Food & Drink

The Best Places to Eat in Houston Right Now

Published On 10/05/2017 Published On 10/05/2017
KIMBERLY PARK
Julie Soefer

Coltivare

Heights

In early 2014, Revival Market's Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber brought us this fresh-from-the-garden restaurant that puts a welcome spin on traditional Italian foods. Think arancini and house charcuterie, whole-roasted fish, flawlessly executed cacio e pepe & oxtail sugo, and bubbling, wood-fired pies. Three years later, this ticket is still hot as ever. The bad news is, it still doesn’t take reservations. The good news is, you can sip on a few of Weber’s classically inspired tinctures while you wait.

Julie Soefer

Cureight by Hubbell & Hudson

The Woodlands

It’s no surprise that this intimate tasting restaurant has no problems keeping its 25-seat chef’s table packed. Chef Austin Simmons changes up his über-sophisticated eight-courser weekly to keep things exciting, but you can expect gloriousness in the form of fresh, sustainable fish, dry-aged meat, and deliciously creative desserts that will have you happy you drove to The Woodlands.

Shannon O'Hara

Helen Greek Food and Wine

Rice Village

With both the highly respected Chef William Wright and sommelier Evan Turner in the house, this no longer NKOTB and big brother to Helen in the Heights will flip the switch on everything you thought you knew about Greek food. Game changers like the massive pork shoulder, build-your-own gyro plate, and the second-largest Hellenic wine list in the US ensure you’re in for way more than a simple meal -- especially now that they’re offering brunch. The unfamiliar wine list offers recommendations like “I know this is technically terrible to say but this wine will make you forget how awful your relatives are.” Though if you need more help than that, Turner and his staff are more than eager to recommend stunners to suit your tastes.

Kimberly Park

Killen's Barbecue

Pearland

Killen's Barbecue, along with its three follow-up concepts, covers all the bases of Texas’ Holy Trinity of meat: Smoke, Burgers, and Steaks (oh, and Smoke & Steaks). At the Pearland barbecue temple, King of 'Q Ronnie Killen and his team pump out over 2,000 pounds of smoked meat per day. To say that his unctuous, Bronto-sized beef ribs are good is an understatement. But you’ll be sorry if you skip out on things like the meltingly tender bone-in pork belly, 24-hour brined fried chicken, and beautifully marbled American wagyu gold smoked brisket. (To ensure satisfaction every damn time, Killen changed his brisket purveyors to Snake River Farms earlier this summer.)

La Table Houston

La Table

Uptown

At the end of 2015, the former Table on Post Oak was given a facelift -- and maybe some botox, teeth-whitening, and major body sculpting, too. The rebranded spot now offers four types of service: elegant, four-star dining at The Chateau; casual eats at the cozy Marche; private dining at Privee; and coffee & pastries at their French-inspired Macaron bakery. Ostensibly, La Table is a one-stop-shop to experience all the elements of French cuisine. Get classic poached pear tarts and smoked duck brioche that taste just as good as they look; power lunch with towering caramelized cheese soufflés and tuna niçoise; or go wild with Parmesan-crusted rack of lamb and double-pound rib eye for two.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Galleria

With two Houston locations, at which you can fashion a lobster bib out of your fancy cloth napkin, this homegrown steakhouse is the place to bring anyone you want to impress (although, if that’s the case, maybe don’t do that lobster bib thing). But you really should come here for the steaks, which are butchered and aged in-house using a more than 28-day dry process that concentrates the flavors and makes the beef so incredibly excellent that you’ll want to save all your change to come back for more. Don’t miss the stellar wine program, or the whiskey cart, which houses selections cherry-picked by Anvil alum and bar director Matt Tanner.

Ralph Smith Photography

The Pass & Provisions

Montrose

Two-faced in the best way possible, The Pass & Provisions in Montrose offers you a choice between a more refined experience or a more relaxed one. The Pass will serve you polished tasting menus over a white tablecloth; earlier this year, the team revamped the format to provide a more approachable, fluid dining experience with a supplemental five-course tasting menu as opposed to its former nine-course experience. While on the other side, Provisions will provide hearty pizzas, pastas, and shared bistro plates in more rustic surroundings. Some serious cocktail and wine programs push the two restaurants to the next level, as does Julia Child's Muppet voice playing on repeat in the unisex bathroom.

