Women's History Month

15 Women-Owned Restaurants to Support in Houston

Celebrate Women's History Month, deliciously.

Verdine spread
Photo by Michael Ma

Where would the Houston restaurant scene be without women? Easy answer: nowhere. Not only do women play a major role in the hospitality industry—as servers, cooks, baristas, sommeliers, management, and more—but their contributions as restaurateurs are essential. In honor of Women’s History Month this March, we celebrate Houston’s most beloved women-owned restaurants and the women that behind them. Here are 15 women-owned restaurants to celebrate, admire, and support right now.

Alice Blue
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Alice Blue

Heights

Owner: Claire Smith
Over the past 26 years, Claire Smith has owned award-winning restaurant after restaurant. It started with the Daily Review Cafe, which was named one of Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 1995, and continued with Shade and later, Canopy—both fantastic in their heyday. Enter Alice Blue, an all-day bistro and scratch kitchen serving fresh, Southern-inflected American fare. Open since 2017 and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with brunch on weekends, it’s the kind of place that welcomes you any time of day. Stop in the morning for coffee and a breakfast pastry, return for a lunch of housemade quiche and shrimp remoulade, pop in for cocktails and nibbles for happy hour, then relax in a booth over a dinner of sauteed red snapper or roasted chicken. The challah french toast, available during brunch on weekends, is a must-not-miss.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with takeout and delivery via Postmates.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Backstreet Cafe

River Oaks

Owner: Tracy Vaught
When it comes to visionary female restaurateurs in Houston, few are as successful or well-known as Tracy Vaught. A four-time James Beard Award semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur, Vaught is the driving force behind H-Town Restaurant Group (a collection of restaurants that include Hugo’s, Caracol, Xochi, and Backstreet Cafe), which she runs alongside her husband, chef Hugo Ortega. Backstreet is where everything started 38 years ago. In 1983, Vaught quit her job as a geologist to become a restauranteur, turning a 1930s-era River Oaks home and its lovely Oak tree-shaded backyard into one of the most enduring and beloved restaurants in Houston. Brunch here is legendary, but then again, every meal at Backstreet, which serves Houston-inspired American fare, is a delight. From the crab cakes to the fork tender braised short ribs, to lobster risotto or shrimp and grits, you can’t go wrong. 
How to order: Open for dine-in and patio seating, with online ordering for delivery or pick-up. 

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Café Poêtes
Photo by Mai Pham

Owner: Karine Favre-Massartic
Eighteen years ago, when Karine Favre-Massartic moved to Houston from Paris, she missed the iconic French cafes of the City of Light so much that she set out to create her own. Inspired by Baudelaire and Victor Hugo, Café Poêtes was built to resemble the The Orangerie de Bagatelle in Paris, with a dining room filled with light and a bookcase that reached the ceiling. A place to enjoy a perfectly brewed cup of cafe au lait while munching on a croissant or beautiful eclair, high tea is a major indulgence here. Come dinnertime, Favre-Massartic plays chef, turning out dishes like the foie gras au torchon, mushroom veloute, and duck confit. 
How to order: Open for dine-in and patio seating, with online takeout, and delivery via Doordash. 

Fluff Bake Bar
Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar owner | Photo by Ruthie Miller

Owner: Rebecca Masson
Affectionately known as Houston’s own “Sugar Fairy,” Rebecca Masson trained in pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France and interned at the five-star luxury Hotel Le Bristol Paris before moving to Houston in 2006. An award-winning pastry chef who famously competed on Bravo Network’s “Top Chef: Just Desserts” in 2011, Masson worked in and consulted for some of Houston’s finest restaurants before striking it out on her own with Fluff Bake Bar. Winning multiple awards since its inception—Southern Living Magazine named it Best Bakery in the South in 2012—Masson’s creations are the kind that send dessert lovers into a frenzy. Her veruca salt devil’s food cupcake topped with salted caramel buttercream and pretzel crunch and her fluffernutters are legendary.
How to order: Order delivery and takeout online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Giacomo's cibo e vino
Giacomo's butter & Sage ravioli | Photo by Mai Pham

Giacomo's cibo e vino

River Oaks District

Owner: Lynette Hawkins
A beloved Italian neighborhood cafe and wine bar for the last 12 years, Giacomo’s would be nothing without its owner and chef, Lynette Hawkins. Hawkins, who grew up in Italy and owned La Mora Cucina Toscana for two decades before closing it to become a caregiver to her father, wanted customers at Giacomo’s to feel as if they were dining in her kitchen. Pastas are made by hand using a hand-cranked pasta maker. The chalkboard wine list is updated frequently, chosen by Hawkins herself to optimally pair with her food. Due to COVID-19, the restaurant is only serving a limited menu at the moment, and while the traditional cicchetti small plates are no longer on display, you can order them just the same alongside a beautiful plate of tagliatelle alla bolognese. 
How to order: Open for dine-in, with patio seating, and curbside. To place a curbside order, call 713-522-1934 or text 832-245-1407.

