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A Weekend Culinary Adventure in Texas
Hank Lewis, Publisher, HankOnFood.com
 
Many folks forget that the Greater Houston area is larger than a fair number of actual states. It’s not uncommon for folks who live in the Woodlands to make a holiday in Katy near the Outlet Mall, or folks in Sugar Land to take a weekend in Galveston. Each surrounding city and suburb has its unique culture, hospitality and dining. Part of Pearland’s appeal is its fantastic mix of dining options. My wife, Julie, and I took a weekend in Pearland to find out exactly what was there. It turned out to be quite a culinary adventure!

After we arrived at our hotel in the late morning, several staff members told us to head to any of the great Pearland restaurants sooner rather than later. The restaurants we’d targeted are highly popular, have great Houston area press and in a couple of cases, a nationally recognized chef. This was excellent advice as we encountered significant crowds at these places. However, the great food at those places was well worth the wait.

Day 1: Foodie Gems
10:00am, Donut Heaven

We started at Peña’s Donut Heaven & Grill for a late breakfast. They appeared on the dining map a couple of years ago because of their version of Croissant Donuts, “dosants”. When they debuted in 2013, savvy customers would re-sell them for up to $100 per dosant! For those whose tastes run more savory than sweet, they sometimes offer fusion Kolache filled with fellow Pearlander Ronnie Killen’s Brisket from Killen’s BBQ that Ray Peña calls a “Killache”.

Julie and I enjoyed cream cheese and blueberry croissant donuts, which were flakey, sweet and delicious paired with Pearland Roasters’ local coffee. Ray Peña himself is an affable, bear of a man chatting and welcoming all, which gave us that good, down-home feeling of food and family.

Biergarten_1-pearland1:00pm, Germany in Texas

By early afternoon, we were in the mood for some lunch and good beer, which steered us over to King’s Biergarten & Restaurant for Texas German Culture mixed with Pearland spirit. This Biergarten was voted best German Restaurant in the USA by GermanDeli.com.

As we approached, Julie said “I just love that castle façade, complete with faux towers and fluttering European flags.  It’s as if we took a quick trip to Europe!”

King’s started as a 45-seat combination bratwurst, beer joint and car wash founded by Austrian-Texan Hans Sitter and his son Phillip. This little castle-themed restaurant grew to become a place where Oktoberfest happens all year round. Sitter’s place has gotten a lot of great press along the way. They have the best selections of German and Czech imported beers, which can be served in a Das Boot 3 Liter boot shaped glass if you want! I asked Phil what he’d order as a first time customer, and his response was either the King’s Sampler for Two (two portions of Weinerschnitzel, made fresh in house from chicken or pork, plus any 3 specialty sausages, which include different kinds of bratwurst, weisswurst, Polish sausage or Texas Hot Link).  He also recommended their crispy pork shank, which is a staple in European Biergartens.  “We want to bring the European style dining and entertainment, along with the best German and Czech draft beer to Texas, for our guests to be able to relax and enjoy at a leisurely pace” was how Phil summed up his philosophy.

Julie and I had good dark German Beer and two kinds of savory wurst sausages. Between the great food and staff decked out in dirndls and lederhosen, it’s a little slice of Germany in Pearland!

Killens_27:00pm, High quality beef

We treated ourselves for dinner at Killen’s Steakhouse, having made reservations in advance because this place is very well-known in Pearland and has the crowds to prove it! Ronnie Killen is a beloved Pearland native and Cordon Bleu graduate, finishing first in his class with Honour of Distinction. Killen’s Steakhouse has a roughhewn exterior, but the interior reveals a high-end steakhouse featuring wonderful cuts of high quality beef sourced from responsible Texas ranchers. We chose the American Wagyu beef that Killen’s Executive Chef Joe Cervantez prepared so magnificently that it melted in our mouths like warm butter.  We bumped into Ronnie Killen and asked him what cut of meat he’d choose and without hesitation he replied “Our wet aged New York Strip is what I always eat.  We choose a strip that’s more marbled than some, but still quite lean and when cooked right, it comes out juicy and full of flavor.”  I chose a ribeye, while Julie followed Ronnie’s suggestion with the wet aged New York Strip.  Suffice it to say, we were happy customers.

