The Best Places to Eat in Houston Right Now
Chef tastings, hip-hop bars, and more.
Houston is a hotbed of cultures, so when it comes to food, our city arguably has it all. And while we love to tell you about the finest burgers, most righteous brunches, and unholiest of all barbecue joints, we also like to keep you abreast of the places that best define Houston’s food scene at this moment in time. That means putting a spotlight on the most intriguing places that have opened lately, along with some standbys from the past couple of years.
Even with all of the added difficulties brought on by 2020, Houston saw an impressive score of restaurants added to the scene recently, from 30-something seaters offering chef tastings to New American spots with Gulf Coast soul, plus one suave hip hop bar and kitchen rocking a killer ‘90s playlist.
The gist: Chef Aaron Bludorn’s namesake restaurant and New American stunner may have been the best thing to come out of Houston in 2020. It’s the first solo project for the former Café Boulud chef, who is married to (and recently a parent with) Victoria Pappas of the local Pappas restaurant empire.
The food: Set in the former Pass & Provisions space on Taft, Bludorn shows of the chef’s skillful European technique with a much-welcomed punch of Gulf Coast love, with next level dishes including the brioche donut and foie gras, Gulf cioppino, and lobster pot pie. Get a reservation to see what all the highly worthy fuss is about (especially now when black truffles are in season).
The cost: Dinner selections run from $13 to $60+, and you’ll want to add on things like caviar and freshly shaved black truffles, too.
How to order: Book a reservation online.
The gist: This brand new sushi experience comes from the genius team behind MF Sushi, including sushi guru and chef Chris Kinjo, aka “Magic Fingers.”
The food: Kinjo has worked his “magic” once more to open this lil’ bro to acclaimed Museum District haunt, MF Sushi. Consider this a more casual iteration, sitting right on White Oak
and offering a thoughtful landscape of eats from grilled whole squid and wood-smoked hamachi to a tour de force of sushi and sashimi.
The cost: Small plates and apps run $3 - $20+ and sushi and sashimi run from $3-$35.
How to order: Call 832-767-5872 for reservations.
The gist: Cali-raised chefs and buds Gary Ly (who you may remember from Underbelly) and Lung Ly spent some time chefing and hanging out in tiny record dives in NYC together before returning to Houston to open up this totally cool kitchen, bar and lounge. Transforming the former Night Heron space, its name is a nod to hip hop group Souls of Mischief’s song, “93 ‘Til Infinity,” and that chill hip hop vibe carries throughout your experience.
The food: Expect good tunes and even better food, with playful, chefy plates like the foie gras torchon PB&J mixing with comfort grub from a fried chicken sandwich to pork cheek shepherd’s pie.
The cost: Plates run from $8 to $18, and you’ll want to order a bunch of ‘em.
How to order: Walk-ins only.
The gist: Meaning “hello” in Vietnamese, Xin Chao rocks a playful, modern take on Viet cuisine, with chefs Christine Ha and Tony J. Nguyen, both second-generation Vietnamese-Americans, behind the concept. You may know Ha as the season three winner of Masterchef, or for her Blind Goat concept in Downtown’s Bravery Chef Hall, and Nguyen from the popular Viet-Cajun crawfish and comfort food spot, Saigon House.
The food: The two are putting our Vietnamese cuisine like you’ve never seen it before—locally sourced Gulf Coast redfish deboned, grilled, and finished in soy vinaigrette and fresh herbs; charred oysters with scallion oil, pork cracklin’s, and roasted peanuts; and the “Nguyen-er Nguyen-er Chicken Dinner,” lemongrass buttermilk fried chicken that is a must share with some pals.
The cost: Starters are $8 - $14 and shareable mains run $16 - $56.
How to order: Order takeout online or grab a reservation to dine-in.
The gist: Hometown chef Travis McShane brings his impressive culinary chops back to Houston, with a damn good roast chicken by his side.
The food: McShane, a Houston native who climbed the ranks in acclaimed chef Jonathan Waxman’s haunts from Barbuto in New York to Adele’s in Nashville, plays with Mediterranean and Italian influenced New American fare. Don’t miss the half chicken, a simple stunner with lemon, salsa verde, and herb jus; or the ever-changing lineup of gnocchi, bucatini, linguine, and more.
The cost: Shareables and mains are $12-$58 at dinner, and there’s brunch and lunch, too.
How to order: Book a table online.
The gist: The talented crew behind Nancy’s Hustle has created another home run neighborhood joint on Houston’s east side.