Irma's
Irma's Spinach Enchilada | Photo by Mai Pham

Irma's

East Downtown

Owner: Irma Galvan
One of Houston’s most beloved matriarchs, Irma Galvan has been serving some of the Bayou City’s finest Tex-Mex since the late '80s. A hands-on chef and owner, the spunky 79-year-old has never shied away from work, which means she still goes to the market each morning to pick out the vegetables, and still works in the kitchen alongside her kitchen crew. Regulars are greeted with a smile and hug, part of the reason why her tagline is “como en su casa”—just like at home. And the best thing about Irma’s? They don’t have a menu. Sit down and tell them what you feel like eating—spinach enchiladas are a specialty, as is the chicken mole, carne guisada, mahi mahi fish tacos and pork tamales—and they’ll bring it out to you. The fresh guacamole is not to be missed.
How to order: Open for dine-in. For takeout, call 713-222-0767.

Kiran's
Courtesy of Kiran's

Kiran's

Greenway

Owner: Kiran Verma
There’s a warmth to Kiran Verma that translates into her food, a reason why her eponymous Kiran’s has been such a success since it first opened in 2005. A self-taught cook who came to Houston when she was 18, Kiran didn’t plan on becoming a chef or owning a restaurant, but as a stay-at-home mom she started working part-time at an Indian restaurant and fell in love with the business. Sixteen years later, you can’t talk about the best Indian restaurants in Houston without mentioning Kiran’s. For exquisitely prepared, scratch-made Indian cuisine—soulful curries, freshly baked Indian breads, and the most phenomenal chai tea—Kiran’s always delivers. For a special treat, visit for Kiran’s Afternoon Tea, offered from Friday through Sunday at 2 pm.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with takeout and delivery via Chownow.

Owners: Mai Nguyen and Anna Pham
Open since 1978, Mai’s is the oldest Vietnamese restaurant in Houston. Known for its extensive 127-item Vietnamese menu spanning everything from cha gio egg rolls, to pho beef noodle soup, and bo luc lac shaking beef, Anthony Bourdain visited in the 1990’s and proclaimed it the best Vietnamese food in America. Rebuilt entirely after a catastrophic fire in 2010, these days, Mai’s is still the place to go for all-day and late night Vietnamese eats (pre-COVID, it was open nightly until 4 am; currently it’s open until 4 am Fridays and Saturdays). Mai herself takes special pride in manning the kitchen, especially during the graveyard shift.
How to order: Open for dine-in daily except Sunday. For takeout, call 713-520-5300, or get delivery via Doordash, UberEats, Grubhub, or Postmates.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Mary'z Lebanese Cuisine
courtesy of Mary'z Lebanese

Owner: Mary Fakhoury
In 2001, Mary Fakhoury moved to Houston from Lebanon with little money but plenty of determination. After four years, she saved enough to open her first eponymous restaurant, Mary’z Lebanese, serving classic Lebanese dishes—tabouleh, hummus, baba ganoush, and a variety of kebobs—made from her own family recipes. Now with two locations—the original on Richmond and Mary’z Mediterranean on Washington—the 60-year-old is less hands-on than she was when she first opened, letting her kids operate the day-to-day, but it’s still her show. When she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll likely find her on the patio smoking hookah. 
How to order: Open for dine-in with patio seating. Order online for takeout and delivery, or call 832 251-1955.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Pondicheri

Upper Kirby

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Pondicheri is emblematic of Houston’s diverse culinary scene. As passion project for chef and owner Anita Jaisinghani, it’s earned her two nominations as a James Beard Award Best Chef, and a place on Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook’s 100 Best Restaurants list every year since its inception. Conceived as an all-day cafe, the menu is a delight to read and savor, from the almond rice flour pancakes with jaggery caramel & fruit, to the show-stopping coconut and crab served with sesame dosa, to the thalis with names like tuk tuk and vishnu. And thanks to COVID-19, popular dishes like the butter chicken and saag paneer are now available by the quart.
How to order: Open for dine-in with extensive patio seating. Order online for takeout and delivery, or call 713-522-2022.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Rainbow Lodge
Owner, Donnette Hansen | courtesy of Rainbow Lodge

