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We Do Not Like and Do Not Get Niko Niko's

Sorry, I left out that I was also dissuaded from eating there after seeing what folks were eating at their tables.

I disagree that the menu is practically the same as any Greek restaurant in America. I lived in Chicago for several years, several years ago, and the restaurants in Greektown typically had far more variety than Niko Niko's. Even a dive like Greektown Gyros had more to offer.

Your point is well taken about the spirit of the festivals, and I'll try to remember that in the future.

Oct 06, 2014
caliking in Houston

We Do Not Like and Do Not Get Niko Niko's

I agree with the OP.

I have considered going to Niko Niko's a couple of times, especially when we lived in Montrose a few years ago, and each time I was dissuaded after checking out the menu. I even made it inside once and left, because I wasn't encouraged by what I saw.

Houston has tons of great ethnic cuisine to offer, but Greek is not one them. I live in Pearland now, and the local HEB closed their own Central Market-ish prepared food counter and turned the space over to Niko Niko's. That's a serious loss IMO. I've been to Greek fest once ~4 years ago, and although the souvlaki was decent, and the beer plentiful, it had a sort of Kemah/Landry's feel to it that we didn't care for.

Oct 02, 2014
caliking in Houston

Hidden gems

Upscale dining is not one of the strengths of Houston's food scene. Ethnic dining (especially Asian) is an entirely different matter.

We like the baos from San Dong - more like big dumplings with some dough and a lot of meat. Recently found Xiong's Cafe and have really enjoyed it a few times. Banana Leaf is also good - so many different flavors and influences in Malaysian cooking.

For Ethiopian, my favorite was Sheger - Best awaze tibs in town. Its a very low-key kind of place. Lucy was also very good.

I have never understood why Indika's is so popular - went once and the best thing about the meal was the scotch x 2 I had.

Nov 19, 2013
caliking in Houston

[Houston] Authentic Chinese

San Dong is no-frills but really pretty good. The baos for sale at the counter are among my favorites. We really like Mala Sichuan as well.

Another great place is Peking Cuisine. Reserve a Peking Duck and a table in advance because they run low on both, and they don't assume you want one with the other.

A wonderful (again no-frills) dumpling joint is the one right next to Arirang located just east of the 9889 Bellaire complex. It only has 3 letters on the storefront ( don't what it says, but i think yelp claims it be The Dumpling King or something).

Feb 12, 2013
caliking in Houston

Chicago-style deep-dish / stuffed pizza?

Lived in Chicago for several years before moving in 2006. Loved deep dish pizza while I lived there, but my tastes have changed since then. I like to make the thin crust Neapolitan style pizza at home now.

I did hear from another Chicago transplant that Windy City Pizza in Humble made a good deep dish pizza. I have not verified this for myself.

Windy City Pizza
Phone # 281-812- CHGO (2446)
5377 Atascocita Rd
Humble, TX 77346

I have had what Star calls a deep dish pizza, and it was definitely not a Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

I doubt it will be worth the drive for you from NASA. If you are a pilot and will be flying to Chicago in the spring, I would just wait and enjoy the real deal!

Jan 31, 2013
caliking in Houston

Tamarind Paste In Houston

Go to an Indian grocery store like Patel Bros on Hillcroft and look for Tamicon. Its a thick syrup/paste type of tamarind concentrate. There is also Maggi Tamarina kind of like a tamarind sauce (think ketchup).

Jan 30, 2013
caliking in Houston

Emirates in-flight meal options?

FYI Hindu meal is not vegetarian - it includes chicken. Rightfully so, since India for one is chock full of non-veg Hindus. If meat/nonveg makes you queasy, then you should order the Asian Vegetarian Meal. Sorry, if your travel date has already passed, but maybe it will help for the future.

Every time I fly Emirates, someone has a conniption because they ordered a Hindu meal and found chicken in it. Emirates spells out what the different meal options are on their website, so it helps to take a look.

Nov 25, 2012
caliking in Middle East & Africa

Bheja Masala - Brains

Should be goat brains. I haven't been to this place, but if southwest Asians (in terms of the continent, not the US) especially Pakistanis, frequent this place then they may have decent turnover of this item.

