Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A vegetarian food tour of Houston

The best vacations involve a lot of eating, and such was the case on my recent trip to Houston.  It was a weekend trip to visit a friend, and food was the emphasis.  Houston is not a place that I typically associate with an excellent selection of vegetarian food, but we found a surprising number of tasty vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly places.  Of course, it helped that Lily had scoped out all of the possibilities prior to my arrival, so all I had to do was show up and eat.  It's definitely not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Our first stop was The Original Marini's Empanada House, an Argentinean empanada restaurant.  I had a savory empanada and a sweet empanada, both of which were very tasty.  There were many vegetarian options, but I ended up choosing an empanada that tasted like caprese pizza, which is my favorite kind of pizza.  The sweet empanada was delicious and involved strawberries and cream cheese.  I'm not normally a big fan of cream cheese, but I do appreciate its use in desserts, so I still enjoyed it.

Empanadas and curly fries at The Original Marini's Empanada House
After getting some exercise to help the food digest, we headed to the Te House of Tea for dinner.  It was a nice cafe-like place, where there was a large selection of teas and a number of people hanging out and studying.  We ordered ourselves a couple pots of teas and an ambitious amount of food.  There were many vegetarian items on the menu as well as a nice selection of vegan baked goods, and I had difficulties choosing just one to consume.  I ended up with a bowl of Singapore Noodles with soy meat.  I've never had this particular type of soy meat before, and the texture was sort of strange, but the curried noodles were still tasty.  I also ended up stealing bites of Lily's quinoa salad.

Singapore Noodles at Te House of Tea

Quinoa Salad at Te House of Tea

As the option to eat more existed after dinner at the Te House of Tea, we went to The Chocolate Bar, where I bought myself a chocolate cell phone, and we purchased two giant slices of cake to consume at home with a bottle of prosecco to wash it all down in our hedonistic celebration.

Half a slice of red velvet cake from The Chocolate Bar

Our next day of eating began with brunch at The Hobbit Cafe.  The name alone was enough to convince me to pay a visit.  I ordered myself a peach bellini and started the day off right.  I tend to opt for sweet over savory brunch foods, so I had a stack of gingerbread pancakes.  Unfortunately, they were too much for my inflamed wisdom tooth and I ended up not eating all of them.  They were tasty despite the pain though.

Gingerbread pancakes at The Hobbit Cafe

After spending the day at a museum, we headed to an Indian restaurant, Shri Balaji Bhavan, which serves South Indian vegetarian cuisine, for our next large meal. They had all sorts of South Indian snack items on the menu, which was very exciting, as South Indian food is much less common at Indian restaurants than North Indian food.  I stuffed myself with delicious masala dosa, idli, and vada until I could barely move, then spent the evening lounging on the couch and digesting.

South Indian food at Shri Balaji Bhavan

Our last day of eating started out with disappointment.  We had read that Baba Yega Cafe was great for vegetarians, so we headed there for brunch.  There were a few vegetarian items on the menu that seemed appealing, and I ordered the vegan meatloaf.  Now typically, I have a strict no fake meat rule for eating at restaurants, but all of the ingredients of the meatloaf were things I'd be happy eating alone, so I figured the meatloaf had to be good.  I was wrong.  It was burnt and had a weird texture, and I ended up not eating most of the meal and pigging out on chips and guacamole instead.

Sad vegetarian food at Baba Yega

Since we had been consuming far more calories than we were expending, we decided that a little exercise was in order and went for a walk before going in search of pre-dinner gelato and another vegetarian meal.  This time, we ended up at Quan Yin Vegetarian Restaurant, a vegan Chinese restaurant.  Like the vegetarian Chinese restaurants I visited in San Francisco, this restaurant had an overwhelming selection of appetizing foods on the menu.  We stayed away from the fake meat and ordered soup, dumplings, and pan-fried noodles with vegetables. 

Quan Yin Vegetarian Restaurant

After dinner, it was time for me to return to reality and fly back home.  I have to say that Houston's selection of delicious vegetarian food surprised me.  I didn't try all of the possibilities, and I still ended up spending an entire weekend eating and digesting.  Next time I go, I'll have to try some of the other options!

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