The Best Restaurants in Houston

Houston knows food. Sample some of the best barbecue in the U.S., or stuff yourself silly with tacos al carbon. Whether it’s Indian street food you’re after or waffle sandwiches sold out of a bus, this list will help you get strategic.

1600 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77006
When the James Beard Foundation named chef Hugo Ortega the 2017 Best Chef in the Southwest, it confirmed what Houstonians have known for decades. His namesake restaurant has long been a go-to spot for anyone seeking delicious regional Mexican cuisine. Expect fresh seafood appetizers such as shrimp cocktail with cherry tomato, avocado, and diablo sauce; excellent salads and soups; and entrées such as roasted duck in mole poblano, braised tender suckling pig, and fish tamales in tomato sauce. If you can make it to Hugo’s for only one meal, get here for weekend brunch—you can try a little bit of everything.
3613 E Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581, USA
In Texas, there’s no shortage of places to go for barbecue, but if you can pick only one Houston joint, head to Killen’s BBQ. Chef Ronnie Killen’s vision for this restaurant, opened in 2013, was to combine the “heart and soul of the old-school barbecue cook-offs” of his youth with his training at Le Cordon Bleu. On the meat menu you’ll find to-die-for brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, and turkey by the pound as well as homemade pork and beef sausage, pulled pork, and bone-in pork belly. Sides include mac and cheese, creamed corn, green beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. The restaurant is located in Pearland, about 30 minutes from downtown. It is closed on Mondays, and open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until the restaurant sells out of stock.
4210 Roseland St, Houston, TX 77006, USA
Wish you could instantly transport yourself to Barcelona? At BCN Taste & Tradition, you can—all it takes is a single bite of food. The restaurant, helmed by chef Luis Roger, who grew up in Barcelona and was once hired to travel the world on a private sailboat, combines traditional and modern Spanish cuisine in dishes that will make your mouth water and mind wander. The menu includes beef tartare with waffle chips; free-range sunny-side-up eggs with potatoes and cured Spanish Ibérico ham; pan-seared wild-caught branzino with sautéed garlic, confit potato, roasted tomato, and piquillo peppers; and confit pork cheeks with sweet pea puree, compressed carrot, and grilled carabineros shrimp.
88 Dennis St, Houston, TX 77006, USA
One word: Hamburgers. Hamburgers are the reason to come to this tiny grocery store–restaurant that’s still one of Houston’s best-kept secrets. Here’s a sample of the life-changing combinations you’ll find on the menu: the South of the Border (Monterey Jack, pico de gallo, avocado, and cilantro dressing); the Grim Burger (mac and cheese, bacon, a fried egg, and jalapeño); and the loaded Triple-Meat burger. If for some inexplicable reason you want to order something without beef, try the heavenly chicken strip sandwich. And keep an eye out for the daily specials, too—they’re fantastic. Open Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006, USA
11360 Bellaire Blvd #990, Houston, TX 77072, USA
Crawfish season is a big deal in Houston. But for a truly unique experience, head to Crawfish & Noodles in Chinatown. This easy-to-miss restaurant, tucked away in a strip mall on Bellaire Boulevard, is well worth the drive for its spicy mudbugs alone, served piping hot. If you want to eat like a local, order the blue crab, snow crab, or literally anything with noodles. There can be a wait during peak hours, so plan your visit accordingly. We also recommend taking the time to explore the rest of the neighborhood when you can. You simply can’t beat dim sum in Houston’s Chinatown on a weekend morning.
1972 Fairview St, Houston, TX 77019, USA
4720 Washington Ave B, Houston, TX 77007, USA
Max’s Wine Dive asks, “Champagne and fried chicken? Why the hell not?!” which pretty much sums up their concept of pairing comfort foods with wine or champagne. This place gets packed at peak hours, yet the waiters stay attentive and friendly. If you want to experience Texas’s “classy comfort food movement,” Max’s is a great place to do it.
2202 Dallas St, Houston, TX 77003, USA
The Eatsie Boys has long been considered one of Houston’s best food trucks thanks to the “gourmet grub” made with locally sourced, high-quality ingredients. These days it’s holding down a daily residence at 8th Wonder Brewery, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Menu offerings include S.L.A.B. Fries (pulled pork, mozzarella, barbecue sauce, avocado crema, diced tomatoes, pickled onions, and jalapeño); the Hello Nasty burger (house-ground 100-percent beef brisket patty, grilled onions, pickled jalapeño, cheddar cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce); and the What the Falafel (house-made falafel patty, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and tzatziki).
2704 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 77003, USA
For an authentic Houston experience, head to the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, where the food is always top-notch and the longtime servers are revered as rock stars. With chef Alex Padilla at the helm, you can expect everything from handmade tamales and grilled octopus salad to mole grilled salmon and oven-roasted chicken enchiladas. Don’t miss the tacos al carbon with a margarita on the side—both are legendary with locals. Grab a patio seat and see who you see—it’s not unusual to notice a celebrity or two. Houston has a booming Tex-Mex scene, and Ninfa’s can show you why in a single bite.
2800 Kirby Dr B132, Houston, TX 77098, USA
In a city like Houston, which is bursting with international flavor, it’s not difficult to find fantastic Indian food. But Anita Jaisinghani, co-owner of the beloved Indika, serves up the best of the best with Pondicheri. The menu here revolves around unique takes on India’s street foods, including pakoras and a daily selection of samosas. In terms of main dishes, the best way to sample what’s being offered is by getting the vegetable or meat thali—a daily selection of dishes and sides perfect for sharing. Other standouts include desi fries (French fries dusted with Indian spices), naan with roasted garlic, and fresh-baked cookies.
2424 Dunstan Rd, Houston, TX 77005, USA
3510 Ella Blvd, Houston, TX 77018, USA
BBQ is serious business in Houston, as in the rest of Texas, and any local will have a strong opinion about where you can find the holy grail. Gatlin’s, however, is a favorite among many. Fall-off-the-bone tender ribs, respectable brisket, pulled pork, and all the usual fixin’s made with love. Photo via Gatlin’s BBQ Facebook page
1540 W Alabama St Suite 100, Houston, TX
Do you love waffles like most well-adjusted members of society do? Then you’ll be a big fan of the Waffle Bus. This innovative Houston food truck offers a variety of savory and sweet waffle sandwiches that will put your taste buds on high alert. Waffle sandwiches on the menu here include buttermilk fried chicken, Nutella and banana, and the decadent Strawberry Irish Cream Crème Brûlée. The truck frequents various neighborhoods in Houston; check the website for the most up-to-date location information. If you’re in town for a special event, you can even order catering.
3300 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006, USA
Helmed by Chef Danny Trace, a New Orleans native whose resume includes stints at Commander’s Palace and Cafe Adelaide, Brennan’s is the kind of place you go to for well-executed classics: Oysters Rockefeller, Shrimp and Grits, Gulf Fish Pontchartrain. But should you happen to venture into less predictable territory, you’ll be just as pleased. Still, every meal should end with bananas foster prepared tableside.
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