Where To Eat When You’re Visiting Houston

When it comes to Houston restaurants, think of this guide as your crash course.
Where To Eat When You’re Visiting Houston image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Regardless of what brings you to Houston—the Rodeo, hitting up NASA Space Center, breathing the same rarified air as Beyoncé—the food and drinks here should qualify as a close second. Our city has one of America’s best bánh mìs out in Chinatown, the oldest craft brewery in Texas, and yeah, barbecue. These spots will round out any trip to Bayou City or kick-start a Houstonian’s bucket list of restaurants.


photo credit: Quit Nguyen


East Downtown

$$$$Perfect For:Quick EatsBrunchCoffee & A Light Bite
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No trip to Houston is complete without stopping at Koffeteria, a Cambodian-influenced bakery in East Downtown. Standards like chocolate croissants are excellent, but you’re going to want to concentrate on the more unique options like the two-year aged salted lime tart, guava cream cheese danish, or a beef brisket pho-stuffed kolache. Brunch is also worth whatever line has formed around the pastry case, with a menu featuring breakfast sandwiches stuffed with egg and Cambodian sausage, croissants with Thai fish-sauce drenched omelets, and Chinese sausage tacos. All of Houston is represented here, so arrive early because Koffeteria almost always sells out.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Laredo Taqueria makes some of the best flour tortillas in town, and the daily line of people outside seems to agree. Get the pillowy soft handmade flour tortillas wrapped around fatty barbacoa, spicy pollo guisado, or breakfast eggs with crispy bacon or potato for a taco experience you’ll begin reminiscing about five minutes later. It’s also worth knowing that while you can order corn tortillas, those are made to order and slow down the line, so it’s best to stick with flour and keep it moving.

Mo’ Better Brews is part Southern-style breakfast spot, part coffee shop, part vinyl record store, and the best place to stop in before touring MFAH. The menu is entirely vegan, but with everything from boudain sushi rolls to breakfast sandwiches made out of donut buns, it doesn’t feel trapped in health food clichés. After brunch, join the locals rifling through the record stacks for a better-than-the-gift-shop souvenir. 

The line to get inside The Breakfast Klub in Midtown is inevitable and will stretch down the block on weekends—just know that the food on the other side is worth it. The eggs will be fluffy, the katfish will be krispy (they’re committed to the bit), and the hot syrup is on tap right next to the coffee. Even when it’s buzzing with people, The Breakfast Klub feels mellow—it’s the sort of place a poetry slam would be held. The food comes out astonishingly fast, so you’ll spend most of your time carving into hearty pork chops and spooning cheesy grits while making the occasional stop for a syrup refill.


Eating at Bubba’s, a literal wooden shack, feels more like dining inside a decades-old postcard, which is probably why the burgers are so incredible. They specialize in bison burgers, but you can get beef, too, if you’re some kind of purist. Dress it up with jalapeños, grilled onions, or an entire frito pie if you really want to embrace the Texas. Visit Bubba’s for a late lunch after taking a million selfies at the Water Wall or getting in some Galleria shopping to avoid getting trapped in Houston’s notorious traffic. Plus, you’ll have the rest of the day to nap, which will be necessary.

Thíên Ân Sandwiches is a no-nonsense, family-run place you immediately feel comfortable in, like a local diner or your best friend’s house. If your itinerary puts you between Montrose and Downtown, this is an ideal stop for your midday meal. 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. You should also order the gỏi vịt—a giant salad of tender roast duck, shredded cabbage, and gingery fish sauce.

Reggae Hut, a Third Ward spot that’s been making Caribbean staples for over 25 years, isn’t in a rush. Jewel-tone murals dedicated to Jamaica cover the walls, huge windows give the entire place a natural glow and lazy ceiling fans spin like they’ve got all the time in the world. The braised oxtail is so tender you could eat it with just a spoon and the gravy is best mopped up with an extra order of coco bread, so none is left behind. We have no idea how this place isn’t always packed, but that means you can stroll right in at any time for a meal that’ll have you planning your next trip back to Houston. 

