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Old 01-25-2011, 10:29 AM   #15
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Here's a very short side trip from Houston that will include a bit of history and some good seafood. My favorite seafood restaurant in the Houston area is the Monument Inn, named after the San Jacinto Monument, which is just a stone's throw down the road. The Monument itself was built at the site of the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836. It's much like the Washington Monument (only taller, of course), and at the base is a nice little museum with a very informative film and exhibits. You can ride an elevator to the top of the Monument to enjoy the view, but thankfully that part was closed when we were there - I'm terrified of heights. On display between the restaurant and the Monument is the Battleship Texas, which saw service in World War I and World War II.

This view from Bing Maps shows the area - the San Jacinto Monument and the Battleship are labeled. The little white building at the top is the Monument Inn.

Bing Maps

Here is the Monument Inn's website:

Monument Inn

For something a little different, you might want to get there by heading east from Houston on I-10. Take Exit 787 and turn right on Crosby Lynchburg Road, then go a mile or so to the Lynchburg Ferry. The ferry ride is short but atmospheric, and when you land, you are right by the Monument Inn.

P.S. - If you go there and use the proper Spanish pronunciation of San Jacinto, "san ha-SEEN-to," you will brand yourself as a tourist. The closest Northern equivalent would be going to Mackinac Island in Michigan and pronouncing it "mack-i-nack." The proper Texas pronunciation of San Jacinto is "san ja-SEN-to" or, in more relaxed mood, "san ja-SENNA."

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Old 01-25-2011, 01:38 PM   #16
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Wow, thanks “Ya’ll”. Is that Texan, or does it label us as tourists? We really appreciate all of the suggestions, looks like many things to keep us busy. We also appreciate the reminder that Texas in a huge state. Guess all the responses are part of the Southern Hospitality we hear about. We are now thinking of going west to San Antonio, have to see the Alamo, north to Austin to see the capitol, perhaps as far as the Dallas area. We also want to explore Galveston and the surrounding bay. Of course we will sample as many of the suggested eateries as possible. Still uncertain how far we may get will see after the first session. We have decided to fly and rent a car, not sure how a several day drive afterwards might work out.
We are excited for warmer weather and to see Texas, part of it anyway. Once again thanks and feel free to add any more suggestions that come to mind.
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:16 PM   #17
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Y'all is a very common Texanism, but there's more to the drawl than just the y'all.

I want to add a couple of restaurant comments, with the caveat that I'm a fat foodie and have been described as having "strong opinions."

As regards Mi Tierra in San Antonio... well, I just can't recommend it. It used to be a place we went on most trips to San Antonio when I was young (and much of our family was in the SA area, we went several times a year.) It was great way back when but is trading on its past image now. The food is mediocre compared to better SA options and one of the reasons I completely gave up on the place was that it never seemed quite clean enough, and that's coming from a guy who likes some grubby hole-in-the-wall places.

I moved to San Antonio in 2001 and was very disappointed in what Mi Tierra had become. There are WAY better places to eat in SA. Karam's for classic texmex, El Mirasol or SoLuna for a bit higher-end, modern take on things. If you're in the downtown area, there's a place called Acenar by the Valencia Hotel (Houston between St. Mary's and Soledad) that's very interesting, with a somewhat-modern take on Mexican food and the best restaurant cabrito I've ever had. (The best cabrito comes from a pit on somebody's ranch, but Acenar comes very close and is more comfortable with better margaritas!)

The Pappas restaurants are VERY reliable. They're also not limited to Houston. I'd be surprised if anyone had a BAD meal at one, and there's never any shortage in the portions, but having been to Pappadeaux, Pappasito's and Pappas Burger at various times, I wouldn't describe them as the best restaurants of their respective genres. They're just too formulaic and middle-of-the-road to be excellent.

If you make it to Austin there's a LOT to do. The Capitol, a huge live music scene (Unless you're REALLY into it, avoid Austin during SXSW 11-20 March. Everything's crowded, the hotels are full, etc.) There's the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center down south, Lake Travis and the Hill Country to the west, tons of good places to eat. The Clay Pit is a good Indian place, Torchy's Tacos and the Taco Shack are good quick taco joints, Juan in a Million is a gut-busting breakfast experience, El Chile is a good modern mex place, and Fonda San Miguel is an almost-fine-dining place with interior Mexican cuisine.

