It's been a long time since anyone associated the Reliant Park/South Main area as a dining destination. That said, there are several places worth a visit. Here are 10 recommended restaurants:
Beaucoup Bar & Grill: Created by two young Katrina evacuees who chose to make Houston their new home, the menu not surprisingly is New Orleans-inspired: gumbo, shrimp po’boys, fried catfish, pot roast sandwiches with caramelized onions and banana pudding. If for nothing else, drop in for a slab of Beaucoup’s decandent crawfish bread and a glass of homemade blueberry lemonade.
Captain Benny's: It’s fun to eat on the water, even when it’s just aboard one of Captain Benny’s land-locked faux oyster boats. The value priced seafood joint let’s you have your way -- broiled or fried - and the value is very good. The specialty is fried whole catfish. Just make sure you have plenty of patience for the bones.
Chacho's: Throngs of fans are drawn to this super casual Tex-Mex cafe by its low prices and mega menu. There’s more than 20 types of tacos and 40 ways to order nachos. While there are the requisite combination plates, the inclusion of half orders on quesadillas and burritos make ordering ala carte too tempting to pass up. Open 24 hours, San Antonio-born Chacho’s is perfect too for satisfying those late-night munchies.
Danny's Porch: The dining room is large and open, the bar is small and narrow, the menu is wide-ranging. There’s Asian dishes: lettuce wraps, fried rice and sweet and sour chicken. Meaty picks: baby back ribs, grilled ribeye and a burger topped with fried jalapenos. And a Cajun influence: blackened redfish, fried gator and classic po-boys. As the cliche goes, something for everyone. Service can be baffling but overall this place charms.
Dimassi's: For many Houstonians Dimassi’s was their first experience with Mediterannean cuisine. It’s well-priced, fresh-tasting fare in a comfortable space. And it’s a perfect spot if you have one of those ... whisper it like a true Texan ... vegetarians in your party.
Frenchy's Chicken: This is soul food done right. Aggresively seasoned fried chicken. Bacon-flecked, slow-cooked greens. Red beans and rice and buttermilk biscuit for sopping. Peach cobbler and sweet potato pie. And did we mention it is bargain priced? There’s seven locations in Houston, but the Reliant-area restaurant is one of the nicest and serves beer, wine and margaritas. The Creole-inspired patio is nice on a warm day.
Guy's Meat Market: This old fashioned meat market serves all its food to go. (And that’s not a bad thing with gorgeous Hermann Park and its abundant picnic tables just a couple miles down the road.) The barbecue is made with Guy’s signature rub (you can buy some of that, too). There’s a daily plate lunch available and, if you time it right, one of the best burgers in town.
Hank's Ice Cream Parlor: The pink and purple walls of Hank Wiggins’ tiny ice cream parlor are cluttered with memorabilia documenting more than 20 years of expanding Bayou City waistlines. Try a generous scoop of the incredibly indulgent banana-pudding ice cream. Wiggins’ butter pecan has few rivals, but the same can be said too of some of his more bizarre flavors: sweet potato, cotton candy, creamed corn and rose petal.
Pappasitos: This Houston-based chain is famous for its potent margaritas and huge portions. There are 10 locations in the greater Houston area and the Reliant Park restaurant is typical: always busy, frequently loud and always fun.
Pappas Barbecue: Family-owned (yeah, it’s related to Pappasito’s), Houston-based chain serves plates and by-the-pound barbecue, as well as burgers and meat-stuffed baked potatoes. There are 14 location in the great Houston area, but the Reliant Park spot is notable because it serves ice cold beer and $1 breakfast tacos. But not at the same time.