Courtesy of State of Grace

State of Grace

River Oaks

Atlanta restaurateur and Houston native chef Ford Fry has brought his culinary magic back home with this modern, globally and coastally inspired lodge. Former Ciao Bello chef Bobby Matos mans the kitchen (and the giant, wood-fired hearth) as it pumps out butter-basted rib eye, twice-fried Korean chicken wings, and king crab garganelli next to a seriously excellent oyster program. Considering it also offers an egg-topped butter burger and cream cheese-frosted cinnabuns at brunch, you’re going to want to get here.

Flickr/T.Tseng

Uchi

Montrose

This Austin import has become a local standby thanks to a sophisticated, upbeat spirit that is wholly Houston. Even sushi traditionalists will be tempted by the razor sharp cuts with funky, outside-the-box adornments and dishes that run the gamut from pork belly tataki to foie nigiri. If you’re having trouble deciding, go for the 10-course chef’s tasting. It may have been around for a while now, but this sultry spot’s not leaving the hot list anytime soon.

Julie Soefer

Underbelly

Montrose

When you think of Houston culinary talent, you think of chef Chris Shepherd. So it’s no surprise that his badass restaurant -- which tells "the story of Houston food" through an ethnic mosaic of seasonal shared plates -- has managed to keep its name on the top of Houston’s best list. Locally raised meats are butchered in-house and served family-style in the form prosciutto aged for 26 months, smoked beef shoulder, and Korean-braised goat & dumplings along with fresh catches, seasonal sides, and an admirable wine program.

Corkscrew BBQ

CorkScrew Barbecue

Old Town Spring

Fresh off snagging the No. 7 spot in Texas Monthly's 50 Best Barbecue Joints in the State, this hometown hero is well worth the quick trip out of the loop. The cult favorite started with humble beginnings in a no-frills pink-and-black trailer, co-owned by married all-stars Will and Nichole Buckman. Today, the slightly bigger pink-and-black brick & mortar remains just as humble. With a silky, perfectly rendered cap and crusty, blackened bark, the moist brisket here is one of the finest BBQ specimens in Houston. Get to Old Town Spring to blissfully destroy some, alongside stupendously blistered ribs, overloaded taters, and snappy pork sausage.

Kimberly Park

Killen's STQ

West Side

Part smokehouse, part live-fire steakhouse, this relaxed space from revered local chef Ronnie Killen took over the former Bramble spot at the end of 2016. After a half dozen months of success, Killen tapped Graham Laborde (previously of Bernadine’s) as operations chef for all Killen’s restaurants, thanks to his serious seafood savvy and fine-dining skills. Now you can mix and match delicious menu items, including pecan smoke-kissed pork belly, rendered and glistening with cherry habanero glaze; roasted corn ravioli swimming in a corn milk you’ll most certainly be spooning up; grilled Gulf snapper dripping in a crawfish butter you’ll also be scooping up; and specials like a massive (and intensely seared) long bone-in wagyu rib eye special that clocks in at 48 ounces. Maybe share that one. You’ll want bacon tres leches bread pudding for dessert.

Ohn Korean Eatery

Ohn Korean Eatery

Chinatown

Mike Tran -- the genius behind all the Chinatown faves, including Mein, Tiger Den, and the soon-to-reopen Night Market -- brought the heat with his latest venture. This time, a Koreatown club vibe adds extra spice to his concepts’ always crowd-pleasing menu. Sip late night soju from a watermelon keg (seriously) while you share small plates that are downright addicting, including but not limited to crispy skin pork rinds, sweet-and-spicy Korean fried chicken, and a gooey, cheesy riff on creamed corn that is an absolute must for the table.

Julie Soefer Photography | One Fifth Steak

One Fifth Houston

Montrose

Houston’s coolest restaurant isn’t really a restaurant: It’s five of ‘em. The game-changing concept from Underbelly Chef/Owner Chris Shepherd literally changes what it is once a year for five years. First up was One Fifth Steak, under the careful direction of the incredibly talented chef de cuisine Nick Fine. You’ve missed your chance to dine on wagyu beef fat candles, chef-calls-it Ballers Board, and flawlessly executed steaks, including an unsuspectingly delicious hanger steak that will change how you view hangar steaks. But no worries, One Fifth Romance Languages -- inspired by French, Spanish, and Italian fare -- is up next (doors open in September), followed by One Fifth Fish (and two to-be-announced concepts).

