This is the list to top them all: Introducing Top 100, CultureMap's ranking of the very best restaurants in Houston. Our list offers a comprehensive take on Houston dining, with thoughtful rankings from No. 1 all the way to No. 100.

It highlights Houston's diversity and is rooted in the neighborhoods where our readers live — for a place in the 'burbs to earn a spot, it must be worth the drive. It also has a bit of a sense of humor, which is how a divey Chinese restaurant with excellent fried dumplings winds up on the list.

Houston has over 10,000 restaurants. Sifting through them to figure out the top 1 percent wasn't easy, but six years as CultureMap's food editor provides a strong foundation. Visiting the restaurants — all of them since the beginning of 2018, many in the last four months — separated the merely good from the best.

Generally, readers can think of the ranking as follows: 1-30, the city's most outstanding restaurants regardless of price, cuisine, location, or style; 31-60, restaurants that are outstanding in their category; 61-90, restaurants that do most things very well and make Houston a more exciting place to dine; 91-100, restaurants with one or two outstanding dishes or that I feel a personal affection towards (for example, the French dip at Houston's).  

Ultimately, this list is designed to serve our readers. Our Where to Eat Right Now series provides a snapshot of Houston's dining scene at any given moment, but we have never offered an overall perspective — until now. 

People love to ask me what my favorite restaurants are. Now you know. 
— Eric Sandler

Courtesy photo
Riel Restaurant
1927 Fairview St.
Houston, TX 77019
New American | $$$

At this stylish Montrose restaurant, chef-owner Ryan Lachaine blends elements of his Canadian upbringing, Ukranian heritage, and the modern Gulf Coast cuisine he learned during stints at Underbelly and Reef into Riel's focused, eclectic menu. While it’s an unlikely sounding mix, Lachaine and his team have crammed a lot of interesting ideas into the food being served at this stylish, 65-seat restaurant — among them the instant-classic hanger steak with potato and cheese pierogi, yellowfin tuna crudo, and mushroom empanadas. The kitchen adds innovative new dishes all the time (like this summer's butter burgers), which rewards frequent visits, and the front-of-house staff always welcomes diners with a smile.

Courtesy photo
Nancy's Hustle
2704 Polk St.
Houston, TX 77003
New American | $$-$$$

The restaurant that revealed Houstonians' love for trout roe — via the signature Nancy cakes — remains a favorite of Houston's restaurant community, thanks to chef Jason Vaughan's eclectic menu, front of house specialist Sean Jensen's beverage program, and the stylish interior. The room has an unmistakable vibe that just feels good, and even familiar-sounding dishes like lamb tartare and grilled chicken soar, thanks to their precise execution. Pastry chef Julia Doran's breads and desserts are similarly can't-miss.

Photo by Julie Soefer
UB Preserv
1609 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
New American | $$-$$$

This replacement for Underbelly, at least in spirit, feels far more vital than its predecessor. Shedding some of Underbelly’s self-imposed rules regarding whole animal butchery and local sourcing freed chef-owner Chris Shepherd and chef de cuisine Nick Wong to explore a wider array of dishes and cuisine. That creative collaboration has led to signatures like the crispy rice salad, crispy chicken stuffed with sticky rice, and more. Clever cocktails, affordable wine, and first-rate desserts from chef Victoria Dearmond all help make this restaurant one that can be visited again and again.

Theodore Rex
1302 Nance St.
Houston, TX 77002
New American | $$$

Justin Yu replaced his acclaimed tasting menu restaurant Oxheart with this more casual, a la carte concept that's more welcoming and accessible than its predecessor. While the dishes may be new, Yu's commitment to seasonality and quality ingredients remains strong, which means the flavors are as vibrant as ever; that's how dishes like the tomato toast and Paris-Brest dessert have become instant classics. Reservations can be tough to get on the weekends, but walk-in diners are welcome — the restaurant even has a little lounge where people can sip wine and listen to music while they wait. 

Photo by Julie Soefer
State of Grace
3258 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77098
New American | $$$

The flexibility to eat just about any kind of meal at any time of day is a great quality in a restaurant, and few restaurants offer a wider variety of experiences than Ford Fry’s luxurious River Oaks establishment. Whether a diner feels like $1 oysters and a glass of wine at happy hour or a big-deal chef’s tasting that shows off the full range of chef Bobby Matos and his team, State of Grace delivers. The chef’s small plates and pastas show off a constantly rotating selection of seasonally inspired dishes. That all this culinary magic takes place in one of the city's most stylish dining rooms only enhances the feeling of being someplace special.

