Unique Sleep Videos by Tom Eats Houston

January 30, 2023

Oh, Bun Kabab, We Hardly Knew Ye

Bun Kabab
This little fast food-style restaurant was, probably, doomed from the beginning. Bun Kabab, a halal Pakistani eatery now permanently closed, had a bad location working against it. 

Situated at 6965 Harwin Drive, Houston in Accessory Plaza II (see map), it was virtually invisible from the street. The store opened in early 2021, located just over a quarter mile west of the famous Gandhi District along Hillcroft Avenue. 

Inside Bun Kabab
It was not able to draw people who go to that area seeking the south Asian cuisines the area is known for. Had they been located on or much nearer to Hillcroft, Bun Kabab might still be open.

Although Harwin is a busy street, Bun Kabab had poor signage. It was in Accessory Plaza II, with merchants selling jewels, watches, computers, wholesale of other household goods, retail clothing, footwear and leather articles in specialized stores, and clothing accessories. Much of Harwin is filled with similar places, and has very few restaurants along it. In other words, Bun Kabab's location was not a destination for people seeking a Pakistani or south Asian dining experience.

Gyro Omelette (left) with
Paratha (flat bread, right)
Google Maps reviewers (23 of them) gave Bun Kabab 3.5 stars (out of 5), and reviews were mixed, from enthusiastically good to scathingly bad. 

My own experience was not bad, nor was it great. I liked what they were trying to do, which was serve something unique and tasty. That's what I got, and it was both good enough and interesting enough that I went there three times. 

Gyro Omelette
Had I rated it while it was still in business, I also would have given it 3.5 stars. My first visit was on October 25, 2021. I was struck by the vibrantly cool decor, a sort of updated classic American diner vibe. It was very clean, including the restroom. 

I ordered the Gyro Omelette with Paratha ($6.00), and two samosas ($1.00 each). I was pleased with both, and the mildly spicy green sauce you see in the photo was amazing. There was plenty of gyro meat in the omelette; it cooked nicely. 

Karachi Beef Bun Kabab
My next visit was a few weeks later, and I ordered the Karachi Beef Bun Kabab with Fries. This was disappointing. The meat was a mush, kind of bland, and the bread was nondescript. I would rate the fries at 6.5 on a scale of 10. 

Not helping any was the inconsistent quality of the food and service, including some language barrier issues. 

Karachie Beef Bun Kabab and Fries

Bun Kabab probably could have succeeded in a better location and if the owners had a bit more social media savvy. A few American-style items on the menu, such as a regular hamburger, might have helped draw more customers from the many offices and shops nearby. 

Bun Kabab's Menu






Bun Kabab's huge outdoor patio








January 26, 2023

A Last Look At James Coney Island

It was a good run, really. James Coney Island became a Houston institution after humble beginnings as a hot dog stand in 1923 in the city's downtown. "It wasn't until forty years later that a second location opened and by 1988, it was a multi-million dollar brand," Lorretta Ruggiero reported for Houston Press in October 2022. 

But the little local hot dog empire closed its last outpost during the first weekend of last October, and now the empty building near the Galleria awaits the proverbial wrecking ball.

James Coney Island, 5745 Westheimer Road
(more photos below)

The company renamed itself JCI Grill in 2014
, Ruggiero wrote. The closing of their hot dog palaces, however, is by no means the end of the company. They have big plans to revamp and rebuild. 

In a press release, Darrin Straughan, JCI President of 29 years, said, "Future builds and locations will be smaller in footprint with interiors closer to 2,000 square feet. The company will shift operational focus to a technological and consumer-facing enhancement of the drive-thru, curbside pick-up and off-premises experience." (If anybody can translate that, please do in a comment.)

I've eaten at James Coney Island a couple of times and to be honest, I wasn't impressed. But then, I grew up with Chicago-style hot dogs – something JCI attempted but never got right (in my opinion). Let's wait and see what their future attempts yield. 

On January 26, 2023 I stopped by the James Coney Island location at 5745 Westheimer Road, on the periphery of Houston's Galleria neighborhood, for one last glimpse. To many Houstonians, it's an iconic building. After the building is razed and the rubble hauled away, a new structure there will house Artisans, a French-themed restaurant. From hot dogs to haute cuisine (and by the way, haute is pronounced "oat").