Mark C Austin

Riel

Midtown

Manitoba-born chef Ryan Lachaine (Underbelly, Reef) named his solo stint after Louis Riel, the founder of his native province. You’ll see Canadian influences, as well as traces of Lachaine’s Ukrainian heritage speckled throughout his unpretentious menu offerings, which get fired off from a show-stopping open kitchen. Even the lowly beet is elevated at the Montrose stunner. It comes in the form of a velvety, bright magenta borscht that’s perfectly tart and kissed with some smooth crème fraîche. The simple Redneck Cheddar and potato pierogi are stars, too -- despite the fact that they actually serve as a side for an incredible hanger steak, along with perfectly-balanced horseradish cream. Of course, Lachaine’s Gulf Coast background also shines, especially through dishes like the suckable, hot-and-sour head-on shrimp with collard greens and kimchi-laced tempura cauliflower.

Julie Soefer Photography | Underbelly

Underbelly

Montrose

Chef Chris Shepherd is the ultimate champion of Houston, constantly exploring the city’s lesser-known parts and urging others to do the same, which is why he provides a “hit list” of under-the-radar ethnic spots with your check at his flagship restaurant, Underbelly. There, Shepherd takes diners on a journey through "the story of Houston food," which of course, means things like Korean braised goat & dumplings, Vietnamese-style “crawfish boil,” toast, and grilled whole snapper with vindaloo sauce and naan. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, check out the wine bar, where you can taste Chris’ “covers” of dishes made famous by some of his culinary buds, including David Chang’s Fuku chicken tenders, and Ashleigh Christensen’s fried bologna sandwich.

Xochi

Xochi

Downtown

This year Houston’s most deserving chef, Hugo Ortega, finally earned a James Beard Award after being a proverbial bridesmaid for five years running. That’s thanks in part to his latest concept, the sleek Oaxacan paradise that is Xochi. There, a labyrinth of moles (from the deep and earthy, to the smooth and mellow) muddle with unexpectedly pleasing touches like chicatanas and chapulines (that’s ants and grasshoppers, by the way). Just as thoughtful are the house-made masa preparations showcasing endless types of corn and topped off with wood-roasted octopus, roasted pork rib, and chorizo ismeño, as wells as homemade chocolate desserts from Hugo’s pastry chef brother, Ruben. Drinks come from the masterful Sean Beck, who’s built a wonderful library of agave-focused cocktails and interesting wines to pair with it all.

Morris Malakoff

Yauatcha

Galleria

Locals take notice when a London import with a Michelin star makes its way to town, which is why Yauatcha has been one of the hottest tickets around since opening its doors in the luxury Jewel Box building this spring. The Chinese dim sum teahouse offers a more upscale experience than pretty much all of the city’s other dim sum concepts, and although that experience comes with an uptick in price, many find shelling out the extra cash totally acceptable. Unwind over delicate, artful preparations of classics from scallop shui mai dressed with silky orange tobiko caviar to a coconut and pineapple tropical dome dessert that is just as tasty as it is beautiful.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Coltivare 3320 White Oak Dr, Houston, 77007

This fresh-from-the-garden eatery (Coltivare means "to grow") in Heights puts a welcome spin on traditional Italian fare. Everything tastes incredible fresh, because many ingredients come directly from the garden on premises. There are plenty of shareable plates and charcuterie boards in addition to heartier paste entrees and wood-fired pizza. The space has a great neighborhood charm to it and is very romantic in the evenings.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Cureight by Hubbell & Hudson 24 Waterway Avenue Suite 125, The Woodlands, TX 77380

Cureight is what happened when Chef Austin Simmons (of Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, where Cureight is located) let his imagination run wild. This intimate restaurant's menu, hand-picked by Simmons himself, changes weekly and revolves around tasting (that is, very small portions with very chic presentation) and always features fresh, sustainable fish, dry-aged meat and creative desserts. Despite its Woodlands location (a 30-minute drive from the city), it has no problem keepings it's 25-seat chef's table packed, so be sure to lock down a reservation before you show up.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Helen Greek Food and Wine 2429 Rice Blvd, Houston, TX 77005