Photo by Jack Thompson
2048 Colquitt St.
Houston, TX 77098
New American | $$-$$$

With its wooden floors, shiplap walls, and vintage stereo equipment, Nobie’s feels flexible enough to serve equally well for dinner with friends, celebrations, or even date night. Chef-owner Martin Stayer's eclectic menu offers lots of appealing choices; recent dishes have ranged from staples like Nonno's pasta to "vanilla spice spice baby" (grilled scallops with coconut risotto and vanilla curry). The well-priced wine list, appealing cocktails, and fun atmosphere make lingering easy. That it's open until 11 during the week and midnight on the weekends makes it particularly useful. 

Photo by Eric Sandler
24 Waterway Ave.
The Woodlands, TX 77380
New American | $$$

A more personal replacement for Hubbell & Hudson Bistro — Simmons named the restaurant after his daughter — the menu hops from avant garde fare like Korean butter-poached crab with kimchi pancake and hamachi toastada to riffs on classics like lobster Thermidor and a wedge salad loaded with crispy pork belly chunks. Top-notch steaks, including Simmons' innovative use of ultra-aged beef sourced from Texas akaushi purveyor Heartbrand Ranch, are presented on Insta-worthy wooden planks.

Photo by Julie Soefer
Kata Robata
3600 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
Japanese | $$-$$$

By any metric, whether it be quality, value for the money, service, or overall experience, Kata Robata serves the best sushi in Houston. Kata's quality starts at the top with master chef Manabu Horiuchi (Hori-san), whose expert skills and high standards ensure well-cut fish that's served at just the right temperature. Sitting at the sushi counter for an omakase tasting with chef Hori remains one of the best dining experiences in the city, and diners may recognize other Houston chefs sitting next to them at the bar. 

On any given evening, Kata's specials will include fish that's been flown in that day from Japan, but the restaurant also keeps up with more locally sourced fare like soft shell crab. Beyond sushi, Kata offers consistently intriguing raw and cooked non-sushi options and an extensive selection of sake that combine to make it one of Houston's best restaurants in any category. 

Photo by Paula Murphy
1600 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Mexican | $$-$$$

By now, even people from out of town understand the difference between Tex-Mex and regional Mexican cuisine, and no establishment in Houston delivers a fresher, more vibrant perspective on the country's food than this Montrose restaurant. Led by James Beard Award winner Hugo Ortega and proprietor Tracy Vaught, dishes like braised duck with mole, the lobster taco, and pan-sautéed grasshoppers have become modern Houston classics. The beverage program offers an intriguing mix of agave spirits, and the Sunday brunch remains a bucket list experience for any Houstonian who loves to eat.

Pro tip: The valet service offers a $25 hand carwash that's as good as any detail shop in the city.

Photo by Michael Shum
6652 Southwest Fwy.
Houston, TX 77074
Indian | $$

Just try to pick a signature dish from Kaiser Lashkari’s menu. Is it an Indo-Pak favorite like steak tikka, Hunter’s Beef, fish masala, or the chicken hara masala? What about those masala-spiced takes on American classics like fried chicken and chicken fried steak? Whatever options a diner chooses, the vibrant flavors and affordable prices will make for an unforgettable experience. That's how a restaurant in a freeway-adjacent strip center attracts a steady stream of national attention and TV appearances.

Photo by Eric Sandler
517 Berry Rd.
Houston, TX 77022
New American | $$$-$$$$

Chef Jonny Rhodes and his team are doing some serious cooking at this 13-seat tasting menu concept. Dishes such as the Descendents of Igboo (candied yams with marshmallow and smoked pecan butter) and Slum Village (aged potato ashcake with caramelized potato and duck fat creme) simultaneously tell the story of the African American experience and showcase the chef’s talent with various preservation techniques. Part of Rhodes' presentations about mass incarceration or the history of the term “mandingo” may make some people uncomfortable, but they’re delivered with such passion and conviction that there's no doubting his sincerity.

Photo by Julie Soefer
3320 White Oak Dr.
Houston, TX 77007
Italian | $$

Coltivare has become one of Houston's most acclaimed restaurants by taking the Italian principle of simple preparation and applying it to Gulf Coast ingredients, some of which are sourced from the restaurant's 3,000-square-foot garden. The restaurant doesn't take reservations, which means waits for a table are common, especially on weekends.

Those who wait are rewarded with dishes such as pepperoni pizza, which utilizes a crust that Ryan Pera and Vincent Huynh spent months developing, and the signature black pepper spaghetti. Even the most committed carnivore should order at least one of the salads; they're some of the most creatively prepared in Houston. All those dishes get paired with an intriguing mix of cocktails, beer, or a bottle from the carefully curated wine list. 

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
3737 Buffalo Speedway
Houston, TX 77098
Cajun/Creole | $$-$$$

Calling a restaurant a “Creole brasserie” only goes so far to describe its food; think of this Greenway Plaza-area spot as a mixture of State of Grace and Brennan’s. With dishes like shrimp etouffee over housemade pasta and roasted duck breast over crispy duck fried rice, chef Drake Leonards delivers a lighter, fresher take on familiar Louisiana dishes. Add in one of the city’s prettiest dining rooms — a farmhouse-inspired design with an almost dream-like quality — that makes every meal feel a special occasion, and it’s no wonder this restaurant has consistently drawn crowds.

