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Restaurants / Lists

Texas’ Strangest Restaurants — 10 Wonderfully Odd Foodie Hotspots

From a Laundromat Stunner to a Gas Station Deli, You Can Bank on These Picks

BY // 06.08.18

Location, location, location. While the food is the main thing when it comes to a great dining experience, you can’t overlook the power of ambience. A lot of it has to do with lighting, decor, the usual. But some restaurants in Texas go beyond table cloths and light fixtures when it comes to defining their space. It all starts with a crazy unique setting.

Funky restaurants across Texas have set up shop in the unlikeliest locales. Some eager and forward-thinking restaurateurs have looked back to the past to find inspiration. They’ve converted and renovated old businesses, transforming them into thriving foodie hotspots.

PaperCity has rounded up the 10 best places for when you’re looking for food in all the weird places. They span the operational to the restored, the historical to the undoubtedly new.

Next time you’re hangry, think outside the box. The old laundromat might have just what you’re craving. These are Texas’ strangest restaurants.

Ekko’s Greek American Deli

Houston

This one’s a gas — an authentic, Greek-on-the-go spot inside a Valero. Affordable and accessible is the name of the game. You can fuel up your car and fuel up your belly all in one go at this Houston gas station at 5216 Richmond.

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Ekko’s has all the Greek hallmarks, from perfectly seasoned gyros and sandwiches to flaky baklava and daily specials from Monday Mousaka plates to Souvlaki on Wednesdays. And Ekko’s is true to its hybrid name, offering up American standbys like hot dogs and burgers too. But expect some fusion, like the falafel burger with fresh avocado.

The interior’s small, just big enough for the counter, kitchen and typical rows of gas station goodies like chips and candy, but there is some seating, surrounded by framed photos of Greece. You can even chow down at tables outside, if you don’t mind a scenic view of bumpers and license plates.

Sofrito

Houston

Here’s another vehicular winner: a South American restaurant inside Dr. Gleem Carwash at 3101 Ella. It’s all Puerto Rico, my heart’s desire, why don’t we shine up and fill my tires? It’s one-stop shopping.

Sofrito’s not the first restaurant to take root at the car wash. Past tasty tenants in this unique space include juice shop Nourish, Facundo Café and Maria’s Café. Sofrito brings something new to the table, literally, with flavorful Puerto Rican specialties such as Cubano sandwiches and sofrito mojo wings.

It is even open early to kick off your day with a colorful breakfast, like a tropical guava parfait or breakfast tacos with sofrito sauce on a corn tortilla. Leave satisfied with a full stomach and a gleaming ride.

Chef Point Bar & Restaurant

Dallas-Fort Worth

Vroom vroom, it’s time to make some room for yet another car centric restaurant. Chef Point Bar & Restaurant at 5901 Watauga is offbeat dining in an unlikely place: a working gas station. The offbeat eatery boasts a full bar and comfort food.

They’re all about hearty meals, with unbelievable portion sizes. You’ll be saying Grazie for the pasta dishes like chicken scampi and fettuccine alfredo And you can’t forget the blackened stuffed pork chop bursting with pepper jack and crab meat.

Some places are dog-friendly. Chef Point is dog-loving, with a special, if streamlined dog menu. Your fur baby can snack on a hamburger patty, plain hot dog, scrambled eggs or a boneless, skinless chicken filet. Feeling fancy? Go for non-alcoholic Doggie Beer.

McAdoo’s Seafood Company & Oyster Bar

New Braunfels

The post office at 196 North Castell may not be functional, but you’ll definitely want to send word about the phenomenal Cajun-style seafood at this upscale restaurant. Diners are greeted by the historic building’s immense classic columns.

Once inside, it’s time to order Cajun classics like Atchafalaya blackened catfish with crawfish etoufee and shrimp and cheese grits. McAdoo’s even offer custom creations, allowing you to choose two or three items from an extensive list to DIY your dream meal. Options include everything from seafood gumbo to jambalaya to brochette shrimp and crab cake sliders.

Did we mention the Bloody Mary Bar? Start out with a glass of Tito’s and add fixings to your heart’s content. It’s practically a buffet on its own.

Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar

New Braunfels

It’s not every day you get your lunch in an 1878 cotton gin. If you want a serious throwback, head to 1287 Gruene. It’s one of those can’t-miss situations, a restaurant on a bluff, overlooking the Guadalupe river, shaded by towering oak trees, a stone’s throw from the water tower.

The three-story brick boiler room is all that remains of the water-powered mill. It makes for a multi-level restaurant specializing in thick, meaty steaks, chicken fried steak, fried catfish and strawberry shortcake the size of your head.

The restaurant is sprawling, with an indoor bar, relaxing beer garden, store and even a brick patio surrounded by a grove of trees. The Gristmill has drawn guests from all over, including Robert Duvall, Dan Rather and Rick Perry. That’s quite the stamp of approval.

Food Shark

Marfa

This one’s a delicious doozy. It’s what you’d expect from Marfa: unexpected. You can’t just call this Mediterranean must-try a food truck. Sure, there’s a food truck element at 909 West San Antonio, but there’s also a one-room 1960s-style Ranch home, an ancient airsteam trailer and seating in a retired school bus.

Come prepared with cash at this hipster haven, where credit cards are non grata. The Marfalafel with extra spicy hot sauce alone is worth a trip to the ATM. Another warning: the hours are as zany as the setup, so you may just want to call ahead.

But don’t let that deter you. Go for the lamb kebab platter, braised pork burrito and hummus. Your stomach — and your Instagram — will thank you.

Launderette

Austin

There’s a laundry list of reasons you should check out this highly acclaimed Austin restaurant at 2115 Holly. This converted Laundromat snagged tons of Best New Restaurant awards in 2016 from names as big as the James Beard Foundation.

First things first. The snacky bits are a great place to get started, whether you choose the beet hummus or fried shrimp with remoulade with fermented red chile. For dinner, you’ll here regulars rave about the plancha burger. But you shouldn’t overlook the beef short rib and stravecchio.

You can get desserts lunch through dinner, and you may want to wait for the sun to go down. There’s a late-night special: the birthday cake ice cream sandwich.

Hillside Farmacy

Austin

 It’s back to the future with this drugstore-turned-restaurant, straight out of the 1950s. Hillside Farmacy has the cure for what ails you, whether it’s a big-time Texas steak or a drink from the old-school soda counter.

Good, local farm food makes for a menu that’s as healthy as it is wholesome, with morning offerings like ham steak and cheddar cheese grits for breakfast or smokey Denmark bangers and eggs for weekend brunch.

Suppertime calls for a burger and malt vinegar fries, short rib, roasted chicken and more. You’re sure to leave feeling fine.

Hillside Farmacy knows that any serious happy hour needs outstanding food.

 

Iron Works BBQ

Austin

This one’s about as macho as it gets, a barbecue joint with humble beginnings as an iron works shop. The red tin building is mere steps from the Austin convention center, sitting pretty at 100 Red River with a view of the creek. It was reborn in 1978, transformed into a smoked meats hall.

You can have your meat and eat it too, choosing from either barbecue plates brimming with your choice of meat — beef ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey, all the standards— and potato salad, beans, pickle, onion and bread, or you can order it by the pound.

Iron Works stacks up to the gristly barbecue competition all throughout Austin. It’s got the style down, with checkered tablecloths, framed autographs from famous patrons and rustic touches. But the main takeaway? The ribs’ll melt in your mouth.

Line & Lariat

Houston

You can definitely bank on Line & Lariat for a good meal in historic digs. The restaurant, all about modern Texas flavors, is set up in Hotel Icon in the former Union National Bank building at 220 South Main. It has the vaulted ceilings — and the legit bank vault— to prove it.

The updated space is posh and swanky, with gleaming columns and chandeliers. But the food is down-home Texas, like the bacon-wrapped Angus beef filet and Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf, a dish of bacon, chorizo and Angus beef served with cheddar mashed potatoes.

The cocktail list is full of winners, including the memorable Key to the Vault with bourbon and crème de Noyaux, the playful Blue Margarita and the aptly named Unlike Anything Else. Don’t feel too bad spending. You’re in a bank, after all. Maybe, they’ll float you a loan.

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