Lunar New Year (and more) in Houston!
January 30, 2014 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking a trip to Houston this weekend, and as it's Lunar New Year, I'm quite interested to see if the good people of AskMe know of any cool stuff happening in relation to that this weekend. I found this event, but I'm hoping to be pointed to more! Also, I'm interested in any can't-miss sights/eats/events as well!
posted by Maecenas to Travel & Transportation around Houston, TX (3 answers total)
Here's a guide to a lot of Lunar New Year events going on in Houston this year. It mentions the event you found, plus everything else I found except for this event for kids at the Children's Museum last weekend.

My usual recommendations for people passing through Houston are to see the Menil Collection--ideally, they'll have 1/4 to 1/2 of the building devoted to their substantial Surrealism collection, but sometimes they have very little up--and the associated Cy Twombly Gallery and Rothko Chapel. That's all free and usually not crowded. My other favorite tourist destination in Houston is Bayou Wildlife Park (a feed-the-animals encounter on a sort of farm many miles south of town; get there when it opens).

For food, one local Texas chain I really like is Torchy's Tacos (there's one maybe a mile from the Menil). I also recommend having some Tex-Cajun Fries with your po' boy at BB's Café. You seem to be in North Carolina, so I won't recommend any Texas BBQ places--I suspect big slabs of brisket would be a grave disappointment.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:55 PM on January 30, 2014

Best answer: Our Chinatown is one of the largest, but it's a Houston-style Chinatown -- spread out, not much decoration. We actually have 2 ("Old Chinatown" and "New Chinatown"), and this is about the "new" one -- the one that came into being maybe 30 to 40 years ago. Many people moved themselves and their businesses to the new one because real estate costs had gotten too high in the old one, which was near downtown.

Our Chinatown doesn't have the things other cities have. For example, there's no "friendship arch" at the beginning, tall buildings with colorful signs hanging vertically, bustling sidewalks lit festively with red lights at night. What we do have is Houston-style -- huge population, spread out across miles, and not limited to one ethnicity (our Chinatown is just as much Vietnamese as Chinese, with people from Vietnam and Korea, as well as other Asian countries, in addition to people from China). You can find lots of shops, big and small, some excellent restaurants, and street signs in multiple languages.

I found the website for the celebration at Viet Hoa. If you are looking for a map, this is at 8388 W. Sam Houston Parkway South. This is at the Beltway (Sam Houston Tollway) and Beechnut. Most restaurants, though, are on Bellaire Blvd., which is one street north of Beechnut (not a walkable distance). There will be a large number of people (the website says 50,000), and booths, and it's free and goes on for 2 days (Saturday and Sunday). If it were me, I'd spend a bit of time at the festival, then go down Bellaire for some pastries, a proper meal, a little shopping, and another proper meal. And maybe another meal.

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but... please don't each Tex-Mex or BBQ if you are going through Chinatown. Go ahead and eat there, while you visit! We have amazing restaurants in that area. Here are a few of my favorites, and links to their Yelp reviews so that you can read up and see if they are interesting to you, too. There are hundreds of restaurants -- maybe this will help narrow it down for you.

(A lot of smaller places are cash-only.)

- Sinh Sinh, 9788 Bellaire Blvd: This is my favorite restaurant in Houston. They have Vietnamese and Chinese food. They also have 2 menus -- one for gringos that's laminated and has big colorful pictures, and one that's like a book, maybe about 10 pages long, dense type in 3 or so languages listing all their offerings. If you are not Asian, they will give you the laminated menu by default. It's an ok menu with most of the favorites listed, but it is also ok to ask for the other menu. My favorite dishes: Walnut shrimp, vegetable with black mushrooms, lemongrass chicken, a sea cucumber dish with vegetables, seafood clay pot with XO sauce, shrimp spring rolls.

- Olympic Chinese Bakery, 8256 Bellaire Blvd.: This is a small shop tucked away in a strip shopping center. You pick up a plastic basket near the door, fill it up with pastries (some are unwrapped - just pick up with the tongs and put in your basket), and then go to the counter to pay. My favorites: There's a fried dough pastry with black sesame seeds sprinkled on it near near the front. It glistens with a stickiness that I think is a karo syrup. You do want these. (I see a yelper posted a picture of these -- here!). Also, you want mooncakes with lotus paste filling, and wifecakes, and anything else that catches your eye.

Those are my top 2 favorite places. Below, a few more that are also excellent but I'll give a lot less detail because otherwise I'll be typing all day:

- Parisian Bakery, 8300 W. Sam Houston Parkway S.: There are three locations, and this is right near the festival I mentioned. Crossants, banh mi, and other French-influenced Vietnamese bakery/cafe items.

Then going back from the festival to Bellaire Blvd., from west to east on Bellaire:

- Hong Kong City Mall, 11205 Bellaire Blvd.: Not a mall in the traditional sense, but kinda. This is built around the Hong Kong grocery store, which is interesting in its own right and I recommend a visit. The grocery store is huge, and has everything from snacks and teas to candies and dishes. Around Hong Kong is an indoor mall type of area with stores that sell beautiful fabrics, gifts and trinkets, jewelry, services, electronics. And lots of food (Alpha Bakery is good), and even a food court.

- Eck Bakery, 6918 Wilcrest (Wilcrest at Bellaire Blvd.): Eck is actually an acronym: Egg Custard King. Grab some pastries with egg custard, then get back on Bellaire and go under Sam Houston Tollway to...

- Sandong Noodle House, 9938 Bellaire Blvd.: Wildly popular noodle place. Recommended: Roast beef noodle soup, pan-fried dumplings. Very inexpensive, cash only.

- King Bakery, 9889 Bellaire Blvd.: Coconut buns, buns with BBQ pork (so very good), pastries with meats and cheeses and green onions.

- Banana Leaf, 9889 Bellaire Blvd.: A little more expensive but not costly, this is a really good Malaysian restaurant. Beef satay and roti canai, nasi lamek, beef rendang, and kangkung, with iced milk tea to drink.

- Xiong's Cafe, 9888 Bellaire Blvd.: Another small place. Pork and cucumber (za jiang), noodles with peanut sauce, panfried chive cake.

- House of Bowls, 6650 Corporate Dr. at Bellaire Blvd.: Hong Kong-style snacks. Salt and pepper fried chicken wings, beef chow fun, hot Coke with lemon and ginger, French toast with peanut butter and condensed milk.

- Bodard Bistro, 9140 Bellaire Blvd (next to the neighborhood HPD office): Known for one thing in particular: Spring rolls with ground pork (nem nuong), with sauce.

(All of that to say, I love Mexican food, Tex-Mex, and BBQ, and we do all of that really well. But when in Chinatown, eat in Chinatown!)
posted by Houstonian at 8:14 AM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

I guess I should mention that there are other things to do in Houston besides eat in Chinatown, not that you'd know it from my previous post. Reddit has a pretty good sidebarred list with links, so I recommend checking it out.
posted by Houstonian at 9:21 AM on January 31, 2014

« Older What language to include in an agreement to move...   |   Evolution of labor markets? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.