Life as DINKs

Years ago, before we had boo boo, Chad and I decided to live in downtown Houston and really give life a go as DINKS (Dual Income No Kids).  One of the things we noticed was that we kept eating at the same restaurant even though Houston was known for being a cultural food mecca.  We decided that for 60 days, we’d eat at a different restaurant each day and blog about our adventures.  It was so much fun.  This blog is the result of that adventure.

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve probably found us via my new site Modern Asian Mom.  Life changed dramatically once we moved to our new home and had a baby.  Though we look back fondly at our days of eating out every night, we love our new life and the challenges that come with it.

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Back From the Dead

I got a lot of grief yesterday from a colleague who used to read this blog.  He went on and on about how marriage changed us and that’s why I don’t go out to eat and post anymore.  He figured my blog would just become another one of those crappy blogs that don’t get updated for years.

Sheesh.  Way to make a girl feel bad.  SOOOO, after talking to Chad last night, we decided we would try to have a new post each week.  Maybe that will get us out of this funk we’ve been in.  It’s no excuse, but the location of our new house isn’t exploding with cool new restaurants to try.  I mean, thank god, we don’t live out in the suburbs where your choices are all chain restaurants, but we aren’t exactly super close to local establishments like we were when we were living downtown.

Anyway, recently we have been addicted to Korean dramas.  You’re probably shaking your head in disbelief, but we got a taste of it and are now stuck.  My advice to you is don’t do it.  Don’t watch a short clip of an episode.  Don’t watch a full episode or you’ll get sucked in.  If you do, say goodbye to the next 20-25 hours of your life.  You’ve been warned.

One of the awesome things about watching these dramas is seeing all the really good looking food they eat on the shows – one of which is noodles and ramen.  After watching enough episodes, we suddenly decided we had to find a good Korean noodle restaurant to try out.  After consulting our trusty Yelp app and looking for a restaurant that was still open at that late hour, we found ourselves at Korean Noodle House.

photo 2This place is no joke.  We were literally in a house that had been converted into a restaurant.  There were probably no more than 10 tables, and I’m pretty sure we were sitting in their living room.  The walls were plastered with posters of K-Pop bands like Girls Generation and whatever and the K-Pop music was definitely going on the sound system.

Anyway, after ordering, the bus boy or waiter help guy brought us out some kim chi.  I don’t even know what course this would be called.  We didn’t order it.  They brought it out for free kind of like when you go to Mexican restaurants and you get chips and salsa.

photo 1You could definitely tell this was homemade.  I know a lot of people out there don’t like kim chi.  It’s either too salty or the smell is too strong, but this homemade version was just right.  Not too salty or too smelly which made it easy to eat.  Because we went out for dinner so late, it was nice to get something in the stomach to hold us over.  If you have never tried kim chi, I’d suggest trying it here first.  That way, it’s like a baby step to the real motherland stuff.

As an appetizer, Chad ordered their seafood pancake.  I didn’t know Koreans had “pancake.”  There’s probably some variation of it in every Asian country.  I know there’s a Vietnamese version and a Chinese version.  I guess I can say we’ve now had the Korean version.

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This was the SMALL pancake.  It was huge ass dish and enough to fill me up.  I didn’t particularly like it as much as Chad did.  I think there was too much seafood in it and the smell was getting to me.  I much prefer the Vietnamese turnip cake version, but to each his own.

For our main entree, I ended up ordering their seafood noodle bowl and Chad ordered their bulgogi noodle dish. I’m inserting these photos in large format so that you can see all the ingredients.  My seafood noodle bowl was bigger than my head.  How is this even a single portion??  And under $15 no less?! Chad’s dish was bigger than his face too.  There was no way we could finish all of this in one sitting. I’m not sure which one I liked more, mine or his.  Mine was so good and the spices definitely opened up my sinuses.  I could probably drink this broth all day long.  Chad’s bulgogi noodle dish was amazing.  If you’re not in the mood to slurp up soup, definitely go with the bulgogi noodle dish.

