Let’s get one thing out of the way: Houston is — and always will be — a burger town. Steakhouses trump all here, and fried chicken may as well be our official city bird.
We’ve long been the butt of our national health crisis, called out by the media as obese and heart diseased. If Portland is the fittest, we are the fattest. As the energy fields grow, so do our waistlines. They wonder if we drink butter from our 10-gallon hats.
The last few years have seen comfort food glorified further, spawning “kitschilly” popular new restaurants and gracing menus in creative new ways. But somewhere amid the biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese, we have cleaned up our act. A bit.
Our love affair with waffles-n-wings will never end — at least I hope not. It’s just that more places are taking care to offer salads, veggies and grilled fish, too.
Sure, farmers markets and CSAs have been on the rise for years, nudging us to buy local and eat our veggies. But even beyond our own cooking prowess, restaurants, too, have healthified. Comfort was king last year — but recently it’s been more about downsizing.
Over the last year or two, Houston has seen the introduction of vegan restaurants in Radical Eats and Green Seed Vegan. Pondicheri earns ooohs and aaahs for its regular Meatless Monday menu, while the new Doshi House is all vegetarian, all the time.
A number of favorite restaurants have introduced lighter, vegetarian sampler plates. There’s even a vegetarian tasting menu at Oxheart. We’ve got a new juice bar in Roots Juice — and a juice bar on wheels in Juice Girl.
While the longevity of such places remains to be seen, their popularity indicates a demand. No, our love affair with waffles-n-wings will never end — at least I hope not. It’s just that more places are taking care to offer salads, veggies and grilled fish, too.
I love chicken fried steak as much as the next gal, but it’s nice to have these clean-living options. Underbelly, for example, whose menu could never be confused with health food, offers one of my favorite salads in town: A huge pile of mixed greens topped with roasted seasonal veggies and only the slightest hint of vinaigrette.
Like a comfy bear hug in a time of need, comfort food will always be there. But while our mayor hasn’t proposed a soft drink ban [yet], if you couple our healthier food trends with the city’s new green initiatives — adding bike paths, building parks, planting trees — you might even call Houston health conscious.
And that’s some name calling we can live with.