The New York Times writer hightailed it to Ocean Palace for legit dumplings.
Ocean Palace is over where Chinatown blends with Little Saigon.
The options at Ocean Palace are endless.
Blood Bros. BBQ boasts Houston's first-ever Vietnamese-American postmaster.
Blood Bros. BBQ tackles the holy Texas trinity and some of their own twists, too.
Raizes offers authentic Mexican cuisine.
Raizes Mexican Kitchen was the perfect stop for dinner.
Afghan Village is traditional and delicious.
Afghan Village is classic food with American and Afghani decor.
Houston’s building a stellar rep across the country, with recent love from outlets ranging from Esquire to Food & Wine. The city’s skyrocketed in the national consciousness, and it’s no wonder why.
Now, the New York Times is getting in on the act. Again.
This time, the storied newspaper sought out a side of Houston rarely seen by outsiders with a full page feature on the Bayou City’s food diversity in its Sunday paper. The print piece bears the headline “Everyone Is Different, and Nothing Tastes the Same.”
Writer Sebastian Modak discovered what many Houstonians already knew — many of the city’s true food gems are outside the loop. Of course, he begins with: “At first glance, much of Houston looks alike. Making your way out of the “Loop,” the I-610 highway that circles the city center like a shirt collar, skyscrapers give way to manicured office parks and strip malls, each seemingly a carbon copy of the last.”
But, the Times travel guru quickly comes around.
In the course of a whirlwind one-day trip, including a trio of tantalizing ethnic meals, Modak learns the description of Houston he’s heard is somewhat accurate — largely uniform in appearance, terrible for pedestrians — but that there is also a whole new side.
Modak heard Houston is consistently ranked as one of the most culturally diverse cities on the globe, not just in America, with 48 percent of the residents speaking a language aside from English and 29 percent of the population foreign-born.
And hey, maybe if he’d restricted his trips to River Oaks or Downtown — his chosen locations, not ours— he would have found mono-cultural monotony.
But during excursions outside city limits, in Stafford, the Mahatma Gandhi District and more, the Times reporter found that many diverse Houston treasures are out there, exemplified by outstanding ethnic cuisine.
Three Meals, One Diverse Takeaway
The most important meal of the day didn’t disappoint in Alief, where Chinatown meets Little Saigon over on Hillcroft. There he met Robin Wong, co-owner of Blood Bros. BBQ, along with his brother Terry and friend Quy Hoang.
At Ocean Palace, Modak tucked in for cheung fun rolls and shrimp-filled har gow dumplings, going off of the brother-restaurateurs’ informed recommendations.
It was the ideal time to go over what makes Blood Bros. BBQ so unique — the teamwork of two Chinese-Americans, Robin and Terry, and Hoang, the Bayou City’s very first Vietnamese-American pitmaster. On top of the Texas trinity, the trio tackles a smoked turkey bahn mi and Thai green curry boudins.
Lunchtime called for a trip to Afghan Village, covered in a mélange of American and Afghan flags, and run by Omer Yousafzai. The pair dug into lamb and chicken karahi and lamb chops.
They had an enlightening exchange about makes Houston as unique and original as it is.
Yousafzai called Houston a self-perpetuating system. “I think the reason is its diversity, he said. “You can blend in here. You can claim this place is home and nobody questions that.”
Then, dinner time rolled around, an occasion for traditional Mexican fare. This led Modak to meet with Iveth Reyes, a Houston public school system social worker, in Stafford.
Raizes’ Mexican Kitchen presented Modak with carnitas tacos and habanero-slathered enchiladas. All inspired by the Michoacán region, where the owner, Aristo Gaspar, is from.
It was a delicious day, one that boosted Houston’s esteem — reminding, or notifying, the country of its creativity and cultural diversity.
Of course, this is the second major bit of Houston love from the New York Times in a matter of months.
You can guess the reasons — food and culture. The Menil Drawing Institute, the expansions of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Holocaust Museum Houston, the staggering number of imminent and newly open food halls and The Post Oak Hotel all drew praise.
It sounds like the New York Times is developing a major crush. Who can blame them?