Back in the day, it seems like the only reason people from Houston proper had to visit The Woodlands was for concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion. Pre-concert food typically consisted of a hot dog on the lawn, or, if one were feeling particularly well-prepared, a to go chopped beef sandwich from the Pappas Bar-B-Q on I-45.
However, with the suburb in an Exxon-fueled boom, the reasons to venture north could consist of anything from business to visiting family or even a staycation. While CorkScrew BBQ, Fielding's Wood Grill and the just reopened Hubbell & Hudson Bistro are already well-established culinary destinations, the rapidly growing restaurant scene is home to more than just those three non-chain options.
Here's a look at five more that have opened in the last six months or so:
This small trailer on Rayford Rd has been attracting a lot of positive attention for its moist, smoky brisket and meaty pork ribs. Pitmaster Tony Faour got his start on the competition circuit, and those experiences shape his barbecue.
Rather than the central Texas style of seasoning with only salt and pepper, the meat at BBQ Godfather has a sweet, spicy kick that comes from the use of ingredients like red pepper and brown sugar. Mac and cheese not meaty enough? Add brisket for a small additional charge.
One other meat that sets BBQ Godfather apart is smoked pork belly that's seared and served bahn mi style on a baguette. It's only available Thursday and Saturday, so plan accordingly.
Named for Texas industrialist Howard Robard Hughes, this upscale steakhouse in The Woodlands Resort hopes to separate itself from the numerous steakhouse chains that are already popular in the area. The wood-paneled dining room overlooks a golf course, creating an atmosphere that feels far away from nearby traffic and shopping centers.
The wood-paneled dining room overlooks a golf course, creating an atmosphere that feels far away from nearby traffic and shopping centers.
Dry-aged steaks are the featured item, but the kitchen shows an adept touch with seafood, too, as demonstrated by four different cold, cocktail-style preparations that are available as a shareable appetizer (or a light entree for one). A full cocktail menu and reasonably priced wine list (heavy on California reds) round out the offerings.
The Republic Grille
Sometimes all anyone wants is comfort food. Whether that's a Texas classic like chicken fried steak or something slightly more adventurous liked steamed mussels, this restaurant in the Panther Creek shopping center delivers well-executed dishes and good value. The atmosphere is family-friendly, but even during an early dinner plenty of adults without kids were sitting down for steaks and pints of craft beer.
Just be aware that a wait is likely during peak dinner times even during the week.
This small restaurant splits the difference between taqueria authenticity and gringo-friendly utility. The menu follows the simple, reliable practice of serving scratch made tacos using fresh ingredients. That means guacamole made multiple times per day and flour tortillas that are made to order.
All of the meats are solid, but the recently introduced pastor is not to be missed. Service is in the Chipotle/Freebirds style — pick a meat and a style (tacos, burrito or bowl) and the staff prepares the dish while you wait (briefly).
As the first American outpost of a Mexican bar and restaurant group with 80-plus locations, this restaurant named after a popular song brings an uptempo atmosphere and authentic Mexican flavors. Screens around the dining room show music videos while English and Spanish pop hits play over the speakers.
The food, particularly the fried shrimp, panuchos (black bean stuffed corn tortillas) and carnitas, all hold their own compared to better known Houston restaurants. As easy as it is to fill up on bubbly cheese served in a molcajete, try to save room for the massive churros.