Our My Top 5 series showcases Houstonians who are creating the city’s culture and community and asks them to share their own local favorites. This week we’re delighted to feature Paul Miller, restaurateur and owner of Gr8 Plate Hospitality, which oversees The Union Kitchen and Jax Grill. His original The Union Kitchen location on Bellaire Boulevard, which he opened in 2010, introduced a new executive chef and menu last week.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Paul Miller
- Houston Sports – Astros, Rockets, Texans, Sabercats, Dynamo, and Dash, I love ’em all. My wife Doris and I are sports nuts. We are season ticket holders for most of our Houston teams and take our three kids to games as often as possible. Altuve, Harden, JJ, Brian Ching, Kealia Ohai are just some of the amazing people that make our teams fun to watch and do some great things for our city. If you think it’s too expensive to take your family to games, do a little research. There are $5 SRO tickets at Minute Maid Park, Texans ticket packages in Gridiron Texas (that’s the upper ring of NRG Park), and great tickets to Sabercats for $15. Take time to walk around the tailgating and meet great Houstonians there also. They will probably give you a free beer.
- Eating Local – I can’t remember the last time I ate out and didn’t go to a local restaurant. Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Cajun, Southern, BBQ, Burgers, and the list goes on. Chefs and restaurateurs are doing some great things in our town, and if you just settle for the same old standbys, you will miss out on some amazing food. When I eat out with family and friends, we always go family-style. Don’t sit with us if you are not willing to share. Order a ton of appetizers and no one gets the same entree, so we can try more of the menu. Alison Cook, Eric Sandler, Cleverley Stone, and Greg Morago are just a few of the writers, bloggers, and radio personalities to get suggestions from about where to dine. Some of our family favorites are BB’s Tex-Orleans for Crawfish and po’ boys; look for Brooks Bassler to teach you how to shuck a mudbug; Niko Niko’s for Greek and salads −Dimitri Fetokakis will make you feel like family right away; and of course, China Garden before or after a Rockets game. Carol and MaMa always make you feel right at home.
- Drinking Local – Beer, Wine, Vodka, and Whiskey oh my. Everyone has their favorites, but give Houston and Texas a try. Yellow Rose Distilling makes great Whiskey. BJ Hookers Vodka is a solid addition to our bars. Texas wine has been winning awards for years and is worth a try. But for me, it’s all about the beer. With 15-plus local H-Town breweries, you can taste everything from IPA to Stout, Hazy to Crystal clear. Check out the new outdoor patio at Saint Arnold and look for owner Brock Wagner; he will probably be driving an art car. My personal favorite is Spindletap Brewery. Family friendly, cool tasting room and damn good beer. Owner Brody Chapman is almost always there and loves to talk beer. It started as a hobby, but now he serves at some of the best restaurants in Houston.
- Volunteering – It’s great to do something for others. With a city this big, there are always people in need and people willing to help. The people of Houston are so willing to give time and money to deserving organizations. If you have the time, try volunteering at the Houston Food Bank, pick up trash in one of our many parks, do craft projects with kids that have cancer at one of our many hospitals. We are involved with Casa de Esperanza, and participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks every year. Cooking for others or just lending a helping hand is one of the best feelings you will ever have.
- Rocking the Rodeo – This will be my 5th year as a Committeeman. I love everything the Houston Rodeo from education and scholarships to competition and great music. The actual Rodeo and concerts are only about 10 percent of what goes on during the 21 days the gates are open. Go early and shop the vendors, see the animals and go to the petting zoo, ride the rides, play games on the midway, and please, do not forget the food. More than 34,000 people volunteer to work at the Rodeo every year. Just another reason that it’s the people that make Houston great.
About Paul Miller
Paul Miller is the owner of Gr8 Plate Hospitality, overseeing The Union Kitchen (five locations) and Jax Grill (two locations). With more than 20 years of restaurant experience, he was named the 2018 Restaurateur of the Year by the Greater Houston Restaurant Association and a 2018 Outstanding Restaurateur by the Texas Restaurant Association. He also serves on the board for Casa de Esperanza. A Houston resident since 2005, Miller played college football and spent two years on the wrestling team at Purdue. His original The Union Kitchen location on Bellaire Boulevard, which he opened in 2010, introduced a new executive chef and menu last week.