The Best Restaurants In The Medical Center
photo credit: Richard Casteel
Houston’s Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world, making up an entire neighborhood in Houston. While this area is home to some of the brightest minds in medicine who save lives daily, it isn’t exactly known for its expansive dining options. These are the best spots to head to before your next physical, or after a day of keeping Houstonians healthy.
If you drive too fast down OST, you might miss Sunshine's Vegetarian Deli and Health Food Store. As the name suggests, this tiny counter-service spot is a vegetarian deli, but about 90% of the menu is also vegan. The food covers the plant-loving bases—kale salads, grilled veggie wraps, and smoothies with cute names like Mango Mambo and Blueberry Burst. What sets Sunshine’s apart is that the best dishes here could impress a carnivore, like the thick plant-based burgers topped with creamy potato salad (thank you veganaise) and nachos drizzled in rich cashew cheese that can provide a newfound appreciation for the humble tree nut. Plus, half of the space is a mini wellness store.
The Wing Boss, a chicken wing joint, is known for its “breaded” fried chicken wings that can be served plain or coated in one of 13 different sauces. Whether you get wings dunked in a sticky hot honey sauce or dusted with a Cajun dry rub, the chicken is generously seasoned and the skin still crackles enough to put potato chips to shame. Wing combos come with a Hawaiian roll and crispy golden french fries, and you should get a side of fried okra (which can also be tossed in one of the 13 sauces). Sit at the bar and down a house cocktail next to some devoted regulars, or snuggle into a booth where it'll just be you and your wings (and maybe some boudin egg rolls, too).
In a city that has no shortage of Cajun-Creole food, Angelo’z makes the bold claim of having “the best po’boys in the world.” While they haven’t quite earned the global title, we do think the sandwich stop is making some competitive contenders for the neighborhood. Order a muffaletta brimming with olives, or freestyle and create a cold-cut sandwich made to your liking. And since Angelo’z also doubles as a mini convenience store, all of the chips, candy, and specialty brownies are there to keep you company while you wait on your order. While there are a few tables for dining, most people take their food to-go, making Angelo’z a coveted lunch spot for folks in the area.
The Bourbon Sizzler, a counter-service Caribbean restaurant, is a great place to melt the day away with spicy beef patties with flaky crusts, sweet brown stew chicken with rice and cabbage, and sweet ting soda. This is primarily a takeout operation, but there is a dining room that's mostly free for you to hunker down with a hearty meal. Keep this lo-fi spot in mind for a solo lunch or dinner after a long day.
Filipino bakery The Baker’s Son originated in Jacksonville, FL and the first Houston location is right here in the Medical Center. Fresh baked goods are mostly sold in multiples here, but there are some individual treats for sale at the counter. After shopping around and filling your basket with pandesal, ensaymadas topped with parmesan cheese, and ube-flavored everything, grab a passion fruit calamansi for a citrusy refreshment loaded with fresh fruit and herbs. The Baker’s Son is open daily until 8pm, and it’s perfect for healthcare workers (or anyone, really) in the mood for a sweet treat at any time of day. There aren’t any seats in this action-packed bakery, but biting into a pan de dulce filled with ube always tastes delicious from the driver’s seat.
M&M Grill has just about everything. The modest halal restaurant has Mexican food, Mediterranean food, as well as dependable burgers and crispy fries. Inside, there are about 10 tables that are usually full of U of H students discussing their latest chemistry quiz and the ambient sounds of metal spatulas flipping burgers on flat-tops. While your order here could go in many directions, we have a penchant for the mushroom swiss burger, because the cheese is perfectly melted between the double patties burgers, and a pile of onions and mushrooms sit under the meat like a support system.
If you find yourself in need of a quick meal, head to Viet’s Express, which also happens to be the best Vietnamese place in the neighborhood. It seems that the chefs here have learned to cook at the speed of light, which means instead of waiting for your food, most of your precious time will be spent toggling between bites of bánh mì slathered in rich pâté and golden phở broth. Viet’s Express is a go-to spot for a speedy lunch or a foolproof takeout dinner.
There’s never a wrong time to stop by Mellow Manna for a casual Indian dinner or lunch buffet during the week. Bollywood music videos play from a TV, which happen to be an excellent accompaniment to scoops of tender lamb biryani. The menu here is pretty big, but the creamy butter chicken and naan are non-negotiables. Mellow Manna sets a gentle and relaxed vibe, but the spice here is serious, so be sure to tack a mango lassi onto your order as a fail-safe for burning tongues.
Taro is a casual Japanese restaurant in the Medical Center that serves sushi and ramen. Snuggle into one of the cozy blue booths and order pieces of seared hamachi and unagi to your heart’s content. Or, if you’re feeling soupy, order tonkotsu ramen—the roasted pork slices are especially tender and the soft-boiled eggs are particularly creamy. And if you’re in need of a Happy Hour, the one at Taro happens every weekday, featuring $2 sushi, $5 appetizers, and $2.50 beers.
Like many other hotel restaurants, you’ll have to shell out some serious doubloons for your meal at Safina, a Mediterranean spot at the InterContinental. But stick to the tender braised lamb shanks and maybe a side of roasted brussels sprouts that could pass for dessert, and it’s all worth it. Food aside, hanging out at the hotel is reason enough to come here—the inside of Safina is open and breezy with metallic art installations hanging from the ceiling and pastoral oil paintings on the walls.
Wedged between two unassuming buildings is the Mexican food truck Tacos Y Tortas El Pastorsito D.F.. Come here for spicy al pastor and beef fajita tacos on corn tortillas or chorizo gorditas so good that you won't care when juice from the meat drips down to your elbows. The hardest thing about eating at this spot is finding parking, so call ahead and grab your food without waiting, or come with a friend who can sit in your questionably parked car while you order.
Miller’s Cafe serves no-nonsense burgers at the base of Methodist Hospital’s Scurlock Tower. Even though the restaurant sort of resembles a concessions counter that was built inside of a theater backdrop for a homey southern restaurant, the food is pretty fantastic. Every burger comes on a (plot twist!) poppy seed bun with toppings you’d find at a standard backyard cookout: iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. So whether you’re in the mood for a beef or black bean patty, or an escape from hospital food, Miller’s is always there for you.
A solid option if you need a brisk solo meal or want to submerge yourself in cheese with a couple of pals, Two Guys Pizzeria is where to go for a quick slice when you’re short on time. There’s usually a steady stream of people flowing through, ordering one of the daily specials or grabbing a giant pizza slice (which is more like a kind-of-big pizza slice). The pizza highlight is the Med Center Special, which is topped with hearty meatballs, spicy jalapeños, and gooey mozzarella. But the real star of the show is the stromboli calzone that’s stuffed with a montage of meats, plus mushrooms and black olives.