When friends or family come to visit me in Houston, I take showing them a good time very seriously! Houston is one of those cities that does not have a reputation like a Vegas, New York or Miami, so it is up to me to show them why I love this city so much. Since I became a food blogger, they all show up expecting me to take them on a culinary tour that is diverse as Houston. That is where the fun comes in! With each guest, I try to showcase the growing foodie scene in Houston by highlighting a variety of cuisines and Houston specialities. What you will find is that Houston may not have a signature dish like the Philly cheesesteak or New York style pizza but we do A LOT foods really well.
If I were to make a list of my favorite Houston restaurants, it would be a mile long and would change every week. What I thought would be better is to highlight the areas that I think Houston does well. Then within those areas I am noting great places to go if that type of food is your thing. Finally, these are just the things that EYE like and enjoy in Houston so do not beat me up about missing some particular area m’kay? So with that, here is the Black Girls Who Brunch Houston Foodie Guide!
Seafood/ Cajun food
Geography made this category big here in Houston. The city sits near a big body of water, the Gulf of Mexico, and our culinary neighbor is Louisiana. That combination is bound to create some good eats! Some folks introduction to this cuisine may have been through music. I always remember as a teen when Lil Flip made everyone want to come to Houston to eat steak and shrimp at Pappeadeaux. If this is your first time in Houston, I would say it is a good place to start because you will get the seafood and cajun inspired dishes like etoufee, gumbo and boudin. Just do not let your Houston exploring end there!
A few other good places for cajun inspired seafood are Boudreaux’s and BB’s Cafe. If you are in town during crawfish season (think fish fry or crab bake if you aren’t from around here), then BB’s is a good place to start while others recommend Boil House. Another spot I hear good things about is Lotus Seafood and their loud pack, but I have yet to go. For some traditional seafood, Holley’s, Liberty Kitchen, Eddie V’s, Oceanaire, Peska Seafood and Danton’s are good picks as well!
Soul Food/ Southern Food
One day I will write a post about the racial implications of using “soul food” or “southern food” to describe a restaurant, but for this post I am putting them both together in the spirit of togetherness. First stop on the Houston soul food tour should be This Is It, the restaurant featured in the 90s classic Jason’s Lyric. Other soul food options are Mikki’s Cafe and Esther’s. Kitchen 713, is a good pick too. They have a new location on Washington and are still serving up the dishes that made them popular last go around. Punk’s is a must just for the biscuits alone. Lucille’s has mastered mac and cheese and fried green tomatoes so for that alone you should go. Harold’s, Down House, State of Grace, the Honeymoon Cafe, Julep and State Fare also have menu’s full of traditional Southern dishes.
The Americanized version of Mexican food, Tex-Mex is alive and well in Houston and there are SO many spots to pick from. I have tried to name a favorite when put on the spot and I just can’t! There are so many factors that one must consider. If you are a purist start at the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. A search for great margaritas and happy hour deals will send you to Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Restaurant. You also really cannot go wrong with Escalantes (get the queso), El Tiempo, or Lupe Tortilla. For more casual taco spots Fajitas A Go Go and Torchy’s Tacos are above average. Oh and if you prefer your Mexican food in a fancier form than Hugo’s and Anjeo in Uptown Park is your best bets. Then a late night craving means a stop to Tacos A Go Go or Chacho’s! Y’all, this is only a fraction of the Mexican restaurants Houston boasts! This just lets you know you cannot come to visit without trying at least one.
Everything is bigger in Texas and that includes our steaks too! My favorite steakhouse in town would have to be B&B Butchers. Their in house butcher is next to none and they are serving up one of my fave mac and cheeses. Beyond B&B you have III Forks and Vic and Anthony’s both conveniently located downtown. The Pappa’s family also operates Pappa’s Steakhouse which receives the same praise as their other spots. There are also a number of Brazilian Steakhouses like Churrascos and a wonderful Italian steak house called Bistecca in town too. Killen’s Steakhouse is another good option out in Pearland. If you are looking for a kitschy Texas feel in your steakhouse then I suggest you stop by Taste of Texas. As a kid in Houston we literally went on field trips to Taste of Texas, therefore it is a Houston institution. Because it’s Houston and we like beef, we have basically every other national steakhouse as well. I just ask that you not be boring and try our some of the local ones too!
I know this isn’t exactly its own cuisine, but there are so many places in Houston that vie for the title of the best that it was worth noting here and separate from soul food. You could start with Frenchy’s our homegrown fried chicken stand. While there, you should also grab an order of boudin so you can live out your Beyonce fantasy while eating it in the parking lot. Next you could hit up Max’s Wine Dive known for their champagne and fried chicken combination. Other great options include Lucille’s, Harold in the Heights, the Waffle Bus and the Breakfast Klub. If you are lucky enough, you can also get a coveted seat at Holley’s family style fried chicken dinner hosted the last Sunday of every month. Those are just your traditional Southern fried chicken spots. We also have a number of Korean restaurants that are serving up a twice fried chicken like Dak & Bop and Bonchon. There are lot of options here, just make sure you pick one before you leave.
Again, I know this is not a cuisine and probably seems a bit random for Houston, but I just know of too many great burger spots here to not highlight them on this guide. A indicator that we are doing something right is all of the nationwide burger franchises (Shake Shack and Hopdoddy) are opening locations here. Those spots are good and if you do not have them at home, by all means give them a try here, but do not forget about the ones locally grown because they are pretty darn good too. If you are out in the burbs, the Shack, Craft Burger Bus, Killen’s and Bernie’s Burger Bus are great options. Closer to the city, Buff Burger Bar, Jerry Built Burgers, Pappa’s Burgers, the Burger Joint and Rico’s are available to fulfill your burger and fry needs.
I must always preface any Texas Barbecue post with the fact that I was born in Kansas City and that town still holds the barbecue crown for me! Now that my bias is out on the table, I can tell you that there are plenty of places in Houston that do barbecue WELL. Texas barbecue focuses on the meat not the sauce. Meat will be seasoned well with a good rub and slow cooked so it’s tender. This process sometimes means the spots will run out of meat before closing time so go early!
In Houston, Killen’s out in the suburb of Pearland still reigns supreme. At Killen’s there will be lines and you will not regret it! Closer in town Roegel’s receives significant praise as well. Long time Houstonians will send you to Goode Company or Pappa’s Bar-B-Q for their famous stuffed potato. There is also Ray’s BBQ near University of Houston. Any of these spots will demonstrate why people point to Texas for good barbecue (after Kansas City, LOL).
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the huge influence that Asian immigrants have had on the Houston food culture! For example, the Asian and Cajun fusion restaurants have received recognition the world over. Asian food is not my go to cuisine, but I have still managed to find plenty of spots I love. For sushi, Houstonians call Uchi one of the best sushi spots in town. I personally enjoyed Kata Robata lunch specials like the bento boxes. Ra Sushi, the Bluefish and Miyako are good happy hour options and generally draw a fun crowd. KUU is another popular sushi spot in the Memorial City area. For authentic Thai food look no further than Songkran Thai Kitchen and for Vietnamese food, Le Colonial in the River Oaks district is a good place to start. I also REALLY liked Ginger and Fork in the Washington area. Make sure to get their lobster there.
There were a few other spots that just did not fit in these categories like Peli Peli, Springbok, Helen’s Greek Food and Wine and my favorite Shipley’s! I also made separate lists highlighting great Houston brunches, Happy Hours and Sweets, so be sure to check those out. When using this list, remember Houston is a foodie town with plenty of variety for everyone to enjoy!