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killer chili dogs

Most people don't get it, but just look around at the very best and most popular hot dog stands and see what they do. Well, in Houston you'll be a little pressed, but hot dog and chili joints both are popular in Southern California.
The most successful and always crowded ones do NOT put chili on their dogs. They put chili hot dog sauce on them. No meat to upstage the wiener, but all the texture and flavor of chili is there. The perfect condiment for the perfect dog.
I did a little research before writing this, and guess what. Even at the Wolf Brand website, where they offer chili recipes, the one they have for hog dogs calls for chili instead of chili hot dog sauce. What? Wolf Brand makes a chili dog sauce too, so why don't they call for that instead of regular chili? Go figure.

Jan 25, 2012
Pirate Paul in Home Cooking

Best Houston Burgers

Under any header for "Best Burgers" in the Clear Lake NASA area, of course by now y'all must know that Stomp's Burger Joint has brought back or recreated most of S.W. Tookies' fabulous menu, and stands as the reigning champion of burgers anywhere this side of Houston (and maybe beyond).
You also know by now that Austin-based Burger Tex stepped aside for another Fish Place, on Bay Area Boulevard. Burger Tex still has a location in nearby Pearwood though.
Another Austin burger joint, Five Guys, has a few locations closer to us now, and Burger House has added a couple more too; they mimic Fuddrucker's okay . And Dallas-based Mooyah's is a cut above.
Along with long-time and now gone local favorites Jalapeno Tree and Tookies', I've heard people speak with sadness of the demise of South Shore Beer Garden with the last hurricane that also took Tookies. Take heart. SSBG's chef is Joe Lee's brother, and the two have just resurrected SS beer garden's menu inside Joe Lee's Seafood Kitchen just west of SSBG's now empty lot.

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Burger House
395 W Main St, League City, TX 77573

South Shore Beer Gardens
930 Marina Bay Dr, Kemah, TX 77565

Joe Lee's Seafood Kitchen Restaurant
1108 Marina Bay Dr, Kemah, TX 77565

Tookie's Restaurant
1202 Bayport Blvd, Seabrook, TX 77586

Apr 12, 2011
Pirate Paul in Houston

IDine questions

I think I just set some kind of record. I may be the ONLY person to ever be kicked out of the iDine program. They just sent me a letter saying so. It is over a page long, so I can't go into all the crap it says, but here are some highlights:

It is unfortunate that the same level of dining rewards cannot be supported today that you received when you joined in... [a century ago -- they think it was 1998, but it was way before that under other names before they inherited or bought their business from TransMedia, DiningAlaCard, RewardsNet or whatever it used to be].
We recognize that our structure doesn't appeal to everyone...
We are electing to terminate your iDine membership... [because]
Item 17... (iv) you engage in behavior we deem to be abusive to us...

The "behavior" they refer to are things I said about iDine in restaurant reviews, which the restaurants and possibly customers may be able to see. In the review questionaires, they clearly want me to rate their promotions or program as a reason for my patronizing participating restaurants. But if they don't like what I might say, then why did they ask me? Is iDine really that chicken-$#!T, or what?

You know what? #U@< 'em!

Pirate PaulĀ 

Mar 04, 2011
Pirate Paul in General Topics

Best Houston Burgers

S. W. Tookies fanatics, rejoice. Stomp's Burger Joint opened Tuesday, and I scouted it out last night. It's plain to see they did a lot of planning, and payed attention to details, both in the building and in the menu.
The modest little building sits at 3107 FM-146 next door to the Bayview Duck, at Simpson Street in Bacliff. It's a barn brown wooden structure, and the inside looks like a rustic Texas hill country theme with wild west and farmhouse decor seating 58.
None of the beers are mentionable, and there's no patio or smoking. But I can get a vanilla Coke like I always did at Tookies. I can get my "99" fix with Stomp's Southern Bell, or a clone of the "Stomp's Ice House Special" with their Outlaw.
Six other specialty burgers go beyond the mentor, and there's a gourmet jalapeno chili kraut dog, a Torchezee that was inspired by the SWT "Bombshell," and huge onion rings that measure up too. Stomp's has menu sections for healthy eating and for kids. It promises to become the bay area's next best burger place for sure. Service is slow while they're working bugs out, but the wait is worth it. Will they be able to pick up the pace after word gets out and the place gets discovered? We'll see.

