Tomball isn't normally viewed as a dining destination by foodies in the Houston area. But, our recent explorations there have shown us that this is going to change. From Tejas Chocolate's surprise appearance in Texas Monthly's Top 10 BBQ list, to reliable favorites like Gianna's Italian Kitchen and Mel's Country Cafe, Tomball has some very interesting food options that would appeal to anyone who enjoys good food.

UPDATE: Apparently, shortly after we published this review, the owners closed BonFire Grill. They have since reopened with a new chef.

Now, there's a new kid on the block to explore. BonFire Grill, located on Tomball's Main Street (aka FM 2920), is a newish establishment that has been drawing in both locals and those willing to make a drive to the quaint suburban town. BonFire has been enjoying great buzz in the Woodlands Area Foodies discussion group, and any place that this knowledgeable group raves about is worth investigating.

Finding BonFire grill is not an easy task. The sign is tiny. But your investigative skills will soon be rewarded.

The dining room at BonFire Grill in Tomball

Stepping inside, we were immediately taken with the warm, inviting setting. The vintage gas station has been converted into a cozy bistro. On our Thursday night visit, the dining room was packed; we snagged the one available table in the corner. The rustic dining room and connected open kitchen were bustling with energy and activity; this could be a hot new spot in Montrose if you didn't know you were in Tomball.

Perusing the tightly edited menu, we saw several items we wanted to try. We started with the simply named Mac & Cheese. What appeared was a revelation: A large crock of tender cavatappi pasta in a smooth, creamy, Vermont cheddar sauce, topped with a whisking of breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of parsley for color. This is an easy dish to prepare half-heartedly, but BonFire's version was outstanding.

Mac & Cheese at BonFire Grill in Tomball

Rich, creamy cheese, nicely al dente pasta, and the texture of the breadcrumbs made for a very satisfying start. We started devouring the dish, but had to put the brakes on... our main course was on the way.

We had struggled to choose between the enticing options on the regular menu and the specials board, but one item caught our eye. Actually, several items caught our eye, but we kept coming back to one dish that sounded intriguing and delicious.

The Specials Board at BonFire Grill in Tomball

We couldn't resist the Blackened Prime Rib Pizza, so we placed our order. After a reasonable wait, our pizza appeared, and the aroma was incredibly compelling. Pausing to photograph before digging in became a test of will; but we make sacrifices for our readers.

Before us was a medium-sized pizza with a nicely browned crust, topped with large strips of mid-rare prime rib. Atop the fresh housemade pizza sauce was a nice sprinkle of mozzarella, red onion, bell pepper, and a touch of cilantro. The crowning touch was a drizzle of au jus.

Blackened Prime Rib Pizza at BonFire Grill in Tomball

The interplay between the delicious pizza sauce and the phenomenally savory au jus was nothing short of magical; the beefy swagger was front and center, and the zing of the aromatic veggies was accompanied by a umami bomb from the au jus. This is one of the best pizzas we've tried in recent memory.

To say we were pleasantly surprised by BonFire Grill is an understatement. We walked in expecting a quiet, neighborhood pizza joint. We left feeling like insiders who knew a new secret, and that secret was one of the most exciting new restaurants in the Houston suburbs. Even if Tomball isn't a usual haunt of yours, you owe it to yourself to make the drive and check out the delicious cuisine at this hidden gem.

BonFire Grill | 425 West Main Street | Tomball | 281-844-7559

Hubbell & Hudson is one of the organizations that has been pushing the Woodlands food scene to the next level. With three restaurants (Cureight, Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, and Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen,) Chef Austin Simmons has a venue to showcase his creative and innovative cooking at different price points and for different audiences.

Hubbell & Hudson Bistro is on every list of the best restaurants in the Woodlands. Cureight, the tasting menu concept, was one of Texas Monthly's "Where to Eat Now" picks for the state of Texas in 2016. The Kitchen, the most casual concept is often overlooked by the critics, but after running into Chef Austin teaching hands-on with his team on the line, we observed first-hand that it has his attention.

So how does the creative mind of such a notable chef translate into a fast casual menu?

Today we sampled a handful of items from the new menu at the Kitchen. Always willing to sacrifice for our readers, we accepted the restaurant's generous invitation to sample several of the new items.