Truth BBQ is undeniably popular with Houstonians—there’s usually a line extending out the door on any day. A classic example of new-school barbecue, the focus here is on Truth’s crown jewel, the moist brisket. But our choice is the expertly seasoned smoked turkey with added baked beans to make it a true cowboy experience. You’ll have time to round out your order while standing in the massive line, preferably involving tater tot casserole and a slice of carrot cake.

ChopnBlok serves a casual spin on West African dishes so satisfying that you won’t mind braving a food hall in downtown Houston. By the time you make your way through the crowds and notice the glowing neon-yellow sign, you’ll have already been offered a sample. The most popular bowl here is the Trad, a bowl of smoky jollof jambalaya topped with grilled chicken and kelewele (fried sweet plantain). But prioritize the Golden Bowl, which takes the base of the trad and adds in sweet coconut curry and tender black-eyed peas.


photo credit: Richard Casteel



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Pappas Bros. is a classic steakhouse where you can make your desire for an expensive dry-aged steak a reality by picking a cut of meat straight from the display case at the front. The dining room is pleasantly dim, the wine list is Homeric-epic long, and the staff is diligent. Stay late enough and you’ll probably find yourself agreeing to everything on the decadent dessert cart, just to keep the experience alive a little longer.

photo credit: Liz Silva

If you want to try every kind of food Houston has to offer at a single restaurant, head to Jūn. Dinner here is all hits and no misses. Small plates, like buñuelo-topped tartare, roasted sweet potato on a bed of labneh, and mussels perfumed with red curry spices, look and taste like cross-sections of the city. Plus one bite of the charred whole fish with guajillo and lime here could turn anyone into a cartoon cat, with only a perfectly articulated fish skeleton as evidence. Make a reservation before any trip to Houston (at least a month in advance) for a knockout experience.

Whether you’ve come here for the chef’s omakase, a sake-fueled night out with friends, or a quick bite at the bar, Kata Robata will deliver with cool, seasoned confidence. If there was a Venn diagram of everything you’d want in a restaurant—remarkable service, lively atmosphere, phenomenal food—Kata Robata would be at the center. The nigiri at this sushi bar and izakaya is always balanced between warm, sweet rice and cool expertly sliced fish, and grilled dishes like the rich and savory hamachi collar, are worth fighting over. 

Go to Hugo’s once for a celebration and it’ll become a tradition. Whether you’re toasting a birthday or a random Thursday, there’s nothing like margaritas shaken tableside and chapulines served with blue corn tortillas to seal the special occasion deal. High ceilings and chandeliers that look like they were shipped in from a local castle only elevate the effect, and traditional Mexican dishes like a tender slow-roasted lamb barbacoa or a crispy duck served with a fiery poblano mole are perfectly executed. Make a reservation, because everyone is trying to sneak into Hugo’s, even for a quick Happy Hour bite at the bar.

Nancy’s Hustle is the friend who “just threw this thing on” while in the most effortlessly chic outfit you’ve ever seen in your life. Nothing at this EaDo restaurant is trying too hard—everything from the date night-ready amber lighting to the straightforward but impressive menu will make you feel slightly giddy. The menu changes seasonally, but make sure the giant cheeseburger and fluffy Nancy Cakes land on your table. Reservations are a must at Nancy’s (they’re released about a month ahead), but if you forgot to set your alarm, come early to grab a seat at the wooden bar and split some lamb tartare over candlelight and a calico crush cocktail.


Find Bad News Bar by locating a line Downtown snaking outside of a blacked-out door marked for a lawyer’s office. Join in—that wait’s only about 20 minutes on a busy night—then head up to a dark, shotgun-style bar with a heavy wood bar top, like you just wandered into a second-floor saloon that inexplicably plays loud, obscure indie music. The cocktail menu here updates seasonally, but there is also a long list of mezcals, amaros, and absinthes, which the bartenders seem to combine every single one into inventive drinks that get made in record time. It’s also one of the only bars Downtown with a balcony and great views.

