A Look Inside Downtown’s POST Houston Food Hall
With its skylights, towering spiral staircase wrapped in metal mesh and neon signs, Post Market, the food hall at Post Houston, evokes what a mall food court might look like in a Doctor Who episode. The remodeling of the former Barbara Jordan Post Office, located at 401 Franklin, was so extensive that there is only a faint echo of the old mail center left. Now, the cavernous space offers so many food adventures that it’s hard to regret the demise of the once-busy postal hub.
By far, Golfstrømmen is the eatery that’s created the most buzz. There, chef Christopher Haatuft — who owns the restaurant Lysverket in Bergen, Norway — applies his “New Nordic Cuisine” approach to Gulf seafood. James Beard Award-winning chef and Houstonian Paul Qui* is a partner in Golfstrømmen, and also the consulting operator of Post Market. One of Qui’s own stands is Soy Pinoy, a collaboration with fellow James Beard Award winner and Filipino chef Tom Cunanan. His other is East Side King, the Japanese street food joint that originated in Austin.
*For some thoughts on Qui’s problematic history and how that affected this story, see the end of this article.
Another highlight is ChòpnBlọk, chef Ope Amosu’s well regarded West African-focused spot. The son of Nigerian immigrants, Amosu’s cooking has already garnered the attention of people such as Marcus Samuelsson, who spotlighted him on an episode of PBS’s “No Passport Required,” and “Top Chef” producers, who featured him as a guest judge during Episode 7 of “Top Chef: Houston.”
All told, POST Market features 25 vendors, including some longtime, well-regarded Houston chefs, such as multiple-cancer survivor David Guerrero of Andes Café. Once a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the East End, it’s now a stand at Post Houston — and I hope it’s doing well. There are also some non-food vendors I’m fond of as well, such as Pop Soap Company, which creates all-natural, vegan, handmade soaps.
There are several up-and-coming entrepreneurs, such as Tameia Frank-Jones of Sweets With L&L, who started her cotton candy business with two consumer-level machines that she bought at Kohl’s and Pakistani-South Asian fusion stand Rollin Phatties, which started as a food truck and specializes in “phatties,” or meaty paratha wraps. “We would love this opportunity to give everyone a chance to see what new flavors 2nd generation immigrants are capable of,” says Rollin Phatties webpage. Why would I not support that?
On one visit, we started a lunch meeting at the recently opened Roberta’s, a spinoff of Brandon Hoy’s and Carlo Mirarchi’s Brooklyn original, which they founded in January 2008. The cult-favorite’s reputation for firing amazing, Neapolitan-style pizzas is earned. Too often, this style of pizza is misunderstood. The key is balancing competing textures of the crust, which is made with a special Italian flour. The interior should be soft and chewy, while the exterior should be crisp, with blackened bubbles created from high-heat baking in a wood-fired oven. Roberta’s is doing it right, so please don’t send these bubbly wonders back as “burnt.”
We selected the Bee Sting, and the perfectly soft-and-crunchy crust wasn’t the only way it hit the mark. A drizzle of honey beautifully tempered the spiciness of sopressata and Calabrian chiles, while tomatoes and fresh basil anchored the flavors and lent natural wholesomeness. This pizza alone is worth a trip to Post Houston.
As a hobbit might say, “But what about second lunch?” It should be a rule to not dine at only one stand in a food hall. Our next stop was Hawker Street Food, an Asian and Latin-American stand founded by Laila Bazahm, who left banking for the rough-and-tumble food world. From Hawker, we split a bowl of Smoked Brisket Over Rice with rendang curry reduction. It was good — not quite as good as the pizza, as there was less contrast in flavors, the rendang curry could have been more potent and the brisket fat could have been more rendered — but every bite was eaten, nonetheless. Fresh cilantro and pickled onion stepped in and lent color, texture and pop, which helped make up for any missteps. We’ll revisit and try something else someday.
As noted, there are still many more food stands for us to try at POST Market. Literally dozens of new food adventures lie ahead. It’s an easy place to spend a day or an evening, accompanied by friends, family, a laptop or a good book.
A Postscript on Paul Qui
Houston Food Finder has largely avoided publishing articles about Qui’s projects and accolades due to his history as a former drug dealer, and his 2016 domestic violence arrest. Lest anyone think we’re beating a dead horse from six years ago, it was only two-and-a-half years ago that Qui was again arrested, this time after having two minor car accidents while under the influence of a mixture of drugs, including cocaine. To his credit, he successfully completed Harris County’s D.W.I. Pretrial Intervention Program, and the charge was dismissed in December 2020.
So, why would we recommend patronizing POST Market? It’s simple: there are a lot more business owners whose fortunes hinge on the food hall’s success than just Qui’s, and we think our readers can have great food experiences there. We also believe that people are capable of improving and earning second chances. That said, we disagree with not disclosing Qui’s history, as has been the case with some articles at other publications.
We encourage readers to make their own decisions on patronizing POST Market based on available facts and personal values.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.