Houston is the biggest city in one of the biggest states in the U.S, and like all Texas towns, Houstonians pride themselves on their massive size. Consequently, the most beloved liquor, wine, and beer store in Texas is Houston’s own Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods.
Described fittingly as a gargantuan and sprawling warehouse with one of the widest selections of alcohol in the country, Spec’s is a Texas-sized adult candy store.
It’s as much a tourist destination for adults as Houston’s famed museum district, and you’ll leave with more than one bottle of wine. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants around Houston that let you enjoy your newly acquired alcoholic loot while you’re out on the town.
3277 Southwest Fwy Ste a, Houston, TX 77027
Owned and operated by Italian-native Chef Roberto Crescini, Fresco is a friendly West University neighborhood Italian eatery. Chef Crescini began formal culinary education at 14 and uses his more than 40 years as a chef to tailor the finest Italian food to accommodate American tastes.
All dishes are scratch-made daily, and there’s even a small, packaged offering of sauces and raw pasta for sale if you want to cook an authentic Italian meal at home. The menu has a vast selection of soup, pasta, pizza, salads, and small plates.
Their Tagliatelle with Texas-raised Lamb sauce won the 2018 Italian American Chamber of Commerce Annual Pasta Contest.
905 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019
Lucio’s is a fine-dining New American restaurant in the heart of downtown Houston two blocks from the beautiful Buffalo Bayou Park. They claim to be “upscale without being uptight,” which is why they let you pair wine or beer of your choice with their fabulous meals.
It also means that you can choose the extravagance of your meal, whether you want an elegant multicourse dinner or simply a nightcap with a fancy dessert. The menu takes on a typical fine-dining steakhouse format, with small plates like crab cakes and artesian cheese plates, beautifully crafted salads, and high-quality cuts of beef and fish for entrees.
With locations in the Montrose and Garden Oaks neighborhoods, Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine is an affordable and casual Mediterranean eatery specializing in Mediterranean specialties from Europe to the Middle East.
Their food is fresh, healthy, and accessible to all dietary preferences and budgets. They make their spreads and pita bread from scratch daily. Aladdin’s meals are meant to be shareable for large parties, which is the best way to eat Mediterranean food with all its mezze.
Of course, if you want your own dish, there are plenty of pita wraps, shawarma, and veggie dishes. I went the vegetarian route and ordered various mezze like their crispy falafel, baba ghannoush, and spicy hummus with freshly baked pita.
912 St Emanuel St, Houston, TX 77003
Huyn Restaurant is a casual and friendly, family-owned Vietnamese restaurant, serving the most authentic selection of Vietnamese food from every culinary region.
Located in the eastern downtown Houston area right behind the convention center, Huynh has received various accolades from Thrillist, the Houston Press, Eater, Time Out, and more for its authenticity and welcoming atmosphere.
The menu at Huynh Restaurant has a vast selection of noodle bowls, fried rice, stir-fries, veggie and tofu entrees, fish, and my personal favorite, Pho. You can get Pho with your choice of up to four types of red meat, fish, or tofu and vegetables. Their Pho has to be one of the best piping hot bowls of soup I’ve ever eaten.
12505 Memorial Dr #140, Houston, TX 77024
Located in the Bunker Hill neighborhood, Johnathan’s The Rub is an upscale American restaurant with a second location in Campbell Place.
Their large dining spaces have multiple rooms, each with a unique décor and design. Owned and operated by Johnathan himself and his daughter Jessica, Johnathan’s The Rub is a nice restaurant to enjoy a high-end meal as a couple, corporate group, or adult party.
The menu at Johnathan’s combines American steakhouse favorites with southern comfort and Italian American dishes. I recommend starting with lobster tacos then splitting the succulent porterhouse with blue cheese sauce and a side of creamy cheese grits and creamed spinach.
Named for the two key flavors in Sichuan cooking, Mala Sichuan Bistro is an upscale Sichuan-Chinese restaurant with locations in Montrose, the Heights, Sugar Land, Katy, and Chinatown. Sichuan-style cooking is a world-famous cuisine characterized by two types of spicy, one that involves heat, and the other that refers to the native peppercorn.
That said, whatever you order, it’s bound to be hot and perfectly spiced. I recommend starting with the plum spareribs in sweet and sour broth, followed by their signature funky cold noodles with spiced and chilled noodles tossed with garlic, sweet, sour, and spicy sesame vinaigrette.
Despite its name, Pizaro’s offers pizza from three different schools of pizza making. With locations in Montrose and right off the Katy freeway, Pizaro’s is a neighborhood favorite for Neapolitan, New York-style, and Detroit-style pizza.
Using scratch-made dough, cheese blends, and sauces, Pizaro’s Pizza strives to make the most authentic pizza for each style.
Whether you want a thin, bubbly-crusted Neapolitan, a square deep-dish pan Detroit style, or the beloved American classic New York-style, they make them all with delicious precision. I enjoyed the Motown Detroit style, with pepperoni layered under the cheese and tomato sauce on top.
Founded by former cancer researcher turned successful restauranteur, Dr. Yunan Yang, Pepper Twins is a popular Houston Sichuan-Chinese restaurant chain that uses organic, farm-raised produce and animal products to make authentic Sichuan dishes.
Pepper Twins has locations in River Oaks, Kirby, and Post Oak with trendy, bustling atmospheres. Pepper Twins menu has seafood, chicken, beef, and pork dishes along with vegetables and tofu sections, fried rice, and soup.
I loved their fried rice with pineapple and shrimp. I also recommend the honey duck with steam buns and the country-style tofu with chicken and shrimp inside.