Well into its second decade, Anvil functions as the reigning elder Montrose cocktail bar. Sort of like the Big Bang, they opened and Houston’s craft bar renaissance began. Bartenders here make drink orders lightning fast and are somehow both abrasive and accommodating. They know every classic cocktail in existence, as well as original Anvil drinks containing anything from saffron tequila to osmanthus tea. This bar is packed with just about every Houstonian that exists: oil and gas bros one-upping bourbon calls, stray lawyers comparing billables, hospitality industry louts, at least one dude in a Cowboy hat, and a handful of people who just look overwhelmed by the 100-deep classics menu.

After a night at the ballet, cruising around museums, or making awkward small talk with coworkers at whatever convention brings you to Houston, decompress at the candle-lit wine bar 13 Celsius. Apart from a stellar wine list and more by-the-glass options than other spots, 13 has a romantic charm. Partly because, unlike Houston’s general penchant for tearing down and rebuilding everything, this place looks like it opened in 1935 and never changed. Snacking on baked brie and duck rillette with a glass of Zweigelt or Chenin Blanc just feels better here, especially if you have to fight Houston traffic.

While it may look like a massive industrial shed, Saint Arnold Brewing Company is actually a giant indoor-outdoor brewery you could easily devote yourself to for an entire day. The outdoor beer garden is lined with picnic tables and has an unofficial children’s area so the adults can be at peace in their own playground. Inside, you’ll find cathedral-like ceilings with painted murals of Saint Arnold holding a glass of beer and people sitting at long tables, tearing apart pepperoni pizzas. Tack on loaded fries with pulled pork to keep your beer from getting lonely, and if you need some “exercise” to round out your day here, join one of the free tours they run throughout the day.


Kind of like highway billboards and humidity, Mala Sichuan Bistro is part of what makes Houston, well, Houston. There are five across the city (those Sichuan peppercorns are both mouth-numbing and habit-forming), but we like the Chinatown location not only because it’s the original Mala, but it also has the most space for large groups, in case you pull up with a tour group or every member of your extended family. Just make sure you order as many red-oil slick dumplings, noodles, and dry-fried vegetables as possible.

Houston is one of the best cities in the country for Vietnamese food, so if you’re visiting to eat as much food as possible, a swing through Chinatown should be on the agenda. Any place that pre-sets a table with a giant pitcher of tangy fish sauce knows how to party, making Thien Thanh our current lunch it-spot. They specialize in soft rice paper crepes known as bánh cuốn—hence the fish sauce flagon. The thin crepes get loaded up with mushrooms, grilled pork, and dried shrimp and are delivered to your table with bean sprouts for stuffing before dunking into, you guessed it, fish sauce. Note that this place is cash only.

We’d like to officially submit the canh chua cá trê at Bodard Bistro for the best soup in Houston. The decor here is simple, save for a few flourishing houseplants, but the ambiance isn’t why you’re here. The canh chua cá trê, a Mekong Delta staple, is bright and refreshing, with a heap of tang from tamarind and pineapple. It’s like somebody planted a vegetable garden by the beach, and then made a soup out of it, with whole tender filets of fresh catfish, stewed tomato, okra, and a melody of sharp herbs. Ladle a few spoonfuls over rice and have your day transformed. 

Crawfish & Noodles is where you go when you’re ready to take down approximately one metric ton of seafood. It’s a Viet-Cajun institution, a cuisine that could only really exist in a city like Houston. Everyone is donning bibs and comically large plastic gloves like cartoon surgeons while frantically snapping crawfish in half. Mountains of cayenne and paprika waft up from bowls of braised turkey necks, alongside endless bowls of rich anise-spiked pho, crispy fried egg noodles, and batter-crusted blue crab. Come with a crew of people for your seafood takedown and tell the tale of your seafood boil to whoever you’re sitting next to on the flight home.

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