Photo by Kimberly Park
Killen's STQ
2231 S. Voss Rd.
Houston, TX 77057
American | $$$

At Killen's STQ, Ronnie Killen explores the intersection of live fire cooking that unites steakhouses and barbecue joints. Dishes like ravioli filled with smoked beef short rib and candied pork belly break with steakhouse conventions. Those who can pull themselves away from Killen's classics like crab cakes, steaks, and creamed corn will discover dishes like a dry-aged long bone pork chop and grilled octopus with fennel and arugula that show off the exciting possibilities of the restaurant’s massive wood-fired grill and the talent of executive chef Teddy Lopez. At lunch, the Gruyere-topped cheeseburger is one of Houston's most savory, satisfying burgers. 

Photo by Julie Soefer
2200 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056
Mexican | $$-$$$

Hugo Ortega's Mexican seafood restaurant in the Galleria area serves consistently well-executed, flavorful dishes. Wood-grilled gulf oysters with chipotle butter, all of the ceviches, and the banana leaf-wrapped bass with mole are just some of the highlights. As with Hugo's, the Sunday brunch buffet is among the best in town, with a never-ending array of dishes from which to choose.

Desserts by Ortega's brother Ruben include the El Coco, a chocolate sphere that diners crack with a wooden mallet before scooping out multiple layers of coconut. Beverage director Sean Beck has a full menu of cocktails and wines by the glass, with twists on classic margaritas, palomas, and more.

Photo by Eric Sandler
Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
200 N. Elm St.
Tomball, TX 77375
Barbecue | $$

Tomball might seem like an unlikely location for one of the greater Houston area's best barbecue joints, but anyone with carnivorous habits would be well-served by making the trip. Expertly smoked brisket and succulent ribs are expected, but Tejas chef Greg Moore always has something new to try. Whether that's the life-changing chile relleno sausage or a smoked burger that's been such a hit that he and his partners, Scott Moore Jr. and Michelle Holland, are spinning it off into another restaurant. Be sure to leave with a truffle or two of the restaurant's bean-to-bar chocolates. 

Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
Truth Barbeque
110 S. Heights Blvd.
Houston, TX 77007
Barbecue | $$

Leonard Botello IV has managed to capture the spirit of his small-town Brenham barbecue joint at a much larger establishment in the heart of the Inner Loop. Powered by five massive offset smokers, the restaurant turns out expertly cooked brisket, ribs, turkey, pulled pork, and homemade sausages, plus crave-worthy sides like tater tot casserole, corn pudding, and green beans that are — somewhat miraculously — not cooked to mush. Add in friendly service from a staff that's quick to help transport an overloaded tray or run to get a refill and the signature sky-high layer cakes to get a restaurant that's leading the way for Houston barbecue joints. 

Photo by Jack Thompson
Roka Akor
2929 Wesleyan St.
Houston, TX 77027
Japanese | $$-$$$

This stylish Japanese restaurant impresses with its ability to serve both well-prepared sushi and meats from the massive robata grill that’s visible throughout the dining room. Highlights from the raw section include yellow sashimi, uni with chicharrones and charred lime, and all of the nigiri. Those looking to indulge will want to consider Japanese beef from one of five prefectures and wood-grilled king crab legs that are among the best bites in the city. A newly introduced section of yakitori skewers offers a more affordable alternative at dinner. 


Photo by Jenn Duncan
632 W. 19th St.
Houston, TX 77008
New American | $$-$$$

By recruiting chef Mark Clayton and baker Drew Gimma to lead the kitchen, Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel have created an ambitious neighborhood restaurant that mixes carefully prepared cuisine with some of the best bread being baked in Houston. For example, a salad of deliciously ripe tomatoes gets a little added crunch from breadcrumbs, and a challenging sounding dish of marinated mussels and beans gets tied together by a thick piece of grilled sourdough. Even dishes without bread — say the baked sweet potato that comes with crunchy nuggets of pork or a delicate crudo — deliver vibrant flavors.

Knowledgable servers can explain the details of each dish (when prompted), and the bar turns out consistently well-executed cocktails. Justin Vann's wine list skews towards classic varietals that pair well with the food.

Courtesy of BCN
BCN Taste & Tradition
4210 Roseland St.
Houston, TX 77006
Spanish | $$$-$$$$

In an era when casual, neighborhood restaurants seem to be the norm, chef Luis Roger's Spanish restaurant is distinctly fine dining. Suit-wearing servers populate the understated dining room, and the guests are similarly attired. Dining at BCN feels very upscale (also reflected in the prices), but the atmosphere isn't stuffy. It's simply that the patrons want to match the carefully prepared, beautifully presented cuisine.

