HOUSTON – JULY 8, 2019: Star Gilani wants to tell the untold stories, the ones that people don’t notice – and are often right under their noses. That’s why she launched Best Bites Houston, a weekly, intimate walking tour of Downtown Houston that combines food, architecture history, and culture into one incredible three-hour experience.
“I love food and I love Houston,” she says with an effervescent spark that invites others to share her passion. “And this signature tour showcases the people and talents that have made this city so diverse and so exciting.”
Each Saturday afternoon tour kicks off from nearby Discovery Green at 4:00 p.m., rain or shine. Star leads a small group of no more than 16 on an odyssey of culinary and historical adventure. Along the way, they’ll visit five different restaurants and bars, for a private tasting and meet-and-greet with chefs and hospitality managers, in between checking out some of Downtown’s historic homes, architectural landmarks and modern murals.
No two experiences are exactly the same, as the restaurant options change from week to week. Star has secured relationships with favorites such as Brasserie du Parc (classic French cuisine), Kulture (elevated soul food) Phoenicia Specialty Foods & MKT Bar (international food market and restaurant), Reserve 101 (specialty whiskey bar) and The Rustic (Tex-Mex). A tour might begin with a stop at Kulture for a tasting of the restaurant’s molasses vinegar riblet and okra, paired with a pomegranate mojito. From there, it could be a stop at the Arthur B. Cohn House, a stunning light blue Queen Anne home dating to the 1870s. Cohn, who was Rice University founder William Marsh Rice’s personal attorney, lived in the home in 1905. That’s a short hop away from the HTOWN mural by GONZO247. Star talks about these sites, adding context to their relationship with Houston and explaining to walk participants how vital they are to an ever-changing city.
There are stops for live music sets. There may be crepes from Brasserie du Parc or a beer flight and tamales at The Rusic. It’s altogether possible Star might bring guests into Phoenicia for a chicken shawarma. Each evening ends with cocktails and international desserts at Reserve 101.
“We like to have an air of mystery and surprise to the tours,” says Star of the ever-changing itinerary. “I’ve discovered the Houstonians love their city and they love to explore, so this is a great way for them to check out someplace new or learn something they didn’t know about a place they’re already familiar with.”
Star believes Best Bites accurately captures the energy of the Bayou City, especially when it comes to sampling cuisine from around the world. She’s from Dubai and came to Houston when she was 12. With a background in marketing and hospitality –she’s a graduate of the University of Houston’s Hilton School and worked as the marketing manager for the City of Sugar Land – she launched her tour company after a year of research and rehearsals. She studied downtown’s history, learning its landmarks, and discovering facts she felt her guests would want to know. She dined – repeatedly! – at each restaurant the walking tour visits, learning the backstories about the chefs and their dishes.
“Every single place on our tour offers something culturally unique,” she says. “This is a total immersive experience that shows people what an incredible place our city is.”
In addition to the weekly Saturday tour, Best Bites will soon launch a Friday evening option. And private tours are available as well, perfect for date nights or a gals or guys night out. Those are custom-tailored to guests’ interests and needs.
Regular admission for each tour is $65 for adults, which includes two beverage pairings at the tour stops. Those who want a drink pairing at each spot can purchase a VIP admission for $75. Tickets for kids 12 and under are $45. Tours can be booked at www.bestbiteshouston.com.