Where To Eat When You’re Sick Of Being Told To Order 2-3 Small Plates EachThe Houston restaurants where you can get your own damn plate of food.
In a world where it feels like every new place seems to do the same small plates spiel, finding the comfort of a traditional restaurant entree seems revolutionary. Every now and then, it’s just nice to order your own damn main course and not have to be polite about sharing the last bite. So the next time you want your own plate of food, where no one will tell you how or how much to order, head to one of these spots.
While a BBQ plate and a single fully-loaded baked potato from Triple J’s Smokehouse in Trinity Gardens is probably enough to feed every player on the Astros, the food is so incredibly good, you’ll want to keep it all for yourself. Order up a to-go tray of housemade sausage, smoky pork ribs, pot likker-rich green beans, creamy macaroni and cheese, and the best link of spicy boudin in town. The only thing resembling a small plate at Triple J’s is one section of the styrofoam takeout container.
The upscale Creole spot Brennan’s Of Houston in Midtown is so old school that splitting entrees here might actually startle the waitstaff and other diners. Everything is sized for one person, except for possibly trays of shucked oysters and dessert. Brennan’s is great for dinner with your parents (or grandparents), dinner with co-workers, or sharing a meal with a third-tier friend.
Maybe suggesting a burger spot is kind of a cop out here, but seriously, who the hell are you going to share a burger with? Keep these hefty burgers at Lankford’s Grocery & Market in Midtown all to yourself. Every burger has its own unhinged addition, like the Grim burger patty that sits on a bed of macaroni and cheese, or the Midtown with an entire fried onion ring smothered in BBQ sauce. After eating here, you won’t even have to hit up a drive-thru afterwards (something you may or may need to do after a small plates dinner).
Forget small plates, the Yemeni spot Sheba Restaurant in Gulfton only has the biggest plates, in which nearly every family-sized serving contains aromatic rice and savory roast lamb. Order some tender hanith or spiced zurbian lamb, dump the entire plate on Sheba’s plastic-coated tables, and dig in with your hands. Although the restaurant is utilitarian and lo-fi—more people are likely picking up to-go orders than dining in—it serves some of the most comforting, large-portioned food in the city.
Dinner at Street To Kitchen, a Thai spot in the East End, starts off civil. Sharing papaya salad and tom yum soup is all well and good, but once the fire-breathing drunken noodles and aromatic Thai basil beef arrives, it’s time to claim your entree territory. Yeah, you could split these, too, but after the first bite, you’ll hide your plate like someone’s trying to copy an answer off your algebra test. The tiny, colorful restaurant pumps out some of the most flavorful, addictive, and spicy Thai food in town, and you will want to enjoy every bite.
Open for over 100 years, Christie’s in the Galleria area offers a simple menu of, you guessed it, seafood and steaks. And a rich, golden fried fish po’boy. The inside resembles what we imagine would be the fanciest restaurant in the smallest coastal town, complete with regular diners who appear to intimately know the menu. Servers send out all orders at the traditional pace of appetizer-salad-entree, without question, because, honestly, in what other way should food arrive?
At Goode Company Seafood in Upper Kirby, the only dish you might share is the campechana de mariscos, a giant fluted glass overflowing with crab, avocado, and cocktail sauce, and platters of fried shrimp. But every now and then, you will probably want your own dish. The original location off Westpark features a kitschy renovated railcar dining room, fried seafood platters, and grilled fish entrees that come with this old school thing called, “a choice of side.” Revolutionary.
Even though it’s designed like a family-style diner, most folks at Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers are hunkered over their own plates. The spicy gumbo packed with shrimp, crab, chicken, and sausage requires you to devote yourself to every spoonful, to ensure you’ve had everything in the bowl. Plus, you might be hard pressed to give up your plate of crackling catfish to whoever you’re having dinner with. And while you can technically share a plate of biscuits, we understand if you want to keep them all to yourself. At least you can share the memories.
Toyori is an excellent ramen and sizzling plates spot in Chinatown. Served quick and hot, the signature Spicy TanTan Ramen has ground pork, thick chili-bombed broth, and perfectly cooked noodles. You can also take ownership of a personal sizzling plate, which is kind of like a fancy frozen dinner that someone tossed a fried egg onto. Even better, no one working here will ever use the word “tapas” to describe anything.
Houstonians flock to Hugo’s, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Montrose, for all things special occasion (or regular weekday, depending on your tax bracket). Alongside margaritas shaken tableside, there are plenty of entrees to go around, like barbacoa lamb wrapped in banana leaves and crispy duck coated in spicy mole. And if you go to Hugo’s for Sunday brunch, the massive spread at the brunch buffet makes the perfect excuse to have your own plate, or two (or three).
At Houston This Is It Soul Food, the only thing you have to share are tables. The Third Ward staple has been dishing out styrofoam trays of southern-style food for decades, and shows no signs of stopping. Order a dinner tray, which comes with an entree and three sides—anything from candied yams to baked mac and cheese to steamed cabbage—and go to town.
OK, you could technically share a plate at the Cajun-Creole restaurant Turkey Leg Hut. But getting your own mammoth turkey leg at the infamous Third Ward spot is a rite of passage. Every leg comes loaded with enough toppings—like cajun crawfish mac & cheese and dirty rice— to constitute as their own meal. Plus, all of the meat will come served practically sliding off a bone that looks like it’s from an episode of The Flintstones.
The extent of anything shareable at Ninfa’s is a pitcher of the house made margaritas, and maybe the fajitas. A meal at the original Ninfa’s on Navigation, a Tex-Mex restaurant in the Second Ward, means a hearty plate all to yourself. Get some tacos al carbon, a plate of enchiladas doused in cheese, a fajita burger, and brace yourself for a Tex-Mex solo takedown that you’ll tell your grandchildren about.
Sharing food at a cafeteria-style restaurant may or may not be illegal. Getting a loaded down tray with all of your favorite things purely for personal enjoyment is kind of the point of a cafeteria anyway. At Cleburne Cafeteria in West University, all of the usual suspects are available, shimmering amidst the heat lamps: fruit salad, Jell-O, chicken fried steak, liver and onions, a mess of delicious sides like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and gigantic slices of cake. It’s a treasure trove of American comfort foods, and nobody better pass a single fork tine across our tray if they know what’s good for them.
Although most people are grabbing burgers, M&M Grill in the Medical Center primarily serves Mexican and Mediterranean food. It’s also where you’ll see U of H students camped around tables after their classes getting the most bang for their buck with a mammoth burger. Get a combination plate to work through or go handheld and get a giant swiss mushroom burger that's piled high with shredded fried onions. And with a small mountain of fries in tow, you can enjoy your full meal all by yourself.