Start with imported Iberico ham that's served with tomato bread, pickled anchovies, or beef tartare with housemade potato chips and pair it with one of the restaurant's signature gin and tonics. Luxurious dishes that utilize foie gras, lobster, or duck are always worth ordering. 

Photo by Ambia Photography
Weights + Measures
2808 Caroline St.
Houston, TX 77004
Bakeries | $$

Whether it's pastries and breads for the bakeshop or pizza crusts and pastas for the restaurant, the dough room drives the menu at this eclectic Midtown restaurant. Chefs Richard Kaplan and Fernando Rios take those products and turn them into any number of tasty bites, including duck confit banh mi, chicken confit and foie gras tortelloni, and, of course, the signature carrot pizza. Creative cocktails from bar manager Shan Liu maintain the standards established by founding partner Mike Sammons, and the wine list remains an affordable way to indulge. 

Courtesy photo
1777 Walker St.
Houston, TX 77010
Mexican | $$$

Xochi, Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught's Oaxacan restaurant inside downtown’s luxurious Marriott Marquis hotel, draws on the experiences Ortega garnered during both his childhood and frequent visits to the region to create a comprehensive menu that utilizes Oaxacan ingredients specifically imported for the restaurant. Highlights include the tetela, an oversized blue masa tortillas filled with cheese and hoja santa; sopa de piedra, a shrimp soup with a whimsical tableside presentation; and skirt steak barbacoa with masa dumplings. The mole tasting, along with the extensive list of mezcals assembled by beverage director Sean Beck and the innovative desserts created by pastry chef Ruben Ortega, will keep Houstonians and visitors coming back.


Doris Metropolitan
2815 S. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern | $$$-$$$$

This Israeli-by-way-of-New Orleans restaurant defies most steakhouse conventions. Those looking for staples like crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, six different potato preparations, or dark wood paneling will be disappointed, but beef lovers should learn to stop worrying and embrace the beef, which is carefully dry-aged in a glass-walled room. An assortment of vegetable-oriented sides and starters supplement the meat, including a cheese-stuffed roasted beet and a roasted cauliflower with tahini and yogurt. The bread might just be the best in Houston.

Photo by Eric Sandler
9630 Clarewood Dr.
Houston, TX 77036
Chinese | $$

Chef Mike Tran owns over half a dozen restaurants in Chinatown that serve food from across east and southeast Asia, and this spot devoted to Cantonese comfort food remains his finest. Dishes like the signature wonton soup and charsiu pork with spicy mustard deliver big flavor at reasonable prices. Other highlights include salt and pepper shrimp, the many creative fried rice options, and soups made with housemade noodles. Save room for the molten French toast dessert.   

Decorated with ’30s-inspired scenes, the room offers a little more style than other Chinatown spots, and the friendly, welcoming service raises the bar, too. 

Photo by Terence Tang
burger-chan (Closed)
5 Greenway Plaza, Ste. C-630
Houston, TX 77046
Burgers | $

Diane and Willet Feng have created something special at their Greenway Plaza burger joint. Willet’s fine dining pedigree — he worked at Oxheart for awhile — means that every detail has been precisely tweaked for maximum deliciousness. Thin patties that get cooked on a griddle to achieve crispy edges get topped with creative sauces like scallion aioli and sambal mayo. Of course, the restaurant’s real genius is that diners may combine different cheese, bun, and toppings options — even the number patties — to achieve their perfect combo.

Photo by Eric Sandler
CorkScrew BBQ
26608 Keith St.
Spring, TX 77373
Barbecue | $$

Consistently rated as one of Houston's best barbecue joints by local smoked meat connoisseurs, CorkScrew's success starts at the top; owners Nichole and Will Buckman strive to make the most excellent barbecue they can everyday. Will Buckman's brisket is always well-rendered, pork ribs have just the right pull — even the turkey is good. Homemade sides, Nichole's signature cobbler, and incredibly friendly service all make the trip to Old Town Spring worth the drive.

Photo by Karen Burd
Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
3215 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77098
Italian | $$

Chef-owner Lynette Hawkins’ casual Italian restaurant has a reputation for being underrated, but people usually mean it doesn’t receive much press attention. While “Giacomo’s, still awesome” isn’t a take that’s going to generate a lot of debate, the restaurant is universally acknowledged as one of Houston’s most consistently excellent dining experiences. Whether a diner is seeking a light lunch of small vegetable plates or a multi-course meal built around the excellent pastas (both housemade and imported), Giacomo’s offers a variety of consistently appealing choices. The well-priced list of Italian wines makes it too easy to spend an afternoon lingering on the patio.

