Houston may be a sprawling metropolis with 12-lane freeways, skyscrapers, malls, and traffic, but it does have redeeming natural qualities.
The incredible Memorial Park has countless hike and bike trails that hook up with a city-wide canal of bayous. Herman Park and the stunning Museum District lie in the shade of ancient oak trees.
1103 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019
Teetering between River Oaks and Montrose in a 30s era River Oaks townhome with a gorgeous, enclosed patio, Backstreet Café is a beloved New American bistro, serving Houston for over 38 years.
Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega combines his Mexican heritage, Southern cuisine, and New American cuisine training to create incredible seasonal menus.
Chef Ortega’s menus have received praise from Houston Chronicle, Eater, GQ, and more. They offer my favorite brunch in Houston, but this time, I went for dinner.
The colorful menu takes influences from Cajun, Asian, Mexican, and American cuisines. I started with crispy duck spring rolls, followed by red corn chicken enchiladas with smoked chicken corn pudding, cream, and green beans.
3300 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006
Brennan’s is a historical Creole and Southern fine dining restaurant that opened in 1967 in Houston as a sister restaurant to the world-famous New Orleans bistro, Commanders Palace.
Owner Alex Brennan Martin and Creole Chef Jose Arevalo create a welcoming, luxurious atmosphere to savor the very best NOLA-style comfort food and hospitality.
Both Thrillist and Lonely Planet rave about the menu and ambiance at Brennan’s, and I have to agree. They combine Southwestern and Creole flavors in a lot of dishes like the Crawfish enchiladas.
My favorite dish is the Grilled pork chop and crawfish with Louisiana crawfish, andouille sausage, and cornbread pudding.
5802 Fulton St, Houston, TX 77009
Conveniently located right off the Houston rail line in Northside Village, Monkey’s Tail is a friendly neighborhood bar and comfort food restaurant with a huge dog-friendly outdoor patio repleted with big umbrellas, fans, and TVs tuned to your favorite sports games.
Their weekday happy hours are the best, with long lists of expertly crafted cocktails, margaritas, and cheap wine and beer.
I’m a mezcal fan, so I had to try their delicious Oaxacan Old Fashioned with mezcal, amaro Montenegro, Aztec chocolate bitters, piloncillo, and orange zest.
The decadent food menu spans the gamut from pasta and pizza to burgers and tacos. A plate of tacos al pastor on house ground corn tortillas paired perfectly with my beverage.
Local Foods is a lively and contemporary farm-to-table eatery in stylish dining spaces with locations in the Heights, Rice Village, Tanglewood, and Upper Kirby.
Each restaurant maintains close relationships with the local community of farmers and ranchers to provide a sustainable, farm-fresh menu of contemporary American fare.
Local Foods has a vibrant and vegan-friendly menu. I was shocked at how flavorful and cheesy the cashew queso was.
If you’re set on a carnivorous meal, try the Korean Steak Bowl with a poached egg, peanut kale salad, quinoa rice, pineapple kimchi, and creamy feta.
2011 Ella Blvd, Houston, TX 77008
As the name implies, Rainbow Lodge is a wild game and fresh seafood restaurant located inside a century-old log cabin with outdoor seating overlooking Houston’s white oak bayou.
The gorgeous grounds also feature two vegetable gardens that Chefs use to make delicious garnishes and side dishes for their locally sourced Texas game and seafood plates.
The unique and romantic atmosphere is a favorite place for weddings and date nights. Chef Mark Smidt makes a stunning menu of small plates and entrees that feature everything from quail, bison, and antelope to steaks and gulf shrimp.
I recommend the Elk Chop with potato, green chile, and cheese enchiladas with toasted pepitas, queso fresco, and roasted green chile sauce.
1814 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007
Winning the Diner’s Choice and Robb Report for Best Steakhouse, B and B Butcher and Restaurant is a butcher shop and fine dining steakhouse a quick drive from Buffalo Bayou Park.
