I’m not going to lie, I hate the term “foodie.” Sadly, if we broke down the definition of one, I might fall into that category of person. I love good food, and I’m pretentious about it sometimes. That’s why I’m always in someone’s ear, trying to influence the next place they should eat.
Now, dear readers, I’m going to do that for y’all, but with a bit of a University of Houston twist. Here are some of my favorite restaurants (and one brewery) that are owned by UH alumni.
Often referred to as “The Deli”, Mandola’s Deli originally opened in 1975, and then branched to their current location off Cullen and Leeland in 1977. In 2008, the owner’s son joined his dad after graduating from UH’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program. Now, the store is decked out in UH gear and even offers a 10 percent discount to UH students who bring in their Cougar Card.
If you’re craving Italian food without all the drama of an expensive, fancy restaurant I’m begging you to try Mandola’s Deli. When I eat there it’s what I imagine I would’ve eaten growing up if I were Italian. All of the meals I’ve eaten there feel like a warm hug. Pasta and pizza are my obvious favorites, along with their wide variety of po’boys, but if you’re a stronger person than I, they also have an array of different salads.
You can never go wrong with Mexican food. 100% Taquito actually started as a school project by Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship students. In the summer of 1996, Marko Garcia started selling tacos out of a trailer, and in 1998 the restaurant moved to its current storefront where it remains wildly successful.
100% Taquito aims to replicate the authentic Mexican food of Mexico City, where Garcia grew up until he moved to Houston at the age of 8. From tacos, quesadilla and sopas, to salads and tostadas, they have a little bit of everything, unless that everything includes queso as we Texans think of it. There is no yellow cheese on the menu, because it isn’t traditional to Mexico. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a taste of traditional Mexican street food, 100% Taquito is the place to find it.
8th Wonder Brewery
This may be the most popular spot on this list, as long as you’re over 21. Here, among the photo opportunities like the We Love Houston sign and the giant Beatles statues, you’ll find an enormous selection of brews.
Many of the beers are Houston inspired, including the Dome Faux’m, Weisstheimer and Cougar Paw – Red Ale. This makes sense considering the owner, Ryan Soroka, a Houston local, got both his MBA in business and M.S. in hotel and restaurant management at the University of Houston in 2013. Fun fact: A portion of the proceeds from the UH-inspired beer benefit scholarships at the UH Hilton College.
This restaurant also came from a Wolff Center alumnus, and now has 10 locations across Houston. Serving Cajun foods with a Texas twist, the menu for BB’s was inspired by owner Brooks Bassler’s grandmother, Maw Maw.
I grew up on Cajun food and I can absolutely say that gumbo, boudin and red beans and rice are sacred to me. BB’s menu does not disappoint. With the multitude of options and the real Cajun flavors I can honestly say there’s something for everyone. Don’t even get me started on their “beverages.” Raspberry margaritas? Yes, please!
Pro tip: Ask for extra rice with your gumbo, just trust me.
OK hear me out, I know Landry’s isn’t technically a restaurant, but I couldn’t make this list and leave out Tilman Fertitta. Possibly one of the most notable UH alumnus, even the basketball arena is named after him. Landry’s owns so many restaurants, including Saltgrass, Rainforest Cafe, Joe’s Crab Shack, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and so much more.
While I do want to stress that I want y’all to support more local businesses, technically all of these restaurants fall under the umbrella of being UH-alumnus owned.