The Houston love seems to never end. From our hotels landing on top luxury lists to national media outlets touting why the Bayou City is a must-visit destination, our international, cosmopolitan metropolis born on the banks of Buffalo Bayou has been enjoying some time in the spotlight.
Now, along comes GQ’s Brett Martin, who spent three months traveling the vast expanse of the U.S., hunting for the best restaurants and food experiences. If Martin's name rings a bell, it's because he penned a fawning essay on Houston last year, dubbing it the "capital of Southern cool."
For his latest piece, Martin ate his way across the country, sampling an array of culinary styles and traditions. And why does that matter for Houston, readers might ask?
Martin kicked off his colossal feature story with kudos to Houston. “Let me begin with two dinners in Houston,” he writes, noting that between those dinners — at Georgia James and Indigo — it's “worth mentioning that between those meals, I'd eaten Malaysian curry in a suburban mall, a near perfect pork rib served from a bright red food truck parked outside a bar, and extraordinary Central Texas-style smoked brisket in a brand-new barbecue joint opened by Chinese- and Vietnamese-Americans.”
(News flash to the rest of the world: our culinary scene is legit international.)
Martin praises Chris Shepherd’s Georgia James as “a palace of unrestrained pleasure as maybe only a steak house can be: loud, buzzy, giddy, awash in beef and whiskey and oil money.” He calls out the Center Cut King Crab Legs and the Slab Salad, and reserves significant space for the restaurant’s signature Baller Board — which isn’t on the menu — “a wooden plank that on any given night will be heaped with some combination of steaks, other beef cuts, pork shoulder, lamb chops, whole fried chickens, boudin-stuffed quails, duck legs, cow hearts, lobster tails, crab claws, and God knows what other leftovers from a medieval post-hunt still life.”
Over at Indigo, where Jonny Rhodes and his wife Chana are serving up what Martin calls Rhodes’ “sometimes impressionistic, sometimes literal history of the African diaspora,” he gave attention to Descendants of Igbo, Turtle Necks & Durag, and Homogenization of Mandingos. “Rhodes is a charming and magnetic lecturer, but also a gifted cook, with a deft grasp of how to balance high concepts with equally compelling technique and flavor,” he writes, explaining the chef’s penchant for monologues about items on the menu.
Martin then paints a vivid picture of the Houston restaurant as a public forum:
“Restaurants have become some of our most charged public forums — spaces fairly crackling with issues of race, gender, labor, the environment, immigration, and more — while remaining among our most private and emotional. They are places where it really wasn't all that unexpected to hear a dissertation on the uses of psychosexual paranoia in racial domination, but also where one might indulge the legitimate pleasures of spending hard-earned money on way too much perfectly cooked meat. Driving through the Houston darkness, I felt lucky anew to have the chance to love them both.”
Welcome back to the Bayou City, Brett Martin. You get us. We hope to see you again soon.