The expert chefs use the finest cuts of Texas and Japanese beef dry-aged in-house and cut at the adjoining butcher shop to create decadent steak dinners and a fabulous boozy brunch with live music on the weekends.
The New American steakhouse menu features a slew of seafood, but since it’s a butcher shop, I recommend sampling red meat and pork.
I started with Chef Tommy’s Bacon with crumbled blue cheese and truffle-infused honey. The A5 Wagyu Katsu Sando ribeye that has been67 panko-crusted, fried, and served on Japanese milk bread with tonkatsu sauce was the most extraordinary steak I’ve tried.
1513 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77006
The Menil is a contemporary art museum with a glorious sculpture garden and park that’s always filled with students and families on lazy afternoons.
The Menil’s onsite bistro run by chef Greg Martin is a classic European bistro with a robust wine list and artfully plated European cuisine fitting of an artsy cultural establishment.
Chef Martin’s travels through Spain, Italy, and France enrich his award-winning menu of tapas, pizza, and Mediterranean entrees.
I especially enjoyed the Neapolitan style thin crust pizza Amalfi with soft Italian cheese, arugula, pear, and white truffle oil.
It was a light precursor to a luxurious entrée of beef short ribs topped with port wine and shallot reduction.
5512 La Branch St, Houston, TX 77004
Opened by Houston natives and James Beard Award semifinalists chef and restauranteurs Chris and Ben Williams, Lucille’s is an homage to their grandmother Lucille whose Southern recipes comprise a hefty portion of the menu.
Located in a cozy yet refined dining space in the Museum District, Lucille’s offers a contemporary and elegant take on classic Southern soul food.
If ever there was a place to order biscuits, Lucille’s is it. They serve their generations-old recipe smothered in-house chili, cheddar cheese, and harissa cream.
For the main course, I devoured the incredible catfish and grits course with fried catfish, cilantro slaw, grape tomatoes, oxtail jus, and stone mill grits.
3614 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77027
Tiny Boxwoods is a friendly neighborhood wine bar, eatery, and bakery with its flagship location in a quaint, vine-covered house in the middle of River Oaks nursery.
Owners and close friends Baron Doke, Gregg Thompson, and Lance Thompson create a beautiful environment to savor fine wines, scratch-made small plates, and warm milk and cookies.
The award-winning wine list pairs wonderfully with a robust list of charcuterie and cheese plates, wood-fired pizzas, and high-quality steak, poultry, and seafood entrees.
I recommend starting with the French Picnic plate with rosemary ham, whipped goat cheese, kalamatas, basil pesto, and artisan bread. Save room for a fresh chocolate chip cookie and espresso.
2300 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098
Inspired by owner Shawn Virene’s love for champagne, a’Bouzy is a festive French restaurant centered around decadent pairings of champagne and authentic French dishes.
Located in the heart of Upper Kirby, a’Bouzy is a boozy party for the whole family to enjoy, sourcing its rich menu from local purveyors and the gulf coast’s bounty.
The expert waiters will help you pair the champagne of your choice with a multicourse meal. If you like sweet and savory, try the strawberry burrata appetizer with strawberry, balsamic, basil oil, and French bread.
My favorite entrée is the seafood pot pie with a creamy roux, shrimp, crawfish, redfish, puff pastry, and a mixed green salad.
1800 Post Oak Blvd Suite 6170, Houston, TX 77056
The Annie Café and Bar is a contemporary Texas take on New American cuisine in a revival of Houston’s most famous and historic fine dining restaurant, Café Annie.
Located in the same Galleria area dining space, The Annie provides a fresh concept and menu from James Beard Award-winning Chef Robert Del Grande.
The Annie has a New American steakhouse menu featuring Southwestern flavors and Texas sourced seafood and beef.
I started with the roasted shrimp over creamy avocado and crispy fontina flautas. The Annie makes the most decadent Texas Wagyu burger in Houston, but they only make 20 a night. Hopefully, you make the cut.
