Houston is one of the biggest cities in Texas. It’s also one of the most fun. Whether you’re a local, visiting for business, on vacation in the area, or driving through for an Astros game, Houston has a ton of stuff to do. Houston is also a fantastic food city. When you think about Texas, you might think “steak, barbecue, Mexican.” While that’s all very true, you’re holding yourself back if you think that’s all Houston has to offer. From delis to Asian and even African cuisine, Houston has unique dinner options for all palates all over the city.
I want to take you on a food tour of the city, from Montrose to River Oaks and everywhere in between. You’ll read about some of Houston’s best casual dining spots and some of the most elegant. Whether you want a quick meal in a fun atmosphere or a five-star experience, Houston has a ton of dinner options for you. Check out my list of the best restaurants in Houston below!
1777 Walker St, Houston, TX 77010
Xochi is downtown and a great stop if you’re going to an Astros or Dynamo game. The menu at Xochi focuses on the Mexican region of Oaxaca. That means that you’re going to have a ton of different masas and moles. A great Mexican restaurant means you’re also getting a spectacular selection of mezcals, tequila, and Mexican beer. I always start with the taquitos dorados. They’re rolled with smoked chicken, mole, crema, and queso fresco. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees, but the chilaquiles, complete with grilled skirt steak and two sunny-side-up eggs, is a can’t miss.
1302 Nance St Unit A, Houston, TX 77002
Theodore Rex is on Nance St, right by the University of Houston in the First Ward. It’s a cozy spot with clean decor and a global menu, and I always visit when I’m in the area. The restaurant is upscale yet laid-back and a great place to grab a glass of wine with friends. I like to go and order some small plates to share with a bottle of Chardonnay. Consider the coconut-glazed chicken breast, a succulent dish with hints of ginger. I also recommend cheese crepes with mung beans and lavender. Try a frozen dark chocolate mousse for dessert.
2704 Polk St A, Houston, TX 77003
Nancy’s Hustle is a short walk from the Toyota Center, so a great destination if you’re going to an event or basketball game. The feel of Nancy’s Hustle is the combination of a bistro and bar, with a great drinks selection and a food menu to match. The parmesan and pancetta croquettes at Nancy’s Hustle are bite-sized and packed with flavor. Grilled spinach with goat cheese sauce, pine nuts, and golden raisins is a great option for vegetarians and is hearty enough to be a whole meal. If you leave room for dessert, the poppy seed basque cake is particularly delicious!
2048 Colquitt St, Houston, TX 77098
Head to the Montrose district to visit Nobie’s, a quiet spot with New American cuisine. It has an ideal location for tourists and is within a short distance of the zoo, science center, and fine arts museum. Nobie’s has an intimate, upscale atmosphere and calming music. It’s great for lunch with friends or a few family members, and I like to solo-dine here on occasion. Try the BBQ cauliflower plate or bibb salad with dijon. I like to order the Nonno’s Pasta with beer-battered sweet tots on the side. Add a mango daiquiri or lime Paloma to spike up your experience.
Street to Kitchen
6501 Harrisburg Blvd, Houston, TX 77011
Street to Kitchen is a casual Thai eatery in Houston’s Greater East End. It has a laid-back, welcoming vibe and is ideal for a quick bite after a long day of touring. The menu mimics a traditional Thai street vendor list, but the restaurant has all the comforts of a sit-down place. Sit inside the cozy eatery and book ahead to guarantee a spot. I like the Tom Yun soup, a hot and sour dish that’s the official dish of Thailand. Also, try the Jasmine fried rice with eggs and garlic, and check out their extensive bubbly wine list.
1927 Fairview St, Houston, TX 77019
Riel, on Fairview Street in Montrose, is a very hip dinner destination. Riel has a very modern interior and a very eclectic menu. The focus is on local flavors and Gulf Coast cuisine, but you’ll see inspiration from chef Ryan Lachaine’s Ukrainian and French-Canadian culture as well. My preferred hot starter is the grilled oyster plate. Served alongside carrot chili butter, Chinese sauce, and brown butter breadcrumbs, this dish is excellent on cold evenings. For my main, I like the maple pork loin. This is perfectly seared and comes with a light and creamy sweet potato puree, apple, and maple mustard.