6652 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77074
Located between the Mid-West and Gulfton neighborhoods, Himalaya is an Indian and Pakistani restaurant run by executive Chef Kaiser Lashkari. The atmosphere is casual and inviting, and the food has garnered national acclaim, featured in Conde Nast Traveler, Eater, Food and Wine, NPR, and the highly coveted James Beard Foundation.
Himalaya’s massive menu features traditional dishes from India and Pakistan along with dishes that fuse Indian and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. You’ll definitely want to dine at Himalaya more than once to enjoy a slew of different dishes. My favorite was the Goat Masala Zimmern, which is spiced goat meat in a zesty and rich gravy.
6929 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055
Vieng Thai is a family-friendly, casual Thai restaurant in the Spring Branch East neighborhood. Its modest dining room, friendly service, and authentic dishes make them a neighborhood favorite. They offer heaping Texas-sized portions of dishes that are customized to your preferred spice level.
Vieng Thai has some of the best red and Panang curries in town. Curries come with different vegetables and your choice of meat, shrimp, or tofu. My favorite red curry is the Jungle Curry, a Thai country-style specialty that omits coconut milk thus is even more spicey.
With locations in Greenway, Memorial, and the Heights, Collina’s Italian Café is a friendly neighborhood eatery and a popular spot for business lunches and family-style dinners.
The old-school Italian American décor replete with red and white checkered tablecloths and green leather chairs and retro posters lining the walls makes for a charming setting to enjoy a hearty bowl of pasta, panini, or award-winning pizza.
I recommend starting with their delicious focaccia bread topped with garlic, rosemary, and romano cheese that always comes fresh out of the oven. My favorite pasta dish at Collina’s is the sausage and spinach stuffed tortellini with alfredo sauce.
501 Pierce St, Houston, TX 77002
District 7 Grill is a Midtown institution for friendly get-togethers over an eclectic selection of upscale American plates. Their cute interior has an open kitchen, diner counter, black and white checkered floors, and bright yellow booths, resembling an old-school diner.
They also have a massive outdoor patio surrounding the diner to enjoy Houston’s moderate nighttime weather. District 7’s creative dishes run the gamut of New American cuisine, from modern takes on southern comfort to Mexican-style fish and Spanish paella.
I started with their amazing shrimp hushpuppies and then treated myself to a Kobe beef burger with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and mustard aioli with a heaping helping of steak fries.
Jenni’s Noodle House is a casual Pan Asian eatery with locations in the Heights and Montrose, specializing in a variety of noodle dishes from various Asian countries. Both locations do a huge take-out business, while their dine-in experiences offer a quirky, cute, and intimate atmosphere to share a meal with friends, colleagues, or family.
Not only do they have noodles, but they have stir-fries, fried rice, and amazing appetizers from all your favorite Asian cuisines. That said, noodles are their specialty, and whether you want Japanese soba, Vietnamese vermicelli, or Chinese dumplings, Jenni’s has you covered.
7800 Washington Ave #550, Houston, TX 77007
Meaning “bring wine” in Italian, Porta Vino is Owner and Chef Bill Floyd’s take on what an excellent wine bar should be: one where you supply your favorite wine!
That said, Chef Floyd supplies a selection of wines for customers who run out as they dine in a charming, contemporary atmosphere on delicious Italian-inspired dishes that have garnered acclaim in the Houston Chronicle and Houstonia. It is located just north of the beautiful Memorial Park.
The Italian menu offers traditional dishes made with fresh hand-rolled pasta, dough, and sauces. I recommend starting with the risotto balls, splitting a Neapolitan pizza for the second course, and ending with a beautiful plat of cast iron seared diver scallops.
550 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007
Located in the heart of the Heights neighborhood, Revival Market is an upscale, hip, yet inviting breakfast, lunch, and brunch eatery with an onsite butcher counter. Revival Market prides itself on serving sustainably sourced produce, meat, dairy, and coffee prepared by experts and passionate foodies.
I thought the presentation at Revival Market was superb, whether it’s a dish, an espresso drink, or a vibrant cold-pressed juice. They make an amazing seasonal pear and goat cheese salad with spiced walnuts, baby spinach, and red wine vinaigrette, but I recommend trying a meat dish using the freshest cuts from their own butcher block.
3215 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Teetering between Upper Kirby and River Oaks, Giacomo’s Cibe e Vino is a laid-back Italian eatery in a warm, colorful dining space with a giant outdoor patio. Giacomo’s strives to use the highest quality imported and local ingredients to create their wonderful selection of Italian antipasti. The food is outstanding, budget-friendly, and meant to be shared.
Thrillist, Houston Chronicle, Houstonia, and Eater have all raved about the delicious pasta and antipasti. They have house-made fresh egg pasta and imported Italian semolina. I recommend the tortelli di bietola, ravioli stuffed with swiss chard, ricotta, and goat cheese in a sage butter sauce.
4315 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006
Fiori is an upscale Italian restaurant and floral shop in the heart of the Montrose neighborhood. Run by Italian Chef Alessio Vitale, Fiori offers authentic Italian dishes using high-quality meat, seafood, and produce.
The outdoor patio and interior seating come adorned with fresh bouquets from the adjoining floral shop, making for a romantic ambiance. Fiori’s menu is a traditional multicourse meal with antipasti, pasta, main entrees, and decadent desserts. They have a delicious artisanal cheese and charcuterie board.
I recommend starting with grilled octopus over greens with pesto. Their Carbonara with guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino romano, and black pepper is perfect in its simplicity.