The food: This time, the team moves its attention to pastas, pizzas, small plates, and ice creams by the scoop. Bring a friend and grub on mortadella tortellini, blue crab and chili butter polenta, fried mussels and aioli, and pies topped with everything from anchovy and garlic to pineapple, speck, and jalapeño. For dessert you’ll want some of that ice cream, think mint stracciatella, meyer lemon sorbet, and toasted almond scoops finished with olive oil, maldon sea salt, and labhen whip.
The cost: Small plates are $6 - $18, pizzas and pastas run $10 - $19+, and desserts start at $4.
How to order: Book a table to dine-in or order food to-go online.
The gist: You’ll find creative sushi and tastings at this “hidden” spot, tucked away in an office building off West Alabama and from Blackbird Izakaya alum and chef Billy Kin, who caught all of our attention at the now closed Blackbird Izakaya.
The food: A5 wagyu sliders stacked with Hudson Valley foie gras, exquisite truffle and scallop sushi, and oysters hit with Japanese salmon caviar are just some of the things you may taste. Kin puts out a multi-course omakase, or chef-led tasting experience, and you definitely want to be one of the 14 diners to experience it (trust).
How to order: Secure a Resy for one of two nightly seatings, first in its soft opening phase or when the omakase goes full blown later in January.
Belly Of The Best
The gist: LA born-and-bred chef Thomas Bille (who had a brief Xochi alum) treats his casa as su casa at his first restaurant, an unassuming ace up in Old Town Spring.
The food: Tacos are a thing of beauty, and they are legit beautiful at this New World taqueria and Mexican restaurant, which fills its scratch-made tortillas with things like overnight lamb barbacoa, fall apart cochinita pibil, smoked king trumpet mushrooms, charred habanero, and birria broth for dipping. There are more than just tacos, of course—bright ceviches, traditional huarache, soul warming pozole, and a masterful Sunday brunch.
The cost: Tacos start at $3 and starters/larger dishes run $7 - $21.
How to order: Order online or stop by to dine in (no reservations).
Pier 6 Seafood
The gist: Gulf Coast oyster distributor Prestige Oysters and former Brennan’s chef Joe Cervantez teamed up to create this tide-to-table oyster powerhouse down in San Leon; and since opening, executive chef Cervantez has tapped childhood friend and uber talented chef de cuisine Chris Loftis to join in on the fun.
The food: The two Pearland boys are rocking the kitchen, dishing out freshly harvested oysters and seafood with a strong Cajun and Creole influence. Snag a seat on the patio to enjoy bayside views along with habanero butter spiked “hot blooded” oysters and slurpable raw oysters by the dozen, cornmeal crusted crispy red snapper, and chimichurri-kissed redfish on the half shell.
The cost: Oysters start at $6.99/half-dozen and plates run from $11.99 - $47.99 at dinner, and there are kids and lunch offerings, as well.
How to order: Secure a reservation online.
Street To Kitchen
The gist: Chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter (who grew up in Thailand and spent time in locales like Theodore Rex) dishes out unapologetic, authentic Thai cuisine at this street food spot in the far East End.
The food: When Painter says her food is “unapologetically, authentically Thai,” she means she’s not using any sugary, watered down short cuts. Things are legit made from scratch in her kitchen, from the steamed pork and shiitake “kanom jib” dumplings and spicy northeastern Thai-style larb to the rice noodle shrimp pad Thai and fiery green curry. You’ll also want to try your new favorite fried chicken, here done up extra crisp with fried lemongrass and a Thai chili cilantro sauce at its side.
The cost: Dishes run from $5 - $12.99.
How to order: Order directly online and pickup at the drive-thru window, or use DoorDash or UberEats for delivery, or stop by to dine-in.
The gist: Berg Hospitality (B&B Butchers, The Annie, B.B. Lemon, etc) brings Old World charm to town with this intimate, moody supper club & lounge experience.
The food: Veteran chef and JBA winner Robert Del Grande invokes a bygone era of society via his menu of luxe traditions, from King crab terrine and Petrossian caviar service to lobster Thermidor and Wagyu filet. There’s also a Texas Wagyu “hot dog service” for those looking to keep it casual in the fanciest way possible.
The cost: Starters are $16 - $38, caviar service runs $95+, and entrees are $22 - $82.
How to order: Secure reservations online.
The gist: Goodnight Hospitality’s ever-inviting pizza and pasta spot adds to its already bangin’ repertoire (which also includes a honky-tonk, wine & cheese shop, and cocktail lounge/soon-to-come fine dining spot).
The food: An Italian (and sometimes Spanish and Portuguese) menu centers around a pizza oven and wood-burning grill, with smoky Basque chicken, grilled Napa cabbage, cavatelli alla bolognese, a speck & chile oil pie being just some of the standouts. To-go bonus? You can also add cocktail kits, wine, and pints of gelato.
