Dine To Impress During The 2018 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) In Houston

The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) makes its annual appearance in Houston at NRG Park next week. It’s the 50th anniversary of the important convention for those in the oil and gas industry. With over two thousand exhibitors, dozens of daily technical programs and top oil and gas brass visiting from all over the world, it’s the setting for a lot of deal-making—and all of those people have to eat. Fortunately, Houston is one of the world’s best food cities and always ready to entertain. Here’s a helpful list of surefire, memorable places that will impress any guest—and all have better food than any run-of-the-mill chain steakhouse.

For Those Who Require Great Texas Barbecue

Texans love meat and that includes when it’s been smoked long hours over a wood fire. Whether your meat of choice is beef, pork, sausage or chicken, the places listed below are sure to serve up a heaping plate of some of Houston’s best barbecue.

Feges BBQ, 3 Greenway Plaza: This heralded newcomer to the barbecue scene by husband and wife team Erin Smith and Patrick Feges has been making a name, and long lines, in an unlikely but convenient spot: the big food court at Greenway Plaza. Biscuits and “Boudin Gravy” are a can’t miss item offered for breakfast and daily specials like Sichuan peppercorn beef ribs expand selections beyond the requisite Texas trinity of sausage, brisket and ribs. On Thursdays, the Feges smoke a whole hog Carolina-style.

Although Feges BBQ is only open for breakfast and lunch, it also offers takeout. It’s open Mondays through Fridays for breakfast from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Killen’s legendary barbecue. Photo by Scott Sandlin.

Killen’s Barbecue, 3613 East Broadway:  Nationally known pitmaster Ronnie Killen’s barbecue restaurant, Killen’s Barbecue has been a staple on the scene since opening in 2013. For smoked meat lovers, a trip to Pearland is practically a required pilgrimage. Must-try dishes include the brisket, beef ribs (one is so huge that multiple people in a group can order other meats too and just grab a hunk of beef rib to try), the creamed corn and the bread pudding. Killen’s Barbecue is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Smoked Oxtails on Thursdays at Ray’s. Photo by Scott Sandlin.

Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack, 4529 Old Spanish Trail: Some of the best smoked meats near downtown Houston are located in a nondescript strip center just south of the University of Houston campus. (Ray’s is moving to a new location at 3929 Old Spanish Trail by May 9.) Co-owner Ray Busch has an extensive menu that includes not only barbecue but fried fish and Southeast Texas-Cajun fare. While the regulars love the smoked ribs and beef, the excellent daily specials include smoked oxtails on Thursdays. Ray’s is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Roegels Barbecue’s Pastrami Reuben is available on Thursdays. Photo by Scott Sandlin.

Roegels Barbecue, 2223 South Voss: This casual, counter-service destination for exquisite brisket is just south of the Galleria. Pitmaster and owner Russell Roegels has over 20 years of experience. Some of that was earned with Baker’s Ribs before he struck out on his own and embarked on a serious culinary journey into central Texas-style barbecue. In addition to the brisket, other meats to try are the pulled pork and chicken — and don’t you dare skip dessert. Leaving without a taste of Misty Roegels’ bourbon-spiked banana pudding would just be a shame. Get there early for the Thursday-only special: the Pastrami Reuben. It’s worth standing in line for and pretty much always sells out. Roegels Barbecue is open Sundays through Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. ’til everything is gone.

A wealth of meats and sides at The Pit Room. Photo by Scott Sandlin.

The Pit Room, 1201 Richmond:  Michael Sambrooks’ The Pit Room has built a name for itself by offering excellent renditions of brisket, pulled pork and ribs. There are off-the-beaten-path selections for a barbecue joint, too, like tacos (the smoked chicken tacos are a must-have item), homemade salt and vinegar potato chips, and ice cream sandwiches. If you come with a group, we recommend ordering a family style deal. Choose from Feast 1 (which feeds 4 to 6 persons for $90) or Feast 2 (for 6 to 8 persons at $125). The Pit Room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Foodie Hot Spots

Houston has been gaining notoriety over the past few years as one of the nation’s top food cities. Visitors will likely be intrigued by independent restaurants helmed by  James Beard award winners as well as two recently named spots in GQ’s best restaurants in America list.

One of the half a dozen fresh ceviches offered at Caracol. Photo Courtesy of Caracol.

Caracol, 2200 Post Oak Boulevard: 2016 James Beard Best Chef Southwest Hugo Ortega has several restaurants in Houston, which include Xochi, Backstreet Cafe and Hugo’s. One of our favorites, coastal Mexican hot spot Caracol, serves a menu full of fresh fish, ceviche and outstanding wood-grilled oysters. Other must-have dishes include the pan-seared catch of the day and, for dessert, Platanitos Flameados, or rum-flambéed Dominican baby bananas with crème fraîche, rompope and Mexican vanilla ice cream. Caracol is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

South Pizza at Emmaline. Photo Courtesy of Emmaline.

