Texas

Update: Where to Find a Good Cup of Coffee in Spring and The Woodlands

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I’m always on the prowl for new and interesting places to get a good cup of coffee in the suburbs northwest of Houston. It’s easy to get spoiled by places like Blacksmith in the Montrose area, where every bean is meticulously sourced and the espresso drinks are made with such artistry. And though Spring and The Woodlands may not be known as bastions of coffee culture, you don’t have to resign yourself to a long wait in line at a certain American global coffee chain that shall remain nameless. So here, in no particular order, is a list of (mostly) local coffee houses and other spots out this way that take their coffee seriously.

This list is updated from time to time as new coffee shops pop up and as others, sadly, close their doors: Continue reading

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Back Where We Started: Finding Refuge During Wine & Food Week

Recently, we headed back to the place where it all started, way back in June of 2014, when your humble food and wine blogger put pen to paper (so to speak) to share a few thoughts about the The Refuge Bar & Bistro, the popular Waterway Avenue craft cocktail bar in The Woodlands. Local wine expert Denman Moody hosted a vertical tasting of Jordan wines, and it was held on the first night of Wine & Food Week.

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Well, here we are two years later, and Continue reading

Feasting on Manna Korean in North Austin

On a recent Saturday in downtown Austin, everyone was moving. Sidewalks were teeming with UT kids, happy to have reached the weekend. Panting joggers darted through intersections. Scullers zipped under the Congress Avenue Bridge that spans Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake). We, on the other hand, just needed some lunch. Preferably Asian in nature. And hopefully very close by, since it was going on 2:00 p.m., which for our family is a time so late in the day as to cause panic, hallucination and temporary vision and hearing loss if we have not yet eaten our second meal by then.

SIRI “suggested” a Mama Fu’s Asian House close by. We had never eaten at a Mama Fu’s. A little over a year ago, the chain opened its first location in Houston on West Gray, and, with 6 locations in Austin, it’s already a pervasive presence there. Great, then–lunch was settled.

Well, not so fast…

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Via Emilia in The Woodlands

Do we throw around an expression like “gracious service” these days? And is there a scarcity of places that provide it? In an age when some of the best upscale dining seems to require the symbols of self-consciously “unselfconscious” informality (sleeve tattoos, chef-owners in ball caps, exposed bricks and beams, communal tables, menus full of undecipherable sharing plates to be eaten in who knows what order), it’s nice to find a place that is going against the grain. Career waiters in ties? A straightforward menu? How daring! And the well-presented dishes taste like recipes from Mama. (Because they are.)

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Delicious Detours: Giving Thanks at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ

My dad came to visit from Louisiana a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Sort of an early holiday visit, since John and I had decided to take a vacation with the kids during Thanksgiving week. This time, my dad wanted to get out of the house and “see the sights.” When he told me this, my mind started clicking in about a dozen different directions. A lot of strategic planning is involved in showing my dad “the sights.” I figure it has to be something not too far from the house, something that is quintessential Texas, and, preferably for both of us, someplace where good eats are fairly close at hand. Why not Huntsville?

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Gringo’s Shines in New I-45 North Location

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The air was more than brisk as we pulled into the Spring Park Village retail development, north of FM 1960 on I-45. Our destination, the new location of Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen. (Disclosure: I was part of a group invited to a pre-opening event held a few days prior to the restaurant’s official opening. As guests, we were treated to dinner.) You won’t need your GPS to get here. The restaurant has maximum visibility, fronting the freeway service road, near the Spring High School exit, and is awash in the glow of the gargantuan Topgolf entertainment complex, which sits only a few hundred yards behind it.

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Not so very long ago, there was a single sleepy shopping center out this way, where Albertson’s and some other tenants languished and met their slow demise. But now, with the Exxon campus bursting forth only a few miles north and the latest leg of the Grand Parkway going in just up the road, this area has come to the attention of some heavy hitters, or maybe you would call them shooters and swingers. First Gander Mountain opened an outdoor megastore and shooting range, and then came Topgolf this past April. With a nearby Starbuck’s, an ATT store and several fast food places in the mix, it was just a matter of time before a casual dining chain took advantage of the retail and amusement synergy. That’s what Gringo’s has done, and if the crowds in recent weeks are any indication, they are doing it well.

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Desperately Seeking Sushi


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“You pick your fish, and I will create something, just for you,” says Masa Nagashima, head sushi chef and owner of Masa’s Sushi & Robata Bar in The Woodlands, Texas.  It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I am on my third visit to Masa’s, the latest test site in my search for good sushi.

I am not a sushi expert, but for many years, we have eaten it on a weekly basis, from all sorts of places. And because we eat it frequently, we’ve become a bit finicky. Craving we know not what, but dissatisfied with our current sushi venues, we find ourselves looking for something better.

And believe me, we’re game for anything, sourcing our sushi from every kind of eating establishment imaginable. Not to dwell on our disappointments, but our experiences have led me to compile a list of the kinds of sushi joints from which we now try to steer clear. Maybe you’ve sampled the sushi at some of these types of places too:

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