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Bayview Duck Restaurant
3131 Highway 146, Bacliff, TX 77518

Tookie's Restaurant
1202 Bayport Blvd, Seabrook, TX 77586

Sep 30, 2010
Pirate Paul in Houston

Houston and Hill Country Best Sausage

Jaymes: Good question, and thanks. No I am not being sarcastic. In the broad general sense, yes, they are all some kind of sausage.
But when you order hot links in California, you get hot links. When you order it in Texas (at any barbecue joint and even most soul food places), you get a cutting from a rope sausage ring. You can see that both ends have been cut, the size is noticeably bigger than a hot link, so is the grind, and they taste nothing alike.
Guy's Market doesn't have hot links, and I haven't checked the other place yet. I have made my own, as well as andouille, but not everyone is into that. If you want hot links made by somebody else, you have to go to the grocery store and then grill them yourself at home.
My favorite commercial brands are Blue Ribbon and Johnsonville, both made in Texas, but there are many other good ones (and just as many that are not). Read labels, and insist on pork and/or beef only, not mechanically dismembered chicken parts.

Jun 12, 2010
Pirate Paul in Texas

Houston and Hill Country Best Sausage

Well, at least you didn't use "sausage" and "hot links" in the same sentence. They are not the same thing at all. Texas or Louisiana hot links are those smoked "fat weenie" things like Blue Ribbon, Johnsonville and others package for sale in stores. Which is about the only way you're going to get them around here too.
Hot links may be beef or pork, or both, but I avoid like the plague any that contain mechanically dismembered chicken parts or anything resembling same.
You can get them at most all barbecue restaurants and a lot of soul food places in SoCal. But here in Texas, forget it. If anybody serves them ready to eat around Houston, by all means, let me know. It's a nuisance thawing out one or two links and firing up the King Kooker on the porch just for myself.

Feb 04, 2010
Pirate Paul in Texas

Getting a Popeye's near my office...recommendations?

I echo just about everybody else's opinions except James C. A friend of mine who was a regional manager of several Popeyes locations said they use bacon grease in the red beans, but that was in California. Maybe there's variations according to region. I wish they had their full-blown Cajun locations everywhere instead of just in Georgia. To summarize, I've been eating at Popeyes since they started (weren't they Pioneer before that?), and I'll never go back to another chicken place after tasting Popeyes. Oh yeah.

Mar 25, 2009
Pirate Paul in Chains

Best Houston Chinese buffet

Oriental Buffet on El Camino Real at Ramada, Clear Lake City. It resembles so many others in look, size, selections and action, but is a real cut above. On week-ends they put out various seafoods along with the regular choices. Excellent variety of great sauces, the best Thai soup I've ever had, pho and other special things that have made this my favorite one.

Feb 24, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

Absolute best burger in Texas?

Is that the newly rebuilt "The Porch" on 99 Heights Blvd at Washington, formerly the Cosmos Cafe and next door to Hickory Hollow Barbecue?

Feb 24, 2009
Pirate Paul in Texas

Absolute best burger in Texas?

Best Houston Burgers -- Updates

After posting the above list, another dozen or so "finds" have been added to the original list, with comments from a few readers. To see them all and follow the comments, see Mashtronauts.com, click on "MashtroForums," then look for the topic "Food Recipes w/ Beer." Inside that topic is a header for best Houston burger joints. The list grows.

Feb 24, 2009
Pirate Paul in Texas

dashi in Houston?

Update: It's the big Hong Kong Grocery on Scarsdale at Beamer where I just saw some, at least three kinds. Down the road to the east, the smaller My Quang Food Market at Scarsdale and IH-45 has similar items, but this time I couldn't find any dashi there.

Feb 24, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

Absolute best burger in Texas?

Wow, I'm so glad to find all these Houston burger suggestions. I've footnoted every one, in my phone book restaurant section. Best burgers I ever had in my life were from two places both in the Clear Lake (NASA) area. Sadly, both Jalapeno Tree and S.W. Tootie's are now gone. That leaves Dallas-based Mooyah, Austin-based Burger Tex and local Burger House about the best we have left in CL. But here are some in Houston that y'all didn't mention:
C & D, 10606 Fuqua (haven't tried it yet, but it gets high marks from reviewers).
Shuttle Burger, 8405 Almeda-Genoa at Monroe (outstanding - pineapple on their signature model is great).
Blake's BBQ, 2916 Jeanette (supposedly has great burgers too).
5 Guys, Rosenberg (don't know about it).
Guy's Meat Market, Old 90A in SW Houston (smoked, but get it early before it dries out).
Smashburger, Main and Kirby (read reviews, but haven't tried yet).
Cheeburger Cheeburger, 106 Vintage Pk Blvd (ditto).
Fuddrucker (not as good here as they are in SoCal - Burger House is a copy of them).

In So Cal, where they have lots of great chili and hot dog haunts (and why is it we don't?), there aren't many gourmet burger joints, but the franchises are better than ours. Among them, I had to have these at least once a week or so:
Fatburger (available with Oklahoma chili on it).
In N Out
Tommy's (their signature model has chili on it).

Feb 19, 2009
Pirate Paul in Texas

Texas Bar-BQ Joints Map Project

Such an ambitious project. It's going to get unwieldy unless you organize it better. Restaurants should be alphabetical, of course, but should also be grouped according to city, area or region.