Photo by Shannon O’Hara
1751 Sea & Bar
191 Heights Blvd.
Houston, TX 77007
Seafood | $$-$$$

Chef J.D. Woodward has created a menu that both reflects a diverse set of influences and achieves maximum deliciousness. Start with a raw dish such as the flavorful poke or celebrate Woodward’s love for all things preserved with the seafood charcuterie board that features a number of cured, pickled, and smoked items. The menu of mostly shareable dishes makes it a fun place for a group of friends to share a meal. The restaurant’s name references the Gin Act of 1751, which means the cocktail list features just some of the 120-plus gins on the back bar.

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan
1515 Texas Ave.
Houston, TX 77002
Italian | $$$

Danny Trace brings the same respect for local ingredients he demonstrated at Brennan’s to this downtown Italian restaurant, and he also shows a flair for Italian cooking that he never got to demonstrate at the Midtown institution. From tuna crudo with shaved foie gras to housemade spaghetti with black truffle, Potente’s cuisine consistently exceeds expectations. The talented front of house staff, led by partner Bill Floyd, lends a sense of occasion to any meal, which is so important at Potente's fine dining price point. Besides, you never know when owner Jim Crane or a group of Astros will drop by.

Courtesy of Saigon House
Saigon House (Closed)
3101 Main St.
Houston, TX 77002
Vietnamese | $$

If chef Tony Nguyen had just brought Viet-Cajun crawfish to Midtown, it would have been enough to draw crowds. Not only are those crawfish consistently flavorful and well cooked (try the H-Town Bang seasoning), but the rest of the restaurant's menu has lots of appeal. Highlights include the oxtail pho — available with wagyu beef — as well as the decadent seafood towers that will feed a group. The only downside is the restaurant has become so popular it can be hard to get a table at peak times. 

Photo by Julie Soefer
Georgia James
1100 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Steakhouses | $$$$

Chris Shepherd’s take on a steakhouse during the first version of One Fifth achieved such extraordinary success that it deserved a permanent home. Built in the former Underbelly space, Georgia James (named for the chef’s parents) ups the ante from its predecessor with a more luxurious interior, a substantial room for dry-aging meat, and a large wine cellar. The menu’s been upgraded, too, with more cuts from Texas wagyu producer Marble Ranch — including the essential zabuton — and prime beef from 44 Farms, including a 100-day dry-aged long bone ribeye. Staples from One Fifth Steak like uni panna cotta and chicken liver pate have been supplemented with dishes like a decadent wedge salad; side dishes like lamburger helper and creamed collard greens help tie the whole presentation together.

Courtesy of Verandah Progressive Indian Restaurant
Verandah Progressive Indian Cuisine
3300 Kirby Dr., Ste.7A
Houston, TX 77098
Indian | $$$-$$$$

Chefs Sunil Srivastava and his wife, Anupama, have opened their eagerly anticipated Inner Loop follow-up to the acclaimed (and lamented) Great W’Kana Café. To fit the luxurious environs of the ritzy Kirby Collection, Verandah offers an elegant design that pays homage to the five elements of earth, fire, water, air, and ether with original artwork by Anupama’s mother hanging on the walls.

While the design is eye-catching, the real stunners come from the kitchen. A familiar lamb kebab arrives in a glass cloche filled with aromatic clove and mint smoke, while familiar tandoori chicken arrives in a different cloche with a different variety of smoke. Salmon isn’t usually memorable, but it can be when topped with a spicy curry sauce. Even a simple sounding chicken consommé gets a lift from lemon zest that complements the delicate chicken meatballs in the broth. 

Photo by Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
2800 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
Indian | $$

​Open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this Upper Kirby restaurant defines the utility that marks a great neighborhood restaurant. Its ambitious menu of Indian-inspired fare offers something for vegetarians, omnivores, and even people with a sweet tooth (via the upstairs Bake Lab). Picking a favorite dish is tricky, which is what makes the signature thalis so appealing; they offer a sampler of different tastes for a reasonable price and are easy to split between a couple of people.

Photo by Eric Sandler
Brasserie 1895
607 S. Friendswood Dr.
Friendswood, TX 77546
French | $$-$$$

Built around a wood-fired hearth, Brasserie 1895’s menu features freshly baked breads and hearty meat dishes. Chef-owner Kris Jakob's classic French training means the restaurant turns out deft versions of old-school classics like snapper quenelle or roasted duck (usually as specials). Since it's located in Friendswood, diners will also find a wedge salad and a surprisingly good chicken fried steak, but putting the meal in Jakob's hands always yields satisfying results. 

Mala Sichuan
9348 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77036
Chinese | $$

Credit proprietors Heng Chen and Cori Xiong for kicking off Houston's Sichuan restaurant boom. Mala's flavorful cuisine — exemplified in dishes as varied as red oil dumplings, couple's lung slices, water-boiled fish, and more — may have inspired a host of imitators, but Mala remains the best. Part of the credit goes to the well-chosen, affordable wine list that makes for easier pairings with the famously fiery dishes.

