I would say that John T. Edge's column on Houston as a rising food and drink city reads like a Hunter S. Thompson essay for foodies except I've seen Thompson's essay on how he liked to eat breakfast and that man brunched with the best of them.
Edge, who is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the food writer for the Oxford American, takes readers on a boozy, insider's trip through the weird, multicultural (or "Mutt City") brilliance of Houston's food scene from Oxheart to Dadami, a Korean restaurant in Spring Branch that serves live octopus.
In some ways it's the same kind of story that we've seen before: Established A-list chefs like Chris Shepherd and Bryan Caswell touting their love for the hole-in-the-walls on the other side of the Loop or beltway.
The cult of Chinatown (or Little India, Airline Drive, etc . . .) is so familiar in Houston that it's easy to forget that the way this city celebrates and integrates diverse cultures into all levels of the food scene is atypical, especially in Texas. (Trust me, I'm from Dallas. That city has a river and it knows how to use it.)
The references to Lucky Pot, London Sizzler and El Hidalguense aren't that different from the restaurant recommendations the chefs gave The New York Times recently, but Edge's visceral portrait of cruising the freeways on a hot night searching out strong drinks (at Anvil, natch) and great food, in the form of pho or tacos al pastor, captures Houston life with more realness than your average tour guide.
Edge speaks with authority both on why Houston is "the most vital place to eat in the South right now" and why it never gets the credit that it deserves:
I’ve visited Houston eight times over the past decade. Every time I partake of this city’s strip-mall bounty—usually in the company of Robb Walsh, who, before he became a partner in El Real, earned a national rep as the scribe of Texas foodways—I fall hard and come back up hungry.
And then I forget it. Because Charleston in early spring is lovely, especially when the young women begin to don sundresses. Because New Orleans in late fall is a pleasant place to get sotted on Sazeracs."
Not even the most die-hard Houstonian could argue that Houston comes close to those cities when it comes to charm. But we do have plenty of sundresses and make a mean Pimm's Cup.
Isn't that what really matters?