Food and Drink

Try These Houston Chinatown Restaurants ASAP

Just in time for Lunar New Year.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

A sprawling network of individual businesses and strip malls centered along Bellaire Boulevard between Ranchester and Beltway 8, Houston’s Chinatown may not bear a resemblance to its counterparts in New York City and Los Angeles, but it was affected by COVID-19 just the same. Well before the city went into lockdown in late March, Chinese restaurants were hit hard, with some businesses seeing as much as a 90% decline in sales. A year later, the restaurants that persevered are still regaining their footing, and it’s up to us to do our part. With Chinese New Year upon us, let’s usher in the Year of the Ox with a visit to our favorite Chinatown establishments, starting with these.

Wing Kee

Tucked away in a strip mall on Wilcrest Drive just north of the main Bellaire Boulevard drag, Wing Kee is the quintessential Chinese hole-in-the-wall with chipped plates, a handful of tables, and a small window selling Chinese barbecue at cash-only takeout prices. Serving some the best crispy roast pork and roast duck in town, everything here is generally excellent, from the wonton noodle soup, to the scrambled egg with shrimp, to the brisket chow fun. The $7.59 weekday lunch special, with choices like orange beef, stir fried string beans, and salt and pepper squid, is a veritable steal.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 281-741-7118 for takeout, or order chowbus.com for delivery.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

One Dragon Restaurant

A true mom-and-pop shop where the husband is the cook and the wife is the server and front of the house manager, this tiny 10-table restaurant is the place to visit for xiao long bao soup dumplings, sheng jian bao crispy bottom dumplings, and homey Shanghai cuisine. The braised pork belly is incredible, and snack foods like the onion pancake or crispy red bean cake always deliver.
How to order: Call 713-995-6545, or order via chowbus.com for delivery.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

Shanghai Restaurant

During the early stages of COVID-19, this beloved family-run restaurant in Diho Square was hanging by a thread: Revenues had dropped more than 75%, causing the owners to dip into their hard-earned savings just to stay afloat (thankfully, they survived). Now newly renovated after an extended closure, patrons of this 17-year stalwart can return for their famous salted toasted pork spareribs, sweet and sour pork, sizzling black pepper steak, and house special lobster. And bonus, it’s still BYOB with no corkage.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 713-988-7288 for pickup, or order delivery via Chowbus, Grubhub or Ubereats.

San Dong Noodle House

One of the few restaurants in Chinatown specializing in Taiwanese food, San Dong Noodle House closed its doors for several months in the summer before reopening with a take-out only configuration. Prices for most dishes still hover in the $8 range-which means two can comfortably eat for about $20. Best bets are the Taiwanese beef noodle soup, pan fried pork and cabbage dumplings, or the fried pork chop plate. Bags of frozen dumplings, as well as boxes of steamed baos, shu mai, fried rice, and more, are also available for easy grab-and-go.
How to order: Takeout only. Call 713-988-8802 for pickup.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

Tan Tan

Faux-palm trees, string lights, and pink neon contribute to the ambiance at this sprawling Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant, where you can get lau (Vietnamese hot pot), chow mein, bo luc lac (Vietnamese shaking beef), Peking duck, and everything in between. Open ’til midnight on weekends, the people watching is top notch and so is the banh bot chien (fried Vietnamese rice cake)-make sure to get an order.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call (713) 771-1268.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

Golden Dumpling House

Need a dumpling fix? A tried and true staple for plump, house-made dumplings, choose from boiled, steamed, or pan-fried dumplings, then specify the filling (chicken with vegetables, pork and shrimp, pork with cabbage, etc). Most orders ring in around $6 and come with 10 dumplings. Frozen bags of 40 dumplings are also available for purchase. Cash only.
How to order: Takeout only. Call 713-270-9996.