Courtesy photo
Relish Restaurant and Bar
2810 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77098
New American | $$-$$$

For their move from a take-out lunch spot to a full restaurant, owner Addie D'Agostino Teague and her husband, executive chef Dustin Teague, have used Houston’s as the model for what they want Relish to be: comfortable and familiar with consistently solid service. While a menu of salads and sandwiches at lunch and dishes like steak frites, barbecue shrimp, and fried chicken may not be very innovative, it is the sort of food that people might want to eat once or twice a week. Seasonal specials and a first-rate pastry program have helped Relish become a neighborhood staple, and no city can ever have too many of those. 

Photo by Kimberly Park
Killen's Barbecue
3613 E. Broadway St.
Pearland, TX 77581
Barbecue | $$

More than any other restaurant, Ronnie Killen's Pearland establishment kicked off the local barbecue boom that's brought Franklin-inspired, Central Texas-style smoked meat to neighborhoods across the entire Houston area. The core menu remains among the most wide-ranging of any local barbecue joint — with brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, homemade sausage, turkey, pork belly, and a full range of sides and desserts all available daily — the addition of dinner service in 2017 added steaks, comfort food, and Tex-Mex to the menu. Long lines can still be an issue on the weekends, but those willing to consider barbecue for dinner only need to make a reservation to skip them.  

904 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Japanese | $$$$

The high-style, high-concept Austin import has been considered to be one of the city’s finest restaurants since it burst onto Houston’s dining scene in 2012. The food, which blends Japanese flavors with French techniques and a few Texas twists, is always both beautiful and delicious. Meticulously trained servers know the menu front to back, which gives them the ability to guide diners through elaborate, impromptu tastings. The combination of high-quality food and a welcoming atmosphere make Uchi a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts, which helps explain its continued popularity.  

Uchi's daily happy hour remains a popular way to experience the restaurant at a reduced price; that's why people line up for it every afternoon.

Cuchara Mexico City Bistro
214 Fairview Dr.
Houston, TX 77006
Mexican | $$

Proprietor Ana Beaven and her team of cooks serve up an authentic taste of Mexico City at this charming restaurant that's become a neighborhood staple. The wide-ranging menu satisfies almost any craving, with dishes as diverse as Veracruz-style red snapper; lamb barbacoa (with housemade corn tortillas, natch); and huitlacoche quesadillas all setting a high standard. With a dining room that features eye-catching murals created by Ana's sister Cecilia and a bar with flavorful cocktails from the mind of acclaimed local bartender Chris Frankel, Cuchara is a restaurant that satisfies the mind as well as the palate.

Photo by James Dean
3755 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77046
Italian | $$$$

A restaurant that's been in business for over 50 years could be tempted to rest on its laurels, but even the city's premier power broker destination understands that it has to evolve to remain relevant. Proprietor Tony Vallone tapped Austin Waiter, a 27-year old graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, to lead it into a new era. While the classics remain — salt-crusted snapper and truffle filet aren't going anywhere — the restaurant's creative spirit lies in Waiter's tasting menu, which incorporates the chef's love for delicate sauces. Given that a little theater always makes fine dining more compelling, diners would be well-advised to splurge on the dry-aged duck just to watch Waiter work the restaurant's duck press tableside. 

The dramatic artwork by renowned Texas sculptor Jesús Moroles still creates a sense of occasion for any meal, but the restaurant's happy hour, as well as 75 wines by-the-bottle for $75 or less, make it more approachable than ever before. 

701 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston, TX 77002
Caribbean | $$

For his downtown restaurant that traces the history of African American food, art, and culture, Markus Davis, owner of Midtown institution The Breakfast Klub, recruited Dawn Burrell (Uchi, Sparrow Bar + Cookshop) to lead the kitchen. Burrell takes braised collard greens and dresses them in collard leaf “purses.” Oxtail comes in an Italian-style ragout over coconut rice grits. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights keeps the energy going.

Photo by Karen Burd
1972 Fairview St.
Houston, TX 77019
New American | $$

For a restaurant that changes almost its entire menu every few weeks, Kevin Naderi's Montrose bistro achieves a remarkable level of consistency. The chef draws upon a number of influences, including his Persian heritage, and applies them to whatever local ingredients happen to be in season at the time. Although the intimate space doesn't accept reservations, diners can usually find a table at all but the busiest times, which is why the dining room always seems to be populated with couples on dates. 

Photo by Eric Sandler
Pizaro's Pizza
11177 Katy Fwy.
Houston, TX 77079
Italian | $$

Originally devoted to Neapolitan-style pizza, Pizaro's has grown substantially under the leadership of brother-sister duo Matt Hutchinson and Nicole Bean. At both the Montrose and Memorial-area locations, the restaurant now serves New York (the style most Americans consider "pizza") and Detroit (a deep dish pie with a rim of burnt cheddar cheese). That each of these styles are best in class demonstrates the siblings' commitment to their craft. 

