Hoffman's Houston
stay in your lane, sa

Ken Hoffman digests a Texas city's goal to top Houston as the state's 'culinary capital'

Hoffman digests a Texas city's goal to top Houston as best food town

Tony's table Houston
One of the most memorable aspects of Tony's, our columnist notes, is what isn't in the restrooms. Photo courtesy of Tony's

Marc Anderson is the new CEO of Visit San Antonio, a non-profit organization that promotes tourism in the Alamo City.

He’s only been there since June 1, but already he’s put in place a 100-day plan to spark convention business, trade shows, travel deals, job fairs, hotel occupancy, and museum visits.

But then Anderson dropped this bon mot: he envisions promoting San Antonio as the “culinary capital of Texas.”

I think San Antonio’s eyes are bigger than its stomach. Uh, SA, have you taken a look about 200 miles to your east on 1-10. When it comes to being a “culinary capital in Texas,” Houston eats San Antonio’s lunch … and isn’t asking for seconds.

Anderson’s misguided view of San Antonio’s restaurant scene is understandable. His last job was promoting tourism in Chicago, where they don’t understand the difference between pizza and a casserole.

Let’s crunch some numbers: Houston has 10,000-plus restaurants that represent the cuisine of 70 countries. Houston had 14 James Beard Award semifinalists in 2020.

Houston has 700 food trucks, 600 vegan restaurants, 150 farm-to-table restaurants, and boasts the No. 1 culinary arts college America. Food & Wine magazine rates Houston as “Best Destination for the Food Obsessed.”

No wonder Houstonians eat out 6.9 times a week, way more than the national average of 4.9 times.

No knock on San Antonio. I’ve spent lots of time in San Antonio. I was there every weekend during Trinity University’s run to the 2016 D3 baseball World Series title. I think San Antonio is a beautiful city with lots of history and culture and its people are kind. Let’s just not compare San Antonio’s restaurant scene to Houston’s, okay?

Just on size, we’ve got San Antonio covered, and then some. Houston has more mouths to feed.

My favorite restaurant in San Antonio was Lulu’s Bakery & Café on North Main Avenue. They had chicken tenders the size of my hand and 3-pound cinnamon buns bigger than a shoebox. Shaquille O’Neal used to eat them like they were Hostess Ding Dongs. Too bad Lulu’s closed for good last April.

Admittedly, I’m not a foodie, so I don’t take advantage of Houston’s fine dining options. That’s Eric Sandler’s (surf and) turf at CultureMap. I begin eating most of my meals pulling out of a drive-thru. My goal is to finish before I get home.

If a warden let me order a last meal, I’d probably eat a cheeseburger and fries in a car, preferably a getaway car.

But I’ve had an occasional meal at some of Houston’s most elegant and expensive restaurants, too. The thing that impressed most about Tony’s — no advertisements for topless joints over the urinals or cologne vending machines in the men’s restroom. I ate a $124 hot dog at B&B Butchers on Washington Avenue.

I thought it was okay, not in the same league as the $1.50 dog with unlimited Diet Pepsi at Costco, though.