Galveston: Leon's, Queens
Alvin: Joe's
Pearland: Central Texas
Texas City: Grand Prize
Dickinson: AJ's, Little's (another, Dickinson BBQ, puts peanut butter in their sauce)
League City: Red River
Clear Lake City: Tony's
El Lago / Seabrook: Bay Area MM & Smokehouse
Webster/Friendswood: Texas Roadhouse, Pappas
Houston: (Like Austin, where to begin?)
Huntsville: Here on Chowhound, much has been said about New Zion Mission Baptist BBQ in Huntsville. Our group is planning to rent a stretch van and go up there from Houston one of these week-ends, but I can't say more until then.

There's a few for starters, running from south to north.

Feb 16, 2009
Pirate Paul in Texas

dashi in Houston?

There's an Asian community and several restaurants and stores (at least one is a big, full-blown grocery) either on Fuqua or Scarsdale, in the vicinity of Beamer. I'm sorry I can't remember a name.
I bought Dashi at one of them. It is Shimaya brand (made in Japan) "Bonito Flavored" Soup Stock, and comes 10 bags (2 tsp each) to a box. Warning: Contains MSG. $2.69/box.

Feb 16, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

BBQ in Houston

For ribs, you can't go wrong with Texas Roadhouse. They enter em (and their chili and other things) in cook-offs, and win. Out in the Heights, also try Hickory Hollow. I haven't been impressed with Brown Sugar's or Texas Bar-B-Q House. Guy's Meat Market is somewhat famous. I'm just trying to name a few off-the-grid places that you normally don't see raving reviews about.
One that is, is Luling City Market. I've also read recommendations for (but haven't tried yet) Pete's on Telephone Road, Pierson on TC Jester and Houston BBQ Co on Eldridge.

Feb 15, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

Best beef fajitas in Houston?

I ditto the Chef and others who homed in on Pappasito's. One of the copy cat recipe sites also got their recipe, which I've duplicated and find to be tops. The Pappas folks found a way to really tenderize a tough cut of meat, using something like a concrete mixer to tumble it in the marinade overnight; the marinade and their dipping sauce are also winners (I use the latter on just about any kind of steaks I grill). Can't go wrong.

Feb 15, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

I miss Texas BBQ sauce!

Linux, fortunately for you, as others point out, many Texas, Louisiana and other sauces are bottled and sold outside their regions. In the U.S., barbecue styles vary, and the most famous and best loved are Memphis, KC Missouri, Carolina, Texas and Louisiana.
Some pretty authentic Texas reproductions have appeared in SoCal, so you need to search out Dr Hoggly Woggly's Tyler Texas Barbecue (in Van Nuys or Panorama City), El Paso Barbecue Company (Encino), County Line and others. Even Tony Roma's has a great sauce.
There are far too many sauces to even think of only one that surfaces as "best." A bottled sauce that is far from red (I'd call it a light tan or mustardy color) is Cattleman's (Missouri); I think Stubb's (Texas) and other brands have versions like that too.
You can find recipes for thousands -- every style imaginable -- on-line and in books and on cooking CDs. Also check Yahoo Groups and the Smoke Ring for barbecue specialties.

Feb 15, 2009
Pirate Paul in Texas

Making sausage without a sausage stuffer?

Follow-up: I found a cheap source for the Kitchen Aid SSA on-line, and got it. Sure enough, the stuffer tubes fit on the Hamilton Beach FGC quite well (the HB is so old it predates ZIP codes, and HB no longer has parts for it). Lots of other grinders can be found on-line too, like at eBay; some are rather affordable.
If you're not ready to make that plunge, check to see if your kitchen food processor will also grind meat. My West Bend 6491 says it will.
I also just finished and tested my smoke stack, which I built into a gutted upright home central heating unit housing. A salvaged barbecue pit is mounted almost at ground level, for the firebox, and smoke from it is fed into the smoker via 4-inch flex duct pipe. In less than 15 - 20 minutes after starting a good fire, temperature can rise from 70* to at least 180* in the very top of the smoker, with plenty of smoke billowing out all the cracks and holes around the top. Can't wait to put it to work.

Feb 15, 2009
Pirate Paul in Home Cooking

Recs for NASA/Clear Lake area

Burgers? Fuddrucker's is not as good here as in Soiuthern California. An indie knock-off of it is Burger House, in League City. I like the new Mooyah's on Bay Area between Hwy 3 and the freeway; they are an outfit out of Dallas. I just discovered another place that's easily a cut above the rest. Shuttle Burger, 8405 Almeda-Genoa at Monroe (not far west of the freeway); their distinction is a slice of pineapple on the burger, and the burger is really good considering the looks of the place and location.

