In a land of burgers, BBQ, and queso, you’d think the healthy options would taste (ugh) healthy... and some do. However, there are a few diamonds in the rough that manage to stay healthy AND do it in a way that is actually satisfying to taste. Surprised? Us too. From alarmingly tasty vegan options (including cupcakes!) to local eats that hit all the nutritional checkpoints (including burgers!), these health-conscious Houston restaurants should help keep you in fine fettle. Now, if only they could find a way to make negative-calorie queso...
With all of its fresh/local/sustainable eats, TFK is the perfect example of a “health food” concept that gets it right. The California chain thinks every opportunity to eat is an opportunity to nourish your body, and it does so through winners like grass-fed umami burgers, Texas redfish tacos, and gluten-free chocolate cakes that'll have you wondering why you're still baking with flour. The best part? A legit doctor has approved it all. Even the space doesn’t suck, with an airy dining room mixing wood with bright colors to bring a stylish, earthy look to match its food.
This San Antonio import impresses with a solid roster of of soul-satisfying eats of the vegetarian, vegan, AND kosher variety, all of which are offered on the cheap. Brunch like the best of them with tofu scramble breakfast bowls, avocado eggs Benny, and sweet potato pancakes. Later, cauliflower hot wings, “chik-n” Parmesan, and falafel bowls are there to keep you happy as a vegetarian clam. Then there are the cupcakes, which are just as 100% vegan as they are 100% surprisingly good.
Galleria (& CityCentre)
Calories are displayed right next to the food description at this rustic, fresh-to-death grill... but with dishes like 460-calorie wood-grilled flat iron steak in red wine sauce and 500-calorie caramelized scallops with butternut squash risotto, the outcome is a lot less alarming than one may think. The menu changes seasonally, and portions are spot-on to keep you right and tight, even at dessert (a raspberry chocolate chip cannoli and carrot cake are both under 250 calories). Since you’re eating all responsibly and stuff, you may as well treat yourself to a glass of vino, too. The restaurant employs a master sommelier to hand-pick wines from a selection of over 100 different bottles, an appropriate 52 of which are available by the glass.
Upper Kirby (& other locations)
This grab-and-go health food concept is an absolute lifesaver, both for those without time on their hands and those without kitchen skills that reach beyond sad-looking steamed chicken and broccoli. Options read like a playbook of the hottest lifestyle trends, from gluten-free, dairy-free, Whole30, and Paleo to vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian. But the kicker is that this “diet” stuff actually tastes good. Start your mornings with chili & eggs or lemon ricotta pancakes, then dig into chicken tikka masala and chimichurri beef before finishing off with chocolate mousse. It’s OK, because it’s vegan.
Not only can you sip some excellent locally roasted coffee at this cult favorite cafe, you can also pop in for some excellent vegetarian fare. Evening meals (after 5pm) consist of a rotating selection of globally inspired vegan eats, including “not so” butter chicken, creole-style red beans & rice, and Thai red curry. Lunch gives you the opportunity to smash things like vegetarian curried potato and Muenster cheese panini or creamy garlic and mushroom soup. All of it leaves you feeling a little bit better about that pint of ice cream you smashed the night before.
Yes, the guy behind the Eatsie Boys food truck and 8th Wonder Brewery got behind a health food concept, and yes, it’s just as good as his other two concepts. Chef Matt Marcus consulted on the project with RP’s chef, Pablo Gomez, to bring the residents of Katy exactly what they were missing: a health-driven restaurant that goes full-throttle on flavor. You won’t feel guilty about downing eats like gluten-free shrimp and crab nachos, Asian soba noodle salad, and pork porterhouse with creamy polenta.The menu is constantly being refreshed when the guys get restless, so visit often to see what’s up.
Heights (& other locations)
While not everything on the menu at this green cafe is healthy, there's enough nutritional stuff to warrant it a spot on the list. Gut-busting mac & cheese takes a spin on the lighter side with quinoa instead of noodles; greasy tacos get decidedly less greasy with portobello ‘shrooms and black beans; towering salads are always on-point; and even burgers go fit with lean buffalo meat and whole wheat buns. The white chocolate bread pudding, on the other hand... you may want to split that one with a few pals.
