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What Makes Eating in Houston Such a Treat?

Nov 7th, 2014

Earning a spot on the New York Times list of places to travel in 2013 in large part because of its culinary offerings, Houston is a city where food is done right. No matter what you’re craving, you can find it in one the many restaurant-packed neighborhoods. With a little bit of research and some exploration, all food preferences and dietary restrictions can be satisfied any time day and night.

There’s no denying Houston is a foodie’s paradise. But what is it that makes grabbing a quick bite on the go or dining out in Texas’s largest city the worthy-of-writing-home-about treat that it is?

Diversity of Cuisine Offerings

Chinese dumplings, Japanese teppanyaki and sushi,  Italian cannelonis, Indian curries, Peruvian ceviche, Cuban papas rellenas, Ethiopian injera, Mexican tamales, Vietnamese pho…need we go on?! You name it, and you can find it in the Space City. Departures Magazine writer and foodie John T. Edge has no qualms about stating openly,“Houston boasts the most dynamic and diverse food and drink scene in the nation.” While this is a difficult claim to qualify, chances are he’s probably right. Houston’s 11,000 plus restaurants seem to offer nearly every type of food ever cooked up under the sun.

Forty years ago, Tex-Mex was the closest thing you could find to ethnic food in most quarters of Houston. Good steakhouses and burger joints were plentiful, but the city’s food offerings were anything but diverse. Since this time, international refugees and hardworking immigrants from nearly every country on earth have adopted the city as their home. Today, it’s the most racially and ethnically diverse city in the country. With them, these immigrants have brought varied tastes and rich recipes from places as far-flung as Bosnia and Indonesia. As Houston’s collective palate has expanded, the city has been careful not to forget its gastronomic roots. High-quality Tex-Mex, primo Italian, and classic American favorites such as barbecue are as easy to find as they have always been. Thus, the city really does manage to offer something for everyone where food is concerned.

Range of Dining Environments

Houston’s eateries are diverse in more than just the food they serve. Food trucks, a number of which can be found at AMLI Residential communities on a regular rotation, and hole-in-the-wall eateries vie with upscale top-floor restaurants and other posh dining establishments for customers’ business. Both types of eatery have mastered their craft that it’s not uncommon for a residents who can afford to eat at the city’s most upscale restaurants to frequent some of its most inexpensive eateries.

Entrepreneurial Brilliance

From startup-loving techies to restaurateurs with grand visions, Houston has managed to attract a wealth of wily entrepreneurs over the past few decades. Since a talented chef can only do so much for a restaurant, this is an essential ingredient to the success of the food scene. Wildly successful entrepreneurs like Landry’s, Inc. owner Tilman Fertitta have brought successful restaurant ventures from all over the country. But independent restaurants don’t miss out. Well-heeled restaurateurs have managed to cull some of the world’s most talented chefs. Small restaurant entrepreneurs feed off of one another’s energy, and the result is a host of independently owned and operated restaurants with crowds that can rival those found at the city’s bigger eateries.

A Celebratory Spirit

Houston doesn’t just have good food, it celebrates good food. The Houston International Festival, which features food from all over the world, shines the spotlight on one country or region each year. In doing so, it encourages people to sample fare they were previously unacquainted with. If they approve (they almost always do!), a new market has been created overnight. Foodies who taste food from Kenya or Nepal and enjoy it will scour the city for existing eateries that serve up food representative of these cuisines and keep their eyes peeled for new arrivals cooking up the dishes they sampled at the festival and enjoyed so much.

In addition to the International Food Festival, Houston is home to a number of cultural fests where food plays a major role. These include the Greek Festival, Festa Italiana, Turkish Festival, and Japan Festival. Events of this nature help you broaden your horizons and discover passions for food you previously didn’t know existed. The city’s many food challenges add an additional festive air to the dining scene.

The next time you don’t feel like preparing dinner, don’t. You can easily justify going out by reminding yourself that you live in one of America’s food capitals. It would be a sin not to indulge from time to time.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite restaurant in Houston. But do you have one? 

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