Steep to Cheap: Two Great Houston Restaurants

Houston has been my home since 2002. Perhaps it’s not as quirky as Austin, sexy as New York, or glamorous as LA, but Houston is a great place to live. And according to Forbes, it’s America’s coolest city.

Houston Cocktails

Forbes gives all sorts of stats about job growth and recreational opportunities, but also the number of restaurants and bars per capita. Now we’re talking. According to the City of Houston, there are more than 11,000 restaurants in the Bayou City. With so many options, and great ones at that, it’s anybody’s guess how we’re not the fattest city in the country. Thankfully that dubious honor goes to Houston’s neighbor to the south, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas. No doubt the nearly 40% obesity rate is due to their proximity to awesome Mexican food. Muy bien!

Prior to vising Houston, people often ask me what they should do. Without thinking, I rattle off the names of at least ten restaurants. “That’s great, but what should we do?” I manage to come up with Mexican food, but I still think one of the greatest things about visiting and living in Houston is the food. It’s a culturally diverse city, thus options abound. Ever been to an Ethiopian restaurant? Houston has four of them. What about Bosnian food? Yep, there’s a restaurant that serves that, too. From the far corners of the globe, Houston has the world covered when it comes to food. Here are two of my favorites from steep to cheap.

Steep

Brennan’s of Houston

If you’re not familiar with the Brennan name, then you’ve obviously not spent enough time in New Orleans. The sir name is stamped on or associated with some of the best restaurants in the Crescent City. Brennan’s of Houston first opened in 1967 and is part of the Commander’s Palace family of restaurants. Perhaps you’ve heard of Emeril Lagasse? Before “BAM!” Emeril was the chef at Commander’s for a little over seven years.

Turtle Soup

With a lineage like that, you can bet that Brennan’s is going to be good, and you would not be wrong. Located in Midtown, chef Danny Trace delivers some of the best Cajun and Creole dishes west of New Orleans, but also adds a bit of Texas twist. How about the Texas wild shrimp remoulade? The menu is filled with perennial favorites such as turtle soup, pecan crusted gulf fish, and bananas Foster, which was invented by Brennan’s on Bourbon Street in the early 1950s due to a surplus of bananas.

Flaming dessert

A variety of surf and turf options fill the menu along with creative specials like crawfish and waffles. And with decedent side dishes like goat cheese stone ground grits and jalapeño cornbread pudding, it’s hard to choose just one.

Grilled Shrimp

Not just for lunch and dinner, Brennan’s jazz brunch on Saturdays and Sundays is one of the most acclaimed in the city. Their courtyard is also a great place to grab an after-work or pre-dinner cocktail.

The atmosphere is sophisticated with its crystal chandeliers, elegant table settings, and attentive staff, yet it’s very welcoming at the same time.  But don’t come in your flip flops, shorts, or ripped-up jeans. You won’t be seated.

Brennan's of Houston Restaurant Table

Great for a special occasion {or none at all}, Brennan’s of Houston is one of the city’s best restaurants. It’s a little taste of New Orleans in the heart of Houston. Make a reservation and get ready for some great food.

Crab Cake Entree Creole

Brennan’s of Houston

3300 Smith Street

Houston, TX 77006

713.522.9711

Lunch M-F 11:00 am – 2:00 pm


Brunch Sat 11 am – 2 pm & Sun 10 am – 2 pm


Dinner M-Sun 5:45 pm – 10 pm

Cheap

The Original Marini’s Empanada House

Starting in 1971, Marini’s Empanada House was a thriving and popular part of the Houston dining scene, but then in 1985, it burned to the ground. Some 20 years later, the sons of Marcello and Pelusa Marini, opened The Original Marini’s Empanada House in Houston and nearby Katy. The tasty tradition continues.

As the name suggests, this is a house of empanadas. If you’re not familiar, empanadas are little circular pieces of dough stuffed with various ingredients. They’re folded in half to make a half-moon shape and then deep-fried or baked. Many countries have their own take on empanadas, but Marini’s happen to be Argentinian.

Argentinian Empanadas

These hand-held golden pockets of heaven dominate the menu. There are various types of meat, vegetable, and cheese choices, as well as dessert options. I’ve tried many, but my favorites in the savory category include the chicken Diablo, Hot Tia Maria, English, and the chuck wagon. Don’t forget to grab the delicious green sauce, but watch out for the red sauce if you’re not accustomed to heat.

As for the sweet, I’ve never eaten one I didn’t adore, but I never venture too far away from the apple with cinnamon, peanut butter cup, and apple with dulce de leche. Make sure to also order the homemade sangria. It’s honestly the best I’ve ever tasted.

With the majority of the empanadas costing $2.50, you can try as many as you’d like. It’s a great value for something handmade and cooked as it’s ordered.

The Original Marini’s Empanada House

10001 Westheimer Rd. #2570

Houston, Texas 77042

713.266.2729

Closed Sunday

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16 Comments
  • @mrsoaroundworld
    July 2, 2013

    I would so love both options! I need to explore Texas properly… know anyone that can help me? Brennan does remind me of our trip to NOLA!

  • Fiona
    July 2, 2013

    I always imagined the food in Texas to be amazing, you’ve confirmed my suspicions – Looking forward to seeing the rest of this series 🙂

  • thelazytravelers
    July 3, 2013

    when people ask me for nyc recommendations, i tend to do the same thing! i think you can learn a lot about a place by its food! ps, must try peanut butter cup empanadas ASAP.

    • Leah Walker
      July 7, 2013

      Yeah, you absolutely should do more NYC food posts. There are so many great places, it would be nice to see how the locals eat.

  • Anita Mac
    July 4, 2013

    Great photos Leah – sounds relish! Love the action in the kitchen shots!

    • Leah Walker
      July 7, 2013

      Actually, they make that dessert at the table. Watch out for your eyebrows!

  • Traveling Ted
    July 6, 2013

    Great tips from your home town. I should do the same for Chicago, but I only eat bar food when I am out.

    • Leah Walker
      July 7, 2013

      I’ve got a whole host of places to cover in Houston. You should write more about Chicago’s dining. It’s a great food city, too.

  • lola dimarco
    July 7, 2013

    MMMM yummy. sounds and looks delicious.

    • Leah Walker
      July 7, 2013

      You know, they pour liquor on those bananas, which is right up your alley.

  • Erin at The World Wanderer
    July 9, 2013

    You had me at empanada! I just ate an overabundance of them in Chile, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. When I get to Houston, and eventually I will, I am going to try both places!

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      It’s hard to beat a good empanada. Before moving to Houston I’d only had Mexican ones, but these from Argentina are first rate.

  • While I have not been, I’m all too familiar with the Brennans name. Hope to scratch the originals off my list one day…

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      I’ve still not been to the original in NOLA, but I have done Commander’s Palace. I think I’d like to do a Brennan’s Family Restaurant Group tour. It doesn’t exist, but maybe it should.

  • Cheryl McCann
    July 13, 2013

    There are plenty of activities and events to do in Houston including arts, special events, sports, tours, festivals, nature, parades and water activities.

    • Leah Walker
      July 26, 2013

      Indeed. I’ve lived in Houston for 13 years now. Tons of stuff I’ve yet to experience though.

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