First up was the Deviled Eggs. (Disclaimer: I don't like deviled eggs.) A very clever spin on this summertime classic, the kitchen tops the pureed yolk with housemade bacon jam, candied jalapeño slices, and chives. The result is a much more interesting dish; one that even appeals to people who don't normally like deviled eggs. That's an impressive feat.


Chef Austin has a reputation for being a wizard with seafood, so we had high expectations for his BBQ shrimp. He delivered generously-sized Gulf shrimp, applewood-smoked bacon, and jalapeño, combined with a housemade apricot BBQ sauce and citrus mayo. The perfectly grilled shrimp and smoky bacon are nicely finished with the sharpness of the jalepeno and the zing of the housemade sauces. Chef Austin knows his shrimp.


Loaded fries are almost a cliche on casual menus, so we didn't have high expectations for this dish. But the Grilled Steak Loaded Fries far exceeded our expectations. Thinly sliced, expertly grilled sirloin was the highlight, and the slightly crispy fries, pickled jalapeño, housemade pico, and smooth creamy cheese sauce elevated this dish beyond the pale. This dish would make a quick, delicious lunch by itself, and at $9, is a significant bargain.


I've often wondered how a top chef feels when he eats at a fast food establishment. Fast food can be a guilty pleasure, but a talented chef is always thinking "How can I make this dish better?"

Apparently Chef Austin has been to Chick-fil-a, and it stimulated his imagination. The result is the Signature Fried Chicken sandwich. A griddled challah bun is the foundation for a gently crispy fried chicken breast, a tangy honey mustard BBQ sauce, and crunchy dill pickles. As much as we appreciate a good fast food sandwich, this signature sandwich exists on an entirely different plane. Moist, delicious chicken is balanced with the smooth heat of the sauce and the zing of the dill pickles. The result is a chicken sandwich that will please the most jaded palate, something its more humble brethren cannot claim to do.


We saved the best for last. Chef Austin has combined his superb grilled shrimp with holy trinity basmati rice and scallions, and finished it with a superlative white wine cajun cream sauce. The result is simultaneously delicate and intensely flavorful. Cajun food is often one dimensional and disappointing, but this shrimp dish would feel right at home on the menu of any top New Orleans restaurant.

We're excited about the new menu at Hubbell & Hudson kitchen. Chef Austin has received numerous accolades, including being named the best chef in the Houston area by The Houston Press. These outstanding dishes emerging from his most humble kitchen demonstrate once again why this talented young man is the chef to watch in the Woodlands. We look forward to sampling more of his creations as soon as we can.

Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen | 4526 Research Forest Drive | The Woodlands 77381 | 281-203-5650


Bernie's Backyard opened today to a throng of hungry guests ready to check out North Houston's first food truck park. Located on the Northbound I-45 feeder between FM 2920 and the Grand Parkway, Bernie's hosts several popular food trucks in a modern, comfortable facility. Covered outdoor dining in a large pavilion, and an indoor, air conditioned bar area (beer and wine only) complete the complex.

Bernie's opened with a good range of popular food trucks, offering a variety of foods:

BBQ Godfather - South Texas BBQ from the award-winning pitmaster.

Black Garlic - Gourmet burgers and fries.

Rustica - Italian offerings from the team behind the Lasagna House.

Gogi Paradise - Unique Korean-influenced comfort food. Tacos, burgers, and more.

Love Me Tenders - Specializing in chicken tenders.

The Naked Fry - Serving a variety of fries, both naked and not.

Buzzles - Purveyors of shaved ice, including New Orleans-style with creamy toppings.

Bernie's opens at 11am daily, and closes at 9pm.

- - -

We're live on opening day at Bernie's Backyard, the new food truck park on I-45 in Spring.

BBQ Godfather, Black Garlic, Rustica, Gogi Paradise, Love Me Tenders, Buzzles, and The Naked Fry are lined up for the opening.

Members of the Woodlands Area Foodies group are in attendance for the event.


Local Pour, the popular River Oaks-area gastro bar, has opened a second location, and it's in the heart of the Woodlands, in the new Hughes Landing waterfront development.

Local Pour is a great fit for the Woodlands; it's an upscale but casual setting, with dozens of beers on tap, a full bar, and an interesting menu, created with the help of notable Houston chef Randy Evans. Did we mention it has a full bar?