A tidy selection of salads and a rotating menu of weekly and seasonal specials helps to ensure that frequent visitors are rewarded with something new to try. 

Crawfish & Noodles
11360 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77072
Seafood | $$

Featured on TV shows like Ugly Delicious and The Zimmern List, this Chinatown restaurant serves the city's finest Viet-Cajun crawfish. Chef-owner Trong Nguyen has attracted other national attention, including a couple of James Beard Award semifinalist nominations for Best Chef: Southwest. Even when crawfish aren't in season, the diverse menu of boiled, grilled, stir-fried, and deep-fried seafood, plus fusion dishes like Vietnamese chicken salad, chicken wings, and turkey neck, make this restaurant worth visiting year-round. 

Courtesy photo
Yauatcha (Closed)
5045 Westheimer Rd.
Houston , TX 77056
Chinese | $$$-$$$$

The Hakkasan Group’s upscale tea house has brought its Michelin-starred pedigree to The Galleria’s jewel box building. Needless to say, Yauatcha (read as: Yow-atch-ah) doesn’t look like dim sum restaurants in Chinatown; the stylish, modern room fits in with The Galleria’s ultra-chic environment. Although it offers very good versions of all the traditional dumplings, the menu doesn't look much like a traditional dim sum restaurant either, in the sense that it includes elaborate cocktails, an extensive wine list, and some of the best French-style desserts in the city. As ridiculous as it sounds to pay over $100 for Peking duck, Yauatcha's over-the-top version in which the skin is served with pancakes and the meat comes stir-fried constitutes the menu's most worthwhile splurge.

Courtesy of Good Dog Houston
Good Dog Houston
903 Studewood St.
Houston, TX 77008
American | $-$$

Houston is a burger-loving town, but Good Dog has diners lining up for hot dogs like we're in Chicago or New York. The combination of locally baked Slow Dough buns, a proprietary beef/pork dog, and chef Amalia Pferd's carefully constructed toppings and condiments has proven irresistible.

The sandwiches, fried fish, and desserts are well-executed, too, proving that Pferd and partner Daniel Caballero understand non-bun food, too. Quench your thirst with craft beer from the ever-revolving taps or indulge in a cajeta milkshake.

Photo by Barbara Kuntz
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
5839 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77057
Steakhouses | $$$

For all of Houston's diversity, this city still loves a great steak. No restaurant supplies a better classic steakhouse experience than Pappas Bros. The restaurant's commitment to quality is so legendary that not only does it serve in-house dry-aged steaks, scratch made sides, and luxurious seafood — but it also washes its own linens, tends to its own landscaping, and grows its own flowers. 

The extensive wine program, overseen by three master sommeliers, offers the city's deepest list, especially when it comes to steak-friendly varietals like Cabernet and Bourdeaux. Still, there are deals to be had, and the talented staff will be happy to guide diners towards the best values. 

Courtesy of The Pit Room
The Pit Room
1201 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77006
Barbecue | $-$$

Powered by all-wood, offset barrel smokers, The Pit Room provides Montrose with a destination-quality barbecue joint. Even better, it serves that high-quality product for both lunch and dinner seven days a week. Three kinds of housemade sausage drip with delicious meat juice, the USDA Prime brisket has a good bark and a pleasant amount of smoke, and the pork ribs have just the right amount of chew. Best of all, tortillas made with brisket fat serve as the platform for tacos; scratch-made sides run the gamut from traditional barbecue staples to one of Houston's best quesos. 

Photo by Julie Soefer
4444 Westheimer Rd., Ste. C180
Houston, TX 77027
Spanish | $$$-$$$$

Nothing about BCN could have prepared diners for its newly opened sister restaurant in River Oaks District. MAD (read as “mad” not as “em-ay-dee”) offers stunning visuals — courtesy of both designer Lazaro Rosa-Violán’s interior and the well-dressed crowd — and an atmosphere that’s as high-energy as BCN’s is staid.

Chef Luis Roger has turned up the creativity, too, with several dishes that use modernist techniques, such as the MAD ‘n cheese that features noodles made out of chilled broth and beef tartare wrapped in edible "newsprint." Wood-roasted paella is another of MAD's signatures; when prepared with a proper socarrat, they're among MAD's most memorable dishes. A lengthy wine list and an elevated, gin-forward cocktail program round out the experience.

Photo by Eric Sandler
El Topo Truck
2752 Buffalo Speedway
Houston, TX 77027
Mexican | $

Inspired by his San Antonio roots and his love for Mexican cuisine, chef Tony Luhrman created this food truck to serve some of Houston's finest tacos. That starts with rigorously sourced local meat and produce — such as beef from 44 Farms — handmade corn tortillas, and a rotating selection of seasonal salsas. While the Houston (barbacoa) and Austin (roasted vegetables) are staples on the menu, frequent visitors will notice specials including muffins and a confit duck with mole taco. 

