15 Essential Black-Owned Restaurants You Should Know in Houston

From family-run BBQ institutions to game-changing West African tasting menus.

Lucille’s | Photo by Jenn Duncan
Lucille’s | Photo by Jenn Duncan

Houston’s dining landscape is best defined by its diversity, and our Black-owned restaurants play a major part in that. We have longtime neighborhood institutions that have spent decades feeding the community’s soul; compelling newcomers showcasing everything from real-deal West African fare to righteous Nashville-style hot bird; and a cult darling slinging stuffed turkey legs bigger than your head. Each one of these crave-worthy spots not only enriches the local food scene, they breathe new life into the city as a whole—so it’s only right you get acquainted (or reacquainted) with some of Houston’s most essential Black-owned restaurants.


Museum District

This Southern charmer’s “herstory” starts with Lucille B. Smith, educator, culinary innovator, and great granny of co-owners Chris and Ben Williams. At Lucille’s, the Williams brothers pay homage to their family’s matriarch with good old-fashioned comfort food, sharing and reinterpreting some of her best recipes. We’re talking Tennessee hot duck, bone-in fish fry, braised collards, and Great Grandma’s famous (and totally poppable) chili biscuits. Look out for chef Chris Williams’ upcoming projects, including soulful Afro-Asian spot Late August, opening later this year under the watchful eye of Top Chef contender and all-around badass chef Dawn Burrell, plus Rado Cafe, set to hit the Third Ward in 2022.
How to book: Book via Resy or call 713-568-2505 for take-out.

The Turkey Leg Hut
Turkey Leg Hut | Photo courtesy of Visual Influence

Turkey Leg Hut

Third Ward

We’re gonna go ahead and guess that you’ve already spotted this Third Ward staple’s drool-worthy stuffed turkey legs all over Instagram—gorgeous, colossal poultry gams overflowing with fillings like hot dirty rice, shrimp alfredo, and homemade crawfish-spiked mac and cheese. The TLH magic began at the Houston Rodeo back in 2016, when Lynn and Nakia Price set up a stand hawking barbecue turkey legs to hungry patrons leaving the show. The duo quickly gained a loyal following, and today, devotees include the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, and Deshaun Watson. 
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and delivery online.

Houston native Marcus Davis has built quite the community around his hearty breakfast spot—one that typically shows up in droves to dig into seriously addictive morning pick-me-ups like fried wings and waffles, blackened catfish and grits, and smothered biscuits and gravy. TBK has been around for nearly two decades, but it’s never too late to jump in line and see what all the crispy,  crunchy, and oh-so-buttery fuss is about.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Reggae Hut

Third Ward

TBK’s Marcus Davis has another home run under his belt with Reggae Hut, this time focusing on bonafide Caribbean food cooked up with Jamaican flair. Pop in for melt-in-your-mouth beef and veggie stew-filled patties, brown stew chicken and curry goat, Creole-style whole snapper, and spot-on jerk chicken and shrimp. Pair your poison with a side of fried plantain and wash it all down with a sweet, slightly sour housemade sorrel or killer bottled rum punch.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

Locals know, “Triple D” knows, and it’s about damn you know, too—Cool Runnings is where it’s at when it comes to top quality island cuisine. Expect succulent mains like tender oxtail and curried goat that falls apart at the slightest touch alongside ocean-fresh specialties like ackee and saltfish. Chef-owner Terron Henry is a native to Jamaica, which may be why his flawlessly spiced and marinated Jamaican jerk chicken is the most popular dish on the menu (though we’d highly suggest bringing along a friend or two so you can taste through the whole shebang).
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

Gatlin's BBQ

Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

Local pitmasters recently named Gatlin’s one of the city’s best places to score great barbecue and we wholeheartedly agree. Pitboss Greg Gatlin’s family-owned and -operated haunt has been around since 2010, with executive chef Michelle Wallace helping to steer the ship these days. You’ll want the ribs, here—baby backs, spare, or beef, they are all stupid good; as are the brisket and egg breakfast tacos, dirty rice, and loaded spuds, plus specials like fish and grits and so much more. 
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

One of the oldest African American-owned restaurants in Houston, this family-owned soul food joint originally opened in Freedmen’s Town back in 1959. Frank and Mattie Jones were the first proprietors and their grandson Craig Joseph now carries on the family legacy at its current location off Blodgett. Tuck a napkin into your Sunday best and feast on smothered oxtails and fried catfish complete with sides like rice and gravy and candied yams plus banana pudding just like your grandma makes. And don’t forget to mess with the new late-night menu, offered Fridays and Saturdays and featuring enticing snacks like oxtail mac and cheese and Southern fried chicken wings.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

