Great restaurants in Houston approach food with the same gusto that Texans do everything, embracing big portions, solid slabs of meat, and a long history of cattle farming with classic American barbeque joints and roadside diners. New American cuisine, classic barbeque, cutting edge Cajun fusion, and the best Mexican food outside of Mexico – the city does it all.

    As the fourth-biggest city in the U.S., Houston also provides ample opportunities for exciting global flavors, with influences from the bayou, Mexico, and Asia. Whether you're looking for a quick street snack, a chance to try innovative new flavor combinations, or a fancy meal for a special occasion, we've gotten you covered with our guide to the best restaurants in Houston.

    1

    The Hay Merchant

    Laid-back spot for bar food and craft beer

    • Food

    The Hay Merchant has a reputation for serious drinking and seriously good food, with a menu influenced by Mexican and Louisiana cooking. Grab a Philly Cheesesteak or Heirloom Tomato sandwich, or snack on classic bar food like crispy pig ears and hot catfish nuggets. There are also a few more substantial mains, including Korean braised goat with dumplings and Creole smoked half-chicken.

    The bar's beer selection is as impressive as the food, with a vast array of pale ales, pilsners, IPAs and lagers, plus darker porters and stouts. There's also a decent cocktail list that makes interesting use of ingredients like black walnut and prickly pear. Order something local or ask the knowledgeable staff for recommendations.

    Location: 1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Thursday from 3 pm to 10 pm, Friday–Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 713-528-9805

    Map
    2

    Brennan's of Houston

    Try Louisiana Creole food with a Texas twist

    • Food

    Brennan's of Houston serves polished Southwestern cuisine in a bright, sophisticated dining room. Splurge on an indulgent meal of premium gulf oysters, turtle soup and stuffed quail, or try their outstanding shrimp and soft-shell crab. Other New Orleans classics on the menu include tasty crawfish enchiladas and Brennan's signature seafood gumbo.

    The cocktail menu features a tasty alcoholic version of bayou tea, and the wines, carefully chosen to pair with the food, come from as far as New Zealand and as near as Texas' own vineyards. The best seats in the house are outside, under the shade of one of the oak trees in the central courtyard.

    Location: 3300 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 9 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 713-522-9711

    Map

    photo by Ed Schipul (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    3

    Hugo's

    Authentic, contemporary Mexican dishes

    • Food

    Hugo's is an upscale Mexican restaurant by acclaimed chef Hugo Ortega, who brings his native cuisine to Houston. Eat poblano peppers stuffed with chicken or lamb marinated in chili, or sample the catch of the day served with mole Amarillo. The dessert menu is a delight, filled with delicacies like rose petal ice cream and caramel-filled crepes.

    Have a refreshing glass of sangria, or choose from the extensive list of tequila-based cocktails, which includes a spicy margarita with jalapeno and ancho chili and a fruity cocktail of grapefruit and lime. The highlight of the week at Hugo's is Sunday brunch, a feast featuring lime-cured shrimp and plantain turnovers, as well as classics like huevos rancheros.

    Location: 1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Wednesday from 3 pm to 9 pm, Thursday from 11.30 am to 9 pm, Friday from 11.30 am to 10.30 pm, Saturday from 11 am to 10.30 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 713-524-7744

    Map
    4

    Tiny Boxwoods

    Fresh, organic food served in a leafy café garden

    • Food

    Organic and sustainable are the mantras at Tiny Boxwoods, a delightful cafe with a verdant patio garden. The main restaurant is housed in a former warehouse that has been transformed into a funky industrial space with tons of natural light, while the generous outdoor terrace is decorated with climbing plants and eponymous boxwoods.

    For lunch, try the garden quiche, turkey club sandwich or salmon Provençal salad, all made with fresh ingredients. The dinner menu is more substantial, featuring espresso-rubbed ribeye and herb-roasted chicken, accompanied by Californian chardonnay or Oregon rosé. Come for brunch, a favorite of locals, to enjoy Bloody Marys, avocado toast, and fruit parfait in the sunshine.

    Location: 3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 11 am to 3 pm and from 4 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm and from 4 pm to 9 pm, Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm

    Phone: +1 713-622-4224

    Map
    5

    Mala Sichuan

    Lively restaurant serving authentic Chinese flavors

    • Food

    Mala Sichuan serves spicy cuisine from southwest China. Sichuan peppercorns, with their distinctive numbing sensation, appear in many dishes, with the sharp flavors of chili oil and black vinegar. Try the peppercorn chicken, sautéed with peppercorn oil, or crispy mala beef with jalapeno.

    If you prefer something a little milder, there are great dishes of duck smoked with tea leaves, shredded pork with bamboo and a hearty egg and tomato soup. Dessert is mille crepe cake – choose from traditional vanilla caramel or aromatic matcha flavor. Soothe your tastebuds afterward with a cold bottle of Chinese Tsingtao beer or Texan honey apple cider.