Since you're coming from Idaho, I'd say you should just laugh at the suggestion that Texas is cold north of Waco. Anytime it reaches freezing in DFW it causes a minor panic, you'll think it's late spring. I like Fort Worth WAY more than Dallas, but that may be because I live in Fort Worth. Of course, that's part of WHY we live on this side of the Metroplex, too... the Fort Worth choice was voluntary. We have the Stockyards, several fine museums such as the Kimbell and the Museum of Modern Art (both of architectural interest as well as for their collections, though they're doing expansion work on the Kimbell at the moment) and even the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. We have a nice accessible downtown area and plenty of good places to eat.

I don't have much to offer for the Houston area... lots of my Houston dining experience was late-night diner places to soak up enough coffee to drive back to College Station after a night on the town. That's both an unfair representation of Houston dining and ancient history (late 80s/early 90s)
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:18 PM   #18
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Ya'll are fittin' in already!

Austin is not your typical big city...downtown is very easy to drive through and find your way. If you have time, be sure to visit South Congress Ave...interesting shops (great fiber/yarn shop Hill Country Weavers) & restaurants. Check out 6th Street, too.

Our favorite BBQ restuarant is County Line on the Hill (Bee Caves Rd.)...views of the Hill Country are wonderful, great rustic atmosphere, good food.
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:57 PM   #19
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Ok, I have to defend Dallas (born & raised there)! Ft. Worth is wonderful...western atmosphere (we love the Stock show & rodeo), historic Stockyards, museums, restaurants, wear your cowboy boots & hats...highly recommend it. Dallas has a different atmosphere to offer. Flagship Neiman Marcus, Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Garden, Fair Park with its beautiful Art Deco buildings, Music Hall & museums, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Dallas Zoo, House of Blues. Restaurants...Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse, The Old Warsaw Restaurant, El Fenix Mexican Restaurant, and so much more. BUT, DFW is a long drive from Houston!
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Old 01-25-2011, 03:01 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by DKB_SATX View Post

As regards Mi Tierra in San Antonio... well, I just can't recommend it. It used to be a place we went on most trips to San Antonio when I was young (and much of our family was in the SA area, we went several times a year.) It was great way back when but is trading on its past image now. The food is mediocre compared to better SA options and one of the reasons I completely gave up on the place was that it never seemed quite clean enough, and that's coming from a guy who likes some grubby hole-in-the-wall places.

I moved to San Antonio in 2001 and was very disappointed in what Mi Tierra had become.
Not sure when you last went there, but I was there on the 17th of December and the food was excellent, place was clean, and staff was very friendly. Forums member Whitsend took my family there as he was rather fond of it.

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Old 01-25-2011, 03:21 PM   #21
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Not sure when you last went there, but I was there on the 17th of December and the food was excellent, place was clean, and staff was very friendly. Forums member Whitsend took my family there as he was rather fond of it.

Steve
Maybe they've had some sort of dramatic turnaround. I gave up on the place in about 2004 after it having been a favorite place from the mid-70s into the early '90s. I didn't really go between the early '90s and moving to SA at the end of 2001, and I lived far from downtown so I only tried it about 4 times 2002-2004 and was disappointed every time.
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Old 01-25-2011, 03:25 PM   #22
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Well if you are in town over the summer look me up and we'll hit it again. We were very impressed with everything.
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Old 01-25-2011, 07:07 PM   #23
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I'd say you should just laugh at the suggestion that Texas is cold north of Waco.

DKB, you ever been caught out in rural Texas in an ice storm, with impassable roads. Literally impassable? If you had you might've thought twice (or better read my post). These folks are here to have a nice time outside of medical treatment. And the SE quadrant suggestion keeps distances reasonable and a "marker" to know the southern extent of potentially bad weather. Icy roads can occur elsewhere, but the Waco marker is accurate for general, reliable purposes.