Local Pour Bar

On our initial visit, we fought for a parking space in the nearly complete Hughes Landing area. We grabbed a Chef's Table, strategically located right in front of the kitchen. It's a bustling spot with lots of energy; if you're looking for a quiet, intimate evening, sit elsewhere. But it was a perfect vantage point for us to observe the goings-on at this new hotspot.

We were able to sneak peeks at each order leaving the kitchen, and a few items grabbed our attention. Our server Olivia filled us in on what we saw zipping by, and we placed our order. The kitchen was slammed (typical new restaurant jitters) so the order took a bit longer than we'd like, but Olivia did an outstanding job of keeping us informed and well hydrated while we waited. She's a gem.

First up were the tempura shrimp shooters. Four large shrimp, aerobicized into a sleek, linear shape, are battered and fried with a light, puffy tempura breading. They're poked into shot glasses, two with a biting wasabi ponzu sauce, and two with a sweet spicy chili sauce. Flavors were bold; the wasabi ponzu will absolve you of any allergy-related congestion, and probably of a few lesser sins as well. The sweet spicy chili sauce was less startling but very flavorful; the result was a very good appetizer.

After devouring the shrimp, we moved on to the Korean BBQ lollipops. Three medium-sized pork ribs, each with a nice chunk of meat attached, are roasted and glazed in a sweet Korean BBQ sauce. We think Korean BBQ is going to be a big thing in the Woodlands, and Local Pour are riding the front of this trend. Another tasty dish.

Finally it was time for the entree. We selected the LP Burger, a half pound, hand-formed patty with a custom grind of short rib and chuck. It's topped with just enough bleu cheese and caramelized onions, and served on a soft sourdough bun. This is a very good burger; the grind makes for a flavorful patty, and it comes out very juicy. The toppings accent without overwhelming, as is easy to do with bleu cheese. In short, this is a crave worthy burger, and one of the better ones in the Woodlands.

We're fans of Local Pour. They've combined a talented kitchen with a well-stocked bar, and packaged it in an upscale setting. We think it's going to be a big hit in the Woodlands, and look forward to returning again soon.

Local Pour | 1900 Hughes Landing Blvd, The Woodlands, 77380 | 281-419-7687 |

Local Pour on Urbanspoon

H-Town Chow Down is written by a small group foodies who live in the Houston area, and enjoy sharing their experiences, both good and bad.  We feature a mix of news, rumors, opinion, and reviews, and hope that our work is something that you enjoy.

We were honored by the Houston Press as one of their 2010 Blog Stars. We were honored again in 2013 as their Best Food Blog. They like us. They really like us.

When we're not eating and writing about it, we design web sites for some of Houston's best companies and organizations.

In the hospitality industry, we have designed and hosted websites for Tony's, Ciao Bello, Caffe Bello, Amici, The Grotto, La Griglia, Samba Grille, Hubbell & Hudson, The Salt Lick, BBQ Godfather, Manuel's, Serrano's, Two Chefs Bistro, the Houston Racquet Club, Crust Pizza, RC's NYC Pizza & Pasta, Tularosa Southwestern Grill, The Republic Grille, The Blue Mug Cafe, Howie's Tiki and other fine establishments.

We are not compensated in any way for mentioning them on the blog. But we don't ignore the great work being done by these establishments because they've been web design clients, either.



Publisher and Managing Editor
Albert Nurick

Contributing Editors
Kim Bellini
Susan Harris

Tom Nguyen

Nutritional Anthropologist
Paul Purcell

Culinary Pathfinder
Russell Wing

In Memory of
Chuck Pena
1963 - 2013

Out here in the Woodlands we've got more than our share of foodies. No matter where you go, you overhear people talking about food: What's the new hot place, what's about to open, where's the best place for a steak. Some even take photos of their food.

