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Amateurs need not apply: Washington Post writer takes on the Houston food scene

Amateurs need not apply: Washington Post writer takes on the Houston food scene

underbelly pan fish
Martha J. Miller says Chris Shepherd's food at Underbelly (like the bycatch pictured) encapsulates Houston's "marriage of international spice and Texas tradition." Photo by Julie Soefer

Virginia may be for lovers, but Houston is for serious eaters. (Or as we call them, "Houstonians.")

That's what the Washington Post's Martha J. Miller discovered on a recent trip to the city. Miller is just the latest food writer to take on Houston's bursting local food scene, following Hanna Raskin of Seattle Weekly and John T. Edge, food columnist for The Oxford American.

Miller pauses to ruminate on Houston's lack of zoning and its resulting ever-present eyesores — an observation virtually required of all visiting writers — but ultimately concludes that "I'm not here to admire Houston's skyline; I'm here to eat in its restaurants." Amen.

 "I'm not here to admire Houston's skyline; I'm here to eat in its restaurants." 

With stops at El Real Tex-Mex, Underbelly, Revival Market, Anvil and the Provisions half of Pass & Provisions, she accomplishes this in spades, with El Real's posole, the bycatch at Underbelly and Revival's bánh mì all earning particular raves.

Despite an itinerary that focused more on the chef-driven Lower Westheimer restaurants than the outer loop hole-in-the-walls that inspire them, Miller references the myriad immigrant communities that have shaped Houston food and comes up with the best description of Houston cuisine that I have seen of late — "Silk Road meets Texas Bravado," describing it further as a "Houston marriage of international spice and Texas tradition."

It's a much better (and more accurate) turn of phrase than Raskin's "bastard cuisine" and holds greater appeal than Edge's "Mutt City" tag. What do you think?