Texas is home to a wide array of culinary delights and decently sized portions to suit any palate. After going vegetarian/vegan on Sundays as of two years ago , I have become addicted to the adventure of discovering healthy eats around Houston. We all know that H-Town is known for its cyber cafes and coffee
Texas is home to a wide array of culinary delights and decently sized portions to suit any palate. After going vegetarian/vegan on Sundays as of two years ago , I have become addicted to the adventure of discovering healthy eats around Houston. We all know that H-Town is known for its cyber cafes and coffee shops, but it’s the greasy Mexican food that stands out as the frontrunner. Let’s dig up the healthy joints, from Tex-Mex to late night diners and bars.
First stop: the newly acclaimed Torchy’s Tacos. These shops have shown up all over the state and will soon be extending up across the West Coast. Torchy’s serves up some healthy Mexican-style grub. The corn tortillas are stone-ground, and the beans are pork-free, with no lard lingering around in the kitchen. My favorite item on the menu is the classic bean and cheese taco with chopped onions, tomato, cilantro and avocado. For those who prefer it crunchy, Torchy’s offers a fried avocado taco as well, with hand-battered fresh avocados flash-fried and served with vegetarian refried beans, topped with pico, lettuce, and sprinkled with authentic cotija cheese, served with homemade poblano sauce on a fresh corn tortilla. Another healthy option is called The Independent taco, which features hand-battered, flash-fried portobello mushroom strips with refried black beans, roasted corn, carrots, queso fresco, cilantro and avocado drizzled with ancho aioli on a warm flour tortilla. Although the shops are spread out all over Houston now, I still prefer the Heights and Rice Village locations, which also offer outdoor seating. The Montrose and the Upper Kirby neighborhoods house many appealing finds for foodies. One of the local favorites sits at the famous West Avenue, at the corner of Westheimer and Kirby. At
Pondicheri, fame has been built around a love of spices. This crafty kitchen uses fresh, locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible. Most dishes and desserts use nuts, ghee, lentils, and an array of healthy spices like turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg and different curries. The vegetable Frankie tops my list – loaded with peanut chutney, fresh avocado, cucumber, dal, cauliflower and pickles, wrapped in a carrot roti. It’s the most incredible version of a Indian taco. Most of the dishes are moderately spicy; however, the level of heat may vary due to the variety of fresh, dry chiles used in the cooking process. Owned by the same family who owns Indika Indian Restaurant, this is a true gem with Indian food at its best – serving up magical Mumbai street food the industrially chic Pondicheri way. On Mondays, it offers a meatless menu with tantalizing dishes. From spicy noodles with peanuts and scallions to barley soup, anyone on a health kick will enjoy a visit to this modern Indian fusion eatery. There also is a second-floor marketplace with coffee, smoothie and fresh juice bars.
Rice Village is a popular spot for college students and the locals, too. Tucked into a shady grove, Istanbul is the first and most authentic Turkish restaurant in Houston. It’s a hidden treasure that makes Houston a definitive International destination. The hummus is
a must-have here, with its silky texture whipped to perfection. This cozy cafe offers a vegetarian Lahmacun Platter, stacked with a variety of eggplant dips, dolmas, salads, and garden vegetables. Another dish to dive into is the Mantar, featuring mushrooms stuffed with fresh mozzarella and parsley, boiled in ahouse-made tomato sauce and served with rice and salad. The Etsiz Turlu (ratatouille) is a favorite, too, boasting a colorful olive oil stew of eggplant, green beans, zucchini, potatoes, carrots and green peppers intertwined with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and crushed mint. On the other edge of town, toward the Heights district, you will find Backstreet Cafe, owned by Hugo Ortega, of Caracol and Hugo’s fame. Backstreet Cafe offers a menu of tasty Mexican fusion with vegetarian and gluten-free options available. The healthy choices include an heirloom tomato flatbread plate with arugula , parmesan, and lemon. It also offers a grilled peach with goat Cheese and basil salad?, and a fabulous cherry tomato tartine with grilled bread, goat cheese and fresh herbs. The standout dish at Backstreet Cafe is all the rage: a roasted pear salad with blue cheese, dried fruit and mixed nuts. Caracol also serves up a fabulous vegetarian menu that hits the spot. Whether you are new to Houston or just visiting for a quick weekend Getaway, these local spots will have you coming back for more. Whether you seek tacos or salads, if you are trying to live healthfully, follow my leads and indulge your taste buds.
By Bobby Wells Jr.