The Best Lunch Spots In Houston

The best lunch restaurants, delis, cafes, and sandwich shops in Houston.
The Best Lunch Spots In Houston image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

As a city predominantly made up of commuters, lunch in Houston is a Big Deal. It seems like everyone goes out to lunch—and not just in the power-lunch sense where we catch up over a thick steak. But also in the impress-coworkers-with-a-deep-cut kind of way, like knowing the best bánh mì to order at the nearest Vietnamese spot or where to get midday barbecue (without a line). Remember: If you establish lunch dominance early, you always get to go where you want.


photo credit: Richard Casteel



$$$$Perfect For:LunchQuick EatsLiterally Everyone
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Houston’s de facto Vietnamese diner, Thíên Ân Sandwiches in Midtown, should be on everyone’s go-to list for a dependable, quick lunch. All the food, from the bánh mì to the phở, is solid, and everything arrives fast. One dish you’ll likely see on every table is the massive, golden bánh xèo, a wok-sized crepe stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts that comes with fish sauce for dunking. While it’s big enough to share, you can also tackle one alone if you have some feelings to work out.

The best part about lunch at Ostia is the pizza. The Montrose restaurant only serves its Neapolitan at lunch and on Sundays, and these pies are sneak-away-from-the-office excellent. The soft, slightly charred crust with speck pepperoni is the number-one seed in the Houston pizza bracket. And the confit garlic and taleggio pizza tastes like a savory, earthy, wood-fired cloud. Round out lunch with a silky beet-red tuna carpaccio drenched in olive oil and capers, and ignore emails while sipping a Cappelletti spritz in Ostia’s greenhouse-like dining room.

No one compares with Kata Robata when it comes to nigiri and sashimi, especially when the Upper Kirby spot offers a $28, eight-piece chirashi bowl at lunch. The Japanese sushi and grill restaurant serves each chirashi bowl with eight types of expertly sliced fish—two pieces each kind—sushi rice, and all the pickled, spicy, and savory toppings you could want. And at $1.75 per piece, the bowl, along with other sashimi bentos and sushi rolls, is the ultimate lunch bargain, whether you grab a solo bar spot or want a quick meal to break up the work day.

Stanton’s City Bites in First Ward may be filled with walls of memorabilia, a diner-style stool counter, and other architectural items that say, “this building is old,” but the food is anything but. Everything at Stanton’s is made to order, which includes half-pound burgers inside butter-soft buns, loaded sandwiches, and all the best ways to fry potatoes. Every bite makes us wonder why the burgers here taste so unbelievably good: Is it the bread? The beef used for the patty? Is it the fact that you feel like you're on the set of Happy Days while eating there, or is it the smell of caramelized beef wafting from the kitchen like some kind of meat-themed perfume counter? It’s probably all of those things, as well as toppings like a whole hashbrown or piles of blue cheese. Go to Stanton’s for lunch simply to experience unencumbered and slightly nostalgic joy.

La Guadalupana—usually shortened to “Guad”—is a Montrose institution. The Mexican cafe opened in 1995 and seems to be the mid-to-late afternoon meal cafe of choice for any 20-something nearby. The quick service encourages coffee drinking late into the afternoon. Dishes like enchiladas verdes topped with a pool of green salsa and a sprinkle of shredded lettuce, that resembles a salad, will keep you full all day, especially if you grab a fresh pan dulce to-go.

When you want a midday bowl of phở and swift service, head to Huynh. This Vietnamese restaurant in EaDo gets busy with office workers, anyone visiting the nearby convention center, or folks on the East Side right when it opens at 11am. The owners regularly zip back and forth across the restaurant waiting tables, running out steaming bowls of spicy, aromatic bún bò huế and fish sauce-drenched bowls of vermicelli and lemongrass beef between corralling folks waiting for a table.

Feges BBQ in Spring Branch rarely has a long line, even when the restaurant is full. This new-school-meets-old-school barbecue spot uses a simple order counter, instead of cafeteria-style service, so no showy meat slicing here. Trays of glistening, smoky barbecue, sides like fully loaded baked potatoes and spicy Korean braised greens, and mini cast irons of hog fat cornbread come right to your table. Enjoy a full tray of excellent slow-smoked meats without missing any afternoon meetings.

photo credit: Vivian Leba

For tacos with a side of kombucha and a fresh nopalitos salad, the place to go is Cochinita & Co. in the East End. This Mexican cafe serves cochinita pibil tacos on handmade tortillas, grilled pineapple shrimp rice bowls, crispy vegan flautas with earthy oyster mushrooms, and pints of kombucha thanks to the nearby Kickin’ Kombucha cafe. Everything here tastes so good it’s frankly rude that more food doesn’t automatically regenerate on the plate.

For a quick, spicy, lunch with dosas the size of a giraffe’s leg, there’s no better spot than the South Indian restaurant Shiv Sagar. Shoved in the corner of a highway-adjacent strip center, this counter-service spot is mostly patronized by folks who live or work nearby, or anyone in need of a fast but excellent meal. This means thali platters, pani poori, and a couple dozen kinds of dosas, including one doused in chili and cheese.

Any place that pre-sets a table with a giant flagon of tangy fish sauce knows how to party. Thien Thanh specializes in one dish, bánh cuốn, and serves it all day long. But most folks pop into the cash-only Chinatown spot midday. Even though the soft rice paper crepes fill up a large serving platter, one person can easily eat the entire dish. Crepes filled with pale pink dry-fried mini shrimps or charred slices of barbecue pork get dunked in fish sauce (hence the bottle) and disappear almost as quickly as they arrive.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Reggae Hut serves classic Jamaican dishes perfect for making a lunch break feel like an extended meal. With jewel-tone murals and ceiling fans that spin like they’ve got all the time in the world, things slow down a bit at this Third Ward spot. Get a flaky beef patty and some cocoa bread for a quick bite, or go full-throttle with a plate of oxtails, rice and peas, and plantains (as long as you have time for a midday nap).

The meals at Chopnblok are made for a quick lunch. This small but mighty stall in the Post Market food hall downtown makes bowls of West African dishes and sends them out before the Wizkid song on the speakers ends. The go-to order is “The Trad'', a bowl of smoky jollof jambalaya topped with grilled chicken and kelewele—the fried sweet plantain that shines on the dish like a little badge of honor. With a blend of sweetness, heat, and smoke the food at Chopnblok is the midday motivation needed to power through your afternoon meetings.

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