Thursday, March 4, 2010

Breakfast in Houston: New York Coffee Shop

Info: New York Coffee Shop
9724 Hillcroft St
Houston, TX 77096

Must Tries: Bagels! Pastrami and egg omelet! This is a great breakfast spot!
Healthy Options: The menu has egg options, be sure to try the whole wheat bagel.
Price: Some of the lowest breakfast prices in town! Most dishes under $6.
What to Expect: The New York Coffee Shop is a small hole in the wall that serves the best bagels in town. Come early because the line forms out the door.

My Experience: I don't know if it’s the great bagels or the crammed eating area or the hard accents of the staff, but this place reminds me of my trips to NYC. Customers have the option to eat at the Coffee Shop or just pick up bagels at the counter next door. 

The bagels here are arguably the best in town. This Whole Wheat bagel had a slightly crunchy exterior and a fluffy and hearty interior. I enjoy eating these bagels non-toasted, they are that good!

My favorite was the pastrami omelet, which is served with home fries. The pastrami was moist and full of that great salty pastrami flavor.

The home fries can be ordered regular or crispy, I still can’t decide which way is best. The home fries have great flavor, they seem to be marinated in a spice which just makes them a must try.


While I usually go with the Whole Wheat bagel, every now and then I splurge and go with a Chocolate Chip bagel. This bagel was slightly crunchy on the outside but chocolaty sweet and gooey on the inside.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lent in Houston: Shrimp Tacos @ El Rey

Restaurant Info:
El Rey
233 Main St
Houston, TX

My Experience: El Rey prides itself on serving quick, good Cuban and Latin American food. During Lent I abstain from eating meat on Fridays, therefore I scanned their non-meat menu section and was surprised to see the various options available to me. The Summer Taco Combo caught my eye!

The Summer Taco Combo is 3 Shrimp tacos served on corn tortillas topped with mango, cilantro, tomato, onion, and avocado. The dish not only looks like summer (with it bright colors) but it tastes like what you would expect from an Island taco shack! The mangos added a hint of sweetness which went well with El Rey's green salsa.  I was served 4 tacos on this day because my ordered had been lost in the lunch rush.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Breakfast in Houston: Harry's Restaurant

Info: Harry’s Restaurant
318 Tuam St
Houston, TX 77006

Must Tries: Pancake Omelet!
Healthy Options: The menu has egg and protein options.
Price: Under $8 a dish.
What to Expect: Harry’s Restaurant serves what they call Home Style American food with a Greek touch. I expected a cafeteria style experience but I read that lunch is served cafeteria style not breakfast. On this Saturday morning we were seated promptly and little did I know what the multiple page breakfast menu had in store for me.

My Experience: What impressed me most of Harry’s besides the food, was the diverse breakfast menu. Listed were omelets, migas, pancakes, waffles, the options spanned American, Latin and Mediterranean cultures. The menu has many safe “traditional” breakfast choices as well as several interesting options. I always have trouble decided whether to go with an omelet or stick to pancakes. As I skimmed the menu the Pancake Omelet caught my eye. What is a Pancake Omelet you ask? Think of an omelet stuffed within a rolled pancake! Yes, the best of both worlds!

Harry's Pancake Omelet is eggs, cheese and your meat of choice stuffed into a huge pancake!

The pancake was served hot, right off the flat top which gave it a slightly crispy exterior, just enough to hold this ultimate breakfast fusion together. The inside of the pancake was moist and soft, the eggs, ham and cheese stuffed within were a great combination.        

The more I ate the pancake omelet, I realized I enjoyed it so much because it reminded me of a fresh corn dog. This has all the potential to be a great hangover cure! I may be wrong, in summary the Pancake Omelet is a winner! When in Houston try Harry's.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pho Binh Trailer

Info: Pho Binh Trailer
10930 Beamer Rd
Houston, TX 77089

Must Tries: Pho, Pho Chicken Soup/Pho Ga!
Healthy Options: Choose from lean beef soup dishes.
Price: Under $6 for a large bowl.
What to Expect: Famed groundhog forecaster Punxsutawney Phil decaled 6 more weeks of winter which means 6 more weeks of PHO!!! If you decide to make the journey to the famous Pho Binh Trailer be sure to bring your appetite. The Pho Binh trailer offers generous portions of flavorful Pho.

My Experience: Reports of good Pho in Houston come from every part of town. My quest to find the best Pho in Houston led me down I-45 to the highly recommended Pho Binh Trailer. Come early, the good stuff sells out on most days.

Prices are pretty low and the menu is pretty easy to read!

For the sake of clarity, Pho Binh is not a trailer on wheels, but a double wide which is set on a foundation.

A generous plate of Pho condiments allow you to assemble the perfect winter blues cure.

Today I went with traditions beef Pho. Thin slices of raw beef are dropped into the scoring broth prior to be served. The Pho was good, not to salty or greasy. The beef was actually rare and not over cooked like other places. The broth had layers of flavor which made it unique, but today might have been an off day because it lacked the wow factor which I expected.

We also tried the Pho Ga/Chicken Soup. Thinly sliced chicken breast, chewy noodles and a flavorful broth made for a solid choice.  

The Pho Ga had hard boiled eggs in it which was a surprise.
This dish is a great twist on traditional chicken soup.