House of Bowls

Fast-casual Hong Kong-style cooking is the specialty at House of Bowls, where the extensive menu covers all the bases in terms of rice, noodles, and shareable family-sized plates. Die hard fans swear by the dry beef chow fun-widely regarded as the best in the city-along with house favorites like the crispy chicken wings and the Hong Kong-style french toast.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 713-776-2288 for pickup.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

Mein Restaurant

Was it only 2015 when Mein debuted? Six years in, Mike and Jack Tran’s “Everyday Food” restaurant is as much a Chinatown destination as it is a place for high quality, affordable Chinese food. On the walls, hand painted murals of 1940s-era Chinese actresses add a touch of glam to the ambiance. Feast on bowls of wonton noodle, order an appetizer of juicy char siu, then add a squid ink fried rice, a cold hand-pulled chicken, or a crispy fried noodle plate. The extensive menu is designed so that patrons can dine several times a week without ever ordering the exact same meal.
How to order: Open for dine-in. For takeout call 713-923-7488, or get delivery via Doordash.

Courtesy of Mala Sichuan Bistro
Courtesy of Mala Sichuan Bistro
Courtesy of Mala Sichuan Bistro

Mala Sichuan Bistro

Now with four locations-in Chinatown, Montrose, Katy, and Sugar Land-over the last decade, husband and wife team Heng Chen and Cori Xiong’s highly acclaimed Sichuan restaurant has acquired an army of followers devoted to dishes like water boiled fish, red oil wontons, and spicy crispy chicken. The original Chinatown location-whose former chef Jianyun Ye, was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017-is still widely regarded as Houston’s best restaurant for true Sichuan cuisine.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with direct online ordering from all locations via malasichuan.com.

Xiaolongkan

With over 800 locations across China, Houston’s first outpost of this famous Sichuan hot pot chain is everything that we could want and then some. From the moment you step into Xiaolongkan and are greeted in unison by the staff, the experience is otherworldly. Gorgeous, custom-designed interiors featuring intricate woodwork and brocade lanterns make you feel like you’ve stepped into the set of a Chinese movie. Meanwhile, deeply flavored, delicious broths, beautiful plating, and excellent service contribute to an unforgettable meal.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with curbside pickup. Call 832-307-6666 for more info.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

Sinh Sinh

Known for its live seafood tanks filled with lobster, king crab, live shrimp, and more, the vast menu at Sinh Sinh ranges from hot pot to steamed fish, to wonton noodle and fried rice. The Chinese barbecue counter is one of the busiest in the city; roast pig and roast duck routinely sellout on weekends, so come early.
How to Order: Open for dine-in. Call 713-541-2888 for pickup.

Mian

Hailing from California’s San Gabriel Valley, where its original location received a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation, this gourmet Sichuan noodle house is the place to go for spicy, lip-tingling noodles. The most famous dish is the spicy zhajiangmian, which comes with ground pork, a fried egg, and Sichuan peppercorns, but seriously, it’s all good.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 281-974-1252 for pickup, or get delivery via chowbus.com

Courtesy of Ocean palace
Courtesy of Ocean palace
Courtesy of Ocean palace

Ocean Palace

Located prominently at the west entrance of the Hong Kong City Mall IV, this large seafood restaurant recently underwent a massive renovation and menu overhaul. Dim sum is now offered daily, with traditional dishes like cheung fun and fried crab claws alongside a slew of specialty dishes like truffle shu mai, ginseng har gow, and truffle pork xiao long bao.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 281-988-8898 for pickup, or get delivery via grubhub.

Spicy Hunan

A charming Chinese restaurant hidden in the back section of the Dun Huang Plaza, this Hunan food specialist is the place to go for spicy fish heads and Hunan’s famous smoked meats. Popular dishes include the black bean clams, smoked meat with leek, spicy cauliflower, and the tofu and fish filet.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 713-271-6666 for takeout.

Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham
Photo by Mai Pham

Shabu House

Owner Debbie Chen was a weekly regular at Shabu House before she bought it outright. A Taiwanese hot pot concept with individual hot pots for each patron, choose from eight soup bases such as original pork bone or zesty tomato, then mix and match individual entrees like Taiwanese meatballs, RC Ranch Wagyu ribeye, and mushrooms to build-your-own feast. Custom hot pots in flavors like spicy kimchi and spicy beef are also available at a set price.
How to order: Open for dine-in. Call 832-925-8889 for takeout.

Food and Drink

How Talking Terps Has Influenced Cannabis Hype Culture

The origins and optimism behind the cannabis brand that sells out drops within minutes. Canabis...

Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain

Many cannabis brands describe themselves as “lifestyle brands” and “cultural disruptors.” Few of them actually impact lifestyles or broader cultural trends. Only one of them has figurines up on Stock X right now.

“For OG Terp Crawford to be featured amongst Nike, Jordans, Supreme, BAPE, and PS5s is really sick,” says Hope Lord, co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Talking Terps. “Stock X is not taking everyone who makes a toy and putting it up there.”Between their psychedelic graphics, cannabis-adjacent accessories, and famous OG Terp Crawford figurine, Talking Terps has established a cult following amongst cannabis enthusiasts, hypebeasts, and beyond. On paper, it’s a lifestyle brand interested in both cannabis and psychedelics. In action, Talking Terps is an alternative universe that bridges the gaps between toy culture, cannabis culture, psychedelic culture, and American pop culture.

The brand was established as a concept in 2015 by Leor Feit aka Hope Lord, Flatbush Zombies member Antonio Lewis aka Zombie Juice, and Flatbush Zombies spiritual adviser Phil Annand aka PTA Haiti 3000. One year later, the phrase “talking terps” popped in a Flatbush Zombies song, referring to terpenes, a compound found in cannabis.

“We had a show at Red Rocks in Colorado,” Lord recalls. “I had a friend that was part of Blue River Terpenes who brought us the first sample of cannabis-derived terpenes. Then Juice and Erick made a song with it in the chorus.”

Talking Terps
Talking Terps
Talking Terps

Once Talking Terps emerged as a phrase, the graphics, accessories, apparel, events, and, of course, toys were soon to follow. By 2017, the phrase was spotted on one of Snoop Dogg’s t-shirts. In 2019, the concept of Terp Crawford was born, launching the brand towards the collectible toy game.

While the first Terp Crawford was technically a plush pillow, the first toy-named OG Terp Crawford-came in March 2020. The 6-inch tall vinyl sculpture of a humanized weed nug with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face is meant to embody everything Hope, Juice and PTA stand for.

“Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Lord says. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.”OG Terp Crawford drops sell out in actual seconds and resell on sites like Stock X for over double their retail price. More than a simple toy, he’s a figure that Talking Terps hopes will evolve into a full-on cartoon character.

“As time goes, the idea for Terp Crawford is for him to be a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny type figure from our world that can cross over,” Lord says. “There should be no reason one day that Terp Crawford’s not throwing a football in some skit on Monday Night Football.”

That’s not just a high aspiration-the team is currently working with 3 Hearts Entertainment to develop a TV show around him. The goal is for Terp Crawford to go global and for Talking Terps to go meta. With their vast graphic library and club of TT enthusiasts, virtual collectibles like NFTs only make sense (though the team can’t let the terp out of the hat just yet).

“I can see Terp Crawford in Japan, speaking in Japanese on TV,” Lord muses. “Once we take him somewhere else, we could do big sculptures, like at KAWS level, maybe. I think we’ll get a TV show. I can’t speak too much on what we’re working on for the metaverse, but it’s got a lot of components. I can say that we’re building a whole new platform called the meta-forest.”

It’s safe to say there will be a sold-out waitlist to get into that forest.
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Danté Jordan is a freelance writer, video producer, and media consultant specializing in cannabis culture and education. Follow him on Instagram.

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