The cost: Primi, contorni, and pizzas will run $12 - $18, while larger secondi plates are around $30.
How to order: Place an online order for to-go and delivery or make dine-in reservations online.
The gist: The duo behind Dubai’s Spice Route Co tapped rising star chef Mayank Istwal to show off the fare of his native India in an over-the-top dining experience.
The food: A mix of traditional and cutting edge eats match the majestic atmosphere at this extraordinary Indian concept. Expect dramatic presentations of pani puri (here, filled with fresh ceviche), gorgeous stuffed squash blossoms, fiery smoked goat meat, and butter chicken done three ways.
The cost: Dinner selections cost from $16 to $38, and there’s Sunday brunch ($20-$30) and shareable dessert ($18-$25), too.
How to order: Call 713-242-8087 for takeout or dine-in reservations.
Guard And Grace
The gist: From Denver chef Troy Guard, this uber luxurious steakhouse sits in a glass-enclosed, two-floor space in downtown’s One Allen Center.
The food: Big, bold, and playful flavors are on the docket here, from Pop Rocks-topped hamachi crudo and a serious grand seafood tower fit for a boss to filet flights and the brontosaurus tomahawk with foie & bone marrow butter.
The cost: Be prepared to spend, with steaks like the $24 per ounce A5 Japanese strip and MP tomahawk and that grand seafood tower running upwards of $170.
How to order: Call 346-326-0789 for curbside carryout (and check out the butcher shop menu online).
One Fifth Mediterranean
The gist: This game-changing restaurant from chef and local hero Chris Shepherd (and his talented team—including but not limited to chef de cuisine Matt Staph, culinary director Nick Fine, and pastry director Victoria Dearmond) finishes its run showing off Southern comfort food.
The food: After taking a turn through steaks, pastas, oysters, kabob, and more, the dynamic team at One Fifth shifts its focus to Southern comfort foods, chef’d up, of course. Start with hush puppies, crab stuffed jalapenos, and Viet-Cajun peel ‘n eat shrimp, then move on to big plates from flounder Pontchartrain to oxtail ragout before finishing with Dearmond’s epic desserts, like the cornbread custard cheesecake with Nixta corn liquor.
The cost: Starters run $8 - $15 and large plates from $18-$45.
How to order: Order curbside pickup online or make reservations for dine-in (and check out the sweet patio for happy hour).
The gist: This mad, inspired taste of Madrid comes from partners Ignacio Torras and Chef Luis Roger, also known for the insanely good Spanish fine dining spot BCN Taste + Tradition.
The food: The refined, sometimes whackadoo cuisine here pays homage to the capital of Spain, with plates of jamon Iberico and pan con tomate, grilled Spanish octopus, and wood-roasted arroz for two cooked with baby cuttlefish and duck leg confit. Fresh baked and salted Belgian dark chocolate chip cookies are a pretty good way to finish things up.
The cost: Appetizers, salads, and sides are $9-$25, entrees are $25-$58, and desserts are $3.50-$14.
How to order: Place takeout orders online, call 281-888-2770, get delivery via DoorDash, or make a dine-in reservation
Bravery Chef Hall
The gist: Downtown’s cool factor cranked up at least 10 levels when the talented chefs (including Uchi veterans Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham, MasterChef winner Christina Ha, and more) took center stage at this modern food hall.
The food: Make a killer smörgasbord of Vietnamese street eats from The Blind Goat and Korean bibimbap from sister concept The Sighted Pig; BOH Pasta & Pizza's alarmingly good pastas and Roman-style pizza al taglio; first-class sushi and yakitori from Kokoro; Texas ribeye from wood-burning steakhouse Cherry Block Craft Butcher; and chargrilled oysters and lobster from Margaux's Oyster Bar.
The cost: A la carte eats run from $3 to $30.
How to order: Order online for curbside pickup, or stop in to dine.
The gist: The mod, Euro-style bistro comes from the powerhouse trio behind Better Luck Tomorrow, which includes bar genius Bobby Heugel, culinary whiz Justin Yu, and restaurateur Steve Flippo.
The food: With a kitchen backed by Mark Clayton and co., menu offerings like pasta a la béarnaise, mussels bruschetta, and French cheeseburger -- in which a perfectly fatty beef patty and a gorgeous house-baked pain de mie bun are made all the more mouthwatering by an oozing cascade of raclette cheese -- certainly hit the spot. Add retail-priced wine and take a look at Sunday brunch and the newly added Sunday steak night.
The cost: Breads, salads, and starters are $7-$15, pastas run $12-24, entrees are $18-$32, and there’s a Chef’s Choice dinner for two for $85.
How to order: Place a contactless pickup to-go order online, or book a Resy to dine-in.