Not a Woodlands Area Foodie

But folks who say these things could be anyone... not necessarily a real foodie. As a public service, we'd like to humbly offer the following list to help identify real Woodlands Area Foodies:

Your friends message you when they can't decide where to eat. They may or may not invite you to come along.
Cary Attar greets you by name when you walk into Fielding's. You don't expect him to feed you for free.
Your iPhone's camera roll contains more photos of your meals than of your kids.
You first noticed Chef Austin Simmons when he was the sous at Tesar's. And you happily devour whatever he's offering as a special that night at Hubbell & Hudson Bistro. You don't expect him to feed you for free.
You belong to three different Facebook foodie groups, but only admit to two of them.
You find yourself at 11pm driving across Houston to a restaurant where you won't speak the language just because Tom Nguyen said that the food was superb. As always, Tom was right.
You know whether Phil Nicosia is in the house at Pallotta's before you walk in the door. You don't expect him to feed you for free.
You get sad thinking about Jay Stone's late, lamented Wicked Whisk food truck. But you cheer up after you pledge your support for his Chingu project.
You have no problem having lunch at Twin Peaks, but you wouldn't set foot in Hooter's or Bikini's.
You see nothing wrong with having a second lunch when friends message you from Hello Taco. Or a third when they've ventured down the street to Viva Itacate.
You get excited to find a great new place for chicken fried steak in the Woodlands. But you hold off visiting until Kim Bellini states whether the cream gravy meets with her approval.
You run into at least four friends on Saturday morning waiting in line for Corkscrew BBQ to open. You don't expect them to feed you for free... but you enjoy the free beer they're providing.

Starting a restaurant is a risky venture. Even proven concepts from established operators carry a great deal of risk. 60% of all restaurants fail in the first five years. So getting investors can be tricky, and restaurateurs often give up a great deal of control to the money guys in order to gain financing.

So what is a talented young chef with a vision to do? If it's 2014, and the chef is Jay Stone (of Wicked Whisk, Vallone's, and Jasper's fame) you take your idea to Kickstarter, the on-line marketplace that funds hot new ideas.

Kickstarter is a successful online phenomenon that's funded everything from the Pebble smart watch to the new Veronica Mars move. If you've got a great idea and you can present it well, Kickstarter is a good way to raise capital.

Chef Stone brings serious talent to the table. His cuisine has always drawn both popular and critical acclaim. Ever since we first sampled his cooking at the Wicked Whisk food truck, we were unabashed fans.

Houston mayor Annise Parker called Jay's Wicked Whisk her favorite food truck, and it's one that we miss very much. At a recent wine dinner at Jasper's, Chef Stone's dishes were the hits of the evening, and the popup events he's hosted with Will Buckman at Corkscrew BBQ all sell out within hours of being announced.

Chef Stone has the skills. We believe that the concept of New American comfort food with a Korean twist is one that will resonate well with Texans. So what is Chingu? In his words:

"Chingu has been my brainchild for quite some time and has evolved as I grew as a professional cook. After hosting pop-up dinners, food truck stops and collaborating with other local industry folk it came to me that this is what cooking is all about. Having fun, doing what you love and meeting great people along the way. Chingu means "Friend" in the Korean language and it represents my project perfectly.

"The Korean inspired fare will touch on American and Southern classics and be approachable by a wide audience. Korean Fried Chicken and Biscuits, Braised Beef Cheeks with Gochujang Mashed Potatoes and several varieties of In-House Fermented Kimchi will be menu staples. "Redefining Comfort Food" as I like to say."

Chef Stone has a clever strategy for his physical facility: He plans to start with a food truck, keeping his costs low and his location flexible. He'll then transition to a brick-and-mortar building when the time is right.

We're excited about Chingu, and urge our followers to support this exciting project. You can get onboard for as little as $5, but check out the larger pledges. They include generous rewards, up to a catered lunch or dinner for 15 guests at a bargain price.

Chingu on Kickstarter.

Living in the Woodlands spoils you in many ways. The town has grown up since its humble beginnings, and now boasts a population of nearly 100,000, along with a range of upscale businesses dedicated to supporting the highly sought-after demographic. And the restaurant scene is thriving, with some of Houston's best restaurants calling the Woodlands home. There's even a Facebook group devoted to finding great food in the Woodlands and surrounding areas.

For some, the Woodlands is a sort of bubble that never has to be left. But not for me, nor for other dedicated foodies who are always in search of great new places to eat.

What the Woodlands doesn't have is a wide selection of small, ethnic restaurants, particularly the Asian spots that pop up all over the Houston area. The independents that do call the Woodlands home trend toward the upscale, largely due to the rents in the Woodlands proper.