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January 20, 2023

Crime-Ridden McDonald’s Closes in Downtown Houston

One of the worst McDonald's I've ever been in is closing – finally.

Photo: Reddit Houston u/lolunix, via
houstonarchitecture.com

I've been in a lot of creepy, downright frightening Mickey Dees in my life, but none compared in my experience with this one. It was the worst in Houston, and just might have been the worst McDonald's in the nation.

Yes, I've been there. Once, in June 2013. It's located at 2017 Main Street, Houston, right across from a Greyhound Bus station that's almost as scary. I took three steps in and immediately realized I'd just passed into a post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmare. The huge, armed security guard just inside the front door, a large black man, gave me a look that told me, a 57-year-old white dude, to leave now while you still can. I nodded a thank you and took his advice.

A report on January 20, 2023 by LocalToday.news summed it up

The infamous arches at Block 2000 of Main Street, next to the downtown Greyhound bus stop, were torn down during the winter break.

The restaurant has been around for decades. The earliest mention in the Chronicle was on February 4, 1989, when Susan Warren reported that a nasty cold front was making rescue workers nervous. Although warm shelters were set up, half a dozen homeless people had settled under the Pierce Elevated.

“Most people camping in the area sought — at least for the day — a warm haven at restaurants and the nearby bus station, said an employee at the McDonald’s restaurant next door. The clerk said campers would no doubt be returning after dark to spend the night under the freeway, lighting fires in barrels and old grill pits to keep them warm.”

When I was there 10 years ago, I was struck by the sight of several people passed out on the sidewalk across the street, by the bus station. As I walked out of the station, I was warned by an elderly man washing taxi windshields to keep moving for my own safety. 

Houston Historic Retail said this on January 6: 

Situated just between the Greyhound Bus Station and the Pierce Elevated section of I-45, this McDonald’s has seen it all. From robberies to homicides, from poor service to “traveling salesmen,” this store has seen just about everything. This situation became so bad that about a year ago, McDonald’s ended up closing off the dining room entirely and adding a makeshift security door with a window to allow for walk-up customers.  

A tweet from 2018: 

Localtoday.news also noted that, "Commenters on two different Reddit threads were quick to point out the location’s far from stellar reputation, including some of its nicknames: Crackdonalds, McStabby, and Chaos McDonald’s, for example."

January 11, 2023

Expired Food On Shelves At Fiesta #39 in Houston

When you're grocery shopping, it's important to check the dates on the foods you buy. 

Today I was in Fiesta Mart
in Houston's Sharpstown neighborhood and found six cartons of liquid egg whites that expired weeks ago

This is their Store #39, at 8710 Bellaire, Houston, Texas. This store, in my opinion, is the worst supermarket in Houston and one of the worst I've seen anywhere in the United States. 

To be fair, there are other Fiesta stores I like, but this particular store is run particularly poorly.

According to Foodspace, liquid egg whites "are ONLY good until the expiration date."


Five of the liquid egg cartons I found at Fiesta were marked "Use by 26 Dec 22," and one was marked "Use by 28 Nov 22" (six weeks and 2 days past safe usage). As with the expired sausages I found in August 2022 (see below), I took the expired cartons up front and left them with a clerk and when I asked for a manager I was told they were all in a meeting. I asked her to tell the managers that they're doing a lousy job of keeping expired food items off the shelves.


According to the USDA on the safe handling of eggs,
"If the container for liquid products bears a 'use-by' date, observe it. Follow the storage and handling instructions provided by the manufacturer."

Over the past four years, I've come across numerous products at this Fiesta that are long past their "sell by" and "use by" dates. Do they want to be sued for food poisoning?

Back on August 30, 2022, I found seven packages of past-date sausages. Each had a "sell by" date of July 31. A month out of date. How did the staff miss this?

I've often found perishable items that are way past "sell by" dates at this store. Not just a day or two, but weeks past. Dairy, packaged meats, and other items. Do they not care? Are they lazy? Stupid? Do they put profit ahead of customer safety? I don't know, I'm just asking. 

I only stop in to this store for convenience; soda, bottled water, canned goods, and other items that are not a food poisoning risk. But I usually go out of my way to shop elsewhere, because this store has the worst checkout process I've ever experienced at any grocery store across the country. 

