Just 20 miles southwest of downtown Houston, Pearland is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. It's nearly 71 square miles of strip centers, man-made lakes and quiet cul-de-sacs.
To the casual observer, it also is a town without a touch of culinary flair. And it is true that all the chains can be found: Denny's, IHOP, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGI Friday's and, yes, two Chili's. But Pearland also is home to some mom-and-pop places worthy of the drive.
Here are my favorites:
Center Court Pizza & Brew
I love the atmosphere in this little sports bar that is also Little Leaguer-friendly. The staff is friendly, almost chummy to a fault. The menu is big and heavy on fried finger foods, but that goes hand in hand with being a sports bar.
What really earns this place fans is the pizza. Not too thick, not too thin, these pizzas are consistently good. The homemade sauces -- pesto, alfredo and two marinaras -- are paired with quality toppings including crisp red onion, fresh basil and roasted garlic and generous amounts of mozzarella. A sure thing is the Buffalo Chicken pizza with its wing sauce and ranch dressing drizzle.
Center Court has a full bar and happy hour specials most nights.
D Caribbean Curry Spot
It's just awful when bad things happen to good people. In this case, it's (de)construction crews wreaking havoc with this West Indian cafe's parking lot.
It's a testament to the terrific food that folks try to navigate the place at all.
It's counter service only, but that's good because you can glimpse the fare of the day on the steam table: rich ox tail stew, tender curried goat, spicy jerk chicken, beef pelau and that most traditional dish, bake and shark, which is crisply fried fish. There's fried roti filled with all forms of protein, including duck.
My favorite fare may be the simple doubles, handmade breads topped with curried chickpeas and a dab of hot sauce.
The staff will allow you to sample anything before you buy. So grab a ginger beer or some coconut water out of the cooler and enjoy.
This sprawling seafood emporium sits on the far east side of Pearland, just a good throw from the Friendswood city limits sign. On Friday and Saturday nights, it can be packed with families who appreciate the generous portions of perfectly fried seafood.
The gumbo is solid, and when paired with an oyster po'boy, makes for a nap-inducing lunch. Don't miss the nicely seasoned, ribbon-thin onion rings.
And Floyd's is a good bet during crawfish season as the cooks here know that boiled mudbugs should be spicy.
Even if you never been to Pearland, it's likely you've heard of this steakhouse.
It's been a favorite of Houston foodies and steak snobs since Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook wrote about the restaurant early in 2007: "Simple, meticulously seared prime steaks, beautifully seasoned and prepared with an unerring eye for degree of doneness." Known for her stinginess with the stars, Cook gave it 2, ranking it with the likes of Vic & Anthony's and Strip House.
I love Killen's unpretentious dining room, the ramshackle building and the welcoming staff. I can't get enough of the creamy spinach, the fresh seafood and, most of all, the creme brulee bread pudding.
You should really go, now.
Every town deserves one really reliable sushi house. This place is Pearland's.
It's pretty dining room with the shades all drawn will help you forget the bustle of Broadway, the city's clogged-at-all-hours main thoroughfare. The sake helps, too.
Little Tokyo's sushi menu is encyclopedic, which can be daunting. But the young servers seem ready and able to steer you in a tasty direction. There's two bars, a sushi and belly-up-to one, and a large selection of moderately priced bento boxes.
And I'd be remiss not to mention Gringo's Mexican Kitchen. Russell Ybarra's small Tex-Mex chain got its start in Pearland, where the locals still face long waits at the original store on East Broadway. The fajitas and enchiladas are faily standard, but the chips and salsa are above average and the prices are fair for the quality and portion. If you find yourself shopping at the shiny new Pearland Town Square, this is one of your few locally-owned options. The new restaurant is massive and has a terrific hacienda feel, without the kitsch. And I like the friendly staff, especially the bartender who waved me off a specialty margarita that she labeled "just awful." I appreciate the honesty.
Here are some other mentions of Pearland restaurants on 29-95:
And here's a link to see all the Pearland restaurants found on 29-95. If your favorite is missing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.