Houston Roundup

My first trip to Houston since moving away 9 months ago was filled with nothing but celebration and my favorite eats. I revisited some classics and tried a few new. Here's the rundown of these Texas noms:

Local Foods. With 5 locations you're never too far away from delicious vegan options. While I went for lunch, I recommend dining there at dinner time to sample one of their innovative nightly specials (see my earlier review of their chicken fried mushroom platter here). This time around I had their falafel sandwich with sweet pea hummus and cashew cream with sides of pesto orzo and pickles. The portion was humongous (exactly what I needed after a long flight) and the flavors just sang. Delicious!

Verdine. Ripe Cuisine was one of the few all-vegan spots in town for many years. Unfortunately, it was just a food truck so there was limited time to catch them during the week. Chef Stephanie recently opened her brick and mortar and rebranded to Verdine (see my earlier review for Ripe's fried okra poboy here). The restaurant was extremely busy (loved to see they were doing great business), so I got the sesame orange cauliflower to-go. The florets were lightly battered, tempura style, in a sweet and slightly spicy citrus sauce with bits of green onion and pickled daikon. I know we all think we make good cauliflower...but damn, they have perfected it. 

Field of Greens. I like to try new things, but when I go to Field of Greens, I always get the Vegan Village Tofu burger. Why? The fried basil encrusted yuba (i.e. bean curd skin--see my guide to tofu for more info!) makes this the most delicious sandwich in the world. Oh, and the other slab of tofu and sprouts don't hurt either. The seasoning on the fries is legendary.

Jinya. On the afternoon it was raining really hard, we headed to Jinya because it was a few blocks from where we were staying (super convenient!). It's actually a chain, so check their website to see if there's one near you. The Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen is chock full of the best things on earth: silken tofu, thick al dente noodles, fried onion and garlic and chili oil. So much flavor in one bowl. Sweet dreams are made of thi-is.

Aladdin. The 4 veggie plate at this Mediterranean staple means you get your pick of 4 delicious veggie options. Sounds great--but picking only four is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. The cold lentil salad has the perfect texture with a nice herbiness and bright acidity. The eggplant stew is hearty and a little sweet from pomegranate (and one of the most unique tasting dishes I've had). The fried cauliflower is just that--so how do they make it taste like 100 bucks? Lastly, the lemon veggies are light, and a perfect counternote to the rest of the plate.

Tacodeli. Yes, I pre-judged and thought the name was absurd when I first heard it. You too? Good, more vegan tacos for me. The Freakin' Vegan seems so simple, like it might be boring. But they pack an enormous amount of flavor into those refried beans. And don't get me started on their salsas. Their roja is smokey, spicy and richly tomatoey. Lordy. Their chips and guac are also a must. The guac is deceivingly spicy because it's so tangy, but it is littered with jalapeno. Lastly, the horchata (a soaked rice beverage with cinnamon) is dairy-free and is not to be missed. I'm usually too cheap to buy beverage with my meals (hey, water is free), but I never skip Tacodeli horchata.

Sinfull Bakery. Did you really think I'd come to Houston and not get Sinfull? Yeah, I didn't think so. I grabbed their everything bar from Agora. It's like a soft granola bar, cookie hybrid that is fantastic. 

Simply Pho. Houston is famous for it's many Vietnamese restaurants. Simply Pho was an absolute favorite just a hop skip and a jump from where I lived in Montrose. They have a sizable vegetarian section, and I would either get the tofu banh mi, garlic tofu or lemongrass tofu. Word to the wise--skip the faux meat when a restaurant has tofu this damn good. The outside is chewy and the inside is soft and airy. And the large slices of garlic should be mandatory for every dish. Incredible!

Phoenicia. What can I say, there are very few international food stores that do it like Phoenicia. The pistachio apricot orzo salad, eggplant ikra (a smokey, tangy dip), and tabbouleh is where it's at. Their fresh thin pita is chewy and sometimes you can grab a bag when it's still warm from the oven. Heaven. I also raided their spice aisle and took home a bunch of interesting seasonings. Stay tuned for that!

Teabysea. The Rose Milk Tea was recommended to me by the barista. With  housemade rose syrup and almond milk, this drink was lightly sweet and slightly floral. It was so refreshing on a hot day. I'm glad I got to try this relatively new addition to the Heights.