Comment of the Day: Following the Great Chain Restaurant Migration

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOLLOWING THE GREAT CHAIN RESTAURANT MIGRATION “The ironic thing is that surburbanites get made fun of for a supposed lack of urban sophistication, and are portrayed as thinking Chili’s/Applebee’s is the pinnacle of good cuisine. Now, a lot of ethnic cuisine cannot be found inside the Loop and you need to go to the Beltway to find it (Indonesian, Peruvian, Nigerian, Malaysian) but we get a Chili’s and an evil Chick-Fil-A right near downtown.” [eiioi, commenting on Comment of the Day: How We’re Remaking the Inner Loop] Illustration: Lulu

22 Comment

  • I agree, the inner loop dining experiences are greatly exaggerated. If you want good authentic food, you have to go to Chinatown, Korea town, Gulfton, Desi village, not the hipster facsimile in a trendy today, gone tomorrow location.

  • Sysco grub for all; and there are plenty of chains already in downtown — take a stroll through the tunnel system sometime. And douchington avenue isn’t exactly downtown.

  • Those places have always been outside the loop. Nothing new.

  • maybe it just means Houston is nothing more than a city of suburbs

  • Don’t know where you guys are going, but there are plenty of independent restaurants in the western portion of the inner loop between those chains, including ethnic foods like Greek, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Mediterranean, Chinese, Thai and many more.

  • Actually, some of these ethnic places in the Inner Loop, especially Chinese and some Thai, are basically what I call “gringo” places, the kind that are tailored to “white people’s” palates. (I dare you to find something like, say, Sichuan beef tripe in chili oil, at 369 Bistro. :-) ) Though there are exceptions here and there, I would say that the only kind of authentic ethnic cuisine in the Inner Loop would be some Vietnamese places in Midtown.

  • well that’s a slight exaggeration. From great Vietnamese at Pho Saigon in Midtown to delicious Thai at Asia Market in the Heights, not to mention Nippon on Montrose for Japanese, there are tons of very authentic restaurants in the loop if you know where to look. Of course you won’t find the same concentration as in the aforementionned areas, but that’s not really new is it? And if you’re into the trendy food scene (Underbelly, Pass/Provisions, Uchi,etc ) then it’s clearly ALL about the loop.

  • Completely agree with this. The ITL food offerings are exaggerated, unless you want the typical gormet stuff. The great ethnic food and the best restaurants are in the Southwest, no question. The east side of the loop does have some awesome Mexican food.

  • Yesterday, two of my coworkers (one from Pearland, one from Deer Park) were arguing about whether Olive Garden or Johnny Carino’s had “the best Italian food.” THAT is why people make fun of the suburbs.

  • How dare you besmirch the inner loop food scene.
    For those of you hating, come and actually eat off Washington, in the Heights, in Montrose, and yes, even in Midtown.
    There are great and diverse offerings of all kinds of food from home-cooking to BBQ to sushi to Lebanese to Greek to Tex-Mex to real Mex to Yucatan Mex.
    Do yourself a favor and get on Yelp, read Houstonia, and check out CultureMap.
    If anything, its not that the inner-loop is over-hyped (it’s not. lots of AMAZING restaurants), it’s that the suburbs are often overlooked. Especially the southwest like others have pointed out.
    I’ve eaten in NY, San Fran, LA, and NOLA. They all have amazing food scenes. Each has on or two things that it does best.
    What they don’t have is Houston’s diversity, quality, and (best yet) affordability when it comes to food. The inner loop is the load bearing beam of our food structure. Let us not forget that.

  • I don’t know why it should be a surprise that the inner loop isn’t the HQ of ethnic flavors. The primary residents and people who work in the inner loop (by mean I which downtown and the area west of I45) are primarily rich yuppies. The majority of the restaurants are yuppie new age gourmet type cuisine which is reflective of that. Dallas and Austin are really exactly the same. All major cities have chain restaurants within the city now so I don’t see that as unique.

  • I find the inner loop vs suburbs battle humorous. Its really a battle of yocals. Every one else can manage to find the best of inner and burb.

  • DNAguy: did you seriously write that NY, SF and LA food scenes don’t have the diversity that Houston has? hahahahahahahahahaha

  • @Matt
    The diversify, quality, AND affordability. All three together. Not an ‘OR statement, but an ‘AND’ statement.

  • The pattern in Houston is the same as in a lot of cities: Pricier “fine-dining” establishments are found in city centers and more desirable neighborhoods where rents tend to be higher, while the more interesting but less refined ethnic restaurants open in areas where rents are affordable for their (often recent immigrant) owners.
    There is a sort of built-in prejudice against paying fine-dining prices for certain types of ethnic foods. One often hears “I’m not paying $25 for Thai/Vietnamese/Mexican food.” We haven’t minded paying high prices for French or Italian food for at least two generations. And Japanese food followed a generation later. Spanish restaurants are commonplace, fine-dining Chinese food can now be found in many markets, and Houston has one of the finest Mexican restaurants in the country in Hugo’s.
    As 2nd generation immigrants come of age, you often see chefs receive “classical” training, gain experience in the country’s best restaurants, then connect this knowledge with the food they grew up with. I fully expect Houston to have, say, a top-notch fine dining Vietnamese restaurant within the next decade.

  • Order from the traditional menu (not the regular Chinese American menu) at O’Yeah Café on Kirby just south of 59. It’s the best real Chinese food that I’ve found close-in and it gives the folks on Bellaire at the beltway a run for their money. Trust me!
    For great Turkish food, try Turquoise Grill on Norfolk just east of Kirby.
    Order the drunken noodles at Nidda Thai on Westheimer near Montrose.
    I could go on and on but this isn’t Yelp, so I won’t. We have lots of great restaurants inside the loop, they’re just not necessarily on Main at Main.

  • Kanomwan, Huynh, Cajun Stop, Cafe TH… does East of Downtown but ITL not count? Oxheart is ITL. = ]

  • Niddha is disgusting, horribly Americanized and I can get better curry from a jar from Krogers..

  • The loop has no shortage of food experiences. And though there are some chains in the loop, nothing like the suburbs.

  • Queen Vic is the bomb, haters

  • Why do these things always devolve into an inner loop versus suburbs battle?

    Isn’t it possible that there’s great food both inside the loop and out of it? Isn’t it possible that you can find great “authentic” ethnic restaurants in Midtown, in Montrose, AND out 59? Why can they only exist in one location or another? I’m so tired of being told by people that you can only get “real” Chinese food if you go way out 59. Food is an evolving art–there’s no static idea of what an authentic ethnic cuisine is. And no one restaurant can claim to be the MOST authentic.

  • @Matt J

    Great comment. That’s all.