Wind, sleet and ice are no fun wherever encountered. Someone not from Texas may not appreciate that a slew of 65F winter days can turn overnight into something else. Without much warning.

Plus you miss the appeal of Mi Tierra. I've been eating there longer than you, and I've also been to better restaurants. I still wouldn't think of taking visitors anywhere else on a nice day. The other places just come and go, and will wait if there's a desire for greater quality. At least they should be cautioned against most if not all places on the San Antonio Riverwalk for a meal (unless something has changed, eh?). Everyone and their brother born in Texas the past century has been to Mi Tierra. It's part and parcel of Texana.

You might have made the same comment about Pappas Brothers chains of restaurants as I made about an E-W line through Waco: It's a safe bet, but you can do well or better with some planning. PB restaurants pay high rent in high traffic areas. They are fast food, done well. That they are out-numbered by national chains is their real recommendation. Access, parking and reliably good. Plan B, for restaurants.

Much about restaurant choice will come down to where in one of the big cities one has decided to spend the day. You wouldn't find me trying to get across the worst evening traffic in Texas (Austin) to get to that "special" restaurant. Or traveling E-W across northern Dallas-Ft. Worth at the same time. N-S in Houston. Etc.

All Texas cities are car-friendly. The whole state is. But there can be significant traffic snarls to avoid just as in the winter there can be reasons to make alternate plans or routes to and from those cities.

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Old 01-25-2011, 10:52 PM   #24
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REDNAX: I grew up 5 miles outside a small town north of Tyler, I've seen a fair amount of north Texas ice... rural, suburban and urban. I have an AWD Subaru and I still generally hang out at home when it gets icy because many of my fellow Texans lose what meager ability they have to control their vehicles when it gets a bit slick, but those days are few and far between, even up here. I think someone from Idaho wouldn't have much trouble with normal winter in North TX, provided they check the forecast. It's not much worse than SE Texas in hurricane season, after all.

You're quite right about the distance from Houston, of course. Texas is big and spread out, and I don't go to Houston from here for the weekend without something extraordinary to attract me there. It sounds like they may have 6 days between treatments, though, so it's not a bad run if something up here appeals to them.

I wouldn't disagree about most of the San Antonio restaurants on the Riverwalk itself, there's not much down there that's worth the effort. There are a couple of places that are near or above the Riverwalk that are good restaurants, but they're not in the thick of it. I mentioned Acenar in my other post, and for a gourmet dinner I've really liked Biga on the Banks the few times I ate there. Both places overlook the Riverwalk but they're not "Riverwalk restaurants" per se.
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Old 01-25-2011, 11:53 PM   #25
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Smile National Dish of Texas

In case you don't know it chicken fried steak is the national dish of Texas, and the best place to eat it is Goodson's Cafe in Tomball, TX, just a few miles north of Houston. You will not be disappointed.
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Old 01-26-2011, 07:10 PM   #26
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A 2200 mile road trip from the Pacific NW, or a commericial flight with rental car, still trying to decide. We deciced not to take our newly purchased 1965 Safari that far for our maiden voyage.

Any and all suggestions welcomed.
A 4,500 mile round-trip drive from the Pacific NW to Houston would be 15 300-mile days. That's nobody's idea of fun. Then to tool around from Houston to Austin to San Antonio to who-knows-where adds many other 200 to 250-mile days of driving. You just do not comprehend the vastness of Texas or you wouldn't even consider driving. I'm sorry but I'm incredulous that anyone would consider such a trip.
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Old 01-26-2011, 07:44 PM   #27
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BBQ-BBQ-BBQ
There are so many great BBQ places in Texas. Here are a few of the best:

Cooper's in Llano (My fav) and New Braunfels
Kreuz Market and Black's in Lockhart
The Salt Lick in Driftwood

Enjoy Texas. I wasn't born here, but I got here as fast as I could!
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Old 01-26-2011, 09:41 PM   #28
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BBQ-BBQ-BBQ
There are so many great BBQ places in Texas. Here are a few of the best:

Cooper's in Llano (My fav) and New Braunfels
I'll second this. Lance introduced me to Coopers in NB, and I look forward to paying them a visit when I arrive in Texas for Spring Break!

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