Feb 15, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

The convenience store custard fried pie - an endangered species

Sad. Back in the sixties, we had Kri-Pax pies, sold at stores everywhere (at least in the Houston area), and I've never found another brand I liked as much. The coconut was my favorite. I grieve for my Kri-Pax.
Another thing that's gone is the regular old fashioned coconut pie. It's been replaced by a coconut cream pie that's so light that I worry it might float away. The flavor is equally evasive, and matches the tasteless meringue topping quite well.

Feb 12, 2009
Pirate Paul in Texas

Houston - Ostioneria Mar Azul

That's the kind of helpful "find" I like to read. Making note.

Jan 21, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

Weekend in Houston

This question is recurring. Look down page for "Holiday Best" and other threads, and all the reply posts they generate. It also helps to make your subject header and information requests more specific (what part of town, what time of day, what kind of cuisine, whether crowd seating, RSVP, $$$ etc etc etc)

Jan 21, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

Recs for NASA/Clear Lake area

I believe that's spanakopita. Mely's is on FM2094 in LC, not NASA/ClearLake. And Tookie's, I am so sorry to report, is not coming back after the storm. The gourmet burger is now dead here. Likewise for good hot dog and chili joints.

For barbecue, it's probably got to be Red River in LC. Texas Roadhouse has the best ribs though. For seafood and Cajun, Floyd's, Abe's and Fish Place. For poorboys, particularly Philly cheese steak, Hoagie Ranch in West Kemah. For pastrami, Jason's. I ditto the others' recommendations above too.

Jan 13, 2009
Pirate Paul in Houston

Making sausage without a sausage stuffer?

For anyone interested, I did some research on the Kitchen Aid stuffing tubes attachment option (Model SSA). The tubes are 2" dia where they attach to the machine, and 5" L. One is 3/8" for breakfast sausage, the other 5/8" for regular hot links.
I haven't tried them yet, but they appear to be the same dimensions that will fit a Hamilton Beach FGC grinder (optional attachment for Model 1MPU Food Unit). The HB unit is so old that I'm sure parts are no longer available.

Dec 27, 2008
Pirate Paul in Home Cooking

Comparing Greek Restaurants in Houston

There will never be another place to match the Athens Bar & Grille, for sure. I like Niko Niko on Montrose near Westheimer. At Clear Lake, there are three pretty good ones, and across the lake is Skipper's with limited Greek fare.

Dec 22, 2008
Pirate Paul in Houston

Houston- Coming down from NYC. Your advice please!

Warning: Nostalgia Alert.
First the original Ninfa's, and now Felix and Steak & Ale are gone too?
Anybody remember Sonny Look's, Railhead, Victoria Station, Bonanza and Sizzler, Night Hawk, Mason Jar, Jalapeno Tree, Steak N Shake, Pig Stands, Furr's and Wyatt's, Chico's, Monterrey House, Pancho's, Shakeys Pizza Parlors, H. Salt Esquire and...?
Then there was Marie Callendar and Tony Roma, who snuck into Houston while I was in LA, and then went out the back way as soon as I came back. Hmmmf!
Why not just shoot me now?

Dec 22, 2008
Pirate Paul in Houston

Clear Lake / Houston Italian Sausage?

Yeah, both BA Market on Kirby near NASA Road, and Stanton's by the tracks in old Alvin prepare and package their own in-house sausages. All kinds of Italian, sweet or hot, as well as the other usuals.
Also consider making your own. Even if you don't have a grinder and stuffer, you can mix your own seasonings into ground pork, for your personal taste favorite, in patties. Recipes abound on the web, and in Yahoo! Groups about "sausage."

Dec 22, 2008
Pirate Paul in Houston

Houston- Coming down from NYC. Your advice please!

Best old world traditional Mexican: Felix, 901 Westheimer (chile relleno and queso).
Best fajitas: Pappasitos.
Best Greek: Niko Niko, not far west of Felix, on Montrose.
Best Cajun: Ragin' Cajun, Zydeco.
Still a damned good steak: Steak and Ale.
Chicken fried: Kelley's.
Good burger: Fuddruckers.
Seafood: Baytown Seafood.
Best pubs: The Flying Saucer, Two Rows, BJ's

Dec 20, 2008
Pirate Paul in Houston

How do we cash in on Cheap Lobster?

Yeah, they are an attractive buy in the stores now, but the days of eating lobster in a restaurant without having to mortgage away the farm and your first born are long gone.

Dec 20, 2008
Pirate Paul in Texas

Clear Lake / Houston Italian Sausage?

Don't know of one that stands out, but I do have a favorite place to eat it prepared. Colloseum on El Camino Real between BA Boulevard and Ramada does it with bell peppers and onions the best. Also on their New Yorker poor boy sandwich. I've been eating it there since they opened in the late 60s, and they still do it the same as then, and nobody's better.

Dec 20, 2008
Pirate Paul in Houston