Friday, August 24, 2012

Old Favorite Review: Star Pizza Houston

Very recently a reader asked me "What are some places that you have eaten at for years and years in Houston or Vancouver which you have neglected to review?"  This question gave me pause, as I realized that although I'd mentioned a few old favourites here and there, I had mostly been posting about new places or places I'd tried recently.  Granted the goal of this blog is to branch out, explore and try new places, I had to remind myself that there are thousands of new Houstonians every year who may never have heard of my old favourites, as well as tourists and business travelers to Houston who might like to know a good place that locals go for something like pizza or burgers, that isn't a large regional or national chain.  After having put some time and thought into this, I realized that I had not reviewed one of my all time favourite local pizza joints:  Star Pizza.

As I considered how I would review this Houston Cornerstone of good gourmet pizza from a fresh perspective, I realized that due to my having been a grad student at Rice University, I'd always gone to the Shepherd and Norfolk location (a converted house next to the original 59 Diner), had never gone to the one on Washington Avenue, one for which my old grad school room-mate, Ned Hibberd, had delivered pizzas.  This steeled my resolve and I made my way to Washington Avenue and Harvard Street to enjoy their lunch buffet--running daily from 11 AM to 2 PM, weekdays only.

Truth to tell, this buffet is the best way to sample their many pizzas if you're not sure which one you would really like to order as a whole pie.  I've always been partial to combination pizzas with everything, and it's no secret that their Starburst Pizza (ground beef, Italian sausage, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms and green pepper) on whole wheat crust is one of my all time favourite pizza pies.  However, if you are a recent Houston visitor or transplant, I advise you to go to the lunch buffet and try all they put out there.  You'll find more than a few favourites.  And even someone like me who has a favourite will find some new ones like I did during this visit.  They had a Salsa Verde Pizza on the buffet today that had a green tomatillo sauce, feta cheese, roasted poblano peppers and pan-seared garlic that was spicy, a little sour and had a strong garlic flavour.  This was one of their foccacia pizzas, which also includes a Portofino with Kalamata olives & artichoke hearts and the well known Margharita Pizza.  The Buffet includes all their specialty pizzas, and some standard pizzas like plain cheese, pepperoni and Hawaiian (ham and pineapple).

My plate was a leaning tower
of Pizza 
I noticed the staff in the buffet area and kitchen were well timed--restocking the buffet with fresh pizza every 10 to 15 minutes, with great varieties of pies and the pizzas were all hot, with stringy, gooey cheese, and a hand tossed crust that was crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.  The meats, veggies and sauce tasted fresh--not old at all.  The servers were very diligent about making call-backs on beverages, and despite how busy it was, they never let my glass of iced tea--nor anyone else's beverage for that matter, go totally empty.  I will also say that the kitchen staff and the manager were visible the whole time--backing up the servers occasionally as needed.  The only gripe I could make (and this minor dear readers) is that they didn't have any whole wheat crust pizzas on the buffet while I was there during that lunch period.  However, their regular crust is good too, so it's really no big deal for this Pizza lover.

I go to Star Pizza at least every other month because it is one of those places that is always good and consistent, no matter when I've gone over the past 21 years.  For them to last so long as a 2 shop local joint in Houston, with such a cut throat level of competition, is a testament to the quality of their pizza.  The fact that a Starburst pizza on whole wheat crust now tastes as good to me as it did 21 years ago is all I need to know that it's going to be one of the places I always revisit periodically because I can count on it to be consistently good.

Green Tomatillo sauce and
Poblano Peppers on Foccacia
Report Card for Star Pizza in The Heights:
Pizza Buffet: A+
     Friendliness: A
     Speed:  A
     Dining area: A
     Men's Room: Incomplete (Did not go in during this visit)
Atmosphere (Indie Pizza Parlour, Kistchy Posters around): A-
Overall Grade:  A

Star Pizza has 2 locations in the Houston area.  I went to the location at:
77 Harvard and Washington Avenue
Houston, TX 77007

Sun-Thu: 11 AM to 10 PM
Fri-Sat: 11 AM to 11 PM

And remember to Eat Happy Y'all!!!
Mangiare felici tutti voi!!!

Star Pizza 2 on Urbanspoon

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