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Day 1 – Van Locs

We don’t know who this is harder for – us or our friends.  For us, giving total control to our friends for our dinner selections is a crazy thing but for our friends, we are surprised at the number of people who cannot follow directions!!

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So when Chad found out the winner voted for Van Locs, he was not very happy.  We go to Van Locs all the time and it just so happens that it’s the first restaurant recommended that is within the rules.  *sigh*  Not cool, guys, not cool.

Our new food adventure

Ok, we get it.  We’ve been away for a long time – almost 2 months now.  It’s not that we haven’t been doing anything. It’s just that we have had a hard time trying to figure out what our new food adventure would be.  We toyed with the idea of doing a steak night every week, but that would get boring very fast.  (For those of you not from Houston, Houston is known for what we call “steak nights” where different bars around town will serve some sort of steak and potato dish for an unbelievably cheap price.  Some places have AWESOME steak and potato for about $17 while others offer 3 course steak meals for only $15.  It’s not anything gourmet.  It’s just a way to get crowds in.  They likely take a small loss or break-even on the food so that they can make a lot of money in alcohol sales.)

So when we were toying with that idea, we went to Community Bar for their Tuesday night steak night and I just thought “man, that would get boring really fast.  Even though we’re only eating steak one night per week, it will still get boring.”  Then we thought about trying to do 30 straight days where we’d have to run or walk to our dinner destination but man, it’s too hot here in Houston for something like that.  Besides, most nights, we are out and about meeting other people to running errands anyway.

One night, we had stayed in watching “Waiting for Superman” and skipped out on dinner.  It was about 10:30pm and we decided that we should probably eat something even though it’s so late.  We couldn’t decide between Ruchi’s Mexican or House of Pies so I said, “Fine, I know what to do.”  I pulled out my phone and made a simple post on Facebook.  “Need help picking a place for dinner.  Ruchi’s or House of Pies,” and then I just waited.  Chad thought it was amusing, but I knew my group of friends would come through and within 5 minutes, someone said “House of Pies” so off we went.  That gave Chad the inspiration for our next food adventure.  What if, for 30 days, we let our friends decide where we eat?  Obviously, this would only work on my Facebook page, but what we would do is at some random time during the day, I would make a post asking for dinner suggestions.  We will then go to whatever restaurant is first posted.  It seemed interesting.  Why not leave the fate of our dinner plans in the hands of our friends?  What if they chose some rinky-dink place in the hood?  What if they choose McDonalds?  What if it’s the same person making the first post each time?  We knew we had to come up with some rules if this was going to be a fun experience, so here they are:

1. No fine dining establishments.  We want this to be about finding unique places that neither of us would ever have thought to go to.

2. It must be within 10 miles of downtown Houston during the week and 15 miles of downtown Houston during the weekends.  Sorry, we just don’t have the time to be driving 20 miles to eat at some restaurant.

3. Each person is only allowed to be the first poster once a week.

4.  We reserve the right to remove posting privileges from people who abuse it.

So there it is, our next food adventure.  We’re worried about the places we will go, but at the same time, we’re excited.   I’m already feeling not so sure about this.  Today is the first day that we’re doing this and the first poster suggested Pappas Bros….seriously?! Pappas Bros???? *ugh*

June 9 Smoke

So unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), our half marathon was postponed for an hour due to heavy rains and lightning.  By the time the race started, though the lightning had died down, it was still pouring so much that we decided to call it quits and go back to our hotel room.  There were still people that ran the race, but we just cheered them on from our hotel room in our nice comfy bed.

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I was disappointed. One, we couldn’t run the event that I had been looking forward to for a while; and two, we SO could’ve been sleeping in!!  Well, after packing up all our stuff to head back to town, we ventured to Smoke to meet up an old friend of Chad’s.  The last time I was at Smoke was in October when Sharmin got married.  We had our bridesmaids brunch there before all the crazy wedding festivities started.  When I was there, I definitely had orderer’s remorse.  I tried to be healthy since I was getting married the next month so I had the yogurt parfait while everyone else had super good food.  I wasn’t about to make that mistake again.