Crawfish & Noodles
11360 Bellaire Blvd #990, Houston, TX 77072
Crawfish & Noodles is a very hip and lively dinner spot in the Universal Shopping Center. They specialize in the super-interesting combination of Cajun and Vietnamese cuisines. The restaurant has been featured on Food Network, the Travel Channel, and the Netflix series Ugly Delicious! On the Vietnamese side, I love the lau duoi bo, which is a housemade oxtail hotpot. For Cajun cuisine, you have to get the vietcajun crawfish. They’re cooked in classic New Orleans style but tossed in Vietnamese sauces and spices, giving an entirely new world of flavor. Sometimes I even get two orders! They’re that good.
3119 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
5Kinokawa is a Houston staple. It’s in the north part of the city in Greater Heights, not far from Bayou Greenways Park. This dine-in-only location is casual, cozy, and ideal for a quiet evening. The restaurant only seats fourteen people, and it can be hard to get in. I recommend booking a seat ahead of time and going with a small group. Stop by for wine, small plates, and desserts at this top restaurant, or settle into a hearty main dish. The chefs cook the food in front of you at 5Kinokawa, and you can try mackerel, oysters, rice, and crab cocktails.
1624 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
March is a fine-dining restaurant in the Montrose district. It is an intimate restaurant with 28 seats and offers a menu that explores the vast and varied regions of the Mediterranean. The wine list draws from an impressive 11,000-bottle cellar, and you might find a new favorite. Felipe Riccio runs the place, and the expert chef has training in Italy and Spain. March’s menu changes seasonally, but you can always count on classics like rice dishes and light meat fare. My favorite meal there to date is the Opson Kai Sitos, a Greek plate with cod, crab butter, and hearty fresh bread.
807 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019
This Montrose eatery is one of my favorite places in Houston. Lots of wood and exposed beams give Bludorn an awesome industrial vibe. The menu is New American, with an extra focus on freshness and seasonality. Bludorn also has a fantastic craft cocktail selection. For dinner, check out the Gulf cioppino. This is a stew dish with a tomato broth filled with generous red snapper, crab, and shrimp portions. It might sound simple, but the flavors are deep and complex. I pair that with the fantastic Oaxaca’s Plan cocktail, which is mezcal, fernet branca, sherry, and agave bitters.
5500 Main St Suite 122, Houston, TX 77004
Le Jardinier is a modern French restaurant in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Michelin-star chef Alain Verzeroli leads the kitchen and creates a menu with fresh, seasonal ingredients and fragrant herbs. The French menu matches the upscale atmosphere, but I think it’s down-to-earth enough to please a crowd. Le Jardinier is ideal for a birthday party or celebration, but you can also stop by for a casual drink with friends. Try the roasted cauliflower with black truffle, and pair your dish with red or white wine. I like to finish my meal with chocolate souffle and creme Anglaise.
904 Westheimer Rd Suite A, Houston, TX 77006
Sushi might not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of Houston, but it really should be. Sitting near midtown, Uchi serves up modern, innovative sushi in a hip, sophisticated space. Seating can be tight, but Uchi does offer a takeout menu if you want to go that route.The menu switches seasonally. No matter what you get, know that it will be fresh and has the best seafood and ingredients available. If you’re feeling decadent, Uchi offers caviar tastings as well. It’s a great starter to your sushi meal at Uchi.
1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Next, we’re returning to the Montrose district to visit Hugo’s. This slick and upscale spot features modern twists and traditional Mexican cuisine. If you’re so inclined, they also specialize in margaritas that they prepare and shake tableside! One of my favorites here (aside from the margaritas) is the Chile Relleno. It’s a roasted poblano pepper that’s opened up and stuffed with chicken, cheese, green chile sauce, Mexican rice, and refried beans. Every bite brings different flavors and textures. It’s a spectacular dinner choice. The plantain empanadas are an appetizer, but I’ve been known to save a couple for dessert as well.
632 W 19th St, Houston, TX 77008
Sitting on West 19th Street, Squable has been a fixture on the Houston restaurant scene ever since it opened. Offering modern takes on European classics in a comfortable, casual setting, Squable is a good dinner choice any night of the week. You can choose to get shareable small plates or big plates at Squable. If you’re going small, definitely get the Dutch baby pancake (with ricotta, kumquat, black pepper honey, and oregano). It looks simple but brings complex flavors. For an entree, the beef short rib with herbs, brodo, spicy schug, and spring vegetables is one of my favorites.