While I enjoyed the Pho here I could not conclusively make a ruling on the best place to get Pho in Houston. The quest continues, I leave you with what might be the best view offered by a Pho restaurant.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Diner's Drive-In's and Dives Visited: Cafe Pita

Info: Café Pita
10890 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77042

Must Tries: Hummus with lepinja bread! Pljeskavice Stuffed!
Healthy Options: Hummus and chicken is the way to go.
Price: Great deal, prices for most dishes under $10.
What to Expect: Café Pita is located in a small shopping center off Westheimer just passed the Beltway. Café Pita specializes in Bosnian food. Fear not, the menu is easy to read and the wait staff is helpful.

My Experience: I learned of Café Pita from watching Guy Fieri on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visit to Houston. The show had Guy raving about the Bosnian burgers, which was enough to entice me to visit Café Pita.

I started my visit off with a order of hummus with lepinja bread.
At $3.99 this bowl was a great way to start this adventure.

Lepinja bread is Bosnian flat bread. I was intrigued by this bread because it was shaped like pita but much fluffier inside. This was a hybrid of a pita and bread roll. The bread was warm and very soft on the inside, perfect for hummus scooping.

The Bosnian burger known as Pljeskavice is ground beef mixed with spices served on lepinja bread with onions and ajvar.

I was weary of slathering ajvar (a spread made from red bell peppers, eggplant, garlic and chili pepper) on a perfectly good burger and topping it off with strong raw white onions but I thought to myself, "When in Rome!" The ajvar and onions added a distinct flavor to the burger. I wasn't a big fan of the traditional style, so I opted to enjoy my second half, plain old beef and cheese.


Pljeskavice is served regular or stuffed. Here below is the Pljeskavice stuffed with cheese and mushrooms. The Bosnian burger is made of up two meat patties molded together with cheese and mushrooms stacked in-between. The burger was big and should be a must try.

The lepinja bread was the all star today. Unlike when served with the hummus the bread is brushed with beef stock before the burger is assembled, this made the bread moist and in some areas downright too soggy for me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Peter Luger Steakhouse, NYC

Destination : Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Must Tries: Steak! Bacon appetizer!
Healthy Options: You could order a salad or vegetables but why would you at the House of Beef!
Price: Save up for this trip! Lunch for two, around 80.00. CASH ONLY
What to Expect: The moment you walk into Peter Luger’s you know this is not the typical steak house. The ambience is a simple, yet distinguished. Wooden tables fill a back room where I prepared to try what many claim is the best steak in the USA. The waiters are very friendly and helpful, so ask questions and enjoy.

My Experience: After countless endorsements from The Food Network, Travel Channel, and YELP, I journeyed to Peter Luger’s. Take the train and consider going during lunch, the crowd was smaller and burgers are on the lunch menu.

My lunch at Peter Luger's began with a bacon appetizer. Yes, bacon! But this wasn't any old bacon, this was thick cut bacon which was cooked to be crispy on the outside but delightfully salty and juicy on the inside. This Bacon Steak was a great start to the Peter Luger experience!

Peter Luger's Menu reads as follows: Steak for 1, Steak for 2 or Steak for 3.

My guest and I ordered the USDA PRIME BEEF Steak for 2. I could hear my Porterhouse sizzling as it made it ways through the kitchen doors to my table. The pre sliced Porterhouse covered the plate and the smell of steak filled the room, that's when I realized this was an experience of NYC that no tour or museum could give me.

The cuts of beef melted in my mouth. No need for a knife here. Steak sauce was provided, but not needed. The beef was slightly charred on the outside, yet tender and juicy on the inside! I suspect the seasoning was minimal because the flavor of the great quality beef was prevalent.

Before drifting into a Steak Coma on the subway back to Manhattan I took a moment to soak in the table. I will definitely be back.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Ly Oriental

Info: A Ly Oriental
11360 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77072

Must Tries: Peking duck! Nui Bo Luc Lac!
Healthy Options: Several steamed vegetable and chicken dishes.
Price: Great deal! A whole Peking duck with the fixings under $30.
What to Expect: A Ly Oriental is a great little place located in a shopping center right across from Hong Kong Supermarket off of Bellaire. The server’s don’t speak much English but the menu is easy to maneuver. If you have never had Peking duck, this is a must try.

My Experience: I had previously tasted the delicacy that is Peking duck at Arco, a fancier restaurant in Houston’s Chinatown during special occasion dinners. I guess it was the country boy in me that wanted to indulge myself in Peking duck, Man vs. Food style, without breaking the bank of course. So when I read Houston Wok's review of A LY Oriental a while back, ( I thought this might just be the place that I have been looking for. I did my research and heard of their affordable Peking duck platter. Let me warn you now! No person should eat or attempt to eat a whole Peking duck alone.

Assembling the Peking Duck Sandwich is lesson #1. Reverting to my culture the Peking duck is eaten just like a taco. So for the sake of explanation I will demonstrate how to assemble the Peking Duck Taco.

The Components:

                       Hoisin sauce                       

Julienned cucumbers and scallions

Crispy Peking Duck and Soft Steamed Buns

Open the bun and pile in duck, scallions, cucumbers and drizzle hoisin sauce.

All together this taco is soft, crunchy, salty, sweet and juicy. Yes such a complex creation from simple and fresh ingredients! The steamed bun is soft and serves as the box for this flavor gift. The duck has a slightly salty, golden brown crispy skin which melts with the juicy duck meat. The scallions and cucumbers are raw and add a crunch. The hoisin sauce has a sweet and almost Thai peanut sauce creaminess.

Based on the advice of Houston Wok I ordered the Nui Bo Luc Lac, which was a great choice. This dish is a safe dish for the non-adventurous. Garlic beef and stir fried macaroni (no cheese). Flavorful cubes of beef stir fried in onions and served with stir fried macaroni make a surprisingly fun dish.