Some food trucks come and go so quickly that they barely make an impression, but a few standouts have made a meaningful contribution to Houston's dining scene. Of those, a privileged few like Bernie's Burger Bus and Good Dog Houston have gone on to open brick-and-mortar outposts that both give fans a dedicated space to consume their favorite dishes and spur the proprietors to develop new dishes in their expanded kitchens.
On Thursday, the Rice Box became the latest establishment to open a fixed location. However, like everything else associated with the bright red truck that serves American-style Chinese classics like General Tso's and Kung Pao chicken, the Rice Box is doing things its own way. Rather than build out a conventional restaurant, owner John Peterson has taken over one of the spaces in the underground Greenway Plaza food court — just a few stalls down from his good friend David Buehrer's Greenway Coffee & Tea.
The Greenway Plaza parking garage can be tricky, but the secret is to bring a little patience.
Built by Collaborate Projects with graphics by Letterset Houston, the Rice Box's bright red stall stands out from its more staid companions. True to Peterson's roots as one of the founders of the Mayday Garage car enthusiast website, four flat screen TVs hang above the counter showing car videos from across the world. After all, wireless service in the Greenway Plaza basement can be kind of spotty, which means lunch is the perfect time to watch an old episode of Top Gear.
While the two Rice Box trucks will still be out on the street, including every Wednesday through Saturday on Westheimer across from Poison Girl, the Greenway Plaza location offers some significant upgrades from the truck's familiar menu. In addition, pepper steak marks the first time the Rice Box has served beef. Finally, for an extra $2, diners can swap out the familiar steamed rice for either fried rice or new egg noodles.
Eating Chinese food in a food court may conjure images of chicken in a mysterious sauce that's been on a steam table for too long, but the Rice Box does things right by preparing each dish to order. That also means that its rice holds its texture in the container, and the noodles have real chew instead of turning into mush. Perhaps most impressive of all, the newly revised orange chicken recipe even tastes like actual oranges.
The Greenway Plaza parking garage can be tricky, but the secret is to take the first entrance south of Buffalo Speedway along the Southwest Freeway feeder road. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left towards the Greenway 5 visitor's parking. Just bring a little patience.
If Thursday's 25-plus person line is any indication, the Rice Box's arrival is the most exciting thing to happen to the food court in years.