most popular dishes at considerably reduced prices. You can order off the dinner menu, too, so you don't feel like you're missing out. The machi cure is a delightful dish featuring smoked yellowtail topped with Asian pear, almond, and garlic brittle that's enjoyed nacho-style on yucca chips. It's just $6 during Social Hour, normally $12. We also recommend the walu walu, oak-grilled escolar with candied citrus, yuzupon and myoga; the ham and eggs roll, katsu pork belly sushi with yolk custard and espelette; and (because why not), the foie nigiri, which is exactly what it sounds like -- and darn tasty.
Lauren Saria A Pimm's Cup at Anvil
Anvil Bar and Refuge
1424 Westheimer Road, Suite B
We enjoyed a Pimm's Cup when we stopped in, but there's no way to go wrong when ordering at this bar. And calling it a bar doesn't feel totally right; it would feel more honest to call it a temple to all things cocktail. The menu offers dozens and dozens of drink options, each meticulously made to the highest standard. The bartenders at Anvil are obsessed with details like the type of ice (crushed or cubed, according to the drink), style of glass, and precise measurements. They have an arsenal of housemade beverage accouterments and liqueurs, and they change their menu seasonally. It's impressive, regardless of whether you know anything at all about how to make a drink. Pro tips: Parking is a pain, so expect to valet; it will be crowded so don't count of having a seat; and be prepared to wait, because these bartenders aren't going to rush their process for anything.