I ordered the smoked brisket with cornmeal hash and Chad got the smoked salmon and collard green eggs florentine.  I’m not sure what the concept is here.  I think they bbq their own meat and grow their own food or something.  Anyway, when my entree came out, I had the dreaded egg yolk thingy on top.  You guys know I hate that stuff.  Egg yolk should not be eaten like that!!

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I had to have Chad carefully take the egg off.  He was such a sweet heart.  I cut the egg white all around it off and placed it back on my dish so that I could eat it.  🙂  Whoever thought up this combination was a genius!!  Even our friend took a bite and said it was really good.  The sliced beef with the cornmeal hash is so good together.  I wish I could figure out how to make this at home, but then again, that would mean having to smoke a brisket and I don’t want to engulf myself with flames like Lee did.  hehe.

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Here is Chad’s smoke salmon.  It was good too.  I think the dishes here really add to the presentation of the entrees.  I don’t know if it’s on purpose but the blue trees really gave the dish a nice look.  I only took a small bite of Chad’s so I can’t really comment on it.  It’s really hard to get past the sauce on top and then he cracked his eggs so the yolk was everywhere.  He did finish it though so that probably means that it was good, right??

After our weekend of eating in Dallas, we came back to Houston and ran 12 miles at Memorial Park.  Memorial Park has a ~3 mile running loop made of crushed rock.  I will never do that again.  The next time we run that kind of distance, someone needs to hold a gun to my head for me to run 4 loops around Memorial Park…never again…

June 8 Ellen’s Southern Kitchen

On Saturday, we drove into downtown Dallas to have brunch with Sharmin and Nam.  They are some very close friends of ours.  Sharmin has been one of my closest friends for a long time.  It’s quite funny because when we first met, I actually remembered thinking, “geez, she’s really snobby.  I could never be friends with this girl,” and yet somehow, many years later, we have become the best of friends.  Sharmin is part of the reason why I’ve gone out to eat so much.  We both share a fond love of good food.  Before Chad and I started dating, there were many lunches with Sharmin all over town.  Now that she lives in Dallas, we always try to eat at different places every time we visit.  For brunch on this trip, we voted for Ellen’s Southern Kitchen.  I was initially trying to find a place with really good bloody marys, but something about this place really appealed to me.  Maybe the words “southern kitchen” had something to do with it.

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Ellen’s definitly had a unique vibe to it.  It kind of felt like something that you’d find in Austin.  A great brunch place that also has a full bar.  haha.  Since breakfast is our most favorite meal and we got up nice and early to make it here by 9am, I ordered the mushroom garlic toast (a recommendation of Sharmin’s) and chad got the chili and eggs.  We were really nervous about the chili and eggs.  Remember, we LOVE the chili and eggs from Bellaire Coffee Shop.  We didn’t want to ruin it by eating them here, but Chad couldn’t help it.

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I wasn’t sure about my mushroom garlic toast.  I definitely think it could’ve been better.  Maybe if there was some salsa to go with it or something, I would’ve liked it more, but Chad’s chili was SO good.  I took a few bites and thought “man, I could keep eating this.”  We couldn’t compare it to Bellaire Coffee Shop because theirs is more like scrambled eggs with chili topping.  Here, it was a big bowl of chili with an egg on top.  Totally opposite things.  Next time we’re there, I’m getting that.

In addition to his chili and eggs, Chad also got the spicy grits.

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You guys know Chad cannot eat food that spicy.  I took one look at the grits and said, “honey, you should probably remove the jalepenos.”  He didn’t believe me and said, they won’t be that spicy and started to mix it all together.  I gave them the stink eye and said, “um, those are grilled jalepenos.  Grilled jalepenos are MUCH spicer than normal.”  Well, he took one spoonful and then proceeded to pick out all the jalepenos.  Poor thing.  hehe. Of course, he tried to redeem himself by saying, “hey, I still have all the seeds in there!”  LOL.