Chef William Wright (of Philippe Restaurant & Lounge and Table on Post Oak) and respected sommelier Evan Turner assure this Rice Village spot isn’t your typical falafel-fueled Greek restaurant. Instead you’ll find refreshed Greek fare with a touch of Gulf Coast soul alongside a Greek wine list that is just as thoughtful as it is impressive (it’s the second largest Greek list in the US). Nosh on a dolma, sip on Hellenic wine, and let yourself feel godly for at least as long as the meal lasts. This intimate and romantic is great for small groups or dates.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar 3201 Louisiana St, Houston, TX 77006

With multiple dining rooms – including a more casual one with an oyster shucking station -- this Midtown eatery dishes out seafood done the Southern way. Chef Mark Holley is covering all the bases with crudo, ceviche, raw oysters, caviar service, and a bourbon program, too. The interior is sleek and modern, with dark wooden accents and big windows. The drinks produced through Holley's cocktail program are not to be missed either.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Killen's BBQ 3613 Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581

Killen's BBQ is a Pearland brick-and-mortar barbecue joint born from the success of Chef Ronnie Killen's immensely popular pop-up. It delivers mouth-watering Texas-style barbecue like slabs of smoked brisket, pulled pork, and homemade sausages. Killen trained at Le Cordon Bleu and his Texas classics far exceed the Lone Star state's standards of size and taste. Be sure to desserts like banana pudding, carrot cake, and buttermilk pie.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. La Table 1800 Post Oak Blvd Ste 6110, Houston, TX 77056

La Table is a classy French fusion bistro in Houston's Uptown neighborhood featuring three levels of service in its bright, massive location. Indulge in elegant, four star dining at The Chateau with offerings like a caramelized cheese soufflé with truffles, parmesan-crusted rack of lamb, and a raw bar. Enjoy more casual fare at Marche with options like a juicy lamb burger, steak frites, and the buttery Croque Madame (ham, melted cheese, and an egg), or a quick, decadent pastry (tarts, croissants, and mousse -- oh my!) and a creamy espresso at Macaron bakery.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse 5839 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057

The Pappas are local legends, and at the top of their bona fide empire is this quintessential Texas steakhouse. Its steaks can’t be rivaled, thanks to superior cuts of beef, in-house butchery, and an intense 28-day dry-aging process (also completed in-house). The result is finely marbled, nutty, and rich USDA prime steaks that you can slice like butter. The retro-posh décor, private booths, and pampering service feel old-school cool and romantic.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. The Pass & Provisions 807 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019

Two-faced in the best way possible, The Pass & Provisions in Montrose offer you a choice between a more refined experience, or a more relaxed one. The Pass will serve you polished five- or eight-course tasting menus over a white table cloth, or Provisions will provide hearty pizzas, pastas, and shared bistro plates in more rustic surroundings. Some serious cocktail and wine programs push the two restaurants to the next level of insanity, as does Julia Child’s Muppet voice playing on repeat in the unisex bathroom.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. State of Grace 3256 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098

Atlanta restaurateur and Houston native chef Ford Fry has brought his culinary magic back home with this modern, globally and coastally inspired lodge. Former Ciao Bello chef Bobby Matos mans the open kitchen and the giant, wood-fired hearth, offering you not only great food but an entertaining and immersive experience. There's a great oyster program and an upscale, vintage feel to the space, with a marble bar and handsome wooden and leather furniture.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Uchi 904 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

Located in Montrose, from acclaimed Austin Chef Tyson Cole, Uchi is Houston’s outpost of the Austin-based Japanese hot spot. The intimate, upscale restaurant is constantly bustling with sushi- and sake-craving diners, and because reservations are hard to come by, be prepared to wait for a taste of the inventive Japanese cuisine. Or, beat the crowd and arrive early for their daily Sake Social, where for an hour and a half, you can sample the highlights of the menu, accompanied by copious amounts of sake (or beer, or wine), at a fraction of the cost.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
16. The Hay Merchant / Underbelly 1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006

A joint venture, The Hay Merchant and Underbelly operate separately but are attached via a butchering room that’s fit to hold a whole hog, a cow, and other large, meat-bearing animals. Hay Merchant, a craft beer bar, boasts 75 draft beers that range in style from cask-conditioned American porters to sour and funky wild ales. Underbelly, the more upscale of the two, is a restaurant and wine bar serving up juicy burgers and meats, like roasted pig’s head and smoked brisket. No matter how adventurous your palate, consider pairing your dish with one of the aged barleywines on tap.