Customers unaccustomed to electronic pay terminals regularly clog up the "Express" lanes (clearly marked as "10 Items Or Less") with a cart full of 30, 40 or more items – and the clerks and managers do not enforce the 10-item limit. Clerks needing a manager's assistance will call out "service," tying up the line for many minutes until one shows up to solve whatever it was. I swear, I've never seen that as a regular occurance in any other grocery store in America. 

Although the store has 10 checkout lanes, they usually have only three or four open even as people are lined up 20-deep and blocking the aisles. It's as though the managers are blind to this or they just don't care. Maybe they're blind to it because they don't care.

Ninety percent of the customers
mindlessly block the way with their carts and stare at you dumbly when you say, "excuse me" as you try to get past them. When you leave the store, your brain hurts.

A couple of years ago, I found a packaged seafood item on a non-refrigerated display. The package clearly said, "Keep Refrigerated," and not just after opening. It was perishable. I pointed this out to a manager. His response shocked me. "Well, we don't refrigerate those in my country." What the hell? 

You've been warned. Check those "sell by" dates, especially at Fiesta Mart #39 in Houston. It might keep you from getting sick.

Related:

  • The Problems With Fiesta Mart In Texas - Chicago News Bench
  • Using Liquid Egg Whites Past the Expiration Date - Foodspace
  • This Is What Those Best-By, Sell-By, and Use-By Dates Really Mean - All Recipes 
  • OSHA launches investigation into Fiesta Mart after 2 butchers suffer from amputation injuries - Click 2 Houston
  • Fiesta Mart reviews & complaints - Complaints Board

January 07, 2023

Houston's Legendary Prince's Hamburgers (with exclusive owner interview)

Prince's Hamburgers has a long history in Texas, especially in Houston. It is probably the most iconic, most legendary burger restaurant in Space City. And yes, I mean moreso than the beloved Whataburger.

Watch: The burger, the interview
Whataburger is certainly legendary, but not as much as is Prince's. 

By the time Whataburger started up in 1950, Prince's Hamburgers had already been in business for 14 years — and already legendary. Unlike Whataburger, Prince's is actually named after the man who founded the restaurant. There is no "Mr. Whataburger," LOL.

I recently visited Prince's Hamburgers for the fifth time at the Sharpstown Park Golf Course and had their magnificent Bopper Bacon Cheddar Burger with fries and their famous onion rings. I also had the great pleasure of interviewing co-owner Terry McConn, who gave fascinating insights into Prince's history and future plans. 

According to the Texas State Historial Association (TSHA), George Douglas “Doug” Prince, Jr. started a "small hamburger stand on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas in 1929....Within a year, Prince looked for greater opportunity, and on a visit to Houston in 1934, he decided that city was the best location for his business."

Prince's at the 
Sharpstown Golf Course
Prince moved to Houston in 1935 and "opened his first-drive in an old Weber’s Root Beer stand at 4509 South Main. The contract said that the Weber name should remain for six months. After that time the 'Prince’s Famous Hamburgers' name was launched in March 1936."

"As carhops became popular across the country," says TSHA, "he staffed each drive-in with attractive carhops dressed in sequined uniforms similar to a band majorette. Prince’s is credited with helping to popularize the position, and in 1941 Prince’s carhop Jeanette Hall was crowned “America’s first Carhop Queen” and was pictured in Life magazine." (And that was nine years before Whataburger existed.)

Unlike Whataburger, which is thriving today and was acquired by a Chicago firm in 2019, Prince's Hamburgers nearly went extinct. "The last Prince's Hamburgers location in Houston has closed, a victim of Hurricane Harvey's massive flooding," the Houston Chronicle reported in 2018. "The location at 3425 Ella Boulevard was the last location standing."

Carhops in front of Prince's Hamburgers, circa 1951
Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

But Prince's is not down yet. In fact, they seem poised for strong comeback, as you'll see in my video. Long live Prince's Hamburgers!

Related:

December 21, 2022

Clear But Cold Weather Forecast PANICS Houston

And You Thought Texans Were Tough?

At the grocery store today (H.E.B.), some customers were talking of "shortages" on the shelves. I saw none, to be honest, at least nothing significant. 

