I’ll Take a Table Up in Front by the Bumpers, Please

I’LL TAKE A TABLE UP IN FRONT BY THE BUMPERS, PLEASE Winning the top spot in Houston Press food critic Katharine Shilcutt’s personal accounting of the 5 ugliest restaurant buildings in Houston: “Anything in a strip center.” And with that award, these comments: “. . . that’s roughly half the restaurants in Houston. You’d think that because they’re so predominant, it would have gotten easier by now to convince wary friends that a place is good even if it’s sandwiched between a Smoke ‘n’ Toke and a payday loan place on Gulfton. But books will always be judged by their covers — and restaurants are no different. I’m tooling with a theory right now in which one of the main reasons Houston is so ignored on the national scene is because so many of our great restaurants are in shitty, suburban strip malls. But it’s a great Catch-22: These amazing restaurants have moved into low-rent areas . . . because it’s easier to take bigger risks and open fledgling businesses when your overhead is low. Alas, eight lanes of Westheimer traffic don’t have quite the allure that Williamsburg does. . . .” Other non-strip winners in Shilcutt’s book: Lucky Burger, Sparkle’s Hamburger Spot on Dowling, Aladdin on Lower Westheimer, and Ruth’s Chris on Richmond Ave. [Eating Our Words] Photo: Tier 2 Business Brokers

13 Comment

  • I don’t want to wade into any of Swamplot’s patented Suburbia vs. Urban Living flame wars, so I’ll leave the “shitty suburban strip center” comment alone… But I just wanted to say, Sparkle’s is ugly as hell, but damn, what a burger!

  • Wow, really went out on a limb, huh, Shillicut? You start with a decent idea, crappy restaurant buildings, and then, rather than actually write a story worth reading, you take the easy route by hammering the strip centers….again. I rank the effort put into this story at right about the same as that put forth by the architects of those strip centers, which is to say, very little worth noting.

    In fact, I wonder why Swamplot even wasted space on this.

  • Aww, there’s at least something nostalgic about dining in an old A&W Barrel (Lucky Burger)..

  • Sparkle Hamburger Spot ugly? I have always found it a visual delight. Love the old-time graphics and that robins’ egg blue. It’s a gem.

  • Strip malls are to a city what acne is to a prom queen.

  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by Sparkle Burger and wanted to stop, but the crowds are just intimidating when I’m alone.

    I don’t have to “hurry and get back to work” so I’ve not felt justified in taking a place in line.

    Maybe I’ll have to get a neighbor to go with me.

  • Amen. As long as the car drives (geddit?) development here, the dire, formulaic architectural cold sore that is the strip mall will continue to thrive in Houston.

  • “…acne on a prom queen?” Pretty accurate. Houston is awkwardly young & still growing. The city definitely has beauty but is not as coldly perfect as an aging star who is the product of the best plastic surgery money can buy & a really expensive stylist.

    We won’t become Disney sanitized for a long time–meanwhile, we’ll struggle for better architure & eat very well….

    Whats to be intimidated by? Just normal people standing outside of the building/ sitting at the picnic tables?

  • Speaking of Lucky Burger… Maria Selma, in the same center, has to be in one of the ugliest places in Montrose yet it’s awesome (and never crowded for some reason).
    Oh, and the Thai place by the Radio Shack on Westheimer. That shopping center is ugly as all hell, and the decor of that restaurant is the worst I’ve seen — but it’s one of my favorite Thai places.

  • Cody,

    Gotta agree with you on the ugly factor for Maria Selma’s/Orange bar and on the food at Nidda Thai, but Maria Selma’s is pretty underwhelming compared to its competition up and down Richmond. Everyone has their favorite Richmond Tex-Mex, I guess.

  • Cody, Paul,

    I have fond memories of Nidda Thai, great food that absolutely crippled my college-student wallet. It truly is dreadful to look at, though. Fun fact: it’s owned by Thai Chuck from AA Auto Care on Shepherd, great mechanic!

  • Shilcutt is stuck up. What constitutes ,in her mind, nice architecture? She’s such a food snob. Let’s see the food critic design a half way decent looking building ,in Houston-with all of the mind numbing regulations – on a budget that allows for a good chef/staff/interior decor. Oh that’s right- she CAN’T. Snarky critics are all frustrated failed cooks/chefs/ designers,who deign to know better but DON’T !!!