My friends are always asking me for restaurant suggestions. I get it, I do. Because I work where I work, in the job that I have, they think I’ll know all about the best, most exciting places in town. And they’re not wrong. I absorb that sort of thing without trying, just by breathing the oxygen around the Houstonia House.
Which spot the barbecue hounds are going crazy for, which restaurant has a chandelier in its meat locker, which hole-in-the-wall Thai place is driving foodies wild, which Asiatown dish is the current hotness, which dessert is dominating Instagram—and I’m not even on Instagram!
Where this chef landed, where that second location is going; get the gimlet here, don’t miss the bread service there. My mind is a repository for all of it.
This month’s fascinating—and, I think, surprising—cover story on the 50 Houston restaurants to try right now, edited by the inestimable Gwendolyn Knapp, is full of such information, and it’s added many amazing-sounding restaurants to my own, personal must-try list. I will go, I will love them, I will recommend them to inquiring friends. But want to know my real favorite place in town?
The Pappasito’s on 290 at Tidwell.
I know! I probably shouldn’t be admitting this—not because Pappasito’s isn’t a beloved Houston-grown chain, but because there are so many other interesting things out there. And yet, when I think of my happy place, it’s ... a seat at the bar at my neighborhood location, my purse hitting my knees as it hangs from its hook. A margarita “reserva” sits in front of me, freshly shaken and poured over ice, into my salt-rimmed glass. My husband and I are chatting with the bartenders about school, their kids, our dogs, someone’s upcoming trip to Mexico City. A tipsy lady sits a seat down from us, playing on her phone and occasionally chiming in.
There’s a game on the TV that my husband’s half-watching. I’m more interested in the two servers flirting at the register. Out the window, cars inch along the highway, the heat of the day almost visible in its heaviness. Happy to be inside, under the A/C, I feel a teensy bit of schadenfreude.
Before us, there’s a basket of glorious, paper-thin tortilla chips. I’m switching between dunking them in the red salsa and the available-on-request green, capping each perfect bite with a sip of marg, perusing the menu and pretending I’m going to order something different this time. But we both know that in the end, it will be the Pappasito’s salad with Ixtapa beef. It always is ...
Wait! Where am I? What just happened? Why do I taste tequila? Is that drool? What is my point? Just this: These things are personal. Some may have 50 restaurants where they must eat right now, but I—I have 51.