June 7 Asian Mint

So after eating at 60 different restaurants in 60 days, we can finally take a break!!! No more posting all the time.  Actually, I take that back.  Sometimes, I don’t have time to post so then I have to spend like a couple hours updating our blog.  😦 Not fun!

This past weekend, we headed to Dallas for a half marathon on Sunday.  That’s a great strategy to have when you’re eating out as much as we do.  Sign up for races so that you’re forced to workout.  That way, you can continue eating the way that you do without putting on any weight.  In fact, after our run, I actually lost 3 pounds!!

Anyway, our first night in Dallas, we decided to eat at Asian Mint.  I found this place on Yelp when we were trying to find a restaurant that would be halfway between downtown Dallas and Plano.  We were meeting up my good friend Thi and her husband Jimmy.

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Judging from the inside, it looks like a hipster cafe, but everyone who was there were like middle aged folks.  Plus, the name itself implies Asian food, but the majority of the menu was thai food with a handful of chinese dishes.  I don’t know.  We were pretty hungry so we ordered some edamame, a bowl of tom yum soup and chad got the Larb Kai lettuce wraps while I got the red curry chicken. 

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The curry was very good.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of bamboo that was in it.  I LOVE bamboo shoots in curry.  I wish more places used it.  The disappointing thing about the curry was that the menu said it also had red and green bell peppers in it but I only saw maybe 3 small slices.  I guess I was ok with it.  Chad’s larb kai (chicken) was a bit too spicy and somewhat on the salty side for him.  That is one thing I’ve noticed.  I know that I have a sensitive tongue when it comes to saltiness, but more often than not, when ethnic food is cooked for a white crowd, the chef tends to add more salt to it.  I’m not sure why… 

Overall, I’m glad we came here.  It was fun to catch up with Thi and Jimmy.  The interesting thing about this place is that though it looks super hipster and modern, it was tucked away in this weird, older shopping center.  It seemed a bit out of place.  I guess that’s how they keep their prices so low. 

May 30 Dogwood

Dogwood.  I wanted to visit this place when they first had their soft opening but we never got around to it.  Every so often, my friend Viet would ask me if we wanted to go but the answer was always no.  Finally, Viet was heading there to watch the NBA game and I figured, yeah, I can make it.  Chad was with his friends so I was solo anyway.

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Where should I even begin?  Viet and his friends got there after work and I had just finished up a run at Memorial Park so I was heading over in my running gear.  (I’m married now, so who cares!) Well, gee whiz, this place was DOUCHY as can be.

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Dogwood is located in Midtown here in Houston.  Midtown is filled with yuppies in their mid-20s.  The bar was filled with young professionals trying to be seen.  I felt so out of place, yet at the same time thinking “wow, I used to be one of these kids.”  LOL.  oyyy…

The great thing about this trip was that it was both mine and Viet’s first time there.  With 3 of his friends there with us, we were able to try a lot of different dishes on the menu.  That’s the cool thing about going someplace to eat with a group of guys.  They eat so much that you can really order a bunch of stuff!

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We ordered some chicken fried steak fingers (in the chinese to-go box) and some buffalo wings.  I also ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with ham and fried green tomatoes.  I don’t know if you would call that a “grilled cheese sandwich.”  It was more like a ham and cheese sandwich.  LOL.   The chicken fried steak fingers were ok.  I think I would’ve liked it better if it was just an ENTIRE chicken fried steak.  The buffalo wings weren’t too bad either.  The grilled cheese sandwich? HOLY MOLY that was probaby the best, most fattening grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had.  I think I’d totally go back there again for that.

Another reason I’d go back?? This is the first bar that I’ve been to that carrys Deep Eddy Vodka.

