Marathon runners know that a good way to fuel up for the 26.2-mile run is to carbo-load at least a day before the race. All that gluten in the system helps with stamina, so folks often fill up on pasta, potatoes, and bread.
If you still need to run your virtual Houston Marathon before deadline, consider carbo-loading starting today. And if you're not running the marathon but still want to carbo-load, we totally get it. (Hey, watching your friend virtually race is exhausting, too.)
For your consideration, here are some places we love that will help you fuel up just right.
The dough of Roman pizza is slow-fermented at controlled temperatures so it achieves an airy, bubbly interior while maintaining a crispy exterior after it’s baked. At BOH, the Bravery Chef Hall Italian street-food concept from Ben McPherson, the pizza is exactly that. Opt for either the pepperoni, where the little discs catch the perfect amount of grease, or the Funghi, a funky mushroom and truffle pie with creamy ricotta.
Load up at the Indian buffet if you’d like, but in our book, the chaat is too good to pass up. Among these street food-style snacks, we especially love the dahi vada, lentil dumplings sunk in a dazzling sea of tangy yogurt and spiced tamarind and coriander chutneys, and the kachori, the bulbous crisps called puri, stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, chutneys, and crunchy noodles.
From wings and grits to veggie omelets with cheddar cheese, servings are large and in charge at Marcus Davis’s iconic breakfast spot. This might even be your only meal for the day. That’s unless you return for lunch favorites like the avocado BLT and tuna salad on toasted wheat. You may miss the overwhelming happiness that pervades the Breakfast Klub dining room, but you won’t miss the line out the door—call to order out.
Morgan Weber and chef Ryan Pera’s handsome Heights eatery is perfect for both dates and groups. Outdoor tables sit practically in picking distance from the raised-bed gardens, where the restaurant grows most of its herbs and some of its salad ingredients. Appetizers include cauliflower, with pine nuts and raisins, and crackers, with smoked trout dip and pickled mustard seeds. Don’t miss the pizzas (chicken and prosciutto, especially), seafood pastas (fettuccine with Gulf shrimp), or fish dishes (striped bass with sunchokes).
Owner/chef Lynette Hawkins has succeeded in keeping her cozy Italian café both casual and high-quality since its opening in 2009. Her small plates and accompanying small prices encourage you to order, experiment, and share (don’t miss the eggplant involtini), though the restaurant is perhaps best known for its exemplary spaghetti carbonara with guanciale and a farm-fresh egg. (Also, that gorgonzola and mushroom pappardelle is to die for.) A progressive bottle list features plenty of biodynamic selections and spotlights Italy’s myriad female winemakers.
At this cool little café that opened last summer on Midtown’s Austin Street, Venezuelan-born pastry chef and co-owner Vanessa Fernandez is living up to her "Pizza Queen" nickname with her superb pies. Her oven-blistered, 13-inch, 48-to-72-hour-fermented sourdough crusts are super-thin, springy, and sturdy enough to hold plenty of toppings. She sources coaster-sized pepperoni, which threatens to cover the entire surface area of her pies, especially on the standout Pepperoni Madness, whose salty, spicy snap is balanced by a smooth, sweet undertone of honey for a delicious pepperoni pie that might be my favorite in the city. You can even add pepperoni to your pie (and you should), like the Cappellone “Big Hat” with mushrooms and onions.
This popular spot specializes in Indian-inspired sandwiches, lite bites, and pastries—think buttery, chicken tikka-filled croissants, flaky goat keema puffs, and oh-so-rich malai chicken quiches. There’re also delicious cakes—black forest, pistachio, and strawberry among them.
On one hand, Houston doesn't have the clout and history of New York, New Jersey, and Montreal when it comes to bagels. On the other hand, stop it: You can get a good one 'round these parts. Among the best are the East-Coast-style bread-ringers made by Jersey natives up in this Jersey Village (solid planning, guys) shop. Get there early for pumpernickel, everything, and cinnamon raisin before they sell out. Need some protein with your bagel? Order a famed pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich, a true Garden State delicacy.
One of Montrose’s most adored spots for comfort food, Paulie’s is still going strong with homemade pasta dishes focused on unique types, like the frilly, U-shaped creste di gallo—tossed with sausage, chili flakes, and pickled onions in marinara—and tiny, chubby, and ear-like canestri—served with crimini and shiitake mushrooms and a creamy marsala sauce with garlic and sage. Paulie’s also crafts one of the finer Italian hoagies in Houston, using genoa salami and ham with provolone in oil and vinegar. Don’t sleep on the surprising shrimp BLT, either. Of course, some shortbread cookies make a Paulie’s meal complete.
The Neapolitan pies at Pizaro’s are solid, but without a doubt, the order to make here is from the Detroit-style menu. Rectangular and workmanlike Detroit-style pie emphasizes a crispy crust and an ultra-rich topping of brick cheese, and Pizaro’s nails it. The Motown (little pepperoni cups, plus more pepperoni under the cheese) is a classic, but don’t forget the Vesuvius with ghost pepper sausage and spicy soppressata.
Last January owner Shannon Scott rebranded the fine-dining eatery Sud Italia, which opened at the corner of Morningside and University in 2015, as Roma, a less expensive, more casual spot. Chef Angelo Cuppone focuses on classic and modern Roman cuisine while sprinkling in a few tried-and-true Italian favorites. The bolognese is good, but our favorite item on the pasta menu is the tender gnocchi served with shrimp in a smoky, velvety saffron sauce.