But as someone who loves Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine, especially from small, family run establishments, venturing outside the bubble is a way of life if you're in search of great food. But which way to go?

Fortunately, friends in the Woodlands Area Foodies group are avid culinary explorers, and new suggestions appear on a regular basis. We've learned to trust the recommendations of several of the members implicitly, and when they say "Let's meet here for lunch!" we jump at the chance.

Proprietor Alex Nguyen talks with WAF members Huy Dang and Tom Nguyen (eclipsed)

A case in point is Nguyen Ngo 2, an Vietnamese sandwich shop located just south of FM 1960 on Bammell North Houston road. NN2, as regulars call it, specializes in that delicious Vietnamese sandwich that has become iconic in H-Town,  the Banh Mi.

Banh Mi is a big deal in Houston, driven largely by our large Vietnamese community. Even Houston's home-grown high-end burger chain, Beck's Prime, has rolled out its take on the Banh Mi.

Nguyen Ngo 2's version of this iconic sandwich is far more traditional. The proprietor, Alex Nguyen, learned sandwich making from his grandfather in Viet Nam - a photo taken in the 1960's showing the elder Nguyen's chicken sandwich shop hangs proudly on the wall.

The formula at Nguyen Ngo 2 is a distillation of the classic Banh Mi, but with subtle adjustments to make it appeal to a broader, modern audience. Gone is the sometimes harshly crunchy bread found in some AsiaTown Banh Mi shops; it's replaced with freshly baked french rolls with just a touch of crunch, and a soft, gently chewy interior. Numerous different meats are available, and Alex is on hand to guide a newcomer toward a sandwich that will appeal to him. All of the traditional veggies are present in extremely crisp, fresh form; the traditional pickled carrots have been toned down, again with a nod toward broadening the sandwich's appeal.

First we tried the slice ribeye Banh Mi, a fusion of the cuisine of Ho Chi Minh City with that of Philadelphia by way of Houston.

Sliced Ribeye Banh Mi at Nguyen Ngo 2

This sandwich grabbed our attention with its amalgam of flavors that came together in a harmonious whole. The rich, beefy flavor of the marinated, thinly sliced roast beef was accented by the sharp notes of the fresh jalapenos, the earthy flavor of the fresh cilantro and sliced carrots, and the tang of the housemade garlic mayo, which reminded us much more of an aoli. This sandwich is a great introduction to Nguyen Ngo 2, and made us anxious to try more.

Though we weren't really hungry, another sandwich was calling our name. Tom spoke highly of the combination of Vietnamese meatballs and sausage, and we had to try it.

Meatball and Sausage Banh Mi at Nguyen Ngo 2

As much as we loved the ribeye, this sandwich is our new Banh Mi crush. Sweet, savory, gently hot, nicely tangy, with crunch and chew and softness all rolled into one sandwich. A superbly crafted dish from a world-class chef will hit you from several distinct directions at once, and this sandwich easily falls into that category. It is among the best sandwiches we've ever tasted, and at under $4, it represents an unparalleled value.

Lex brought out a small container that he wanted us to try. It contained their house made Vietnamese kimchee. We'd only sampled Korean kimchee before, and were looking forward to trying this different version.

Vietnamese Kimchee at Nguyen Ngo 2

We were not disappointed. The traditional sourness and vinegar balanced with a kick of ginger and just the right touch of heat. The result is both refreshing and satisfying; perhaps the perfect side dish for a hot Houston day. If some BBQ joint doesn't talk Lex out of this recipe and add it as a side, they're missing out; it would pair perfectly with some great smoky brisket.

To say we're fans of Nguyen Ngo is to put it mildly. This small, jewel-like restaurant is a perfect example of what makes Houston's food scene so remarkable. Even those on a tight budget can enjoy superb cuisine served by an owner who is both talented and engaged with his customers. You can certainly pay a lot more for lunch in Houston, but you'll be hard pressed to find a meal you'll enjoy more.