With locations in Memorial and Rice Village, Hungry’s is a beloved Houston staple with 45 years serving farm-fresh New American food in a gorgeous dining space.
The Rice Village dining space is a massive two-story modern treehouse with an outdoor patio and second-floor covered balcony surrounded by mighty oak trees.
The extensive menu has healthful and rich dishes that span the culinary gamut from Mediterranean mezze and gyros to pizza to Vegan bowls.
In the mood for a nutritious and delicious meal, I chose the delicious Falafel Bowl with falafel balls, beet hummus, turmeric roasted veggie quinoa, fresh pita, and a salad with cherry tomato, radish, cucumber, red onion, and fresh lemon.
1809 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007
From famed New Yorker and restauranteur Benjamin Berg, B.B. Lemon is a friendly and elegant neighborhood bar and eatery in the Washington Corridor.
The charming urban chic dining room with leather booths and checkered tablecloths opens onto a backyard full of cloth tent-covered tables.
They serve expertly crafted cocktails, craft beers, and wine, along with an extensive menu of elevated bar fare from around the globe.
Whether you want shepherd’s pie or pork schnitzel, you’ll find it on the menu. I went for lunch and had a delicious Reuben with corned beef, sauerkraut, and swiss cheese.
1611 Lamar St, Houston, TX 77010
Overlooking Maconda’s Grove in Downtown Houston’s Discovery Green, The Grove is an upscale New American restaurant and cocktail bar in a stunning modern dining space with a second-floor rooftop patio and garden overlooking the park and downtown skyline.
James Beard Award-winning Chef and owner Robert Del Grande creates a fresh and flavorful menu using the rooftop garden’s bounty.
To sample the garden, I recommend starting with the beet hummus served with salted pistachio, pickled serrano, farm-fresh veggies, and house-made flatbread.
An entrée that screams Texas pride is the southern fried quail with Texas quail, sweet corn, summer squash, mashed potatoes, and cream gravy.
Check out other rooftop bars in Houston on our list here if you want more skyline views.
2604 Dunlavy St Houston, TX 77006
Located in the artsy Montrose neighborhood, Café Brasil is a longstanding coffee house and Latin-inspired café that has been a favorite spot for study and socializing since 1992.
The cozy outdoor patio is a wooden67 deck covered by large oaks that often projects movies in the evenings from a giant silkscreen.
Whether you want coffee or cocktails, a snack or a full breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Brasil has countless options for any time of day.
I started my day with a craft espresso drink and a hearty breakfast of guajillo pork tamales with over-easy eggs, refried beans, and tomatillo salsa.
807 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019
Another Montrose eatery, Bludorn is a fashionable French-inspired New American bar and restaurant from Executive Chef Aaron Bludorn.
The lovely wood-finished dining space with an industrial-chic meets European café décor has a romantic back patio lit with circular tee lights and surrounded by lush shrubbery.
The steakhouse-style menu features gulf sourced seafood towers and seafood entrees along with fine cuts of steak, pork, and poultry.
I loved the Grouper entrée with blackened spiced filet, tamarind, black garlic, Thai basil, and green papaya. Save room for the perfect fluffy bite-sized beignets for dessert.
2200 Post Oak Blvd #160, Houston, TX 77056
Meaning “snail” in Spanish, Caracol Restaurant is a stylish modern Mexican food restaurant from award-winning Mexican Chef Hugo Ortega that specializes in coastal Mexican cuisine.
Located in a hip and airy space in the Galleria area, Caracol uses local seafood to create high-end dishes from Mexico’s many coasts.
They offer an a la carte brunch on Saturdays and a brunch buffet on Sundays, which are both excellent. If you’re there for dinner, you must try the ceviche de chile Canario with lime cured raw red snapper, chile Canario, cherry tomato, cucumber, pearl onion, cilantro, and radish. The smoked octopus entrée was divine.