I want to put you on to five of my favorite hidden gems right now. I’d call these under-the-radar picks. I’m not saying no one has ever heard of them, but I am saying they’re all certifiable “if you know, you know” spots. If you follow the blog, you know I wouldn’t put you on to something that wasn’t A. delicious af B. consistent or C. otherwise surprising in all the right ways.
I try to eat something a few times before I tell you about it because I’m checking for consistency, but two entries here I’ve only been to once, however based on their delicious af to otherwise surprising in all the right ways quotient I know you’d want to know about them.
Clouds Hookah Sports Grill
Mo knows good eats. This little amalgm of an experience is equal parts hookah lounge, American sports grill, Mediterranean cafe, and comfy study spot. The food is all handmade by the restaurant’s owner Mo. He’s a twenty-something immigrant from Lebanon who studied to be an engineer, but his hungry cohorts swayed him into the glamorous lifestyle he now leads slaving over a hot grill. He says he used to throw big parties and one time he cooked up a bunch of burgers and his crew couldn’t stop raving about them. Now he’s serving them up for all of Lubbock. I’m telling you, I crave this burger (along with Tom & Bingo’s Brisket Burger); it’s in Lubbock’s top three, no question. It comes with ‘cloud sauce’ which is a spicy mayo-ey sauce that really sets it off. The hand-cut fries, the hand-breaded mozzarella sticks, homemade humus — this place is probably my favorite hidden gem. There’s always sports on several big screens, and there’s always some high-quality shisha to try. I’m not big on hookah, but the time I polished a juicy burger off with some made me feel like all was right in the world. And, in case you’re wondering, you get a single-use, individually packaged straw to use, so it’s very hygienic.
La Parrilla Mexican Restaurant
This place opened about six weeks ago and I’ve already been four times. I’ve had the Mexican trio: perfectly flavored and tender steak, shrimp, and chicken, a queso smothered pastor burrito, light and crispy tacos, and a few breakfast burritos with chorizo that’s never greasy. Their salsa is excellent and they have a habanero sauce that is perfectly sweet and fiery. Also, they have free beer and margs while they wait on their liquor license. I had excellent service on Saturday night (30 minutes before they closed with a group of 10) and the ticket total was $9 for a huge face-sized burrito and two Michelob Ultras. A table-mate had a torta and it looked incredible, too. My favorite Mexican place in Lubbock for the last 3-4 years has been Jalisco’s, but La Parrilla is a real contender. Will be interesting to see if they can stay as tasty and fast when the crowds figure out how gas this place is.
This lil gem is so hidden you may end up in Brownfield if you trust GoogleMaps and just let it take you. Apparently their original location is in Brownfield and it still has more historical clout on the web than the newest LBK outpost, but that shouldn’t last long. The tortas here maybe the best I’ve had. The bread seems really fresh and it’s pressed panini style so you get the fluffy, crusty combo your hungry face deserves. I’d be remiss not to speak of the pollo tho. Their main offering is a charcoal smoked and grilled 1/4, 1/2, or full chicken. It’s always seasoned perfectly and has never been dry or tough. It’s so good and a 1/2 chicken only sets you back a Hamilton, and it comes with tortillas, beans, rice, pickled onions, and a hot sauce that will warm your cold dark heart like one of those YouTube videos where a youth sports team lets the other team score so they can all champion an unlikely hero.
Donut House N Oriental Food Express
This place is even more confounding than Mo’s Clouds Grill. Yes, there are plenty of tasty looking donuts. Yes, there’s also a full oriental menu with Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese dishes. The only thing I’d take issue with is the “Express” word in the restaurant’s title. It seemed very slow, but the food ended up being very fresh and even with a 10-month old melting down as we waited an extra 20 minutes for our take-out, in hindsight it seemed worth it. I got the Khmer Curry, which was excellent. It came with French bread, too, which goes hand-in-hand with the colonial-infused culinary cuisine of Mainland Southeast Asia. This means there are a lot of fresh ingredients and plenty of seafood menu items bursting with flavor, mixed with French baking and braising stew techniques. This means they have Bahn mi, and while I didn’t try it this time, it has all the potential to be the best Bahn mi within a several hundred mile radius. The people who own it seem so sweet and ready to be everyone’s delicious comfort-food slingin’ grandma and pa.
Tea Room by Heart & Soul Cuisine
I’m not sure how I discovered this place and I still go back and forth wondering if it really even exists. It’s tucked neatly along the back wall of KK’s Corner Mall so you’ll have to walk by several booths with homemade candles, “Live. Laugh. Love.” signs, socks with avocados, hats made of stitched together Bud Light cans, and cleverly unlicensed Raider Red mustache screen print tees, but if you make through the nichey knick knacks, you’re in for a treat. The Team Room serves up super fresh sandwiches, soups, even chicken fried-steak and other rotating fare. They have excellent side salads with mixed greens and lovely vinagrettes. I’ve been on a club sandwich kick, so that’s what I tried most recently at Heart & Soul. It was excellent. The bread seemed fresh and the sandwich was hearty and hefty enough to satisfy. It can be tough to find a flavorful and fresh lunch in Lubbock, especially if you’re not looking to doze off the rest of the day smelling like the greasy spoon from whence you dined. If you want stay lean and mean after lunch while still getting your flavor socks knocked, I can’t recommend Tea Room enough. I need to make it back there soon.
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