The Best Soul Food Restaurants In Houston

An ode to the finest collard greens this city has to offer.
The Best Soul Food Restaurants In Houston image

All of the certified soul food restaurants in Houston are more than one-hit-wonders. If the fried fish is the only thing worth getting, it’s not a soul food joint—it’s a fried fish spot. A true soul food place needs to have it all. All reputable mac needs a minimum of three cheeses making up the blend. The smoked meat to collard greens ratio should hit the 30/70 industry standard. And crackles from fried chicken skins must be audible from at least four feet away. Every restaurant on this guide exceeds those standards, which is why they are the best soul food in Houston.


photo credit: Richard Casteel

Soul Food

Third Ward

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerQuick EatsClassic Establishment
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Houston This Is It in the Third Ward is a soul food spot that delivers comfort food in a setting that is relaxed enough to feel like one big exhale. A standard dinner tray comes with one entree and three sides, and once you’ve decided on a main, it’s best to be strategic with your choice of sides. In general, a standard macaroni and cheese-candied yam-cabbage trio will do the trick (they’re soul food heavy hitters after all). But if you’re getting an entree with a little sauce (think smothered turkey wings) then you’ll need some rice to ensure that no sauce is left behind. Most folks here are regulars and can be found chatting with the staff, but if it’s your first time here, try to have your introduction with a side of oxtail on a Thursday or Saturday when they’re served.

photo credit: Richard Casteel



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The Museum District restaurant Lucille’s might be a more buttoned-up spot—sleek wooden interior, fancy cocktails, and the occasional white tablecloth all make appearances here. But its essence (and food) feels as down-home as any other place on the list. The dishes are inspired by passed-down family recipes and the staff treats you like one of their own. Dishes here can be a bit dressed up—hearty oxtail jus gets slathered onto plates of crispy catfish—but they never feel too fussy. The crispy fried chicken, braised collard greens, and baked mac and cheese feel just as comforting as any dinner that comes tucked in a styrofoam tray.

If you’re on the Northside, few spots will give you better soul food than Esther’s Cajun Cafe & Soul Food. The cafeteria-style restaurant has rows of options, but the smothered turkey wings (and more importantly, the gravy on top) could be eaten with just rice. The turkey is so tender that the bone is merely a formality. Esther's also offers a few cakes sold by the slice that feel like the dessert version of a kiss on the cheek—they’re perfectly sweet and automatically make you forget the pile of laundry waiting at home. Sit by the bar and have your meal with a drink meant for grown folks.

Most people who stroll into Alfreda’s Soul Food, a Third Ward spot, are on a takeout mission—Alfreda’s is more about the food than the ambiance. But with the smells of fried chicken and smothered pork chops wafting through the dining room, even a busy Uber Eats driver would take a seat to wait for an order. The warmth at Alfreda’s extends beyond the staff (who will almost certainly call you honey) and reaches every bite of buttered cornbread, brined collard greens, and gravy-drizzled oxtail. Grab a large sweet tea and contemplate why it always tastes sweeter in a styrofoam cup.

Mikki’s Soulfood Cafe in Brays Oaks usually has a line that could put every club in a ten-mile radius to shame. A case can be made to order essentially everything at Mikki’s, which is why everyone—from couples grabbing a quick bite to impromptu family reunions—can be found here. The cafeteria-style soul food restaurant has the classics—fried chicken, smothered pork chops, oxtail—along with daily specials. Spend the time waiting in line to decide whether you want your fried chicken with syrupy candied yams, collard greens, cabbage, or all three. And if you find the time on a Sunday, get a fried fish dinner and add a little hot sauce on top. Whatever day of the week you make it to Mikki’s, come as early as you can because they will almost certainly sell out.

The Third Ward food truck Lindiana’s Southern Vegan Kitchen serves plant-based food that can keep up with local soul food spots. We’ll happily take a plate of beans and rice, the gooiest vegan macaroni and cheese in the city, and a fried chicken sandwich from Lindiana’s. We like to get the oyster mushrooms po’boy for the crackle that sounds like it’s a special effect. And regardless of what you order, the seasoning and flavor at Lindiana’s makes it a soul food titan in its own rite. While you might have to take your order to your car (unless you want to eat it in the parking lot), the fried boudin balls are just as tasty when you’re kicked back in the driver's seat.

The food at Butter Funk Kitchen is primarily soul food classics. This Sunnyside spot only has a few tables, but if they're full, a seat at the bar is just as good and gives the best view of the frozen daiquiris on tap. We’ll take a plate of catfish here just for the crunchy ends and deep-fried ribs that make us want to shake the hand of the person on the fryer. The potlicker on the collard greens perfectly balances spice and brine, and we’ve seriously contemplated having the red rice and beans as an entire meal. But we usually end up getting crispy fried okra and dirty rice that’s spicy enough to make us reach for more lemonade.

An unassuming joint across the street from Emancipation Park, Soul Food Vegan is a neighborhood spot combining meatless comfort food with a dash of Creole flavor. You don’t go to Soul Food Vegan for the scene, but rather for a quick bite to finish off the day. The menu has Cajun pasta, burgers, jambalaya, and fresh-pressed moringa juice. But we’ll take anything that involves oyster mushrooms because the fried strips are just as delicious on their own as they are pressed between toasted bread. Try their po’boy with deep-fried oyster mushrooms that crunch when you bite into them, coated in spicy mayo and topped with red onions that amplify the sandwich’s crunch.

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