Saying goodbye: Jennifer Litz tells us about her favorite places

 

I'm writing this

list from the sweat-inducing, sweltering porch of a pizzeria in my new town --

Houston. While I'm absolutely stoked about my new digs, home to the likes of

Saint Arnold Brewing Co., national celebrity chef outposts like Robert Del

Grande's RDG + Bar Annie up-and-coming institutions like Anvil Bar &

Refuge, I can't help but pine for what I've left behind.

The closest local

thing to a Kahn's, the venerable Spec's superstore, has plenty of Texas beer

not distributed to the Midwest -- but no Goose Island, no Sun King, no Brugge.

The hipsters at Agora coffee shop, what the far-flung locals here call a slice

of Amsterdam, are still not as hip as my friends at Monon Coffee Co. And the

first thing I thought when I hit my first Thai place here, was that the Thom

Yum at Siam Square was much, much better.

Lover, I miss you.

Here's to all our good times.

Best reason to

visit Carmel: Pizzology. Although I never felt a compelling reason to revisit

the Northern enclave after my first few treks, this changed that sentiment.

Though I admittedly hadn't been back since original pizzaiolo Rob Coate went to

Barking Dog Cafe -- and his honed dough-making technique with him -- the premium

toppings, stinky tallegio and moist, elastic Neapolitan-style 'za kept me coming

back for more. Especially with as good-looking and politically connected

barkeeps as Joshua Gonzales (@JJGonz). Did I mention the stellar beer lineup?

It's stellar.

Best beer bar:

MacNiven's for bottles and Sun King releases; Chumley's for most other special

releases (especially Founder's) on tap. But I do have one complaint about both:

It's 2010. Can your patrons smoke outside already? It won't kill them to do so,

but it might kill me if they stay inside. As far as my anecdotal, firsthand

evidence goes; craft beer drinkers tend not to be heavy smokers -- ruins the

palate.

Best hole in the

wall: King Dragon. Cheap, tasty Chinese food.

Best Thai: Siam

Square. I probably didn't give these guys enough credit in my first, overall

favorable, review. Maybe some aspects of their cuisine are slightly

Americanized, but really, what the hell isn't? The flavors are always

well-balanced; the curries, properly hot but sumptuous; and the Thom Yum

lemongrass soup is tangy, scintillating fare.

Best new chef: Abbi

Merris, Greg Hardesty's hand-picked protégé who does more in Recess' kitchen

than most eaters know. Look for a profile on her here, soon.

Best hidden gem:

Taste of Tango. The best, most tender and flavorful skirt steak I've eaten in a

long while was here. Also the fluffiest homemade gnocchi.

"Best"

thing we're missing: More good Vietnamese (besides Sandra Rice & Noodle) or

ANY Persian restaurant.

Best brewpub

seasonals: Brugge. They constantly push the envelope with their long-aged

sours, like Spider King, Diamond Kings, Bad Kitty and more. Who cares if some

of them were accidents?

Best piece of

Denver in the city: The always-amazing-coffee'd-and-serviced Cafe

Patachou.

Best reincarnation:

Ball & Biscuit, the pre-prohibition cocktail bar that was pretty much

formerly housed at Euphoria. Hopefully they can keep stuff in stock this time --

and all the bartenders should at least approach Zach Wilks' cocktail-making

skills (they didn't before). Brad Gates shines especially when he sticks to

small batches.

Best late night

food: Chicken nuggets and PBR never tasted so good as they do at 2 a.m. at The

Alley Cat.

Sleeper hit: Goose

the Market's enoteca. It's new, but I'm surprised it hasn't been packed to the

gills yet.

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