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New to Houston- does what we're looking for exist here? Good Thai, Indian, unpretentious American?

We haven't been to many places yet, but I'll tell you about some we've experienced so far.
We've visited Vincent's and Nino's, the original Carrabas, Grotto, Collina's, Star Pizza, and Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca.
We've also been to Goode & Co, Ra Sushi, Indika, Miyako Sushi, Hobbit Cafe, Lupe Tortilla, Cafe Laurier Food and Wine, Cava Bistro, El Tiempo Cantina, Katz's Deli, Maggiano's, Grande Luxe, and a Tapas place that I can't remember.
Our favorite of all of these is Cafe Laurier- it approximates the friendly and warm, yet well-prepared and intelligent, places we miss.
We haven't found any good Thai- asking around, we've heard nothing positive.
Indika was good, but maybe too trendy for us.
Of the Italian places, Dolce Vita is good and similar to a place called Two Amy's in DC, but its pizza and its presentation doesn't quite compare.
The other Italian places seem like approximations of trendy chain Italian, not really authentic and also very showy.
As for sushi, Ra was way too trendy and the sushi too rich, and Miyako is stuck in an '80s time warp. We're looking for authentic, yet upscale sushi places.
My husband and I came to the conclusion that there are many great restaurants in Houston, but many of the kind we seek lack something important: warmth and friendliness. DC isn't always the most friendly city, but many of its upscale restaurants balance a kind of casual warmth with great food and decor. Houston's upscale restaurants haven't gotten there yet- they're somewhat cold and impersonal so far.
Thanks for all of your suggestions- we will definitely check them out!

Nov 09, 2007
jenabeth in Houston

New to Houston- does what we're looking for exist here? Good Thai, Indian, unpretentious American?

My husband and I moved here from DC in June, and we've yet to really find the kinds of places we enjoyed there. We love good Thai and Indian places, and also places that serve upscale food in relaxed settings, not the kind of "see and be seen" places we've noticed here so far. An example of this kind in DC:
Chowhounders, any suggestions? We currently live inside the loop near River Oaks/Greenway.

Nov 01, 2007
jenabeth in Houston

Pizza in Bethesda

My husband and I have been there four times now, and it's been excellent each time. I'd read about it for months before and was anticipating something good- the owner is a former executive chef at Pizzeria Paradiso. We went for the first time about a week after it opened, on a Tuesday evening. We were welcomed warmly into the lovely space- very warm with lots of wood, high ceilings, the now-traditional open kitchen and view of wood-burning oven. Our waiter was very friendly, and Mia (Melissa), the owner, talked to us a few times. Food is delicious- great chewy yet light crust pizza, flavorful toppings applied in the right combinations, and great fresh salads and garlic rolls. The wine list is small but well-selected and we got a complimentary cupcake-yummy.
We also went with a large group of my family members- 10 in all- including my 90-year old grandmother. The staff was very accomodating- no reservations, but they had a table ready for us, and all involved loved the experience. The noise level that night was pretty high- Saturday evening, very full and with a party of 12-year old girls.
I suggest going on a weekday evening- the service is fantastic at any time, but it's much quieter then.

Black Market Opinions?

My husband and I go to Black Market about once a month- we've been for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The wait generally grows from about 6:30 on until about 9:00, but at seven it might be about 1/2 hour or 45 minutes. We've been lucky- we've only waited a significant amount of time once, when my parents were in town. Both of us like the place, it's very good although not excellent.
Go for seafood- on Tuesday, I had a great rockfish surrounded by clams in a wonderful broth, and my husband had the barbeque shrimp. The soups are always good, and the wine list is well-chosen. We both really like the atmosphere and the neighborhood- those are on par with the food or even above.

Cleveland or Ann Arbor/Detroit

You've probably already decided where to move, but I'll offer an opinion just in case.
I grew up in Cleveland, went to grad school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and now live in DC. I vote for Cleveland, no contest. Ann Arbor is a great, if a bit pretentious, college town of around 140,000 people, and the Detroit metro area is pretty large. Ann Arbor's restaurants are pretty lacking- some ethnic variety, but not many GOOD choices. Zingerman's is wonderful, but that's really the only place I'd ever return. Downtown Detroit has a nice Greek Town, sort of small but good, and there are cute neighborhoods like Royal Oak, and there is Dearborn for Middle Eastern- but, again, ethnically diverse, quality restaurants are really few and far between.
Cleveland is a much larger city than Ann Arbor, so there are many more choices for that reason, but it's also one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse places I've been- great Turkish, Lebanese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Croatian, Russian, Hungarian, Japanese, Italian (little italy)- you name it, it's in Cleveland, and it's good. Can you tell I miss it?
Housing is much more reasonable in Cleveland than in Detroit/Ann Arbor (especially Ann Arbor), and you can find lovely neighborhoods in Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, etc.