Blood Bros. BBQ
5425 Bellaire Blvd, Bellaire, TX 77401
Blood Bros BBQ has been around since 2013 on Bellaire Boulevard. Three lifelong friends started this casual eatery. Yes, they serve up classic Texas barbecue, but the daily-changing menu also has new specialties and brings in a lot of Cajun and Asian ingredients and flavors. The meat is always good but check their Instagram daily for the specials. If they’re available, you should get the Thai chili peanut butter sticky ribs. They’re cooked Texas-style, but the Thai chili and peanut butter sauce brings a mysterious but addicting flavor that I can’t get enough of. Don’t miss it!
Lankford’s Grocery & Market
88 Dennis St, Houston, TX 77006
Lankford’s Grocery & Market is a neighborhood grocery store and deli in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. It’s a great place to stop by for a bite, and the market has a wide selection of local and regional products. The casual spot also has a prepared foods counter, which offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. The atmosphere at Lankford’s is relaxed and inviting, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The menu at this popular place changes daily, but you can always expect to find a variety of sandwiches, salads, and soups. The store also offers a selection of beer and wine.
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
2704 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 77003
Ninfa’s is a lively, casual spot that has been offering up delicious Mexican cuisine since 1973. Located just a few blocks from Minute Maid Park, Ninfa’s is a superb dinner option before a game. The menu focuses on Mexican classics, and there are great dishes all over. A lighter option is the caldo Xochitl, a soup with shredded chicken, avocado, rice, and pico de gallo in a rich broth. I love to get any of the taco dishes, primarily the house special tacos al carbon. The beef is tender and will leave you coming back again and again.
2800 Kirby Dr b132, Houston, TX 77098
From the first time you see Pondicheri, you get a cool vibe. This industrial-looking spot in the Shops at Arrive River Oaks specializes in Indian cuisine. Unique, creative dishes reflect the street food scene in Mumbai and are unique in the Houston area. If you’re having dinner at Pondicheri, you should definitely try one of their curry dishes. The butter chicken gets braised in creamy fenugreek, tomato, and garam masala then served alongside turmeric rice. It’s warm, hearty, and homey. The potato cakes are a perfect side, fried to golden brown and dipped into a spectacular tomato chutney.
State of Grace
3258 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
We’ll start in the River Oaks area of Houston at State of Grace. State of Grace calls back to earlier days of Texas. Game hanging from the walls and tons of wood and leather give this spot a very welcoming interior. The menu focuses on oysters and twists on classic Texas dishes. I’m a massive fan of the diver scallops at State of Grace. These are enormous and perfectly cooked. They come with caperberry, olive, fennel, and roasted tomato broth. The Trinidad Sour cocktail, made with Angostura bitters, rye, orgeat, and lemon, is the perfect complement on a warm day.
5353 W Alabama St Suite 110, Houston, TX 77056
Check out Burger-chan, a Japanese-style burger joint in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. The restaurant is known for its limited menu of carefully curated burgers, which the chefs make with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Burger-chan’s menu is versatile, and you can customize your meal. The burgers are served on brioche buns and topped with Japanese-inspired toppings, such as teriyaki sauce, kimchi, and miso mayo. The atmosphere at Burger-chan is casual and relaxed, and the service is friendly and attentive. In addition to burgers, the restaurant offers a selection of sides, such as fries, onion rings, and tater tots. Don’t forget to order a refreshing soda on a hot Houston day!
The Gypsy Poet
2404 Austin St, Houston, TX 77004
The Gypsy Poet is in Midtown, just south of the city center. It’s a cozy cafe popular with locals, and The Gypsy Poet has a welcoming neighborhood feel. The cafe is known for its eclectic menu of coffee drinks, pastries, light fare, and craft beer and wine list. The ambiance at The Gypsy Poet is relaxed and inviting, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Check out the seasonal menu, which shifts to accommodate fresh local foods. You can always expect to find a variety of coffee drinks, pastries, and light fare, and the cafe also offers a selection of beer and wine.