Well, some raw chicken items were being restocked while I was there around 11:30 a.m. I spoke with the guy putting more bird parts on the shelves and he said, "You should have seen it yesterday. There was a rush on chicken." I asked him why. 

"The freeze is coming," he said. What he meant was the cold front predicted to hit Houston late Thursday evening. Temps will plunge to 19 degrees ("feels like 5") on Friday morning and some Houstonians are freaking out about that.

"Happens every time there's a freeze forecast," the stocker said. "Every single time," he chuckled.

Click to enlarge 
source: wunderground.com
Yes, people are actually panic buying, thinking they need to stock up for a few days of chilly but dry  weather. It's not going to snow. There will be no ice on the roads. What the heck do they think will happen? Deliveries will not be stopped or even slowed. Stores will not be closed.

The ONLY reason I can imagine that they're panic buying now is that the prospect of having to go out in temps below 50 generally terrifies them. And they say Texans are tough? LMAO. 

The next precipitation forecast is next Thursday, Dec 29, when temps will be well above 60 with no chance of freezing. But to me, a native of Wisconsin who spent half of my adult life in Chicago, a few days of dry, cool weather is no big deal.

They say "everything's bigger in Texas." I reckon that includes fear of chilly weather, too.

November 09, 2022

Houston METRO's Absurd Anti-Advertising Policy

Photo: ridemetro.org
In case you haven't heard yet, the Houston Astros won the World Series. There was a big parade downtown on Monday, November 7 to celebrate that win by tying up the city's limited police resources and completely effing up traffic patterns for hours.

It's natural that people want to celebrate the victory of highly paid athletes, whose triumph in no way affects them in any real or meaningful way. I get that. 

I even get why all rides on METRO (Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County) public transit services "will be free throughout World Series Parade day." It does make sense to discourage automobile traffic downtown with such a big event happening. As a result, all riders on METRO today got free rides (myself included), even if their bus trips took them nowhere near the parade.

As I said, I get it. I also get why METRO is "offering free rides on all Metro buses, trains, Bike Share and Metro Micro  on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8. The free rides will run from midnight to 11:59 p.m. on November 8." They want to make voting as easy as possible. Fox26 reported this:
METRO announced they will give free rides to the voting booths for the 2022 midterm election. The League of Women Voters is partnering with METRO to offer rides to polling locations across the Houston area for registered voters on certain dates. METRO says voters can ride at no charge on METRORail, local buses, METRORapid, curb2curb, and METROLift paratransit services.

These free rides will be available the first week of early voting from Oct. 24 – Oct. 30, 2022, and on Election Day on Nov. 8, 2022.
My favorite part of that report is this:  
METRO says voters only need to tell the bus drivers and/or fare inspectors they are going to or returning from the polls.

In other words, you could get free rides all day on November 8, 2022 if you simply told the driver that you're on your way to vote. They had to take riders at their word, apparently, since they didn't require anyone to show their Texas Voter Registration Certificate — and even if someone did, it doesn't mean they hadn't already voted, intended to vote, or that the certificate was even theirs. 

So for two days in November, Houston METRO gave away ALL of its fare revenue. And here's a dirty little secret: They don't care. In fact, METRO seems to dislike money. 

October 22, 2022

Food Reviews AND Sleep Videos? Sure!


I started Tom Eats Houston to review the local food scene. This is still a new venture, but I've already "diversified" my efforts by adding sleep videos to my YouTube channel. I've adopted the motto, "Eat, Sleep, Repeat." Or you could go directly to the sleep video playlist there, called "Sleep Videos Dream Sounds."

What's more comforting than a good meal and a good night's sleep? 

Many of you might not be familiar with "sleep videos." They are, simply, videos that have serene, calming images and – more importantly – a soothing audio track. 

The audio is usually a "hush" sound, such as a fan, falling rain, or pure white noise. It could also include music condusive to sleep.

I've been using sleep videos for a couple of years now. It helps me sleep by masking noise like traffic, people talking, etc. I just bring one up on my computer, adjust the volume, let my screen darken automatically after two minutes, and that's it. Most sleep videos are at least 8 hours in length, but many are 10 or 11 hours. 

A lot of people use "sleep videos" to help them study or just relax. With that in mind, I'm happy to make and offer new sleep videos in the hope that it will help you, too. Sweet dreams.