Nguyen Ngo 2 | 14015 Bammel N Houston Road | 281-895-8998

Nguyen Ngo 2 on Urbanspoon

This week we're excited to introduce another guest blogger. Dr. Tom Nguyen is an active member of the Woodlands Area Foodies group, and one of the most knowledgable foodies I've met in years. He's constantly on the move trying new and different places, and he recently visited one of Houston's most written-about restaurants, Oxheart. Here's Tom's take on this media darling:


Finally had the chance to check out the hottest restaurant in Houston. Hailed by everybody from the local press to New York Times, wanted to check out the talents of Chef Justin Yu.

Oxheart. (Photo: Kent Wang)

Located discreetly in gentrified EaDo (east downtown), Oxheart is in the building where Latin Bites used to be. Look for a place with 2 wooden doors at a corner. Walking in felt like walking into somebody's small loft, no formal host/hostess, but one of the waitstaff running around will greet and seat you. Definitely a casual atmosphere.

We get seated at the kitchen counter where all the action's at. Decor is pretty cozy, again, like you're in somebody's loft rather than a restaurant. First thing I notice, cats everywhere. Chinese lucky cats (Maneki-Neko) to be exact. At the counter, there are drawers near where you sit which contains utensils and napkins. You are expected to get these yourself.

Menu consists of a tasting menu, a seasonal menu (meat) and a garden menu (no meat). Food is locally sourced from wagyu in Wallis near Eagle Lake to veggies from Atkinson Farms in Spring. We order all 3 menus.

Details of the dishes follow. (Photos by Tom Nguyen)

Heirloom carrots cooked in onion bouillon with raw/caramelized carrots, carrot top fritters, speckled trout lettuce. The fritters and carrots in onion were good. Everything else so-so. The pile of green paint in the middle tasted like paint.

Winter citrus (I think oranges) in soy milk/bitter almond custard, fennel, and aloe. This tastes like tofu with ginger syrup dim sum, pretty good.

Radishes poached in whey, kyo-na zuke (pickled/salted collared greens), chrysanthemum leaf, homemade butter. Reminds me of tabouli. Tastes terrible without that butter

Flaxseed bread with homemade butter.

Mesquite-smoked Gulf Cobia with red savoy cabbage, and a roll of mustards and pickles. Good dish. The mustard/pickle rolls are similar to the ones I've had at Fukuda for their shabu shabu.

Layers of scarlet damsel and harukei turnips on top of kombu (kelp) served with farm egg. Terrible dish.

Charred zamboni raabs wrapped in kohlrabi with elephant garlic emulsion and cured gulf blue runner. Translation: Chinese broccoli wrapped in a string made of turnips with a garlic dip. As pathetic as this dish looks, this was incredibly good and one of my few faves here.

Wagyu sirloin, beef sausage, beets, and offal sauce. The sirloin was not tender, terrible. Sausage was meh, lacking in flavor. The burnt beets were good, like bacon. The ketchup made of organ meats was kinda weird. Made this dish look bloodier than it should've been.

Stew of fermented vegetables, fermented kale, crispy braised kale, and horseradish dumplings. It's like a cross between a fermented vegetable stew I can get readily at Xiong's on Bellaire and the kale from Olive Garden's Toscana soup. I couldn't finish this dish.

Homemade butterfingers. Picture a slightly saltier Butterfingers. There were 2 other desserts before this, but my wife was angry about me taking pics since nobody else in the restaurant was doing this. Mine was a honey cake with honey-soaked carrots...soooo good! Wife and kid had chocolate mousse, Olive oil ganache, and pickles. They loved it, I hated it, felt like I was eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs except
I wasn't going cuckoo over it.

In general, I was not too impressed with the plating of the dishes. Wasn't bad, but I was expecting a more whimsical take on plating like at Pass&Provisions.

Many of the dishes were reminiscent of common Asian dishes. The raab was nothing more than Chinese broccoli. The kale soup had fermented vegetables commonly used in many Chinese and Vietnamese soups. The soy/almond custard was not too far removed from the tofu/ginger syrup snack found at many dim sum restaurants.

The menu is heavily focused on vegetables which can be a problem if you're a carnivore like myself.

With all the fanfare of the restaurant, had a hard time whether to consider it fine dining? If it's to be considered as such, I would've expected the service to be on par with The Pass, Triniti, or Mark's as opposed to say Dolce Vita for instance.

The price of the menu is very reasonable. Food wasn't bad at all, but wasn't blown away. While Oxheart is putting Houston on the national map for American dining, I don't see what all the buzz and hype is about. Pass&Provisions has a much better repertoire IMO.