Even the meatiest of meat eaters can get momentary amnesia at this refreshingly good plant-based cafe and juice bar. Get hand-cut dill fries to stuff inside loaded veggie burgers and portobello mushroom “cheesesteaks,” dip crispy cauliflower nuggets in fiery hot sauce, or go full beast mode on a protein-packed kale and quinoa bowl BECAUSE YOU CAN.
While the restaurant is currently closed for renovations (expected to re-open December 2016), this Paleo-friendly spot will be your new bae if you plan on trying out one of those cavemen diets after the holidays. Things like paella, enchiladas, and lasagna go Paleo through gratifying additions like spaghetti squash, coconut flour tortillas, and zucchini, portobello, and shaved butternut squash. You can even trick your SO into eating vegan, with a crazy-good raw pad Thai that mimics the real thing with zucchini noodles and almond butter. No one has to know a thing.
OK, so maybe chocolate-laced brioche bun carb bombs and #FriedChickenTuesdays aren’t exactly healthy, but Meatless Mondays are! Better yet, they are full of flavor that will have you forgetting there’s not even a hint of animal fat on your plate. The vegetarian-friendly Indian fusion spot wows with paneer masala curries, smoked eggplant dosas, and black garbanzo Buddha burgers. After filling yourself with the good-for-you stuff, maybe you can have a bite or two of that chocolate chip cookie.
Chef Justin Yu wasn’t named Best Chef Southwest at the 2016 James Beard Awards without merit. His tiny Warehouse District restaurant’s “garden” tasting menu is a total game changer. Along with pastry chef Karen Man, Yu has transformed the way meat-minded Houstonians think about faceless food through an array of intricately composed plates with brilliantly intense flavor. The dishes change often and run the gamut from mung bean pancakes stuffed with pickled beets to a spiced Texas grains porridge amped up by cauliflower, cilantro, and 'Navel' orange. No matter what’s in the lineup, the stunning six-course menu remains the gold standard for how to eat without meat and leave fully satisfied.
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1. True Food Kitchen1700 Post Oak Blvd, Houston
2. Green Vegetarian Cuisine6720 Chimney Rock Rd, Houston
3. Seasons 524410 Westheimer Rd, Houston
4. Snap Kitchen3600 Kirby Dr Ste A, Houston
5. The Doshi House3419 Dowling St, Houston
6. Restless Palate2643 Commercial Center Blvd, Katy
7. Ruggles Green748 E 11th St, Houston
8. Green Seed Vegan4320 Almeda Rd, Houston
9. Corner Table2736 Virginia St, Houston
10. Pondicheri2800 Kirby Dr, Houston
11. Oxheart1302 Nance St, Houston
A haven for yogis, cross-fit addicts, and wellness gurus alike, this healthy-eating mecca is all about food that feels as good as it tastes. True Food Kitchen's menu is focused on vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free foods. Standout dishes include the quinoa burger topped with avocado, hummus, tomato, and feta, and the ancient grains bowl with miso-glazed sweet potato, turmeric, grilled portobello, and grass-fed steak. The entrees are as colorful as they are protein-packed, and the space is equally bright and lively. And because even the most wellness-minded folks need a drink every once in a while, the cocktail menu features concoctions like "farmers market sangria," topped with organic apples and pears.
This San Antonio import serves up 100% Kosher-friendly, affordable vegetarian and vegan delights. You'll find a solid roster of of soul-satisfying eats, including avocado eggs Benedict smothered in chipotle hollandaise that are a brunch lover's dream, falafel bowls with quinoa tabouli, “chik-n” parmesan, and oh-so-delicious, totally vegan cupcakes. Those come in a range of scrumptious varieties, including a Hostess lookalike you'll want to get your hands on.
Calories are counted like currency at the Houston Seasons 52, but in a way that encourages you to indulge in a plate of kabocha squash ravioli with brown butter, walnuts, and crispy sage because it only has 390 of them. Of course, there are salads here. And even entrée salads for the daredevils among us. But the real highlights are plates like caramelized grilled sea scallops with leek and butternut squash risotto or Belgian chocolate s’more, both of which are in the 500-calorie-and-under club. For such a vast restaurant the atmosphere is decidedly warm, with understated luxe dark wood tables, burnt orange curtains, and stacked gray stone walls.