Ray's BBQ Shack

Third Ward

Pitmaster Rayford “Ray” S. Busch’s slow-and-low prowess dates back to the ‘80s, when he owned and operated a barbecue food truck outside of nightclubs (and even before that, when he learned the craft of ‘cue from local Third Ward legend, Mr. River Falls). Now this decade-old smoke shack sits off Old Spanish Trail, treating hungry customers to East Texas-style Lott links, 14-hour slow smoked brisket, Chicago-style rib tips, and Thursday-only smoked oxtails alongside spicy and dirty rice, smoked mac and cheese, and fried corn on the cob. 
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

Shannen Tune cut his teeth in the kitchens of luxury hotels in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Austin, and Houston, skills that led to victory on Food Network’s Chopped as well as the launch of his uber popular food truck, Craft Burger. Now with a brick-and-mortar operation in Katy, Tune slings outrageous burger creations like the truffle butter-oozing Juicy Lucy and the Morning After, a behemoth topped with brown-sugar-chili-bacon and a sunny side up egg on a bacon-cheddar waffle bun. Pair your choice with hand-cut fries, buttermilk fried pickles, and a requisite root beer float.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, order take-out via Toast pickup, and get delivery via OrangeCrate.

Owner Esther Lewis-Bernard has soul food in her blood—her great grandma Mary Lewis was known for her country-style cooking, and her mother, Mamma Lewis, mastered Cajun cuisine. A pit stop at Esther’s cafe is the best way to immerse yourself in that history, from traditions like smothered pork chops and shrimp and crawfish etouffee to chicken and dumplings and old-fashioned peach cobbler. And it’s not all about the food, either—Lewis-Bernard is also known to give back to the community via scholarships, food donations, and other commendable contributions. 
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order delivery via DoorDash.

Mico’s Hot Chicken
Mico’s Hot Chicken | Photo by Becca Wright

Realizing Houston’s dirth of true Nashville-style fried chicken, “Mico” Frydenlund and her husband/business partner Chris started this hot bird concept as a food truck in 2019. Things heated up so quickly that they were able to open a brick-and-mortar spot just a short while later. Mico’s recipe is a riff on the legendary Prince’s Hot Chicken, and you can get by way of juicy tenders, an overstuffed ‘sammich, and fried chicken-topped loaded French fries. Take advantage of the homemade slaw and ranch to tame the heat, and wash it all down with a Texas blueberry lemonade.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order delivery via Favor.

The late Roy Burns Sr. started selling barbecue to the Acres Homes community back in 1973, and a hometown star was born. Nearly half a century later, Burns Sr.'s smoked meats and stick-to-your-ribs sides still slap, and today, you can fill your plate in the same building where it all started as grandsons Cory and Carl Crawford helped restore the original back in 2012. Opt for crowd pleasers like ribs, housemade links, and sauced-up chopped or sliced beef sandwiches alongside baked beans, mac and cheese, and irresistible dirty rice.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order delivery via UberEats and DoorDash.

Green Seed Vegan

Museum Park

There’s been a ton of smothered comfort food and smoked meat on this list so far (and rightfully so), but we think it’s high time for some vegetables. Get your fix at this decade-old plant-based food truck turned brick-and-mortar location courtesy of owners Matti Merrell and Rodney Perry. Panini layered with maple jerk garbanzo and curried tempeh, raw vegan tacos and burritos, and an entire lineup of buckwheat quinoa burgers lead the charge, backed by a lineup of cold-pressed juices, housemade elixirs, and immunity-boosting shots plus desserts like matcha blondies and blackberry-lemon cashew cheesecake.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, order take-out online, or get delivery via GrubHub.

This soul food fixture traces its roots back over 20 years, when the late Jeanette Williams gained a devoted following in Houston’s southwest side thanks to a booming catering business and eventually, a full-fledged eatery. Her kids, Craig Jr. and Jeanelle, are following in their mother’s hallowed footsteps by running two area locations and continuing to feed a new generation of soul food fanatics. Go for daily blackboard specials, from Wednesday’s ham hocks to the turkey necks on Thursdays and Sundays, plus staples like smothered pork chops, collard greens, and sweet potato pie.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, order take-out online, or get delivery via Uber Eats.

Ope Amosu, who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria before immigrating to Houston with his family, set out to redefine fast-casual fare while spreading the West African culinary gospel with an innovative pop-up dining experience a few years back. It worked, and ChòpnBlọk stands as one of the coolest experiences to ever emerge from Houston’s ever-evolving dining scene. Sign up for a one-of-a-kind dinner and you’ll be treated to gamechangers like smokey jollof jambalaya, ripe stewed plantains, and five-spice chicken set to a soundtrack of Afro-beats and compelling conversation.
How to book: Register online for access to first come, first served reservations and follow them on Instagram for upcoming pop-up events.

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who can’t decide if she wants to go with the hot chicken or the smothered oxtails next as she works her way through this list. Let her know where you start @brookiefafa on IG and @brookeviggiano on Twitter.
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