What's good in downtown Houston?
February 10, 2017 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to a conference, staying at the convention center. I'll be in Houston Sunday-Wednesday, looking for food recommendations (vegetarian/pescatarian, ethnic) and also a pie-in-the-sky spa desire, within.

I live in a mid-sized city myself, so I get my fill of standard issue city things on the daily. But going to a new city I always like to see if there's something it has that mine doesn't.

One thing that my city criminally does not have is the type of spa I desire. Basically my perfect spa is like the one at the Bedford Springs resort: it's got a big room of various temperature plunges, pools, showers and saunas, and it also has a separate lounge area with chaises and blankets and fluffy robes and herbal teas and magazines where one is encouraged to just chill for however long you want. They also offer spa services but quite honestly I only get the massage so I have an excuse to use all the other stuff.

Does Houston have such a thing?

And also the food thing. I like food. I have a per diem allowance. Feed me.
posted by soren_lorensen to Travel & Transportation around Houston, TX (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So I can't give you specific restaurant recommendations but maybe this will guide your search: Houston (in addition to tex-mex) has a sizeable Vietnamese community and my friends who live there are always raving about excellent Vietnamese food.
posted by dismas at 8:30 AM on February 10, 2017

Houston has really good food trucks, and if your conference is big enough for the convention center an assortment will flock to the nearby blocks to feed folks that don't want the overpriced crap available within. There's also a vacant lot a few blocks away where they gather on weekends to serve the convention trade (weekdays, it's parking) but I can't remember exactly where it's located. Take a break, get outside, wander around to check out the options, and enjoy!
posted by carmicha at 8:45 AM on February 10, 2017

I'm not aware of such a spa downtown, but the Houstonian is a dream.

Downtown ethnic food central is Phoenicia, they also have events/live music. Dude, they have everything and you can walk from the convention center.

Vegan Pho from Simply Pho a bit south in midtown, or, if you want walking distance, Huynh is pretty great.

Coastal Mexican seafood from La Fisheria. Kind of a walk from the Convention Center, but do-able or train-able.
posted by *s at 8:50 AM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speaking of needing a break (can you tell I hate being inside convention centers?), there are two nice outdoor spaces pretty much adjacent to the convention center. Root Square is basically northwest, but the one I enjoyed more for people watching is just off the CC's southwest tip. It had a basketball court where a really outstanding pickup game was happening basically non-stop and, in the classic manner, featured monuments to historic buildings torn down to develop the district.
posted by carmicha at 8:54 AM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Les Givrals in midtown has the best bahn mi(tofu included). Don't miss it.
posted by monologish at 8:59 AM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, you're going to love Phoenicia. It's walking distance - like three blocks! - just across from Discovery Green from you, and their selection is fabulous. It's a market and a grocery store all in one; a lotttt of great ethnic food and serve-yourself style options, and MKT Bar just 'round the corner in the same location is lovely if you want a drink to nosh with what you got. (And along the same lines is Local Foods, whose other locations I absolutely adore! But frankly it's a little further from you, so maybe keep it for a drop-in if you're hungry in the area. They have such good vegetarian & vegan options. Really appreciate the vibe.)

On the more casual side of things, you might check out Conservatory, an excellent little downstairs brew-room that has four restaurant stands in it. It can be a little noisy, but if you and a colleague want to take it easy in the evenings, this place is your spot. Of significant interest to you will be the Jian Bing from Melange Creperie. So so so so good. Worth a lil' trip to Main St. And for your other options, Myth Kafe (a Greek Spot there!), lovely ramen from Samurai Noodle, and a decent-enough BBQ joint.

Check out Huynh Restaurant on the other side of 59 from you. I love our Vietnamese restaurants here in town. No exception here. This one's a gem, and I wish that I got over to this side of town more for this restaurant because it's totally worth my time. Over East there, too, oh my gosh, if you'd like some ethnic food, do I have a rec for you. Worth the trip!!! I mean it. Andes Cafe. Venezuelan, Peruvian, Columbian. It's a little hard to find, so message me if it sounds good, and I can give you some pointers on spotting it, but I think you'll adore their selection. Authentic eclecticism, a little bit upscale, just lovely staff. Great for brunch as well as a tapas meal during happy-hour pricing times. Let me know if you want to get out and explore Houston... there's a few places like Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant that are off your grid but are An Experience. Ethnic for us is often outside downtown.

Everyone raves about the Houstonian, but I haven't personally been there yet. Check 'em out though, I think you'll be pleased.
posted by a good beginning at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are many great seafood restaurants in Houston. My personal favorite is Pappadeaux, where the cooking is mostly Cajun-Creole. I also like Pappas Seafood (same owners, different style) and Goode Company Seafood (do not confuse with Goode Company Barbecue), but there are literally hundreds of others.
posted by ubiquity at 9:48 AM on February 10, 2017

Houstonian here!

The aforementioned Huynh is indeed specTACular, but Houston is also a cornucopia of treasures on the food and drink front, no kidding.

As for downtown spas, I know nothing, but the Houstonian is indeed renowned -- just not that close to downtown. There is, however, a Four Seasons on the eastern side of downtown that might have such things; I really just don't know.

For DRINK, though, you simply must avail yourself of the happy hour at PUBLIC SERVICES (202 Travis). It's run by mad booze geniuses in a historic building, and during happy hour all wine is half price -- bottle or glass. They also have a really amazing spirits collection. (Closed on Sunday, though.)

Most of the really great food is actually outside downtown, but the downtown area DOES include the Conservatory (1010 Prairie), home to several smaller purveyors including a really great crepe maker (Melange Creperie) and a fine selection of beers on tap.

If I wanted to make a great impression on you about Houston food, I'd find a way to get you to UNDERBELLY over in Montrose. It can be downright spendy or merely slightly expensive, depending on what you order, but the food is out of sight.

It shares a building with a fantastic beer bar called Hay Merchant, which you might want to check out if you like beer. Across the sidestreet from those two is a wonderful coffeeshop called Blacksmith that owns my heart.
posted by uberchet at 12:55 PM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Had to swing back through and second uberchet's recs. Underbelly: Holy moly, what a time. It's near-universally esteemed by my friends as being the place worth spending 'a little extra' money on. I think there's menus online. Go for it. Hay Merchant: Check that $3 happy hour pricing (some really great pints and tulips). Pairs very nicely post- Museum of Fine Arts Houston trip.
posted by a good beginning at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2017

There's the original Ninfa's on Navigation, though I think El Tiempo (also on Navigation) is better. It's been 2 years since I moved away from Houston, and I so miss the food.
posted by smcameron at 8:56 PM on February 10, 2017

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