The Best Restaurants In The Heights
photo credit: Liz Silva
The Heights was originally established as a suburb of Downtown Houston in the late 1800s, but it was eventually absorbed into the Houston city limits, as is just about everything. But, thanks to White Oak Bayou and neighborhood zoning—plus that really long time period where selling alcohol was “illegal”—The Heights retained its neighborhood identity, even if it did away with the fun streetcars. Over the last decade, the Heights has seen a massive influx of new families, shops and restaurants renovated from old auto lots, and, like, a lot of bars. So whether you’re new to the area or trying to figure out where to have date night because you finally locked down a free evening with someone special, here are some of the best restaurants and bars in The Heights.
Better Luck Tomorrow has the same lifeforce behind it as its sister spots Anvil, Refuge, Squable, and Theodore Rex, and just as much booze. The corner cocktail bar not only has a lot of colorful lights and a sprawling covered patio, but there’s also a menu full of small plates like sauteed shrimp, crab cakes, and the “everyday cheeseburger,” which you can add an extra patty or blue cheese. Or just fill up on signature cocktails. Visit for pasta specials on Tuesday, steaks on Wednesdays, during Happy Hour, or to try the spaghetti sandwich during weekend brunch.
For over 40 years, the steakhouse-adjacent and wild game-focused restaurant the Rainbow Lodge has served up a whole mess of different meats and seafood. The lodge is built around a 100-year old log cabin and has a trophy game room that would make Ace Ventura clutch his pearls, especially once the mixed game grill or fried quail with gravy arrives at your table. We prefer dining out on the winding, stair-stepped patio with views of the bayou through the live oak trees. You could be dining in the Hill Country or maybe some distant Rocky Mountain chalet, but you’re just off TC Jester and Ella.
Pinkerton’s serves up solid, old school, no-frills Texas barbecue. The Hill Country-style house serves up classic oak-smoked brisket, tender turkey, and pulled pork smothered in Pinkerton’s original sauce. And while the sides of smoky pinto beans and creamy macaroni and cheese are lick-the-bowl good, no tray is complete without the smoked duck and sausage jambalaya with crushed bell pepper. Settle in with a tray inside the floor-to-ceiling wood-paneled dining room at one of the long community tables. Or snag a seat on the patio where you can take in the view of what feels like every pickup truck in the city pulling up for an early lunch.
Puebla’s Mexican Kitchen is probably the most colorful place to eat in The Heights. Not only is the exterior bright pink, but the inside has a rainbow mix of chairs, walls of framed luchadores posters, and bright floral table tops. The multi-colored kaleidoscope, plus a terracotta mug of cinnamon coffee and huevos rancheros with salsa verde, will inject a heavy dose of joy into your day. Puebla’s is only open for breakfast and lunch, so swing in early or sneak out mid-day for chilaquiles, enchiladas enmoladas, or crispy flautas.
Dinner at Jūn is all hits and no misses. One bite of the charred whole fish with guajillo and lime could turn anyone into a cartoon cat. We thought about putting the whole fish in our mouth and pulling the bones out clean (and we kind of did). The dishes at this self-described “New Asian American” restaurant feel familiar and different all at the same time, because the flavors are Houston melded together, but with a fresh take, and in a space that someone with an actual personality put together. Make a reservation for your birthday or a special date (far in advance) for a knockout experience.
Squable is yet another link in the constellation of bars and restaurants from the people behind Better Luck Tomorrow, Anvil, Theodore Rex, and Refuge. The casual neighborhood restaurant combines a multitude of references with American food for dinner and brunch—neither of which we can get enough of. Every dish here is nostalgic, comforting, and somehow novel at the same time. Make a reservation for a window-lit booth during golden hour, sidle up to the bar for brunch, or just hang out on the covered patio.
From the outside, what looks like a modest home with an adorable porch is actually Handies Douzo, a sushi restaurant that specializes in handrolls. The inside of Handies is entirely made up of a wraparound counter with chefs in the center wheeling and dealing out handrolls like cool sushi dealers. You should definitely get the buttery BGB salmon sake handroll or the refreshing crab handroll (or get a double hit of both). You can also order sake that comes in a cute juice box, in case you want to unlock your inner child while you’re eating thickly cut slices of hamachi. At Handies, there is a cap of 75 minutes per reservation, so swing by for a quick bite by yourself or with a pal.
If you’re looking for ways to increase your weekly spam intake or eat your bodyweight in lumpia, Be More Pacific, a Filipino restaurant, can help you out. Try the house spam silog with garlic rice and a bowl of braise chicken adobo, or snack on some longganisa tots smothered in house queso and banana ketchup. The colorful dining room—decked out in fake palm trees—has a full bar and a large patio deck. Plus, the bar windows next to the patio slide all the way open, which is great if you want to take in the breeze from the cars driving too fast down Yale Street.