    Location: 1201 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006, USA

    Open: Friday–Saturday from 11.30 am to 10.30 pm, Sunday–Monday and Wednesday–Thursday from 11.30 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 832-767-0911

    Map
    6

    Taste of Texas

    Kid-friendly eatery for steaks, prime rib and salad bar

    • Food

    Taste of Texas has a reputation in Houston as a place to go if you're really, really hungry. Its steaks are massive, made of certified Angus beef sourced from local farms and aged for at least 40 days. Try the prime New York strip sirloin, a house specialty, or order the ribeye steak and watch the butcher cut it to your specifications.

    The menu also features old favorites like jumbo broiled shrimp and Texas pecan-crusted chicken. The Snickers Pie is a hit with kids, while adults will enjoy the more refined flavors of 'Slice of Heaven', layers of dark and white chocolate mousse in a raspberry sauce. Bring the whole family and stuff yourselves, Texas-style.

    Location: 10505 Katy Fwy, Houston, TX 77024, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 11 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 3 pm to 11 pm, Sunday from 3 pm to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 713-932-6901

    Map

    photo by bryansjs (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    7

    Truth BBQ

    Unpretentious roadside restaurant for Texas-style barbeque

    • Food

    A counter-serve joint with folksy style, Truth BBQ does some of the best barbeques in Houston. They're serious about brisket here, which is smoked and served in huge juicy chunks, over bread or a burger bun. Other highlights of the menu include pork ribs, spicy pepper jack sausage, and a sublime jalapeño cheddar sausage.

    All the traditional barbeque trimmings like potato salad, coleslaw and mac and cheese are here, done with careful attention to quality and flavor. The interior matches the low-key vibe, with scrubbed wooden tables and menus scrawled on the huge blackboard behind the counter. If you fall in love with the food, stop by the store for bottles of their special hot sauce.

    Location: 110 S Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 832-835-0001

    Map
    8

    Tacos A Go Go

    Breakfast like the locals on tacos and broiled potatos

    • Food

    Tacos A Go Go is a favorite breakfast spot for Houston residents in the know, dishing out heaped plates of tacos, quesadillas and burritos. Fill up with a satisfying bacon and sausage taco, or go healthy with spinach, mushroom, or black beans. The 'street tacos' bring a slice of Mexico to Houston with their spicy tomato and serrano pepper sauce.

    There are also plenty of Texan classics like smoked brisket and broiled shrimp with house-blend spices. At night, Tacos A Go Go becomes a lively bar where frozen margaritas are served alongside Mexican beer and pitchers of sangria. The colorful retro interior and its brightly painted murals is an instant pick-me-up.

    Location: 3704 Main St, Houston, TX 77002, USA

    Open: Monday–Tuesday from 7 am to 9 pm, Wednesday–Friday from 7 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 8 am to 10 pm, Sunday from 8 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 713-226-8226

    Map
    9

    Kale Me Crazy

    Superfood eatery with pretty, colorful dishes

    • Food

    Kale Me Crazy are champions of 'real food', and everything served in this bright and airy cafe is fresh, organic, and really good for you. Expect nutritious ingredients like wild-caught tuna, avocado, edamame beans, quinoa, and arugula, as well as the eponymous kale, presented in light meals like wraps and salads, plus acai lawn bowling and poke lawn bowling.

    The house-made hummus comes highly recommended, as does the avocado toast served on sprouted bread. Finish off your meal with a glass of energizing spinach, carrot and ginger juice or the pineapple, grapefruit and turmeric fusion called 'The Glow'. The beverages even come in shot form, so you can get a concentrated dose of aloe vera or blue-green algae.

    Location: 718 W 18th St Bldg B, Houston, TX 77008, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 7 am to 8 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 713-636-9249

    Map
    10

    Theodore Rex

    Gourmet dining with an ever-changing menu

    • Food

    Theodore Rex serves top-notch New American cuisine in an elegant, high-ceilinged dining room that pays homage to its former use as a warehouse, with exposed red brick and industrial-style lighting. Dishes change with the seasons and chef Justin Yu's inclinations, but recent creations have included chicken breast glazed in coconut and heirloom rice congee.

    An interesting wine list includes wines from Canada, Greece, and the Canary Islands, with an emphasis on organic and biodynamic wines. Drop in for a quick meal of tomato toast or soured pork sausage, or sample their sunchoke and chocolate chunk ice cream. Booking in advance is a good idea, but a couple of tables are kept open for walk-ins.

    Location: 1302 Nance St unit a, Houston, TX 77002, USA

    Open: Monday and Thursday–Sunday from 5 pm to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 832-830-8592

    Map
    Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer

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