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Deep Eddy hasn’t been around for that long but they have iced tea flavored vodka.  Yup, you read that right.  Look at that photo.  Doesn’t that look like iced tea to you? Yeah.  It does, but it isn’t!  It’s Deep Eddy iced tea vodka with sprite baby.  The thing tastes like iced tea with lemon.  It was so good.  Don’t take my word for it.  Go there and try that combo yourself.  Iced Tea Vodka with sprite.  Do it.  Just ignore all the douchebags around you.  🙂

May 29 Elevation Burger

Even though it wasn’t National Hamburger Day, we decided to try Elevation Burger anyway.  We were in the area and had heard so much about it.  What made it even more appealing was that we could eat in their little patio with our dogs – always a plus!  Elevation Burger is relatively new to town.  They bought the old Mai Thai’s on Kirby and renovated it into a nice drive through with an outdoor patio seating area.  The concept here is 100% organic, grass fed, free range beef and fries that are cooked in olive oil.  That would explain the high prices!

One of the things that we were told about Elevation Burger is that their fries rival McDonald’s.  I don’t know about that… I mean, McDonald’s fries are like the shiznits.  You tell me.  From first glance, do they look like McDonald’s fries??

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Not really.  They weren’t even that crunchy either.  To be fair though, I’m not a fan of fresh cut fries.  They just don’t come out the same way.  Not as crunchy and not as flavorful.  Maybe I just like the greasy flavor. Who knows. Anyway, I got the regular cheeseburger and Chad got a veggie patty.  (I’ve said it before. He eats bad for lunch and then goes vegan for dinner.)

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Check it out.  That patty actually looks really good!  hehe.  Overall, Elevation Burger was pretty good.  Aside from the fries, the only thing I didn’t like was the cheese on my burger.  It tasted like that weird cheese you get from school on your burger – the kind that’s kinda plasticy.

Anyway, I think the concept is good but I don’t know if this place will be one of those places that sprout up all over town.  There are so many good burger places around here.  I do like that they allowed our dogs on the patio.  I think that would be it’s key appeal.

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May 28 Witchcraft Tavern

Happy National Hamburger Day!!

In honor of this occasion, Chad and I decided to try finding a new hamburger place.  We had just finished our interval training session at Memorial Park so a nice thick juicy hamburger sounded amazing.  After pulling out our trusty Yelp app, the first 10 places were ehhh.  Most of them were places we had either eaten at before or I had heard of their good burgers but the establishment just didn’t sound that appetizing to me.  Flip to the second page and Witchcraft popped up with a lot of good reviews.  Plus, it was like 2 blocks away from Lee and Tina’s place so they could join us!

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The restaurant was really small, but I have to admit, it looked pretty cool inside.

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They had a really cool collage of speakers on the wall and some of them were working speakers!  The photos of the singers and stuff over the fishtank was awesome as well.  Plus, check out their menu:

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Each page had some sort of musical reference on it.  When you first see this place, you think “oh, it’s like a brewery-witch type thing, but it looks like the tavern was named Witchcraft in honor of the Frank Sinatra song.  Nice…

After pondering over the menu, I opted to get the Singpore Ribs which were slow braised in some soy sauce marinade.  Chad got the portabella mushroom sandwich (even though it was his idea to celebrate National Burger Month) while Lee and Tina shared a Stilton Burger.

My Singpore Ribs – the meat just fell off the bones.  The sauce was a bit too much for me but everyone else loved it.  They finished off the plate for me. 🙂

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Chad’s portabella mushroom sandwich – I took a bite out of it and for a meatless sandwich, that stuff was good. I definitely liked that they cut up the mushroom for us!

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Lee and Tina’s Stilton Burger.  We clearly made the wrong choice after taking a bite out of theirs.  The bacon was SO good on top of that burger.  I only wished there was cheese on it but Lee’s lactose intolerant.  Oh wells, next time.

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I think one of the cool things about this place was how welcomed we were by the waiter. One of the things we saw on the brunch menu was the sake bloody mary which we really wanted to try but he said they couldn’t give it to us.  Instead, he offered to give us one for free if we came on Sunday for brunch.  “We will see you on Sunday then!”  For all their craft brews, he let us sample them to make sure we liked what we got.  It was so great.  We will definitely be back!