Jul 03, 2012
caliking in Austin

Peach BBQ Wood

Cool!. I might go and try to get some. Its great stuff to bbq with, and I remember the quality of the wood itself being quite good.

Jun 25, 2012
caliking in Houston

Peach BBQ Wood

If you are still looking, I bought a bag of good quality peach wood from Hebert's on Richmond 2 years ago. I haven't been back recently since I now smoke with cherry, apple, pecan woods which are easier to find closer to me. I do remember liking the flavor though.


4714 Richmond Ave

Houston, TX 77027

Jun 21, 2012
caliking in Houston

Two new Indian vegetarian restaurants

Thanks for the info! Will definitely keep these on my radar. If you like Indian veg food, have you tried Bhojan? I think it is one of the best Indian vegetarian restaurants I have been to. The food is Gujarati though, not South Indian.

Jun 05, 2012
caliking in Houston

Where to Find Wood Chunks for Smoking

If you have a Do It Best network hardware store in your area, you can order different types of chunks (free delivery to a local store) from i think you can find a participating store from the website.

May 30, 2012
caliking in Los Angeles Area

Interesting Find for Spices and indian Masala blends in Stafford

thanks for the info. I'll try and stop by next time I'm in Stafford.

Apr 30, 2012
caliking in Houston

best Chinese restaurant in Houston?

Mala is definitely on my list now. One of my top favs is Peking Cuisine - not in the best neighborhood, but the food is tremendous. The peking duck is a must (call ahead).

8332 SW Fwy
Houston, TX 77074

Mar 19, 2012
caliking in Houston

Looking for huge international market in Houston

Don't know if this is what OP migh tbe interested in, but for all things Mexican/Hispanic try Mi Tienda (HEB specialty store). Its set up like a market place with different stores/stalls within a store. Possibly the Buford of Mexican stores. When I went there, I was like a kid going nuts in a candy shop.

Nov 14, 2011
caliking in Houston

Best pho in Houston?

Look up Cafe TH formerly Thiem Hung, and see if they serve pho at dinner time. Used to be a lunch only place, but I think they do dinner now. owner is a super nice guy, and its a great place to eat.

Nov 10, 2011
caliking in Houston

Houston's Best Ethnic Restaurants

Ok here's another one, again OTL but really good.

Heritage India Cuisine's Sunday lunch buffet, out in Stafford. Traditional Kerala (Southern India) grub, not the dosas and idli that folks usually associate with Southern indian food. Get there when they open, so the food will be hot and fresh. You'll find duck curry, pork fry, a few different veg items and other things. Its out of the way, the owners are nice, and they cook great food. The Sat buffet is not as good.

Heritage India
3201 S Main St, Stafford, TX 77477

Nov 08, 2011
caliking in Houston

Coming Home for the Weekend

For central TX barbecue, pleeeeaaaase do yourself a favor and drive out to central TX! You will love yourself for having done so. Lockhart, Luling, etc - past threads sing the virtues of different joints in different little towns. It will take the better part of the day, depending on how many places you go to, but its doable. Truly a unique experience if you can make the time.Skip Luling City Market here in Houston - I'm not a fan. Hebert's on Richmond has some neat frozen Cajun/Creole items if you want to make something at home. For Mexican, try Hugo's Sunday brunch its really pretty good.

Also, I've been to Stella Sola ("Texan Tuscan" cuisine) a few times since trying them during Restaurant week. Their bone marrow is pretty good, and the salted caramel affogato dessert is fantastic(especially the espresso chocolate fudge sauce).

[Edit: sorry just saw that you're coming for a weekend, so may have to save the central TX bbq tour for later]

Stella Sola
1001 Studewood, Houston, TX 77008

Nov 08, 2011
caliking in Houston

Houston's Best Ethnic Restaurants

There is definitely better dimsum available than Ocean Palace, but I said it was a good place to start if one is new to dim sum in Houston. My personal preference is for the smaller a la carte dim sum places, since things are made to order and taste much better. Fung's is a good place, especially if one does not feel like driving to Bellaire.

