The 31 Most Essential Food Experiences in Houston

Food hall greatness, unbeatable Butter Burgers, and choose-your-own-adventure tacos.

Houston has proven itself to be an awesome place to eat (sorry, have you tried our tacos?), but in the last few years, the city has blossomed into something extra special. That’s probably because our 2.3 million-strong population spans nearly 100 nations and more than 145 languages, making our dining landscape as diverse as it gets.

Eating your way through Mutt City’s colossal culinary scene can take a lifetime, so we’re here to help narrow things down a bit. This bucket list of sorts will take you through the most important food and drink experiences in Houston today—and yes, it includes those tacos we mentioned.

Information listed here may be subject to change depending on the developing situation with COVID-19's Omicron variant. Please check for the latest updates available or contact each establishment directly for more info.
Railway Heights Market
Railway Heights Market

Something—anything—from a food hall

Houston
One of the easiest ways to dip your toes into Houston’s multitudes is by dropping by a food hall. The gorgeous new Post Houston is truly something, with vendors from ace West African standout ChòpnBlọk to Golfstrømmen, a neo-Nordic meets Gulf seafood spot by two start chefs (Texas’ own Paul Qui and Norwegian chef Christopher Haatuft). At the chef-run Bravery Chef Hall, the lineup includes Christina Ha’s Vietnamese kitchen The Blind Goat, Ben McPherson's Roman-bent BOH Pasta & Pizza, and Uchi alums Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham’s sushi and yakitori concept Kokoro, while the fresh-faced Railway Heights hosts bangers from Pierogi Queen to Samosa Haus.
How to book: Dine-in, takeout, and delivery options vary by location.

Riel Restaurant
Riel | Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Montrose
Chef Ryan Lachaine needs to make his Butter Burger sliders available “Crave Case” style (quick aside: apparently White Castle also sells a 100-count “Crave Crate,” but we can all agree that’s excessive, right?). Until that happens, we’ll have to console ourselves by snagging the glistening, American cheese- and caramelized onion-topped snacks by the pair for dine-in and takeaway.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order takeout via Toast.

Fusion Taco
Fusion Taco

Houston
As discussed, taco culture is alive and well in Houston, and while there is most certainly a place for the traditional, our taco spread stretches far beyond that. Blow your mind with newfangled creations like Piri Piri Paratha Tacos at Portuguese-Indian newcomer Da Gama Canteen, smoked brisket-spiked Birria de Res goods from Chicano-style barbecue joint JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ, chicken tikka- and falafel-filled delights from cult favorite Fusion Taco, bulgogi beef- and kimchi-fueled numbers from Korean-Mexican fusion spot Oh My Gogi, and the Chinese Sausage Breakfast Taco from EaDo coffee shop and bakery Koffeteria.
How to book: Dine-in, takeout, and delivery options vary by location.

Coltivare
Coltivare

Houston
Look, we know we’re not New York, and we didn’t originate an entire pizza style like Chicago or Detroit. But we do make a pretty mean pie, and if you’re still not buying it, just peruse the wares at our best pizzerias. Start at Tiny Champions, where the sublime tavern-style pies come with housemade dips and drizzles dubbed “saucy bois” and high-end ingredients from Tuscan salami to local peppers. Or go for the scorched and chubby seasonal selection (plus seriously tasty cocktails) at Coltivare, before seeing how Neapolitan pies are done justice at homegrown hero Pizaro’s.
How to book: Dine-in, takeout, and delivery options vary by location.

Feges BBQ
Feges BBQ | Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma

Chef and co-owner Erin Smith’s experience in restaurants from Plonk! to Camerata (where she worked as a Sommelier) has come into play at this barbecue venture with husband, partner, and pitmaster Patrick Feges. The duo hit a grand slam with their food court outpost, but their fresher, bigger digs in Spring Branch provide ample room for two J&R Manufacturing Oyler Pits, a funky wine list and quality stash of local brews, and a wonderfully expanded menu. Go big with smoked brisket, burnt ends, and whole hog alongside unorthodox sides like Moroccan-spiced Carrots, Korean Braised Greens, and Money Cat Potatoes
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout and nationwide shipping via Square.

Tatemo
Tatemo

Endless pop-up delights

Pop-ups are all the rage these days—one tiny, hopeful silver lining to come out of the restaurant industry’s struggles over the past year—allowing a band of uber-skilled young guns to make waves throughout the city’s food scene. Leading the pack ia tortilla mastermind chef Emmanuel Chavez of Tatemó and next level ice cream-slinger Josh Deleon of Underground Creamery, a duo that hosts sellout Night Markets featuring some of their talented compadres, including but not limited to baker and pastry prodigy Christina Au (now at Blacksmith), Angelo Emiliani of Angie’s Pizza, smash burger king Abbas Dhanani (AKA @houstoneatz) of Burger Bodega, and Top Chef Sasha Grumman’s incredible Sasha’s Focaccia. Do yourself a favor and follow them all.

