People wander down Main street looking for places to eat near Reliant Stadium have asnsot had to good fortune of discovering this fantastic blog. It’s only natural for workers and visitors during the Livestock Show and Rodeo, RV shows or attending home and garden exhibitions at the Reliant Park complex to get burned out with the food and prices at the stadium.
Once you down one too many burgers or hot dogs your body will crave for some serious nutrition, good eats, the kind of food that sticks to your ribs.
One thing I can’t help but notice about the area is that every franchise in America seems to have set up shop close to the gates of Houston's largest stadium. They seem poised to attract all the people who are too famished to drive further than a few feet from the gate.
The places that are popular with local residents aren’t these fast food establishments and none of them are part of a corporate chain. They are small businesses with names like:
Hanks Ice Cream
Guy’s Meat Market
It’s easy to spot hungry visitors in Houston. They’re the people blocking the street trying to turn or cruising slowly down the South Main corridor trying to figure out the confusing lanes that curve across traffic, in an attempt to find a restaurant with good food close to Reliant Park.
One of the few Soul Food restaurants in Houston that’s located inside of the 610 loop is Mama’s Oven. You have to learn the place really well before you can accurately judge the best time to get there and not have to wait in line to get your food.
The menu encompasses a selection of beans, greens, chicken and pork chops and other traditional Southern style dishes cooked with a thick gravy perfect for sopping up with a biscuit.
Hanks Ice Cream
A few steps from Mama’s is a Houston landmark Hank’s Ice Cream. It’s been in and around the same area on South Main street for close to 20 years. A lot of folks claim it’s Houston’s best homemade ice cream.
(image by A D Forman)
The Houston business has a reputation for rich ice cream, full of flavor. It may just be the best in the Southwest. The demand for frozen dollops of sweet cream has increased so much there are several places selling homemade ice cream in Houston.
Hanks has the distinction of being the only one that can be found in about a half a dozen of places besides their original store. A few of their top flavors are
* Butter Pecan
* Banana Pudding
* Orange Chocolate Chip
* Cookies 'N Cream
Hank’s ice cream is much more than just a Texas version of Ben and Jerry’s. The family owned ice cream parlor could easily become Houston’s first African American business to sell its homemade ice cream nationwide.
Guy’s Meat Market
East of Reliant Stadium is Old Spanish Trail (OST), a section of highway that was once marketed has a romantic link to the State’s Spanish past and historic expedition routes used by De Soto, De Vaca and De Navarez,
Today hungry people who appreciate having a butcher trim their meat and the taste of great barbecue for lunch can be seen crowding into a small storefront business there named Guy’s Meat Market.
You’ll see folks trying to keep a spot in the front of the line while their eyes dart from cooler to cooler as smokey wafts of frozen meat, stuffed pork chops and chickens prepared with special seasonings escape into the room each time someone opens the doors on one of the glass coolers.
Their menu includes some of best smoked sausage, brisket and beans in town. The size and diversity of the lunchtime crowd hints at why this places is so popular from 11:am to 3:pm each day..
Men in suits, office workers and people who just left the Texas Medical Center find themselves being lured into the meat market unable to resist the smell of burning hickory wood used to cook the barbecue that permeates the air around the business located just off Almeda and OST.
You can always find fresh seafood in Houston restaurants. It’s one of the privileges of living along the Gulf Coast that we value and deserve because we have to put up with Hurricanes every year.
You won’t find wild Alaskan Salmon or King Crabs on most of the menus at small restaurants near Reliant Park that sell seafood. What they do have is plenty of delicious blue crabs and Gulf shrimp two-fingers wide served in gumbo, fried or stuffed.
When local anglers are too busy to catch their own supper they favor eating at the well known Baytown Seafood. It’s a place where they can find some of the same fish they would catch on their reel on the menu. The flaky white meat is served fried in a light golden brown cornmeal batter and occasionally a tempura. Trout, catfish, snappers and red fish are hands down good fish we love to catch and eat in Houston.
Once you visit Frenchy’s on South Main and Kirby you’ll realize that all chicken isn’t fried equally. Nobody can season chicken the way they do at this local chicken shack. They are known to handle up on cooking a mean pot of greens, red beans and rice too.
Over the past few decades Frenchy’s has garnered a reputation for being able to serve non-greasy, flavorful and juicy (white meat) wings and breast. Although the business has been able to grow out of the mold of being a family-owned business it still maintains that sameness in its recipes.
It doesn’t matter if you visit their store inside of H.E.B, in Mo City or the Frenchy’s location near Reliant Stadium, the taste of the chicken is really close to the original blend. Each store’s chicken has a similar flavor to it and it is never fried until it’s dry or tough.
Even though I’m believe it. It’s hard to convince others, my mother and most college students from the U of H and Texas Southern University that the Frenchy’s store near their campus doesn’t have a monopoly on Southern fried chicken.
When you’re craving real Tex Mex burritos, tacos and freshly chopped pico de gallo go to the corner of Main St. at 610. In the shopping center on the west-side of the street sits Ruchi's Taqueria Rincon De Mexican . A restaurant that everybody in Houston knows it’s name.
The small company has several locations and they all stay open late enough to catch the crowd leaving the clubs and people headed to work on the night shift. They serve creamy re-fried beans that are not dry and the best smelling, well roasted, mouth-watering chicken and beef fajitas that are only matched by the fact that they are never stringy.
Their platters aren’t over priced, yet full of meat. They have some decent re-fried beans or cooked au jus. Best of all they use a full size tortilla and not those puny little things that you’ll find at some of the local Taco trucks.
To discover these and other unique places to eat near Reliant Stadium a visitor has to be fortunate enough to get befriended by a resident and invited out to eat. Then they can learn both how to navigate the maze of traffic and where the little holes are that have been carved into the franchise food fabric.
Thank God It’s Food (TGIF) still being served by a few small Mom and Pop style restaurants where heart warming meals like the kind you get at home are lovingly prepared. They are always served-up with a friendly smile and in hefty portions worthy of the working man/woman’s hard earned dollars.