Restaurants / Openings

Tin Drum’s First Houston Restaurant Brings Fast Casual Asian Food and Something of a Cult Following to The Heights

Don't Sleep on the Music or the Colorful Decor Either

BY // 08.16.23
photography Becca Wright

It’s arrived. Tin Drum Asian Kitchen — the popular Pan-Asian restaurant, birthed by Georgia Tech in Atlanta by CEO and founder Steven Chan — has swung open the doors to its first Houston location in the Washington Heights.

The very first Tin Drum outside the Peach State is run by Houston partners and avid fans of the chain Shairoz and Avez Maredia, who first encountered the fresh, bold food years ago when they were college students in Atlanta. The 20-year-old fast-casual haven with 12 restaurants is known for what Chan, who was raised in Hong Kong, dubs “Asia’s greatest hits.” This is a mix of Chinese (Szechwan), Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Korean style dishes that feel familiar to many.

Inspired by music and life around Asian curbside cafe, Tin Drum’s mission has been to serve vibrant fresh food that’s made to order at a very accessible price point. Happily, this spot deliver on that dictum.

Tin Drum name is an allusion to an ancient story circulated throughout Asia of the tin drummer, part town crier and wakeup caller. He’d reportedly would walk the streets banging his tin drum inspiring people young and old to gather at a local lively cafe and fuel their bodies with nourishment and their minds with the current news of the day. Open from 11 am to 9 pm (until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays), Tin Drum’s new 2,200-square-foot Houston space with 50 seats inside and a patio outside, features a playful decor replete with graffiti, pops of colorful art and neon lights.

Not to mention its own curated playlist which highlights Isaan (Thai) country music, 1970s tunes from Taiwanese singer Theresa Teng and selected titles from British art-rock group Japan.

Interior of Tin Drum (Photo by Becca Wright)
Houston’s new Tin Drum restaurant features 50 seats inside and a patio outside. There is also a playful decor replete with graffiti, pops of colorful art, and neon lights. (Photo by Becca Wright)

Dipping Into the Tin Drum Menu

Start with street-style snacks like crisp crab and cheese-filled rolls ($3.75 for two), pork wontons (four for $3.50) even miso and coconut soups served by the shot, cup, or bowl ($1.50 to $4.50). Tin Drum is known for its “wok wings.” You can order six to 12 chicken wings ($6.95 to $15.25, with boneless wings an option too). Or go vegetarian with tempura fried cauliflower ($6.95) or tofu ($6.50) with your choice of sauce flavors and seasoning like sesame, teriyaki, sweet and sour, pad Thai, mango chili, firecracker (I tried that with cauliflower — a spicy sesame profile) sriracha and an orange pepper dry rub.

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Ramen fans this isn’t your ordinary cup of noodles at Tin Drum. With either soba or ramen noodle options, devour a steamy bowl of fragrant Thai-inspired ramen with a coconut broth, a miso ramen with spicy red miso broth, or perhaps a Tokyo Tonkotsu chicken version that’s a spinoff on the original rich pork broth. Pile on grilled or fried chicken, tofu, beef, shrimp or pork belly, (ranging from $13.95 to $14.95) and you can make it a meal.

Houston Partner, Avez Maredia of Tin Drum (Photo by Becca Wright)
Houston partner Avez Maredia has helped bring Houston its first Tin Drum restaurant. (Photo by Becca Wright)

The main event includes dishes made to order and shaken in a scorching hot 1,000-degree wok. Whether it’s noodles you’re craving (try the Taiwanese garlic noodle made with thin rice noodles), Tin Drum’s version of the sweet and tangy national dish of Thailand Pad Thai is made with rice noodles. There is also Chinatown-style lo mein with wheat soba noodles. Each can be topped with your choice of protein (or double up on the veggies) priced $11.95 to $14.95.

Brown and fried rice-based dishes include the Bangkok sweet chili, a mildly spicy red curry and coconut-based dish, and Tikka Masala, an Indian take on that creamy curry dish.

Diners can also cool off with Tin Drum’s signature Taiwanese-style bubble teas from the Boba Bar where you’ll find fruity teas, milk teas and decadent dessert like slushees. Choose your drink, add a topping, if you like, and choose your desired level of sweetness (less, regular, extra). Refreshers include classic black milk tea, mango passion fruit tea, Thai milk tea, Vietnamese coffee and a strawberry ‘n cream slushee. The playful add-ons can range from bubbles made of tapioca that burst open under your soft bite like a mango-flavored popping boba, or the signature chewy brown sugar tapioca.

Tin Drum Asian Kitchen is located 1111 Shepherd Drive, Suite 100 in The Vic at The Interpose (one block north of Washington Avenue). It is open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 am to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 10 pm.

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