Houston, Part 1

Posted: August 4, 2013 in Random Thoughts
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So, here I am in Houston, Texas.

I’ve worked here once before with a previous company and I’ve driven through or been in the airport for layovers, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually stopped in Houston, working for my current company.

I haven’t really done much apart from work, while here.  Now I’m reminded why I used to seek interesting restaurants to blog about when I was on the road before.  I put in long hours during a regular workday, so there’s really only time to eat, before checking into a hotel room for the night.  True to my past eating and blogging habits, I’ve already had barbecue a few times and found a hole-in-the-wall dive to eat in.

I’m working in a hospital pharmacy right now, so I was pleasantly surprised to see barbecue served up, in the hospital cafeteria.  I had the sliced brisket and pulled pork, with beans and cole slaw.  The beans were bland (I like ‘em spicy), and the cole slaw was tasty.  The brisket was tender, with a crunchy, slightly overcooked outer surface I rarely find in the Kansas City barbecue places.  I like a little texture to the meat, so I liked this — almost reminded me of some of the roasts my mom cooked when I was a kid.  The pulled pork was very tender, and there was very little grease in the meat.  I would have been happy with this barbecue if it had come from a restaurant, so the fact it came from a hospital cafeteria made it all the better.

I don’t know how familiar you are with Pappadeux restaurants, but from what I’ve been told, the founder of that chain has a myriad of restaurants having “Pappa” in their names, each specializing in a different style of food.  One of the pharmacists where I’m working told me about this.  She mentioned there was a Pappa’s Bar-B-Que nearby.  I hadn’t really planned eating there, because I figured it probably wouldn’t be very good, being part of a chain.  As luck would have it, I drove right by Pappa’s on my way to my hotel, so I decided to stop.  I’m glad I did.  I had the mixed platter, which featured a sample of most of the meats on the menu.  For the sides, I had the beans and cucumber salad.  This time, the cucumber salad was bland (I like a little salt and vinegar in the dressing — this was kind of oily).  The beans were sweet (remember, I prefer spicy).  All of the meats were very good.  The brisket was tender all over, like in Kansas City.  Even though the rib was crusted with a sweet sauce (I prefer dry ribs), that didn’t keep me from gnawing the bone.  One feature of the restaurant I particularly liked was the salad/condiment bar.  I scooped up big servings of the jalapeno peppers and hot carrots/onions.  I was particularly impressed by the way the restaurant cut the sliced meats — not with a meat slicer, but a big, honkin’ knife.

On the way from Pappa’s to my hotel, I saw a little restaurant called Mama’s Oven, promising Southern-Style food.  I pledged to eat there the next night.

So, another day at the hospital pharmacy, and then dinner at Mama’s Oven.  This was a run-down joint, where a little old woman sat at the register and called everyone honey or sweetie, including me.  At the counter, I ordered the smothered pork chops, green beans and cabbage.  Sadly, the restaurant had run out of collard greens.  After I sat down at my table, a very polite server poured my Diet Coke from a can into my glass, and set two pieces of home-made cornbread in front of me, tempting me….  I watched a TV documentary about Tupac Shakir while I waited for my food, and while I ate the cornbread.  I learned a lot about him I’d never known.  The very polite and well-mannered server brought my pork chops as soon as they were ready.  They were very tender, and smothered with a delicious brown gravy.  The green beans were tastier than I expected, having bacon in the recipe.  The cabbage tasted even better than I’m used to.  I usually eat steamed cabbage — I think this was cooked in butter.  The very polite server kept checking on me while I ate (I think I was his only customer, as most of the business seemed to be take-out).  I’d written down a tip when I paid for my food at the counter, but decided to leave a second, cash tip for the server.

Last night I had dinner at Golden Corral, which is next to my hotel.  Eh — I usually like the abundance of meat, but I only had a serving of Italian sausage and two plates of vegetables and fruit.

Today, I worked in a CVS pharmacy in a nearby town, which was surrounded by fast food restaurants.  When I arrived, I’d already looked around and decided Pizza Hut would be the place for lunch because of its salad bar.  When lunch rolled around, I struck out in the heat, walking to the Pizza Hut.  Only then did I find out the Pizza Hut was one of the delivery places, with no inside seating.  Change of plans — I looked a little further down the street and saw BBQ in big red letters on the side of a building on the other side of a drainage ditch on the far edge of a vacant lot next to Pizza Hut.  OK, more walking in the sun and heat, but BBQ seemed better than any of the other choices I had.  So, I had lunch at The Brisket House.  I asked for one of the specials, which I thought was a sandwich from the description, and sat down.  After a few minutes, the server brought me ¼ pound each of two meats, three slices of bread, a big slab of cheddar cheese, a whole dill pickle and ¼ raw onion.  On butcher paper.  I’d seen butcher paper on TV shows about Texas barbecue, but this was the first I’d ever seen it in person.  The brisket was tender and smoky, and the jalapeño sausage, spicy.  I know I’m not painting a picture with my descriptions — I liked it.  In fact, I decided to go back after work, for dinner.  This time, I tried the brisket again, smoked turkey and pulled pork.

One thing I’ll say about Texas barbecue, is I like it very much.  I don’t like meat smothered in sauce, and my experiences in Texas lead me to believe the folks here are the same way.  Sauce is usually served on the side and the meat is served dry, so we can experience the meat’s real taste.

Later this evening, I decided to do laundry and work out at the hotel.  While the laundry was drying, I stepped onto the usual elliptical machine, expecting a similar workout to what I usually get at home.  However, the step motion was different on this elliptic, and working out seemed harder.  I watched my stats, and it soon became clear I WAS working harder.  I worked out for 60 minutes, like at home, but here I did 8.8 km and burned 1282 calories.  At home, I usually finish 4 miles and burn about 850 calories.  I’m pooped, now, looking forward to bed.  G’night!

I have to be back at the hospital pharmacy again tomorrow.


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