Rainbow Lodge

Shady Acres

Owner: Donnette Hansen
Set in a 114-year-old log cabin with sprawling acre of lush grounds along White Oat Bayou, Rainbow Lodge is a place of out of time. Specializing in wild game and seafood, the restaurant has been a fine dining destination for the better part of the last three decades thanks to proprietor Donnette Hansen. Montana-born but raised in Texas, Hansen attended the New York Restaurant school prior to acquiring Rainbow Lodge in 1988, and her stewardship keeps it thriving to this day. Book early to snag one of the loveliest al fresco tables in Houston, then feast on specialties ranging from smoked duck gumbo, to Texas fried quail with white cheddar grits and bourbon bacon gravy, or rainbow trout with lump crab and pecan brown butter.
How to order: Open for dine-in, patio seating. For curbside pickup, call 713-861-8666. 

Shabu House
Photo by by Mai Pham

Shabu House

Chinatown

Owner: Debbie Chen
An attorney by trade, Debbie Chen didn’t have any experience as a restauranteur, but she loved Shabu House and was a restaurant regular, stopping in weekly the restaurant’s fresh meats, vegetables, and individual, 12+hour pork bone marrow hot pot broths. So when presented with the opportunity to buy the restaurant outright, she bit the bullet, taking over the restaurant in August 2019 while pledging a portion of the profits to charity. The restaurant has gone through much hardship since COVID-19 began, losing as much as 90% of its revenue last February due to the xenophobia directed toward Houston’s Chinatown, but has thankfully endured thanks to Chen’s perseverance and determination. Try one of the newly launched Supreme combos, which include protein choices like lamb, Angus beef, seafood combined with a set selection of vegetables and noodles, with your choice of broth.
How to order: Open for dine-in. For takeout, call 832-925-8889.

Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
Courtesy of Sylvia's Enchiladas

Owner: Sylvia Casares
Born in Brownsville, Texas, Sylvia Casares grew up immersed in the culture and cuisine we know as Tex-Mex, but it wasn’t until her 40s, when she quit her job in the corporate world to open her own restaurant, that she came into her own. Dubbed Houston’s own “Enchilada Queen,” her restaurant is a draw for visitors and locals alike thanks to her whopping menu of 19 different enchiladas representing north of the border and south of the border styles. Popular choices include the spinach enchiladas, the cheese and chili gravy enchiladas, and the Mesquite-grilled cabrito enchiladas. And fun fact: Jennifer Lopez famously ordered Sylvia’s for her entire crew after a concert in Houston.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with delivery and takeout via Chownow.

The Blind Goat
Photo by Mai Pham

Owner: Christine Ha
America was enthralled when legally blind chef Christine Ha thrillingly won the "Masterchef" Season 3 cooking reality TV show with her contemporary Vietnamese creations. So when she announced that she would be opening her first concept, expectations were high. It’s clear now that The Blind Goat, a chef-counter in downtown’s Bravery Chef Hall, was just a stepping stone in a larger plan for world domination. Ha, who also published a cookbook, "Recipes From My Home Kitchen," has already opened a second restaurant, Xin Chao, in partnership with Houston-based chef Tony Nguyen. The Blind Goat still has the goods though. From chicken or goat curry, to dry chicken pho, to the peanut tofu vermicelli, the flavors are vibrant and the cooking is top notch. There’s also a cook take-home meal kit for her famous "Masterchef" rubbish apple pie. Pick it up for a homemade dessert along with a signed copy of her cookbook.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with curbside pickup and delivery.

Verdine

Heights

Owner: Stephanie Hoban
Houston native Stephanie Hoban’s story revolves around her passion for nutrition and cooking. Graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. from New York University, she worked as a full time registered dietitian, but blogged in her spare time. When she began selling her food at the Urban Harvest Farmer’s, the response was so positive that she quit her job and opened a food truck, which in turn was so successful that she opened her first brick and mortar, Verdine, in 2019, serving a 100% vegan and gluten-free friendly menu. Hoban’s menu is globally inspired, with hits like the orange cauliflower, jackfruit carnitas, and a rotating selection of gluten free cauliflower crust pizzas, but really everything is good. Don’t miss the gluten-free, vegan daily slice of cake. The jumbo white chocolate macadamia and walnut chocolate chip cookies are also incredible.
How to order: Open for dine-in, with pick-up and delivery online

Mai Pham is a contributor for Thrillist 

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