Image: Jenn Duncan

Will Donaldson, CEO and founder of Politan Group, has opened food halls across the country, in places like Chicago and New Orleans and, now, Houston. And always the goal is to reflect the local culture. Politan Row in Rice Village features Indonesian, Mexican, Caribbean, Korean, Thai, and Egyptian flavors, plus a mashup of Peruvian and Japanese. Sounds about right.

“It’s really indicative of the fabric of Houston,” says Donaldson.

The stalls line the perimeter of the upscale, well-designed 7,350-square-foot market, which opened in November, with Bar Politan, which focuses on agave spirits, in the center. Like Bravery, Politan bills itself as an opportunity for chefs to grow. They sign on for a year at a time and share a commissary kitchen behind the public market, where they’re encouraged to collaborate and network.

“The whole idea is to be a springboard to get them along their path,” says Donaldson. “For some, they come in and save money and build a customer base, plus financial statements and such, so they can get into the industry without finding a private investor.”

Nice Sprout

  • Concept: Plant-based bowls, juices, and smoothies
  • Who to know: Nais Sanchez and Amanda Altman, co-owners
  • What people love: The very herbal So Fresh & So Green juice
  • What we also love: The Big Pink breakfast, with beet hummus, tahini sweet potatoes, cashew cream, avocado, and sprouts
  • When to go: When you have your yoga mat under your arm 

Torshi 

The chicken shawarma platter at Torshi. 

Image: Denny Culbert

  • Concept: Egyptian and other eastern Mediterranean fare
  • Who to know: Rafik Abohattab, chef/owner
  • What people love: the lightly spicy, smoky chicken shawarma platter
  • What we also love: The outrageously smooth, deeply creamy hummus and baba ganuj
  • When to go: For a brisk, veggie-friendly lunch

PACHA Nikkei

  • Concept: Japanese Peruvian, or Nikkei
  • Who to know: Masaru Fukuda, chef/owner
  • What people love: The crowd-pleasing tuna poke bowl, with eda- mame, avocado, cucumber, wakame, and a peppery vinaigrette
  • What we also love: Callejero maki with ebi, torched salmon, kani, and avocado, topped with a tangy anticuchero sauce 
  • When to go: On your sixth date, when things are a bit more comfortable

Ate Kitchen 

The jerk wings at Ate Kitchen. 

Image: Denny Culbert

  • Concept: Caribbean, especially dishes from Trinidad and Tobago
  • Who to know: Keisha Griggs, chef/owner
  • What people love: The simple but beautiful jerk chicken breast with coconut rice, veggies, and mango-lemongrass pico 
  • What we also love: The jerk wings, which pack just the right amount of punch 
  • When to go: On a weekend aftfternoon 

Cochinita & Co.

  • Concept: Scratch Mexican tacos and ceviche
  • Who to know: Victoria Elizondo, chef/owner
  • What people love: La Cochinita taco, filled with juicy, saucy pulled pork
  • What we also love: The guacamole (made with crickets!) with house- made tortilla chips
  • When to go: Any time you need a taco

Kin 

The brisket roti wrap at Kin.

Image: Denny Culbert

  • Concept: Thai and Malaysian with a dash of Texas
  • Who to know: Evelyn Garcia, chef/owner
  • What people love: Warm, homemade roti wrapped around a heaping helping of brisket
  • What we also love: Soulful sour curry with tomatoes, greens, and crispy shallots
  • When to go: For dinner out with friends

Breaking Bao 

  • Concept: Korean-inspired fare and steamed-bun goodness
  • Who to know: Phillip Kim, chef/owner
  • What people love: K-So Dip: Korean queso with spicy togarashi wonton chips that resemble cracklins
  • What we also love: The tender, succulent braised pork belly of the gwap bao
  • When to go: For a team meeting over grub

Bar Politan 

Bar Politan. 

Image: Denny Culbert

  • Concept: Bar offering wine, cock- tails, and an agave program
  • Who to know: Sophie Burton, beverage director
  • What people love: $8–9 French rosé by the glass
  • What we also love: Megan Thee Collins, a Houston version of the Tom Collins made with mezcal, Jamaican rum, lemon, and hibiscus-honey syrup, finished with a Tajín rim 
  • When to go: Happy hour or, like, any time

Susu Kopi and Boba

  • Concept: Indonesian soft-serve, craft coffee, boba tea
  • Who to know: Ecky and Niken Prabanto, co-owners
  • What people love:  The superb daily black coffee; bajigur, an Indonesian coconut milk drink
  • What we also love: The nostalgic beauty of Ovaltine soft-serve
  • When to go: For your morning coffffee fifix; when a sweet craving hits

Bronson's House 

The tomato-basil soup and Romano sandwich at Bronson's House.

  • Concept: Scratch-made Italian
  • Who to know: Joao Nelson, chef/owner 
  • What people love: The hearty pappardelle Bolognese
  • What we also love: The comforting tomato-basil soup and Romano sandwich 
  • When to go: After a long day, when you need wine and pasta

Politan Row Breakdown

  • Address: 2445 Times Blvd.
  • Hours: 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun–Thurs; 7 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri–Sat
  • Kid-Friendly? Yes, but don’t expect chicken fingers or pizza.
  • Parking: Rice Village garage; on street metered until 6 p.m.
  • Seating: Lounge, dining tables, bar stools; no outdoor seating
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