@ Doobiewah: Malaysian food rocks! One of my fav cuisines sine it is such a melting pot of cultures (Chinese/Malay/Indian). Its like Chinese food with an Indian slant (not Indo-Chinese which is a whole different beast when done well). One signature dish is Roti Canai (different spellings abound) which is an appetizer of some chicken curry, with a soft dosa-like bread. Some dishes use shrimp paste which I love.

If you haven't been to Banana Leaf, I strongly recommend it. I think there used to be another Malaysian place in town, but it closed some time ago.

They won't win any awards for service, but it goes with the territory, and I'm willing to look beyond that for tasty grub.

Ocean Palace Restaurant
11215 Bellaire Blvd Ste D-01, Houston, TX 77072

Banana Leaf
9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Nov 07, 2011
caliking in Houston


Get the Thermoworks RT600c from Amazon and you're done. For $25 its an awesome thermometer. I bought one after becoming annoyed and frustrated with inaccurate thermometers. Its much chaeper than a Thermopen, and its waterproof - you can stick it in the dishwasher to check the wash temp.

Nov 07, 2011
caliking in Cookware

Where can I get a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving?

It's that time of year again... my favorite holiday of the year!

I'm looking for places to buy a fresh whole turkey - no hormones, not injected with sodium whatsit, nothing. Just the feathers off and in a bag. We used to get fresh turkeys from an Amish farmer when we lived in the Midwest, and I've been hooked ever since.

I'm looking for a smallish bird - about 10lbs or so. Planning on smoking or deep frying it, but haven't committed to either yet.

Can any 'hounds guide me in the right direction? Some potential sources include Pete's Fine Meats, and Revival Meats, but I have not looked into these yet. If you know of any butchers/stores/farms let me know.


Nov 06, 2011
caliking in Houston

Houston's Best Ethnic Restaurants

BBQ Tonite for Pakistani: 14617 Beechnut Street Houston, TX 77083-4436
(832) 328-0786

Banana Leaf -Malaysian: 9889 Bellaire

Ocean Palace - good place to start for Dim Sum.

9116 Bellaire (can't remember the name) for Chinese and hot pot.

All Bengal for Bengali/Bangladeshi food

Peking Cuisine

A Ly: 11360 Bellaire Blvd; Houston, TX 77072 - great Peking duck with those little steamed flat bun kind of things.

These are kind of all over the place (a few are in Chinatown on Bellaire), but each one is a stellar eatery in my opinion.

Ocean Palace Restaurant
11215 Bellaire Blvd Ste D-01, Houston, TX 77072

Peking Cuisine Restaurant
8332 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77074

Banana Leaf
9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Nov 03, 2011
caliking in Houston

Mom & Pop type bakeries for birthday cakes etc?

Added 3 brothers to the list, thanks. Anything in particular that you love from them?

Oct 30, 2011
caliking in Houston

Mom & Pop type bakeries for birthday cakes etc?

Alma's looks awesome! I will try and order a pie or two from them for Thanksgiving. The pics on their custom cake orders are pretty amazing.

Thanks James! This is just t the sort of thing I was looking for.

Oct 29, 2011
caliking in Houston

Mom & Pop type bakeries for birthday cakes etc?

Hello all.

Can anyone give me recs for a mom & pop type (or similar) bakery where cakes or cupcakes are made fresh to order and taste spectaular. Interesting flavors are of course appreciated. No special diet restrictions.

I'm asking because I recently went to get a cake for my wife's birthday - kind of last minute. I love to cook, but baking is not my forte. Anyways, I ended up at Dessert Gallery and picked a red velvet cake. To my disappointment, the person who was helping me went to the back and pulled out a boxed cake from the refrigerator. I know, I know - what else could I expect for last minute options.

Anyways, I have vowed to do better for next year. I miss the old Jewish bakeries in Chicago. Your suggestions would be very much appreciated.


Oct 27, 2011
caliking in Houston

Stealing again, Where are Houston Foodies Getting Their Information?