Emmaline, 3210 West Dallas: Restaurateur Sam Governale opened up Emmaline in the newly redesigned Teala’s space at the end of last year. Serving American fare with European influences, Emmaline offers light starters like sea scallop carpaccio, larger simple wood-grilled proteins and hearty house made pizzas. For shareable appetizers, the asparagus and prosciutto is ideal, as is the Wood-fired Cioppino Bianco under the main courses. Emmaline is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to midnight and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Lamb Barbacoa at Hugo’s. Photo by Paula Murphy.

Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer: The second of chef Hugo Ortega‘s spots on the list, his original, eponymous restaurant has offered modern interior Mexican fare since 2002. Standouts include the barbacoa, Cochinita Pibil, Pato en Mole and Pulpo al Carbón.  The restaurant also has an equally splendid wine program, cocktail list and tequila menu. Hugo’s is oipen Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Duck Heart Bolognese
Duck Heart Bolognese at One Fifth Romance Languages. Photo by Julie Soefer

One Fifth Romance Languages,  1658 Westheimer:  James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd’s second incarnation of One Fifth (the restaurant concept changes annually) serves up a “romantic” combination of Spanish, Italian and French cuisines.  Two of the diner favorites on the pasta side of the menu are the Duck Heart Bolognese and the carbonara. The shareable paella is also top notch. Speaking of sharing, if you really want to impress your guests, spring for the seafood tower with a sumptuous selection of East and Gulf Coast oysters, seafood tins, king crab and shrimp. One Fifth is open Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m

caviar at Riel
Caviar service at Riel. Photo by Bradford Eu.

Riel, 1927 Fairview: Chef Ryan Lachaine and his staff combines Texas Gulf Coast cuisine with influences from his Ukrainian and French-Canadian backgrounds with unique results. It’s not limited to that, though: Asian cooking techniques sneak in frequently as well, such as for the tempura cauliflower. The current menu has ten other small dishes such as Cardinal Snapper Crudo; steak and caviar platters (best for groups of two to four) and larger entrées like crispy skin snapper. Open Mondays through Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m.

Oysters at State of Grace. Photo Courtesy of State of Grace.

State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer: State of Grace from Atlanta-based (and native Houstonian) restaurateur Ford Fry is a recommended stop for impressing out-of-town guests. The options include cocktails in the Oyster Bar or dinner in the main dining room. Two standouts on the current menu are oak-roasted redfish and the housemade orecchiette with wild boar. State of Grace is open Mondays through Fridays for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through Thursday for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, the restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch and then for Sunday Supper (one of the best deals in town) from 5 to 10 p.m.


tomato toast at Theodore Rex
The tomato toast at Theodore Rex. Photo by Jenn Duncan.

Theodore Rex, 1302 Nance: James Beard Award winner Justin Yu, opened Theodore Rex at the end of last year on the outskirts of downtown Houston where Oxheart was previously.  The menu, which changes regularly, focuses on locally sourced ingredients with a selection of small plates. Some are great for sharing and some, like Carolina Gold” rice and butterbeans, are not. Other small plates on the current menu include Italian bread dumplings and fried Indian Creek oyster mushrooms. Examples of larger main entrées are roast strip loin of Texas Wagyu and Gulf snapper. Reservations are hard to come by and Theodore Rex just made GQ’s best restaurants in America list—so it’s not going to get easier. Thankfully, the restaurant saves half the seats for walk-ins, so if your guests are game, we say go for it. There’s a fun waiting room next door where diners can while away the time while sipping wine, flipping through a selection of vinyl records and admiring the collection of dozens of ceramic “money cats.” Theodore Rex is open Thursdays through Mondays from 5 to 10 p.m.

Pulpo at Xochi with masa pancake. Photo by Paula Murphy.

Xochi, 1777 Walker: The other Houston entry on GQ’s Best Restaurants in America list and the third on this list from the Vaught-Ortega team, Xochi pays homage to the flavors of Oaxaca. It’s located inside the first floor of the Marriott Marquis Houston. Fresh crudos like the Callo de Hacha made with flash-seared tuna and Robala with fresh sea bass whet the appetite before moving on to hearty options from the wood burning oven. These include Sopa de Piedra, a traditional fish soup, and the pulpo, or octopus with masa pancakes. Larger entrees included the Chicharron (crispy pork belly) and the Pato Crujiente (crispy duck). Finish off with one of pastry chef Ruben Ortega’s excellent desserts that includes chocolate made from cacao beans in-house. Xochi is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where To Cool Off

If you’re looking to grab an ice-cold brew or a cultured cocktail with your guests, Houston has tons of options. For those looking to indulge in a beer, Axelrad Beer Garden8th Wonder Brewery, The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium and The Hay Merchant are all outstanding choices in or near downtown. If you are more inclined to sip on a craft cocktail (or three), 2018 James Beard Outstanding Bar Program nominee Anvil Bar & Refuge, Goodnight Charlie’s, Tongue-Cut Sparrow or the newly opened Cottonmouth Club are all great choice.

Finally, if you want to escape OTC early enough for happy hour we’ve got you covered. Check out one of our great neighborhood lists: River Oaks Happy Hours, Galleria Happy Hours, Upper Kirby and Greenway Plaza Happy Hours.

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