October 16, 2022

Houston's Blade Runner-Themed Chinese Restaurants

A scened from Blade Runner?
Nope. One of The Rice Box restaurants.

"The Rice Box" is a Chinese restaurant in Houston with a futuristic, neon-drenched look that could be straight off the set of the film Blade Runner. I'll admit up front that I haven't eaten there yet. The food gets rave reviews, but that's not why I'm writing this

What fascinates me is the look of the Rice Box and their masterful marketing

According to Houston Culture Map (Oct 13, 2022), "Houston’s favorite Blade Runner-inspired Chinese takeout bar will soon add a fourth location to its roster. The Rice Box is coming to Rice Village." 

To help publicize their fourth location, the Rice Box created a mock movie poster. Of course, it also has a Blade Runner feel to it. If you have never seen Blade Runner, watch a short video to get a feel for its aesthetics. 

Even the Rice Box website has a scifi vibe. There, they describe themselves: "The Rice Box is a multi-sensational, Chinese/American takeout restaurant where your experience begins the moment you set foot through the door. Walk into our world of glass and neon and you’ve just entered new wave Chinatown. Our edgy ambience is part of what makes us unique as a takeout food service. That, and our constant effort to provide outstanding personalized service where everyone remembers your name."


They have very cool Facebook pages 
here and also here, where you can see more images and even some videos. And of course, they have a killer Instagram page as well. I intend to put on a long trench coat, fire up my flying car and go to a Rice Box location soon.

October 14, 2022

Why Kroger Buying Albertsons Is Good News

This is huge. Kroger announced today that they intend to purchase Albertsons in a $25 billion deal that will rock the retail grocery industry.

"The deal, which is expected to close in 2024, would combine two of the largest supermarket chains in the country and create one of its largest private employers," reports CNN today. "The two companies have a combined 710,000 workers – most of them unionized in an industry with low union rates – nearly 5,000 stores and more than $200 billion in sales. The companies say they reach 85 million households." It will be the largest supermarket chain in the U.S.

This is great news for shoppers. Albertsons has long lagged behind in keeping up with trends in the grocery sector. 

This is no ordinary merger. It is gigantic. "Albertsons Companies is a leading food and drug retailer in the United States. As of June 18, 2022, Albertsons Companies operated 2,273 retail food and drug stores with 1,720 pharmacies, 402 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 19 manufacturing facilities. Albertsons Companies operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia with 24 banners including Albertsons Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci's Food Lovers Market." (Albertsons newsroom, Oct 14, 2022) 

Kroger is the fourth largest food retailer in the nation, according to Progressive Grocer (May 2022), behind only Walmart U.S., Amazon, and Costco with fiscal year end sales of $137.8 billion. That's nearly twice Albertsons's $71.8 billion.

September 29, 2022

Houston's Thriving International Food Scene

I spent half of my adult life in Chicago, where the food is great but the crime is out of control and the winters are harsh. I’ve been in Houston now for nine years and I’ve discovered that this is also a great food town. And except for hurricanes, tropical storms and brutal summers, it’s not bad.

Yes, yes it is

The barbecue here is, of course, is world-class. But there's much more to Houston these days than smoked brisket and boiled crawdads.

At first, I was skeptical about Houston 

In much of Chicago, there are great places to eat for every budget on every other block. Not so in Houston, which is more like Los Angeles -- where i lived for ten years and is another great food town. But like L.A., Houston is very spread out. Chicago is much more compact. So, in most of Houston you need transportation to experience the variety of foods here.

Fortunately, though, there are what I call "restaurant zones" in Houston. China town, for example, on the city's west side, has a tremendous number of restaurants serving east Asian fare -- Chinese, of course, but also a lot of Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese and more.

September 17, 2022

How NOT To Advertise Your Sushi (or anything else)

Sushi

Imagine you own a restaurant. You want to advertise (brag about) one of your most popular items. Let's say it's a Japanese restaurant and you're especially proud of your sushi. 

What kind of photo would you feature in that ad? The obvious answer, of course, is a beautiful photo of your sushi. 

But I recently ran across an ad on Facebook for a Houston-area Japanese restaurant that made me scratch my head. It left me wondering what their marketing person was thinking – and if they even know what sushi is over there. The reply to it, and the reply to that reply, are comical.