“This could be the best steak I’ve ever had!” said Julie with a happy smile as she popped the last piece into her mouth.

“Me, too,” I agreed. “This is incredible.”

Quite a luxurious, indulgent dinner to say the least, and we savored every last bite!

Day 2: On a culinary mission
10:30am, BBQ worth the wait

The next morning we packed our folding chairs to wait in line at Killen’s BBQ, owned by the same Ronnie Killen at whose steakhouse we ate the night before. Killen’s BBQ started as a pop-up venture that was so successful, it became a brick-and-mortar operation.

KillensBBQ-940x400The warm scent of pecan and mesquite smoke wafted from the smokehouse while we waited, mouths watering. The brisket, pork shoulder, pulled pork, and link sausage were so juicy and flavorful; we both finished our portion and still wanted more! Next, we relished the melt-in-your-mouth beef ribs, served up with Killen’s impeccably delicious potato salad and homemade banana pudding. The incredible meal and cheerful clientele made us feel like we were enjoying home cooking.   After we’d finished, we saw Ronnie Killen running the pit and slicing brisket.

I took a moment to ask him “Why Pearland?  You could have set up shop anywhere?”

He replied with a broad smile “Pearland is home.  It’s where I grew up.  They need me here, and I need to be here.  And things are going well.”

I nodded and replied “Well, it’s not broke, so don’t fix it!”

2:00pm, Cajun flavor

After some swimming at the hotel pool, we were craving a culinary change of pace—seafood would fit the bill! Hotel staff advised us to check out Floyd’s Cajun Seafood and Steakhouse. Although there are locations all over Southeast Texas, the Pearland location has very strong popularity. They have a Texas Burger for those who want their beef, deep fried Alligator for Cajun transplants/tourists and Cajuns at heart, and of course Oysters on the half-shell. Still our personal favorite was the boiled crawfish. We arrived at 2 PM and there was still a long line of waiting customers. The Cajun spiced meaty tails paired perfectly with one of their special “Bottoms Up” Draft Beers of local and national brands. It was the perfect casual and delicious lunch.

6:30pm, Tex-Mex worth the wait

As the dinner hour struck we headed for The Original Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen. They got their start in Pearland thanks to Master Enchilada Roller Russell Ybarra and now have locations throughout the Houston area. For over 20 years, the Original Gringo’s has been serving up comforting, satisfying dishes like Carne Guisada beef stew. We decided on the Shrimp Veracruz stuffed with Jack Cheese, Jalapeños and wrapped in bacon and Pollo Marisco chicken topped with shrimp and crawfish sautéed in a white wine sauce. These dishes were hearty, full of great Tex-Mex flavor and completely satisfying.

Pearland Extras

Of course dining isn’t the only thing to do in or around the Pearland area.  During this weekend getaway, we went shopping at Pearland Town Center, which features such fine retailers as Macy’s, Dillard’s and Forever 21, as well as a covered play area that includes a wet zone for the kids to cool off.  Centennial Park has great jogging trails and is a nice place for walking or relaxation.  288 Lake is an open water spring-fed lake where swimmers, kayakers, paddle-boarders and scuba divers can train on an ongoing basis.  And the city is home to many festivals, 5K races, a Hindu temple and outdoor concerts in Southdown Park.  Plus the close proximity to Space Center Houston in Clear Lake and the Kemah Boardwalk is just icing on the proverbial cake.

As we wrapped up our weekend outing and prepared to head home to Houston, we reflected on our experience. Pearland is a growing city with an amazing culinary culture. Suffice it to say, we’ll be back for another weekend soon!

Plan your own dining excursion to Pearland with the free map and guide!