TxMo's 31 flavors
The staff at Texas Monthly has shared some of their favorite local restaurants in a new list. Published this week, “The Good Place” covers 31 restaurants across the state that have stood the test of time.
Of course, these restaurants cover a broad range of cuisines. Classic American comfort food is represented, but the list also includes Tex-Mex, Mexican, Indian, and more. After all, modern Texans are as likely to crave sag paneer as chicken fried steak.
The magazine offers some insight into how it selected these specific establishments. “What each of the restaurants on this list has is a strong sense of place, an abundance of hospitality, and a lack of pretense,” the magazine writes in an introductory essay. It continues, “most important, these restaurants share an intangible vibe, a know-it-when-you-feel-it quality.”
All of Texas’s major cities score spots on the list. Houston has four restaurants, plus a couple more along the coast that Houstonians will recognize. San Antonio has four. Three Austin eateries make the cut. Dallas and Fort Worth claim two spots each.
Houston’s representatives are:
- Kasra Persian Grill, a restaurant in Southwest Houston
- Khyber Grill and India’s, Indian restaurants in Upper Kirby and the Galleria area with shared ownership histories
- The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, the pioneering Tex-Mex restaurant in the Second Ward
Assistant editor Arman Badrei hails Kasra for its taftoon bread, kashke bademjan (an eggplant dip), and signature kebabs. TxMo veteran Mimi Swartz praises Khyber and India’s for their consistency and hospitable service that makes everyone feel like a regular.
“Neither place offers the creativity of other local — and very fine — Indian restaurants, such as Kiran’s and Pondicheri, but that’s part of the charm,” she writes. “We’ve never gone wrong with our favorites — or, frankly, deviated from the menu at all — so I can attest to the superlative kabab-e-dilruba, the dal, and the onion kulcha at India’s and the equally superlative reshmi kabab, dal, and onion kulcha at Khyber, which come, always, with a side of dry jokes and political analysis from [owner Mickey] Kapoor.”
Swartz also pens the entry for Ninfa’s. Even though the place has grown a bit and some of the familiar faces have left, she writes that the restaurant retains much of its charm.
“The chile con queso and the guacamole remain stellar, as do the margaritas,” she writes. “The portions are plus-size, and some of the fancy new items on the menu, such as the wood-roasted octopus, snuggle comfortably alongside old favorites, meaning cheese enchiladas and the classic, made-famous-here (for Texans, that is) tacos al carbón.”
The magazine also recognizes Gilhooley’s, San Leon’s popular oyster bar and restaurant, and Galveston favorite Benno’s, where Badrei recommends the fried seafood platter and whole steamed blue crab.
Admittedly, deciding on whether or not a restaurant qualifies for a list like this one rests entirely on each writer’s individual impressions of it. Still, it’s easy to imagine a number of different possibilities for the Houston-area entries.
Perhaps the magazine should have considered Larry’s Original Mexican Restaurant in Richmond, which has been serving classic Tex-Mex for more than 50 years, or pioneering Vietnamese restaurants like Kim Son and Mai’s. While Khyber and India’s are not without their charm, Aga's Restaurant & Catering — the massive Southwest Houston restaurant known for its goat chops — serves hundreds of people (or more) on any given night. Heck, even Memorial-area steakhouse Taste of Texas would have been a good fit.