Houston’s Snap Kitchen powers diners with takeaway food that tastes good and is good for you. It caters to dairy free, gluten free, paleo, pescatarian, vegan, vegetarian, and whole 30 customers who seek menu options that don’t compromise on health or taste, and don't want to pay an arm and a leg for them. Tall order, right? Not for Snap Kitchen, which stocks shelves with items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in convenient plastic grab-and-go containers. Think chicken sausage breakfast tacos, crispy Scottish salmon, and strawberry cheesecake for dessert. And the best part of all? You only need to heat up your meal and operate the fork. Thanks, Snap Kitchen.
This Third Ward spot offers internationally inspired vegetarian and vegan cuisine, served up in a cozy, welcoming cafe space sporting mismatched chairs and couches, plus a piano and some funky artwork. It's a local favorite, which is easy to understand once you try its rotating veggie dinner options, like the "not so" butter chicken, Creole-style red beans and rice, and Thai red curry. Or, settle in on your lunch break for a vegetarian curried potato and muenster panini.
Rarely do you find a restaurant whose vegetarian, gluten free Asian noodle salad is as compelling as its 14oz pork porterhouse, but Katy’s Restless Palate delivers with its nutrition-driven, full-flavored menu that packs a healthy punch. While you can’t go wrong with the salads or sandwiches, our favorites are RP’s small plates, like the peppered bacon organic deviled eggs. The beverage menu’s emphasis on fruit and fresh citrus is a welcome choice with such savory dishes on order; the parasol is concocted with Benvolio prosecco, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, Lillet Blanc and fresh lemon juice that will make your lips pucker. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to snag a seat on the outdoor patio. If not, though, the open, colorful indoor dining area ain’t too bad.
This casual, counter-service vegetarian spot has locations all across Houston, ensuring you can get health-conscious eats while on the go in the Space City. The meat-free options here run the gamut from soups and salads to burgers and pastas. Some standouts on Ruggles' tasty menu include a honey-fried goat cheese & arugula salad, piled-high portobello mushroom and black bean tacos, quinoa mac & cheese, and wood-fired local veggie pies. Whatever you decide on, you'll want to top it off with the white chocolate bread pudding, because you're worth it.
This vegan (sometimes raw) restaurant is located right in the Museum District, and is serving up scrumptious and unique dishes that are so filling you won't even notice the lack of meat in your bistro-style sandwich or kale & quinoa bowl. It also boasts hand-cut dill fries you can stuff inside loaded veggie burgers and portobello mushroom “cheesesteaks,” plus crispy cauliflower nuggets that are perfect for dipping in hot sauce.
Corner Table, a Paleo-friendly eatery in River Oaks is a mecca for protein lovers everywhere, whether you are committed to the caveman diet or not. Complete with a lunch, dinner, small plates, and brunch menu, Corner Table will satisfy any level of hunger. The best deal at Corner Table is its Shellfish Trio, complete with Maine lobster, roasted Nantucket Bay scallops, Florida rock shrimp, and fresh ravioli and champagne beurre blanc. If your stomach is not quite so empty, perhaps opt for the roasted pear and cheese salad, a combo of maple-roasted pears and honey-whipped mascarpone. We know your body is a temple, so treat it like one and head over to Corner Table for the meal it deserves.
This Indian fusion spot in Upper Kirby serves a mix of street snacks and home-style foods all day long. The extensive menu includes a nice roster of dosas, thali sample platters, and curries, plus burgers and Mumbai-style frankie wraps. Pondicheri isn't 100% vegetarian (there are plenty of lamb and chicken dishes), but its menu is generally plant-forward. The airy space resembles an upscale cafeteria and includes a counter-serve bakery with Indian-spiced pastries and baked goods.
North of Downtown Houston sits Oxheart, a fine dining establishment that is luxurious in the simplicity of its American, seasonally dependent fare. Two menus are offered nightly and change frequently, never ceasing to flash ingredients you’ve never tasted (or, more often than not, heard of), but are confident will be absolutely divine, like vadouvan spices, muskmelon sorbet, mung bean pancakes, and alliums. Presentation of each dish is inspired from colors and shapes you can find in nature, an ethos also echoed in the simple preparation of ingredients – spiced, pickled, or left altogether raw. Décor is similarly lo-fi: wooden tables were crafted by a neighborhood carpenter and come fit with hideaway drawers that reveal the lot of silverware you’ll need for the meal, and in place of an esoteric art collection, walls are adorned with spray-paint graphics, the mark of a local graffiti artist.