Mom and Pop Eateries
Half the Fun Finding One and Getting There
Absolutely nothing spells comfort like devouring fabulous food from a mom and pop restaurant in one's home town. What is it that makes the mom and pop owned cookery so special? Typically as smaller establishments, limited or no advertising means these establishments must truly depend on great food to become a local favorite and stay in business for the long haul. Therefore finding one of these fine restaurants is half the fun. One can live in a big city for years and never try a fraction of the restaurants there. At latest count, Houston boasted over 7,000 restaurants. Wow, what is a person to do? My advice is to go where the locals go when searching for family owned, mom and pop eateries. The chain restaurants certainly offer some great grub as well, but experience that special feeling that only a mom and pop scene provides.
To get the connoisseur started on a mom and pop search in Houston, the following list sends the diners to eateries both in and around the Houston area.
Café Rita (Houston)
Middle Eastern food is the name of the game at Cafe Rita on Diary Ashford. Eating there likens to visiting an Armenian grandparents' house for lunch according to one review. George and Rita boast ownership of the establishment. Rita stays in the kitchen, clad in apron; to make certain the food qualifies as great. George greets diners with a friendly, "I am glad you are here" tone. Specials offer interesting twists to the menu. To not be missed are the soups . Fava bean loaded with lemon and garlic as well as the peppery bean variety beg for attention and do not disappoint.
Tex Chick (Houston)
Although Tex Chick competes with the best of the them in the hotly competitive market of Mexican food in Houston, some swear by the chicken fried steak and burgers here as indescribably good. Know that this tiny restaurant offers a total of four tables to diners. Owners Ted and Carmen Gonzales serve up their lovingly prepared food as if their guests were, well, guests! This hidden jewel on Fairview deserves a visit. Go hungry. Be amazed.
Mel's Country Café (Tomball)
Right outside of Houston an easily accessible freeways is Tomball. Home-cooked meals for a reasonable price name the game here. In 1950, Ella Goodson worked as a waitress at Mel's when the owner decided to sell. "Ma" Goodson bought the restaurant and shortly afterwards saw an oil boom in the area. Business bustled then and still does today. Healthy alternatives such as grilled chicken and fish grace the menu, but arguably, one major call to fame is the Chicken Fried Steak. The debate on who has the best chicken fried steak in any city in Texas potentially sparks heat. Mel's Country Café no doubt stands to garner a top ranking in that battle. Ma's version of the famous dish has appeared in many publications and on television specials. Most recently, the Travel Channel featured the diner as a "DEEP FRIED PARADISE." The desserts claim fame too. Some still refer to the restaurant as Goodson's Café or "Ma" Goodson's.
Nick's Italian Restaurant (Richmond)
Chain establishments offer good Italian food in Houston and are ubiquitous to the restaurant scene. When we want what we consider the very best Italian food, we head to Richmond to Nick's. Again, it is a bit outside of mainstream Houston but worth the drive to west of town site. Nick, the Greek owner, is the greeter when he is there, which is usually. Homemade pasta, sauces, and fabulous daily chef specials excite the palate. The garlic bread rules. A favorite of ours above any other Italian restaurant is the eggplant parmesan. This non-breaded version of the classic dish wins as the very best of the best.
Shrimp N Stuff (Galveston)
Seafood establishments abound in Houston. After all, the bustling city is only forty miles from the coast. Sure, great seafood graces menus in the city, but many head to the coast when in search of what they believe the best. The Galveston seawall boats seafood restaurants from fancy casual. However, when we want to visit our favorite place, we head to the tiny, lime green establishment called Shrimp N Stuff. Guaranteed there are gumbo, delectable fried and grilled seafood, and the most fabulous shrimp salad ever. Enjoy fresh, quality seafood at a fraction of the price of some of the seawall upscale eateries.
While we are talking about being near the coast, Tookie's bears more than a mention as an institution. As a favorite of ours for years, Hurricane Ike a few years back "took out" Tookie's, totally destroying it. The land was cleared, and we just knew a favorite institution was gone. To our extreme pleasure we learned that the institution recently reopened. The burgers and chalupas are fabulous, just fabulous. The onion rings claim a following all their own. I even heard a radio station one morning debating how in the world they make the yummy rings. I have to say though, a one reason we love Tookie's is the old-fashioned fountain cherry, vanilla and chocolate soft drinks with unlimited refills! Malts and shakes please at this retro-style restaurant. Get a Tookie's shirt while there to spread the word on this fabulous find right at the bottom of the bridge to Kemah.
Luigi's Pizzeria (Houston)
Luigi's Pizzeria on Almeda offers lovingly made, homemade pizza pies in an era of mediocre buffet and home delivery pizzas. So delightfully typical in a mom and pop establishment, the owner works the kitchen. At Luigi's, diners find their food delivered by his daughter. Thin crust pizza, topped with the freshest of cheese and ingredients, lives here. The simple menu posts daily to a chalkboard and goes beyond pizza with salads, canzones, and pasta. Remember to save room for the fabulous gelato to end the perfect meal. Once you go to Luigi's, you will return/
Telewink Grill (Houston)
A line many people deep forms in front of Telewink on Telephone Road often only to attest to the greatness of the place. Simply put, the food here is amazing. The only complaint here is that they are only open for breakfast and lunch. The diner type food offers a throwback to yesteryear in quality and price. Favorites include the oh-so-sausage-laden gravy and chicken fried steak. The slightly noise, bustling pace adds to the fun atmosphere. Reviews online tell the story of this Houston legendary establishment.
Detailed here are but a few of our favorites. Exploring restaurants offers a treasure hunting experience that transcends merely the great food found. Go forth in search of the mom and pop diners. Happy eating!