Hugo's
Hugo's

Hugo’s achiote-rubbed Braised Suckling Pig, Urbe’s Campechana, and Xochi’s epic Mole. Picos’ Enchiladas de Mariscos and traditional Chiles en Nogada. Veracruz-style fish and towering Parrilladas at Teotihuacan. Irma’s out-of-this-world tamales and homemade flan. Suffice it to say, Mexican food in Houston is not to be missed.
How to book: Dine-in, takeout, and delivery options vary by location.

March austin
March | Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

Greenway/Midtown/Montrose
The late Tony Vallone’s magic lives on at his timeless Italian joint, Tony’s, one of the oldest (and classiest) fine dining establishments in all of Houston. It’s been setting the gold standard for world-class service since 1965, wining and dining the likes of Tony Bennett, Oscar de la Renta, and a whopping seven sitting presidents. In Midtown, Brennan’s, est. 1967, is where Houston’s culinary elite cuts their teeth, as the kitchen has been the stomping grounds for top talent including Chris Shepherd, Mark Holley, Jamie Zelko, and more—plus, you can’t beat Bananas Foster flambéed tableside. But perhaps the most extravagant is artful newcomer March, where Chef Felipe Riccio delves into rich stories from around the globe to put out impressive tasting menus complete with housemade vermouth and cherry-picked wines and spirits.
How to book: Dine-in, takeout, and delivery options vary by location.

Superica Houston
Superica Houston

Various locations
That’d be the extraordinarily addicting combination of chips + queso + margarita (on-the-rocks or frozen, as long as the glass is bigger than your dome). Throw a rock in any direction and you’re bound to stumble head-first into this outstanding combo, but here’s a start: Tejano spot Superica, taco ice house Eight Row Flint, modern smokeshow Candente, or the absolute Tex-Mex titan that is El Tiempo. You’re welcome.
How to book: Dine-in, takeout, and delivery options vary by location.

Blood Bros. BBQ
Blood Bros. BBQ

Bellaire
When you think of Texas barbecue, your mind likely goes straight to aggressively crusted, meltingly tender smoked brisket. You can find that at Blood Bros. BBQ, sure, but you’ll also encounter creations like green curry boudin balls, smoked chicken karaage, and thit nuong pork belly burnt ends. The rules are there are no rules. Co-owners Quy Hoang and Robin and Terry Wong (who are real-life brothers) take inspiration from their Chinese and Vietnamese roots to fashion a true Mutt City ‘cue experience.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and catering online.

Himalaya Restaurant & Catering
Himalaya Restaurant & Catering

Sharpstown
Right off Southwest Freeway in a strip center lies Himalaya, an Indo-Pak restaurant that’s garnered many fans thanks to its global riff on Southern fried chicken. Known as HFC (Himalaya Fried Chicken), the masala-spiced chicken is marinated and deep-fried before getting a CFS-inspired white gravy coating made with almonds, cashews, and coconut. Those—plus creations from Indian style shepherd’s pie to a mutton biryani in celebration of the late Anthony Bourdain, who visited for his CNN series Parts Unknown—have also earned chef and owner Kaiser Lashkari a JBA Best Chef Southwest semifinalist nom. Go see why.
How to book:How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout and delivery via ChowNow and Favor.

BB's Tex-Orleans
BB's Tex-Orleans

Not to be outdone by the banh mi, Houston’s top po’boy is also here to play. Head to one of the many locations of BB’s Tex-Orleans for proof in the form of Midnight Masterpiece, a fully dressed roast beef debris monstrosity, or the Half & Half, where fried Gulf shrimp and oysters join forces for good. For an optimal experience, upgrade your side of fries to the Tex-Cajun variety and you’ll be treated to a queso- and roast beef gravy-smothered taste of euphoria. And those who prefer a Frozen Negroni alongside their meal should definitely hit up new neighborhood hangout Winnie’s, too.

