The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2014

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Page 70 of 136

70  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2014 A LONE STAR LIFE GOES PREP W ithout a doubt, Austin gets the most atten- tion in Texas for just about everything: politics, music, football, beards, technol- ogy, tattoos—you name it. So, having covered the Lone Star State's food scene for the past seven years, I can say that Austin also enjoys the spotlight for its wealth of dining options. For instance, the capital city played a major role (on a national basis) in popularizing the food truck craze, and today, there's sushi, crêpes, cupcakes, barbecue, pizza—all prepared in and served from someone else's vehicle. But when it comes to the totality of the dining table—and which Texas city has the biggest appe- tite—Austin is no Houston. Quietly, Houston has grown into the most excit- ing and overlooked dining destination in Texas, if not the country. You probably didn't know this, but Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth most populous in the country. It's a port city and a hub of the energy industry. There are dozens of foreign banks and trade associations in Houston, and dozens more consulate offices and foreign- owned companies doing business. Downtown is also stacked with museums, theaters, parks and restaurants—because all that cultural diversity impacts the dining scene. Houston is transitioning from an overabundance of Tex- Mex, barbecue and steak into a global menu of Vietnamese pho, Oaxacan street tacos and slow- braised pork belly burgers. Houston's dining scene is in such an impressive boom cycle that last year celebrated Southern food chronicler John T. Edge proclaimed, "Houston boasts the most dynamic and diverse food and drink scene in the nation." Places like Underbelly feature culinary nods to Asia alongside the sophisticated American Creole cuisine that has been a part of Bayou City for generations. Chef and owner Chris Shepherd, who's been in town for about two decades, speculates why the conditions have been slowly growing for the city's restaurant scene to hit its contemporary stride. "[Houston's] economy never suffered, and our culinary diversity was growing at the same time," Houston, We Have a WHEN IT COMES TO DINING TRENDS, ALL ROADS LEAD TO BAYOU CITY by Anthony Head / photos by Kirk Weddle Chicken dinner, Houston-style, at Bradley Ogden restaurant Funky Chicken. BIG Appetite

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