Best Parking Lot Dining Experience: The Official 2011 Ballot

The third category in the 2011 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate now has its slate of candidates! What well-paved institution in this fine city deserves the title of Best Parking Lot Dining Experience? Thanks to your contributions, we have a healthy slate of official nominees.

You’re now free to vote in this category — by entering a comment below, by sending Swamplot an email, by Tweeting your choice, or by posting your vote on the wall of Swamplot’s Facebook page. Or by doing all 4! More details about voting rules for this year’s awards are available here.

The nominees for Best Parking Lot Dining Experience are . . .


1. La Vista, 1936 Fountainview, Westhaven Estates. “A great place to spend a relaxing evening outside . . . looking over a parking lot. The cuisine is inventive, the service is friendly, and you can bring your own wine (the place is a favorite for wine enthusiasts). They have both heaters and fans outside to keep you comfortable through hot or cold; some folks just hang out with friends and drink wine before sitting down for dinner. When it’s busy, there’s usually a bench out in the lot itself where you can sit and wait for a table.”


2. El Rey Taqueria, 9742 Katy Fwy. at Bunker Hill, Memorial. “You can sit outside and watch cars park and unpark, or stare off at the backs of the other restaurants across the concrete expanse. Best of all, you can enjoy the traffic on the Katy Freeway as it flies by. Don’t forget to take a nice deep breath.


3. Brasserie 19, 1962 West Gray, River Oaks Shopping Center. “The new place to see and be seen: brilliant French-inspired food, a formidable wine list brought to you on an iPad, and cafe-style seating at the foot of a strip-mall parking lot. Sure, restos of far greater stature in France look out onto grand boulevards where little diesel-fume-spewing Renaults scream by. But the French do not have to worry about grandma overshooting her head-in parking space and pinning you against the window as your 1997 Chateauneuf du Pape spills all over the sidewalk.”


4. La Madeleine, 23322 Mercantile Pkwy., near the Grand Parkway and I-10, Katy. “Only a few tables outside. But boy would I be liar if I said there wasn’t plenty of concrete. Nothing says the French countryside like sipping on some French decaf out there on a July afternoon.”


5. The Rice Box, Anvil Parking Lot, Westheimer Rd. at Windsor St., Montrose. “The Blade Runner-inspired high-concept creation of 2 white-boy car nuts steeped in Asian food culture, landed for lunches under the oaks in a Montrose parking lot atop the Westheimer Curve. City regs won’t let them provide seating anywhere nearby, but your order comes in one of those classic cardboard takeout boxes, so it’s easy to tote if you want to eat ‘in.'”


6. Urban Harvest Farmers Market, HCC Southwest College, 5601 West Loop South. “Every Friday afternoon the HCC campus on the South Loop (“Incredible University”) has a gathering of food trucks in its gigantic feeder-road-facing parking lot. Last time we went, there were at least 20 trucks.”


7. The Italian Cafe and Casa Anita’s Mexican Restaurant, 4622 & 4624 Nasa Pkwy., Seabrook. “Less than 1,000 feet from gorgeous Clear Lake, and these 2 restaurant patios face a sea . . . of parking.


8. Black Walnut Cafe, 5510 Morningside Dr., Rice Village. “Great place to sit out and watch all the Stepford wives racing at breakneck speed to get that one last in-front spot so they can avoid having to park in the more déclassé parking garage in back.”


9. Lola, 1102 Yale St., Houston Heights. “I went to a strip mall in the dry Houston Heights, where you order champagne and instead they serve you cherry-cola. (See-oh-el-aye cola.) I walked inside and said hello. The waitress looked at me long, and then said ‘welcome to Lola’s.’ (El-oh-el-aye Lola’s la-la-la-la Lola.) I looked around and saw the place swarming with kids, they looked at me back and shouted at me ‘hola.(Oh Hola la-la-la-la Hola.) I asked the waitress if I could sit outside, she grabbed a menu and walked me back out to the parking lotola. Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand, why part of the patio is filled with Toyota Corollas. (Toyota Corolla la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola.) Eating with Toyota Corollas at Lola’s. (Lala-la-la-la Lola’s.)


10. El Ultimo Taco, 7703 Long Point at Jacquelyn, Spring Branch. “The new location just a few blocks west of Antoine may lack the familiar fresh scent of car-wash soap in strong supply at the old address, but the breakfast tacos are still a big draw on weekend mornings.”


So . . . what’ll it be? Which one of these nominees earns your vote for Best Parking Lot Dining Experience?

Photos: Candace Garcia (La Vista), El Rey Taqueria, Lights Camera Action (Brasserie 19 seating), Almost Veggie Houston (Brasseria 19 parking), tastybitz (Rice Box), Flickr user Yuishinkan (Farmers Market), Swamplot inbox (Italian Cafe), Black Walnut Cafe, Kristine H. (Lola), James P. (El Ultimo)

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