Eating Around the World: Global Cuisine in Montrose

By | September 2, 2014
Credit: Roan Matthews of crackedfox.com
Credit: Roan Matthews of crackedfox.com

Houston is a global city and the variety of ethnic restaurants here are a reflection of that. Montrose is one of the most diverse neighborhoods when it comes to dining out, with a multitude of cuisines represented in its ranks. Among them are hidden gems like Al’s Quick Stop, where late night revelers can fill up on falafel pitas inside a convenience store or well-recognized spots like Niko Niko’s, a restaurant featured on the Food Network’s national television show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. From Greece to India, here are just a few of the many neighborhood eateries that offer you a chance to eat around the world.

Greek/Mediterranean
As mentioned before, Niko Niko’s is one of Montrose’s more famous restaurants due to it’s appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Don’t miss the lamb meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce with feta cheese crumbled on top paired with their lemony potatoes. And there’s no excuse that will allow anyone to skip out on ordering the loukoumades, made-to-order balls of fried dough soaked in honey.

While Niko’s is famous for its generously portioned Greek food, Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine is known for the fluffiest, freshest pitas in town. They’re baked on a hearth and delivered to your basket the second they emerge from that oven. The pillowy pitas are still warm by the time you scoop up the creamiest hummus in town. Aladdin is known for their huge selection of veggies and salads, though their shawarma and lamb shanks are dreamy too.

More places for Mediterranean:
La Fendee
Al’s Quick Stop

Chinese
For dining in, Kam’s Fine Chinese Cuisine is the place to be, especially during the hours of 4-7 pm on weekdays when a happy hour offers discounted wines, beers and appetizers (try the dumplings). It’s also a suitable spot for a casual date night, lunch with friends and even business meetings. Another elegant place for Chinese, as well as sushi, is Cafe Ginger, located in the River Oaks Shopping Center.
When it’s a sit-in-front-of-the-television-in-pajamas evening, try 369 Oriental Bistro for delivery. The inexpensive Chinese menu is where you’ll find their famous spicy crispy asparagus, a dish with crunch, heat and deep fried spears of the namesake vegetable.

Japanese
It’s cozy and can sometimes get a little crowded in the small space it occupies, but Nippon is a favorite for sushi in the neighborhood. Sit at the sushi bar and watch the chefs prepare rolls, nigiri and sashimi, watch the world go by on the patio or find a corner table in the front dining room. For those not interested in raw fish-related dishes, there are plenty of traditional Japanese entrees — cooked — to please everyone.

While Nippon can get a bit cramped, Osaka is more spacious and open, with a modern look. Their sushi rolls are popular, but the menu also offers plenty of alternatives like soba noodles stir-fried with vegetables. The full bar is also an enticement when cocktails are in order.

Mexican
Count the James Beard Foundation as a fan of Hugo’s. Chef Hugo Ortega is a multiple nominee of the prestigious award, this year included. If that’s not endorsement enough to try the restaurant’s dishes, which reflect different regions of Mexico in their techniques and ingredients, at least come for a margarita.

Another restaurant featuring Mexican food — which is, in fact, different from Tex-Mex — is Cuchara. The traditional dishes of Mexico City come alive at this quirky little bistro with festive art found in every corner.

More places for Mexican food:
La Casa del Caballo
Tacos Tierra Caliente

Brazilian
It’s meat, meat and more meat at Nelore Churrascaria, where the Brazilian style of service known as rodizio is available for an all-you-can-eat feast. Guests usually start with a few veggies, cheeses, rice and beans at the salad bar and then move on to the main attraction: the traveling skewers. Servers come by in regular rotation to cut slices of rotisserie-roasted meats directly onto your plate until you think it’s time to call it quits.

Puerto Rican
It’s a matchbox of a restaurant, but the heart and soul of Tex-Chick are too big to be contained. The homestyle Puerto Rican food found here would be indistinguishable from that of a Puerto Rican grandmother-made Sunday dinner. Hours are limited, being open from 11 am to 7 pm Tuesday through Saturday, but there’s nowhere else in Houston quite like it.

Italian
The genre is well-represented in Montrose, with places like Paulie’s for casual lunches and dinners, plus perfect homemade pastas that hit the spot. There are also Houston classics like Nino’s and Vincent’s with their Italian villa-style complex on Dallas with a courtyard conducive to sipping wine and relaxing, with sister establishment Pronto Cucinino geared towards more take-out, and quicker meals.

But you can’t talk about Italian food in Montrose without mentioning the house(s) that James Beard Award-nominated chef Marco Wiles has built over the years. His fine dining restaurant, Da Marco, is still among the best of its kind in the country, while his more casual places Vinoteca Poscol and Dolce Vita are the hotspots for wine and charcuterie or a Neopolitan-style pizza respectively.

More places for Italian food:
Sorrento
Rivas Restaurant

French
If foie gras, pâté, cassoulet and other French dishes are counted among your favorites, Brasserie Max & Julie is just one of the restaurants in Montrose to meet your needs. The cozy brasserie feels like being transported directly to Paris. Equally charming in its own way is Au Petit Paris, yet another place for a foie fix. And don’t count out one of the newer kids on the block, L’Olivier, with a modern interior and raw bar.

More places for French food:
Georges Bistro

Indian
The exotic, earthy spices of Indian food are one reason to hit up chef James Beard Award-nominated chef Anita Jaisinghani’s jewel, Indika. From the flowing, vibrant cloths draped from the high ceilings in the wide open dining room, it’s as beautiful inside as the food is delicious. Don’t expect your typical saag paneer (not that there’s anything wrong with that); the food here is modern, marrying fresh ingredients from the bounty of the Gulf Coast with the spices and techniques of India.

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