Mash up the show Tool Time with a sushi restaurant, then add some infomercial salesman charm, and you’ve got 5Kinokawa. The omakase-only spot in the Heights, open from Friday to Sunday, has a dining room filled with just as many carpentry tools as species of fish. Not only are you here to eat expertly sliced no-frills nigiri, but you’re also learning about different types of wood or how to perfectly de-shell a Santa Barbara spot prawn. At some point, it’s hard to tell whether you’re just eating through an omakase, being pitched an investment opportunity, or about to take a quiz on different varieties of mackerel. Suddenly, two hours and thirteen courses pass by, and, like stepping off a roller coaster for the first time, you wonder if anyone will notice you’ve jumped the line to ride again.
Greater Heights residents have been packing the parking lot of this bright pink Tex-Mex restaurant for decades. Teotihuacan is an institution, with nearly every wall covered in murals, beer posters, and neon signs. The chile con queso is a necessary accomplice to any order—always the perfect, drippy consistency,it’s great for dredging beef fajitas or flautas or tacos al carbon. While Teo (as the locals say) has room to host big parties, you can also squeeze into a booth with a friend for a quick Happy Hour or pancake breakfast. Service is quick, and so is the effect of the boozy house margaritas.
Some places require a suit jacket or dress that says “I’m at an event.” The latest spot that requires this type of primping? Karne, a high-end take on traditional Korean. Prioritize it for a celebratory date night or group dinner involving anyone who takes their meat seriously. For a little bit of everything, get the $60 per person “karnivore platter” which comes with five different cuts and plenty of banchan. The platter changes daily, so cross your fingers and hope that the hanger steak and smoked rib meat with a marbling that looks painted on both make the board (and if not, they’re worth adding on).
Boil House is a boiled seafood machine. The tiny roadside shack churns out pound after pound of crawfish and shrimp all season long, but only from Wednesday to Sunday (or until the place sells out). Get your mudbugs boiled up mild, medium, or hot, with a simple trio of add-ons: corn, potatoes, and an absolutely huge link of pork sausage. Don’t pass up the butter-boiled shrimp and house dipping sauce, if only to give your hands a break from shucking all those tails. You can brave the drive-thru and get everything to-go. But we prefer digging into the boil bucket on the patio, the way nature intended, with a strawberry daiquiri (shot included).
If you want dive bar vibes but high-end drinks, EZ’s Liquor Lounge can set you up. Even though the inside of EZ’s feels like someone went a little overboard on deep-cleaning, the sparkling sheen doesn’t make the booze taste any different. What’s great is you can choose your own adventure at EZ’s—whether you're here solo, or on a first date, or just trying to hustle someone at pool. Get bougie with an expensive bottle of champagne (don’t do that) or the champagne of beers (do that). Or just relax, double-fist a couple chili dogs, and admire the beer paraphernalia artwork or the fact that the music switches from George Strait to DJ Screw and back again. Like most places in Houston, the dirt and grime will settle in eventually.
TJ Birria Y Mas is one of the only birria spots in The Heights, and it happens to be pretty great. TJ’s savory, silky birria de res gets stuffed into an unfathomable number of different tortilla and cheese configurations, as well as smushed over mashed potatoes and ladled into spicy ramen. We like to head here with a few friends, split as many quesabirrias and consome as possible, and finish with a few warm churros and nutella to split. You know, just a casual meal.
Real ones will remember when Melange Creperie was just a dude posted up on a street corner flipping crepes one-by-one. But now it's a full-fledged counter service restaurant inside of a bright pink converted bungalow. Melange Creperie serves a lot of different crepes, from savory egg and ham breakfast combinations, to brie with jam, to crepes stuffed with black beans and salsa. Melange stays fairly busy, especially during peak brunch hours, but now two to three folks are manning the crepe stations, so you won’t have to wait too long.
Shoved into one of the many North Shepherd strip center complexes, the Thai restaurant Kin Dee is a great spot for a casual midweek meal, whether you live in The Heights or not. The cocktails and service can be hit or miss, but the food makes up for any other shortcomings. The $42 Khan Tok Platter (available Monday and Tuesday only) with seven different mini dishes is an unbeatable deal for two, plus the golden gilded tray looks gorgeous. We could inhale the stir-fried basil chicken, slice open the fried egg omelet wrapping to reveal nutty pad thai below and feel satisfied every time, and order a personal mango sticky rice for dessert.
We like the vegan restaurant The Ginger Mule for the sheer amount of variety on the menu. It has a predictable“plant-based restaurant” aesthetic: muted colors, wildflowers in mason jars, and cute quotes painted next to sunflowers. But the menu is packed with dishes we’d happily return for like vegan ceviche, gyros, tacos to choose from, and impressive pizzas. Throw in their Happy Hour deals and stacked weekend brunch and it becomes clear that The Ginger Mule is all about options. So come here when you’re going out with vegan friends who can never agree on what to eat.