Yelp usually works for me. Depending on what I'm in the mood for trying, I'll search on Yelp, and then whittle down my choices based on what the reviews look like. It has worked pretty consistently. if a place is ranked 4+stars with several reviews (i.e. not just 1 -3 reviews from the owner and his friends) it has almost always been a hit. 3+ stars can be hit or miss in my experience. I also spend an ungodly amount of time searching for places on the web. B4ueat has been difficult to navigate at times.

Oh, among blogs I also like Chili Bob's Houston Eats and I'm Never Full. One of my alltime favs is Guns and Tacos.

Oct 26, 2011
caliking in Houston

Smoking a boston butt for pulled pork

In my experience, the best butts turn out when smoked at 225°F, 250°F-ish also yields decent results. The goal is to render the fat sloooowly. Fruit woods (apple, cherry, etc) are my preference for flavor, but too much wood on the coals can give a bitter taste to the meat. Purists go for long smokes 10+hours, often overnight smokes. Many like to foil around 160°F-ish, when the meat stalls, and then take the meat out of the smoker when the bone wiggles freely, and even slides right out (usually about 190°F-205°F internal temp).

Temps may be harder to control with an electric smoker, but if you know your gear well, you probably know how to regulate the temps to your liking. Resting for a few hours in a cooler (wrap the meat in foil and towels and fill the dead space with crumpled newspaper) finishes the process and should give you a butt that pulls easily.

There are ways to do butts "hot and fast" at temps as high as 350°, you might want to experiment with foiling as mentioned above if trying this method. Obviously the time taken to cook will be shorter. I have even heard of some people doing a butt on a rotisserie.

Hope this helps!

[Sorry, I just noted that you were using a gas grill or electric smoker, so pardon the recs about smoking with charcoal. The point is the temps, which you should still be able to manage with your equipment].

Going to the Alley Theater... any brunch/lunch suggestions?

So we ended up going to Backstreet Cafe. We all enjoyed eating out on the patio, and were able to finish minutes before it started raining. Us=1, weather 0. :) Although. we were so happy it rained - Texas has been so parched this summer, the rain was much needed. A win-win situation.

I will definitely go back for brunch at Backstreet. I had excellent crab cakes - soft almost creamy, very little filler/binder- with a red pepper sauce that I really liked. Their poached eggs were good, and the cocktails were nice as well ( I had a plum mojito, others enjoyed their drinks as well). A little on the pricey side, but worth it for a goos experience. When I go back, I will ask for a table in the window nook by the hostess station - a 2top and a 4 top in a bay window which looked like the perfect spot to enjoy brunch and read the paper on a weekend morning.

Sep 18, 2011
caliking in Houston

Going to the Alley Theater... any brunch/lunch suggestions?

Thanks for the recs. Decided against Italian since my wife makes a killer carbonara, we make pizzas in our own brick oven, and I am still on a high from Osteria Antica (from over a year ago ! Love that place). Backstreet sounds enticing so I called and and made a reservation.

Tried Haven during HRW and had a nice meal. It was however superseded by dinner at Stella Solla, which I highly recommend - get the bone marrow, and the salted caramel affogato for sure. Back on topic - we looked at the brunch menu for Stella Solla and it is also on our list of places to try for brunch ( going there for dinner this weekend so can't go there for brunch).

A friend recommended Canopy. I checked out the menu, and that fried pork loin looks mighty good (... as do many fried things, to me). Any supporters?

Sep 17, 2011
caliking in Houston

Going to the Alley Theater... any brunch/lunch suggestions?

We're going to see a play at the Alley Theater in the afternoon on Saturday, so I'm trying to find a good place for brunch (buffet or not) or lunch before the show.

I've been to Benjy's in the Village before and liked it. We have guests form Dallas, and I think they would like it as well.

Other places being considered:
Brennan's (not sure if they have a Sat bruch)
Monarch in Hotel Zaza

I would welcome any opinions or other recs.

Is Birra Poretti worth going to? Its very close to the theater and would work well logistically.


Sep 16, 2011
caliking in Houston