Mark A. Villarreal

Champions Real Estate Group
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Houston is Home: Food and Family in America's best city.

January 18th, 2019


Houston is the best place to live. However, growing up, like most young people I wanted to get as far away from home as possible. I wanted to see the world and plant roots of my own. Perhaps, it is the folly of youth that forces one to ignore, even neglect the beautiful bliss that is a hometown.    

I joined the NAVY and became a Diver shortly after 9/11 and from there forward my wish was granted. The East Coast awed me in the fall; leaving the port of New London traveling down the tree lined Thames river was like maneuvering through a Bob Ross painting. So many colorful leaves. On the West Coast, I climbed and hiked along the cliffs of Big Sur, entranced by the magnitude of the Pacific. Yet, nothing captured my adventurous soul quite like the Pacific North West, and there is no greater sight than Mt. Rainier, seen from Seattle on a clear day. In retrospect that life is enticing. Yet, experience provides perspective and it is not lost on me that through every endeavor I felt something missing.    

Ultimately, it was family that brought me home to Houston. With my return I found some things changed, while others remained just as they always were. Either way, it has become abundantly clear that Houston is this best place to call home.  

Houston is home to amazing museums and one of my favorites has always been The Menil Collection. It became a favorite of mine while I was in high school. The Menil Collection is located near The University of St. Thomas in the Montrose District. The stunning art collection is operated on patron donations, which for me as a High School student was perfectly priced.  

Nevertheless, as a Realtor, in my hometown I made it my business to rediscover Houston. I thought The Menil Collection would be a perfect place to visit. Walking to the museum I saw something I hadn’t remembered, it looked like a large red Jacks Game. As I approached I discovered an unassuming sign that read Bistro Menil.


My mother’s birthday was a few day’s away and after peeking inside the restaurant I decided to make a reservation. Later that week when we arrived we were pleasantly greeted by the hostess, who immediately showed us to our table. The restaurant boasts a minimalist décor, reminiscent of a modern art museum. Wrapped in windows, the experience provides relaxing views of the The Museum and folks quaintly walking the beautifully manicured sidewalks. The atmosphere was calmly soothing for a restaurant. I sat across from my mother as we sipped our Iced Tea and chatted of days gone by while waiting for our order.

When the food arrived my mother looked down at her dish and said, “Oh, I have to take a picture.” The food arrived as stunning and intricately plated as any of the paintings within the collection just across the way. Mom had the Crab and Mushroom Crepes and I had the 12-Hr Beef Short Rib. Her Crepes, I would later learn, are a staple on the menu. When you mention them to anyone who has been to Bistro Menil they will tell you that they are some of the best in Houston. The crepes were  delicate and stuffed full of lump crab. My short rib sent a tingle through my taste buds with each bite. So deliciously tasty, I savored every bite and longed for more when I was done.  

We finished feeling satisfied. The waiter cleared our plates and brought my mother a latte and me a cappuccino. Then to my surprise, our waiter presented my mother with a small Buttermilk Black Berry Short Cake, topped with freshly whipped cream. The waiter said happy birthday and stepped away. I was surprised because I had only casually mentioned it was her birthday, days ago when I made the reservation. The attention to detail at Bistro Menil is impeccable.  

After lunch, my mother and I took a leisurely stroll across the street and spent sometime together viewing the wonderful artwork on display at The Menil. (Older now, I dropped a small donation in thanks for all the wonderful visits of my youth.)  

Houston has much to offer, you need only step out the door, into your car and you are bound to discover many wonderful eateries in any of Houston’s amazing neighborhoods. It is good to be home and able to rediscover my hometown. Experience truly does provide perspective.

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Disclaimer : The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Houston Association of REALTORS®

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