Koala Kolache
Koala Kolache

Kolache (or klobasniky) for breakfast 

Various locations
Only in Texas would a sausage-stuffed sweet bun be considered the perfect morning meal. Those klobasniky and their cousin, the kolache (buns with dollops of sweet cheese, poppyseed, and fruit filling at the center) are prevalent around this part of town thanks to the Lone Star’s Czech belt. Go for classic versions at The Original Kolache Shoppe, or more imaginative takes at Koala Kolache.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Eugene’s Gulf Coast Cuisine
Eugene’s Gulf Coast Cuisine | Leah Wilson Photography

Montrose
Danton’s may be gone, but the team behind it picked up and moved to Montrose to open up Eugene’s. That means you’ll still find the Bloody Danton, an epic twist on the classic morning-after tipple made with the kitchen’s homemade gumbo roux, Tito's, sriracha, fresh lemon, and a "secret" spice rim. And yes, it does, in fact, pair well with oysters.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order take-out online.

West Alabama Ice House
West Alabama Ice House

Montrose
Spend a lazy afternoon at West Alabama Ice House, Houston’s favorite (and longest running) outdoor dive. You’ll find all walks of life here—the biker and the baller, mustached dudes and social media stars, first timers and longtime regulars. Everyone is here for the same reason: to enjoy no-frills, ice cold drinks on the patio alongside what many consider to be the best tacos in town, AKA the tiny, fiery numbers from neighboring taco truck Tacos Tierra Caliente.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

YELO austin
YELO | Photo by Isabel Protomartir

Various locations
Houston is home to the following: the Subway of banh mi shops (Roostar), more than one Vietnamese gastropub where you can pair a local beer with a killer a banh mi (Hughie's Tavern, Nobi Public House), hole-in-the-wall sandwich joints (Thien An, Cafe TH), a fantastic newbie with a “Pho-rench” dip (YELO), and one spot stuffing its banh mi with off-kilter delights like oak-smoked brisket, hoisin butter chicken, and coconut basil prawns (Les Ba’get). Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

The Breakfast Klub, Houston
Courtesy of The Breakfast Klub

Midtown
The crunchy, utterly addictive Wings & Waffle combo at The Breakfast Klub is a weekend staple here in Houston. Grab yourself a damn good breakfast or wow your out-of-town friends with this epic dish. Not feeling waffle-y? You can get those same wings with French toast, pancakes, and grits, too.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout via Toast.

Bludorn
Bludorn | Photo by Julie Soefer

Montrose
There are so many things to love about chef Aaron Bludorn’s namesake restaurant, which sufficiently filled the very big void left behind by Pass & Provisions and gave the space at 807 Taft new life last year. Ask anyone who’s dined at Bludorn and we’re guessing almost every one of them will tell you the same thing: End your meal with the baked Alaska. Created by pastry chef Alejandra Salas, the showstopper is set aflame right before your eyes, layered with pistachio and raspberry ice cream and blanketed in fluffy meringue. Even if you think you have no room to finish it, you will—trust.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Squable
Squable

Heights
Everything about the French cheeseburger at Squable is just so good. The neighborhood bistro makes its pain de mie bun in house, then griddles it before stuffing it with a pasture-raised beef patty, thick and plump and dripping with buttery, greasy goodness. Next goes a cascade of funky, gooey raclette cheese and a tangy chopped cornichon finisher. Oh-so crisp frites make an admirable companion, as does a French vintage from the thoughtful wine list. If you’re looking to expand your burger horizons, you can use our Best Burgers in Houston guide as a treasure map for your very own burger quest.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out via Toast.

Chilosos
Chilosos

A mouth full of tacos from a throwback taqueria 

Various locations
One of the best things about living in Houston is the fact that you can easily eat tacos all day long. Start with the city’s absolute best breakfast tacos filled with huevos, chorizo, and papas at spots like Laredo Taqueria and Chilosos Taco House. Later, change your life, or at least your afternoon, for the better with the most important tacos in Houston, from trompo at La Macro to street style tacos al pastor at Taconmadre before getting your late-night fix with birria at La Calle or Cuban tacos from El Rey.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Cajun Kitchen
Cajun Kitchen

Viet-Cajun crawfish (heads are mandatory)

Chinatown
Peeling, pinching, and sucking down a bucket of mudbugs is a Houston rite of passage. You won’t feel like a true local until you master your technique, and definitely not until you’ve tried the Vietnamese-Cajun hybrid—hit with a blend of Garlic, butter, and fragrant spices—that truly speaks to Houston’s global culture. Find it at cult favorites like Crawfish & Noodles (look out for its upcoming location at the Houston Farmers Market) and Cajun Kitchen.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Anvil Bar & Refuge
Anvil Bar & Refuge

Montrose
Anvil Bar and Refuge officially put Houston’s cocktail scene on the map after opening in 2009, and it’s only gotten better as it’s matured. Next to the 100-strong classic cocktail list first conceived as a training guide for Anvil’s rockstar staff (a bucket list in its own right), you’ll find an eight-pack of rotating original cocktails dreamed up by some of Houston’s most talented mixologists. Pick your poison between something bitter and bold (think Sazeracs and Negronis), sour and short (spot-on Bourbon Sour, anyone?), boozy and alluring (from Manhattans to Juleps), and more.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Pho Ga Dakao
Pho Ga Dakao