My wife's assessment: glorified Souper Salad. Ouch...

Oxheart | 1302 Nance Street, Houston 77002 | 832-830-9592 |

Oxheart on Urbanspoon


Tom Nguyen grew up in SW Houston and currently resides in Conroe. He's been eating escargots since he was 2. He describes himself as the typical Asian who photographs everything he eats and proclaims it to the Woodlands Area Foodies. He's also a BBQ snob who's been known to carry Corkscrew BBQ brisket in his pocket, and a pho nazi, Tom also likes to walk around with his shirt off, and hates balut.

As our readers know, Houston's vibrant food scene isn't limited to Tex-Mex, BBQ, and burgers. As our nation's most multicultural city, dining options span the list from African to Vietnamese, with pretty much everything in between.

And Vietnamese is a big deal here. Houston is home to one of the nation's largest Vietnamese communities, and these immigrants have brought the delicious foods of their culture along with them. Vietnamese restaurants thrive in Houston, and range from tiny mom-and-pop pho shops to thriving local chains like Kim Son.
Imagine our surprise when we got a note from Houston's home-grown upscale burger empire, Beck's Prime, talking about the Banh Mi sandwich they were adding to their menu. We received a generous invitation to visit any of the Beck's locations and sample this interesting new offering (along with a couple of others).
Burgers and Banh Mi. If that's not 21st century Houston casual dining, I don't know what is. But we had to wonder how good a Beck's Prime banh mi would be. To determine that, we put together a crack tasting team and ventured over to the Woodands' own Beck's Prime location.
Befitting this multicultural offering was our multicultural team, consisting of your humble editor and real estate guru / celebrity foodie Huy Dang, the man behind the stunning @uberbites Instagram account. His knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine far exceeds mine, and he has a very keen palate. He's also a sharp dresser, adding a badly needed touch of class to our dining party.
On a blustery February at noon we converged on Beck's Prime on Grogan's Mill in the Woodlands, skillfully avoiding the road construction that rendered the parking lot all but inaccessible. Even with the construction Beck's was doing a strong lunch business. Woodlands residents know their burgers, and Beck's are among the best. But we weren't here for the burgers.
Beck's staff demonstrated their usual flawless hospitality, and we ordered and grabbed a table. In short order the food came out. Front and center was the new banh mi.
Banh Mi at Beck's Prime

No, this is not your Aunt Thuy's banh mi. The traditional french loaf is replaced with one of Beck's signature egg buns, the fatty mystery pork usually found has been replaced with lean, chargrilled, generously-sliced pork sirloin, and the vegetables were crispy, very fresh, and freshly cut.

Biting into the sandwich revealed the bright, sharp flavor profile that defines the best banh mi. But the textures were very different. The rich egg bun didn't have the traditional chewy mouthfeel of french bread. The pork flavor was more prominent than in a more pedestrian banh mi, and a gentle kick of sriracha brought a garlicky heat to the sharp tang of the onions, cilantro, and jalapeño.
The result is a very good sandwich, although it's far from a traditional banh mi. Huy confirmed that Beck's had altered the traditional components, but he approved of the result, and nary a scrap of banh mi was to be found on either of our plates at the conclusion of the meal.
The second offering we sampled was another new pork sandwich from Beck's: Hickory Prime Pork. A far more traditional sandwich, it included the excellent sliced pork sirloin, pickles, onions, and Beck's house made hickory BBQ sauce.
This riff on the classic BBQ pork sandwich was much more traditional. The hickory BBQ sauce accented the rich pork flavor, and the classic pickle/onion accoutrements made for a very familiar sandwich. Our only beef (no pun intended) with this sandwich was the mildness of the sauce - a smidgen more heat (or a lot more heat, if you prefer weapons-grade sauces as Huy does) would bring this good sandwich to the next level.
All in all we were impressed by these new offerings from Beck's Prime. Over the years Beck's has offered not only some of the city's best burgers, but also very good non-burger offerings for those who weren't in the mood for mesquite-grilled ground beef. These new items continue that winning formula, and we predict that they'll both be popular all across Houston.

Beck's Prime | Locations all around town

Becks Prime on Urbanspoon

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