Eat at Home

What We're Ordering Out: Wild Hot Dogs and Comforting Luby's

Also, it's never a bad time for Sichuan, so we take a quick trip to pick up some Cooking Girl.

By Timothy Malcolm September 30, 2020

Since Covid-19 isn't going away any time soon and restaurants continue to stress alternative options to dining in, we'll bring you each week a roundup of takeout dinners recently enjoyed by dining editor Timothy Malcolm. 

A hotdog from The Original Hot Dog Factory.

The BLT dog at The Original Hot Dog Factory is a bacon-wrapped frank inside a bun with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. 

The Original Hot Dog Factory

In early September The Original Hot Dog Factory, owned by Dennis McKinley and made famous on The Real Housewives of Atlanta (of which McKinley's girlfriend, Porsha Williams, is a star), opened its first Houston location. Here you'll find a dizzying menu of hot dog choices, from the relatively basic (the All American is a beef frank with ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions; the Detroit Coney is topped with chili, shredded cheese, and chopped onions) to the wild and crazy. For instance, the taco dog is a mess of ingredients (chili, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, jalapeños, tons of crushed tortilla chips) that falls apart pretty quickly.

My favorite all-out dog here, at least so far, is the surf and turf dog combining a grilled wiener with crab meat and something called "try me" sauce (a mild aioli). There are a lot of options here; I suggest taking a group one day and ordering a whole bunch of 'em.

Pho Ben

The newest Vietnamese noodle soup spot in the Heights—its second location after the original in Sugar Land—was still in the finishing process when I visited—with both old and new floors laid down; tables that weren't in the right place; and plenty of open space by the kitchen—but the food is here, and that's a good start. I ordered a takeout bowl of pho dac biet (round steak, flank, brisket, soft tendon, and white tripe) to get a little of just about everything. The broth was little saltier than I wanted, but it was still flavorful, and they packed plenty of noodles, which allowed me to break the dish up into two full servings. As the weather continues to cool, the many bowls at Pho Ben (about 20 varieties including chicken noodle) should be a welcome addition to the Heights.

Spicy chicken cube, foreground, from Cooking Girl.

Cooking Girl

I've written enough about Hu's Cooking on West Holcombe that it's pretty obvious the Sichuan and Taiwanese restaurant is one of my favorites in the entire city. Just down the block is Cooking Girl, a similar spot with some connections (Hu's Cooking's John Hu and Wang Yu were the opening manager and a cook at Cooking Girl, respectively). Cooking Girl also delivers with chile-inflected dishes galore, such as the spicy chicken cube, where those brilliant red peppers and peppercorns dance on the tongue under chicken morsels. The house special, fried rice with shrimp, offers a hearty contrast.


I often tell people that I spend so much of my time eating at newer restaurants that the familiar staples tend to get pushed to the back of the queue. But on a Sunday evening while caring for three kids instead of our usual two, we decided not to make anything and, instead, just grab some Luby's to-go. It proved a fine and comforting finish to the evening as I had my first bites of that popular fish filet, that spoon-coating macaroni and cheese, and that irresistibly happy fried okra. No Luann for me, I went classic. As the fate of Luby's remains up in the air, ordering a few tried-and-true items seemed to be the right idea at the right time.

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