Various locations
Houston is home to the third largest Vietnamese population in America, which means there's pretty epic Vietnamese cuisine just about everywhere you look. Pho shops line the city, with superior noodle options including but not limited to the old school take at Pho Saigon, Pho Ga Dakao's chicken version, and the fatty brisket and meatball-loaded option at Pho Binh.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Downtown & Galleria
Preferably one that’s been dry-aged for at least 28 days. That’s standard operating procedure for gorgeously marbled beef inside Houston treasure Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. Other badass options include Georgia James, where the long bone ribeye undergoes a 100-day dry aging process; and Israeli-inspired chophouse Doris Metropolitan, which sports a super luxe dry-aging meat locker complete with a chandelier.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

The Turkey Leg Hut
The Turkey Leg Hut

Museum District
After one too many Thanksgiving disasters, you may not even think you like turkey. Before you give up on the bird completely, we implore you to try the gargantuan turkey legs from local staple, The Turkey Leg Hut. Here, they come slow-smoked, stuffed, and smothered with tasty dressings like homemade dirty rice and crawfish mac’ and cheese. Snoop Dogg’s a fan, and we’re guessing you’ll be one, too.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, order take-out via Toast, or get delivery via ChowNow.

Mala Sichuan Bistro
Mala Sichuan Bistro

Chinatown
We’d suggest orchestrating a full restaurant crawl through the buzzy district, but if you can only squeeze one meal in, make it the tongue-scorching Sichuan offerings at Mala Sichuan. Or seven courses of Vietnamese-style beef at Saigon Pagolac. And the soy duck and Spam katsu at Toukei, or crispy snapper and lemongrass prawns at Night Market. Oh, and dumplings at Golden Dumpling House and Fung’s Kitchen’s next-level Hong Kong-style dim sum (a must-visit once they finish renovations). Shoot.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Saint Arnold Brewing Company

Warehouse District
Saint Arnold Brewing Company got its start in the ‘90s, making it the oldest craft brewery in the Lone Star State. Go for year-round brews like the extremely hoppy Art Car IPA and super refreshing Lawnmower German-style Kolsch or sample seasonal sensations like the full-bodied Oktoberfest and super popular Pumpkinator Stout. All of them pair nicely with a duo of fat buttery pretzels and Santo-spiked queso.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Barbecue Inn
Barbecue Inn

A stick-to-your-bones meal at a local hole-in-the-wall

Various locations
Despite the name, 1946 landmark Barbecue Inn is not famous for its barbecue, but rather its perfect 10 take on classic Southern fried chicken. And Lankford Grocery & Market isn’t a grocery and market at all (at least not anymore), but a place you’ll be going to smash one of the greasiest, most satisfying burgers you’ll ever have. And if it’s alarmingly good soul food you’re after, you’ll find it at the for-once appropriately named Houston’s This Is It Soul Food, which has been ridding us of the Sunday scaries since it got its start in Freedmen’s Town back in 1959.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Spring
We love all our barbecue spots (especially these ones), but if you’re looking for the purist brisket around, we highly recommend a trip to Corkscrew BBQ in Old Town Spring. A perfect rendering, silky cap, and deeply blackened bark make for a brisket that is absolute bliss, especially when ordered moist (as any good Texan would know).
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out online.

Caracol
Caracol

Slurpable Gulf Coast oysters 

Various locations
The ostiones asados—wood-roasted Gulf oysters dripping in chipotle butter and topped with cheese and toasted bread crumbs—at coastal Mexican haunt Caracol are a thing of beauty. Continue your bivalve quest with Gulf gems on-the-half-shell at La Lucha in the Heights, buttery, chargrilled numbers at Gilhooley’s, and seriously fresh oysters at Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, both of which you’ll find down in San Leon.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

The Original Ninfa's
The Original Ninfa's

East End/Uptown
“Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo first started grilling skirt steak and stuffing it inside tortillas to save her family’s struggling tortilla factory. Those “tacos al carbon” later became widely known as “fajitas,” a dish which her namesake restaurant, The Original Ninfa’s, has been perfecting since 1973. Though many have tried, the legendary sizzling hot mounds of fajitas here just can’t be outdone.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable (East End, Uptown), order take-out online, or get delivery via DoorDash (East End, Uptown).

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based food and lifestyle writer. Share your tips with her on IG @brookiefafa or on Twitter @brookeviggiano.

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