Welcome to the second part of a series in which we present the remarkable food and drink experiences of a very strange year. In keeping with the holiday season, it’s also a very special collaboration between the Houston Press food writers and Houston Food Finder, the online publication founded by former restaurant critic and food editor Phaedra Cook of Houston Press. This second edition sheds light on bakeries, desserts, pop-ups and more. Keep an eye out for favorite restaurants, takeaway and more coming soon. Part three will cover some of our writers’ favorites in Houston Wine. If you missed it, here’s Part 1: Bars.
Favorite bakeries / pastry shops
A delicious selection of biscuits from Fluff Bake Bar. Photo by Julie Soefer.
Times are tough right now, but these Houston bakeries are a reminder that life can still be pretty sweet. Yes, also in 2020.
Fluff Bake Bar, 1701 West 15th: Pastry Chef Rebecca Massons Willy Wonka-esque creations can help you through tough times. This year, the self-proclaimed Sugar Fairy itself has seen some of those tough times as her beloved Fluff Bake Bar endured a permit dispute with the city of Houston that forced her to temporarily close her new location in the Heights while costly new builds were completed . Thankfully, with the help of a GoFundMe campaign and some real Texan grit, Masson was able to reopen and continue serving the community Unicorn Bait, Booty Call Brownies and Couch Potato Cookies we crave (handy to take away, on the side of the road, and for alfresco dining). – Brooke Viggiano, Author, Houston Press
Miss Louise, 1725 Main: This French bakery, which opened almost two years ago in the city center, offers a constantly changing selection of breakfast pastries and desserts that satisfy the most discerning taste. Cook Friedrich Fortin named his house after his grandmother Louise, who introduced him to the fine art of pastry making. It’s impossible to go wrong at this hotel, but the top choices include: lemon cake, Cinnamon rolls and the Pistachio or chocolate croissants. – Sandra Crittenden, contributing author, Houston Food Finder
Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop, 2800 Kirby: In this Indian street food spot, you can get your sugar fix with a pinch of spice. Just visit the upstairs Bake Lab where you can find Biscuits and sweets kissed with chilli, bergamot and cardamom; Muffins with carrots and quinoa and an incredibly silky one Chai pudding cake. Enjoy them either on the newly created, posh terrace of Pondicheri or at home for take away or delivery. – Brooke Viggiano, Author, Houston Press
Favorite barbecue pop-up
Smoked Birria de res Queso Taco served with consommé and brisket tamales from JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ. Photo by David Leftwich.
Tex-Mex grill from JQ: Pop-ups give chefs, especially young chefs, the opportunity to present their innovative creations at the best of times. In the worst of times like now, pop-ups are also a means of survival. for Cindy Conde and Joseph Quellar, Owner of the Tex-Mex BBQ from JQ, pop-ups have fulfilled both functions. For her signature smoked beef birria cheese taco, marinate the brisket and oxtail in an aromatic chilli paste before throwing the meat on the smoker for a few hours. Then they simmer it in more marinade with cinnamon and orange. The result is a deep, rich, smoky stew that was one of the best things I have eaten this year. Your creations, including fabulous ones Brisket tamales, can be found on pop-ups across town and occasionally elsewhere in the state. Follow JQs on social media for the times and locations of upcoming pop-ups, and be sure to pre-order to make sure you grab your favorites. Look out for their new grill trailer coming out soon. – David Leftwich, Associate Editor, Houston Food Finder
Save space for dessert, the cannoli in Ostia are not to be missed. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.
House Pucha, 1001 mare wood: The Orange pancakes at this Heights restaurant is somehow incredibly satisfying and at the same time a fresh and easy way to end any meal. Topped with fresh berries and orange segments with a vanilla Grand Marnier sauce, it will delight you whether at brunch or after a multi-course dinner.
Ostia, 2032 Dunlavy: This newcomer to the Houston restaurant scene delights with its decadent interpretation of an Italian classic: the cannoli. Made with a thin, crispy bowl filled with a rich, delicious cream and dusted with powdered sugar before drizzling with honey-rum syrup, this dessert is sure to please.
Tonys, 3755 Richmond: The soufflé in this typical gourmet restaurant is the ultimate expression of a dessert. Made to order, guests choose their tastes from a list that changes with the seasons. There is a choice of different pralines, fruits and liqueurs. It is always the most enjoyable way to end a meal in this haute cuisine institution. – Sandra Crittenden, Author, Houston Food Finder
Favorite food trends
Think Tacos is one of Houston’s food trucks and restaurants that jumped on the birria tacos trend. Photo by Candido Serrano.
Birria tacos: Where Instagrammers go, Houston Diner follows. Though birria tacos filled with a classic goat or beef jalisco stew have been around for years, they have hit Houston social media in a storm of hashtags in recent months. In most cases, the tacos are made by dipping the tortillas in a consommé made from cooking the stew (which also doubles as the dip for the tacos) before cooking them on a plancha with cheese and the stew meat. While restaurants like El Big Bad and Glowing have Birria tacos, food trucks like Blk Mkt Birria, Muiishi Makirritos and Think tacos, as well as pop-ups like JQ’s Tex-Mex barbecue, has really cemented the popularity of tacos in Houston.
Hot Chicken: Contrary to some food trends, the Nashville-style spicy chicken didn’t conquer Houston overnight. The buzz has grown thanks to restaurants like Gus’s Fried Chickenwhich opened on Washington Avenue in 2018. In 2020, several eateries specializing in this spicy roast chicken suddenly hit the streets, with places like Main chick, Bird house and Micos hot chicken – which has a constant line around the building. This suggests that this may be a new foothold instead of a short-lived trend.
Mochi donuts: This Japanese-American hybrid pastry, usually made with rice flour (which makes it gluten-free), has been around in Houston for a few years. But in 2020, the popularity of donuts rose to new heights with the help of social media influencers. These light, breezy donuts popped up at local tea shops at one-day events and eventually found permanent homes in stationary locations like Mochinut and only suppliers like Doughchi and Miso sweet. – Ryan Kasey Baker, contributing author, Houston Food Finder
The other most popular Houston food and drink experiences in 2020
Part 1: Bars
Part 3: Wine
Part 4: beer
Part 5: Chefs
Part 6: coffee
Part 7: Delivery & To-Go
Part 8: Cocktails & Spirits
Part 9: Industrial helpers
Part 10: Innovations
Part 11: Shops & Products
Part 12: Restaurants
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