Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Houston: Road Tripping, Space and Greeks

So we took a little trip to Houston. 

I can't say that I was too excited about Houston at first. Excited to get away, absolutely. Excited for an intimate little road trip, always. Excited to visit some art house theaters, YES. (Especially after how cool the Belcourt was.) But... Houston? Meh. My most prominent memory of Houston was the family road trip to NASA when I was 10, on which I lost my favorite teddy bear. I had family in Galveston when I was younger and tired of the Gulf Coast's disappointing beaches. But! I have since become something of an expert at travel planning and had a best friend to go with me, so I did some research and went with an open mind.

For the first half of the trip down Taso drove with one purpose in mind: to find Bucees. Bucees is the travel stop to end all travel stops, and he's been talking about it for years. It did not disappoint.
He also has a little secret that I'm going to let you in on. Taso wants to be an astronaut. He's obsessed with all things space and has not-ironically wanted a NASA jacket for a long time. It was a must that we visit the Space Center first and foremost.
His enthusiasm made the whole thing so fun, even the boring little driving tour that ended with us getting completely drenched in a surprise thunderstorm. (Actually, that may have been my favorite part. I love rain and surprises.)
I loved the strange contrast of space with Texas prairie.
Things got a little weird by the end of our journey. Let's just call it space madness.

As for me, I lean toward skepticism. I'm fascinated by space, but I found NASA to be a little too fake and outdated. I'd like to know more about the brilliant minds that run the space program and the mysteries and secrets they must hold. I'm a little bit of a conspiracy theorist (just a little bit), so I found myself looking sideways at the "astronaut training station" and half-hearted exhibits. It was still really cool and we've been searching out books and documentaries about space ever since. (Recommendations welcome!)

After a stop at the hotel to wash the thunderstorm out of my hair, we went to #1 on my "Places We Must Eat" list for dinner: Niko Nikos. Neither of us had any idea that Houston has a big Greek population! Taso is Greek (obviously) and I've been trying to learn the language all summer, so this was a super exciting revelation. Niko Nikos is a wildly popular (read: constantly packed) casual Greek diner with a huge menus of legit dishes. I threw my still-wet hair up on top of my head and well... we both tried to look our best.
 There were pretty little murals of Greek islands painted around the perimeter and it had a definite diner vibe. The service was kind of terrible and we had to fight for a table, but the food was delicious. Taso's dad's best friend owns a Greek restaurant in Dallas that's spectacular and has set our standards pretty high, but for a casual, quick place, Niko Nikos stacked up. We decided that if we lived in Houston it would be our go-to takeout place.
It was a perfect Friday, a long drive out of town, good food, peaceful sleep and Taso got his NASA jacket. More importantly, we discovered our favorite area of Houston (where we would spend the rest of our weekend) around the museum district and north up Montrose to endless vintage shops, bookstores and cute coffee houses. 


  1. Ah Montrose--my old home. The Niko's family own a slew of other restaurants, if memory serves, including Mexican, American, etc.

    If you have time and haven't been there yet, go to Mai's for Vietnamese. Houston has a large Vietnamese population and Mai's is great (although skip the salted lemonade--it's only for natives, and I don't mean Texans).

    Where did you go in Montrose?

  2. Scratch that, it's not the Niko's family but the Pappas who own the Cajun place--Pappadeaux--and others. I've been to Niko Niko's and my memory just failed me!

  3. Yay Houston! I've been seriously considering moving back! I can't wait! Glad you went to grandmother worked there for years and years. As for bucee's - well, I only go there for the bathroom. I'm much more of a Woody's girl. Try it next time! It's in Centerville! I miss you Brit! I hope you're doing well!