It started when my wife and I decided we wanted to take a look at Rice University, and the little chapel where we were married back in 1983. It’s been 29 years and some change so far, and by December 17 on 2013 we’ll have been married 30 years. So we drove out of northwest Louisiana, where we go for Christmas, and where my dad stays, and headed south. We used a GPS, as I wasn’t familiar with the roads. Highway 59, which forms most of the path south, is a lot wider and a better road than the one I remembered. It’s also a faster trip, closer to 4 hours than the 5 to 5 and a half I used to remember.
Once we toured the University, we looked in the “Village” district for landmarks we remembered. Almost none remain from my time in Houston, but this one immediately caught our eye.
Kahn’s deli, in its first incarnation, appeared in the 1980s, with Mike Kahn as its owner. The new owners (version 3) were nice enough to pull out some photos and chat up the past of the restaurant.
The walls are new, as owner #2 imported the brick from New York City. At this point, the emphasis is to recapture the taste of the original deli, as the folks I spoke to told me they ran every recipe through Mike, to see that it met his standards.
I didn’t eat at Kahn’s when we were there, but I loved it back in the day. It’s one of the few holdovers in the Village from older times.
While I chatted up Kahn’s, my wife and daughter found this place and bought plenty of sweets.
Afterwards, I couldn’t talk my family into Kahn’s, but another old time restaurant did gain their approval. Goode Company Barbecue was ranked as perhaps the best Houston BBQ back in the 1980s. With barbecue culture growing, and the ever growing emphasis on smoked meats, barbecue gurus such as Full Custom Gospel Barbecue* no longer rate it as Houston’s best, but certainly good, and further, accessibility and the ease with which they serve food keep it popular (A #1 Urbanspoon ranking in Houston in the barbecue category, as I write this).
It is an easy place to get into and get out of, even if the parking is limited. We were eating roughly around 4 on a Sunday, so we didn’t have a lot of competition for the few parking spaces in front.
We tried Goode Company’s turkey, their brisket, their ribs and their sausage. In our hands the meats were real barbecue, clearly smoked, but at times a little underwhelming. The brisket was a bit disappointing, the ribs were very good, the turkey and sausage satisfied our eaters. If Goode Company were to be pulled out of Houston and dropped into Atlanta, I don’t think it would rank up with smokehouses like Fox Brothers, or Heirloom BBQ, or say Big Shanty Smokehouse. It would be in the second tier of barbecue restaurants, a bit like Spiced Right, owner #2, on a good day.
So, after Goode Company we went on to the House of Pies. Despite what others might think, this place is about the pies and only about the pies.
This is a long time favorite midnight and later eatery. The exotic crowds you would see at this place around 2am made it something of a legend in these parts. A good portion of the late nighters were people from the Montrose district (Houston’s equivalent of San Francisco’s Castro Street), which led to some politically incorrect names back in the day.
Somehow, it just seemed tamer. The apple pie, while good, didn’t seem as big as we remembered. I recall an apple pie that was a fist and a half tall in the middle. Is my memory playing tricks on me? perhaps. However, the French Blackbottom was still there, and diabetes or no, I had a bite of this one. The best of the pies may have been the Bayou Goo.
After, my wife threw out a shocker, and said we should start driving east right then. And after nearly being killed by a road rage special just outside of Beaumont (someone passing on the right on an Interstate when my car was on the right), we stopped outside of Lafayette, and in the morning, had breakfast at Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge LA.
The meal went over well. It started with beignets.
The mix of eggs and etouffee in the “Eggs des Amis” was something my wife could really get into, and I was appreciative of the mix their “Bit Hat” provided. This was easily our best meal of the trip, and my wife hugged our waitress by the time we left.
After that, New Orleans.
The problem was, we had to get in, eat, and get out fast. And in what was perhaps a mistake, we chose Parkway Bakery and Tavern. It was a mistake in part because the path the GPS took us through looked at times like alleys in a miniature Italy. I feared for the safety of our tires. It was a mistake, in part, because we arrived in the middle of a Carolina – New Orleans football game, and the crowd at the eatery to watch football was huge.
A plaque on the wall (see also this link; dates on link and plaque are slightly different) told the story of the eatery. Opened in 1922 as a bakery, it became a sandwich shop in 1932 and has been rebuilt at least once. The meal, once the wait was over, was good. Crusty bread, but softer than what you might get at Paneras (soft bread is actually an old fad, started among the rich). Old fashioned and yet satisfying.
Any eating past this point were mere snacks, and frankly, couldn’t compare to the drive. But, oh what a drive it was!
2429 Rice Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
Goode Company Barbecue
5109 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
House of Pies
3112 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
Cafe Des Amis
140 East Bridge Street
Breaux Bridge, LA, 70517
Parkway Bakery and Tavern
538 Hagan Ave
New Orleans, LA 70119
*The author of the FCG Barbecue blog is the fella accompanying Tony Bourdain to barbecue joints in the Austin episode of No Reservations.