If only those rumors about a brick-and-mortar location would prove to be true, El Topo could evolve from a weekly stop at the Urban Harvest farmers market into a daily dining option.

Photo courtesy of Brennan’s of Houston
Brennan's of Houston
3300 Smith St.
Houston, TX 77006-6692
Cajun/Creole | $$$-$$$$

Under the direction of executive chef Joe Cervantez and general manager Carl Walker, this 50-plus-year-old restaurant has been firing on all cylinders. Staples like turtle soup, Gulf Fish Pontchartrain, and Bananas Foster remain staples, of course — that exact order would make for a very satisfying three-course meal — but the restaurant shows a broader concern for modern Texas fare with more smoked elements and an expanded selection of shellfish, including seafood towers. 

The bar remains a very pleasant dining option for those who prefer not to be quite as dressed up as the dining room typically requires, and "wine guy" Marcus Gausepohl makes sure the cellar stays stocked with the proper French varietals to pair with the food. Proprietor Alex Brennan-Martin's sky-high standards for service and consistency explain why many of Houston's top restaurants are staffed by Brennan's alumni. 

Courtesy of La Table
La Table
1800 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056
American | $$$-$$$$

Two restaurant in one, La Table offers diners the choice of an upscale fine dining destination or a more casual French bistro. Upstairs, La Table Chateau serves refined food with elegant service that features tableside dishes like the can't-miss chicken for two. Downstairs, La Table Marche features an expansive bar and a shaded patio.

That the dining experience feels so refined shouldn't come as a surprise. Invest Hospitality, the New York-based company that runs the restaurant, also oversees all of legendary French chef Joël Robuchon’s American properties. 

MF Sushi
1401 Binz
Houston, TX 77004
Japanese | $$$-$$$$

This restaurant in the Museum District showcases the talents of chef-owner Chris Kinjo by putting him and his team on stage. With the fish cases integrated into the sushi counter instead of sitting on top of it, diners can watch every knife cut that goes into preparing each dish of their meal. Of course, the nigiri is impeccably fresh, and Kinjo's omakase dinners remain among the city's most thrilling dining experiences.

MF's prepared dishes, including light, crispy shrimp tempura and a barely seared tuna tataki salad, deliver, too. While the cocktails are delicious, those dollars might be better directed towards another couple pieces of nigiri; after all, that's what makes MF stand out from Houston's other sushi spots. 

Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
Feges BBQ
3 Greenway Plaza, Ste. C210
Houston, TX 77046
Barbecue | $-$$

After years of planning and pop-ups, chefs Erin Smith and Patrick Feges opened their barbecue joint. The menu mixes classic Central Texas-style meats with some of the Asian flavors Patrick soaked up during his time at both Underbelly and Southern Goods. Erin makes sure sides like sweet and spicy sprouts and Moroccan-spiced carrots are hearty enough to be a meal all by themselves. 

Saltillo Mexican Kitchen
5427 Bissonnet St., Ste. 200
Houston, TX 77081
Mexican | $$-$$$

This steakhouse and Mexican restaurant offers Bellaire diners an intimate dining experience. The menu preserves favorites from owner Carlos Abedrop's former restaurant, La Casa del Caballo, such as the spicy shrimp cocktail; Saltillo enchiladas; and signature whole ribeye cap — a four-plus-pound, $190 slab of beef that can easily feed six — while also introducing new chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes.

Enchiladas in mole are still among the best in Houston, and, at $11 for three, an excellent value. Margaritas nail the sweet-tart balance that defines the drink.

912 Saint Emanuel St.
Houston, TX 77003
Vietnamese | $-$$

Picking Houston's best Vietnamese restaurant is difficult — different restaurants excel at different dishes — but this EaDo staple might the city's most well-rounded. Staples like bo luc lac, crispy egg rolls, and bánh cuốn all rank among the finest examples in the city. The signature pulled duck salad should be on serious eater's Houston bucket list. The dining room is fairly bare bones, but the friendly service makes first-timers feel like regulars. 

Photo by Jenn Duncan Photography
Better Luck Tomorrow
544 Yale St.
Houston, TX 77007
New American | $$

Better Luck Tomorrow is certainly much more bar than restaurant — just check out the seasonal cocktails and lengthy wine list — but it’s worth considering as a dining destination, too. Just ask Bon Appetit and Food & Wine, both of which included it on their best new restaurants lists for 2018. Co-owner Justin Yu has created a menu that balances bar snacks with some of the vegetable-oriented dishes he's known for, and the greasy (in a good way) Party Melt has become a late-night staple. The food shines especially brightly at brunch, but the weekly pasta Tuesday special draws strong crowds, too. 

Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant
11768 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77072
Chinese | $$

Chinatown offers any number of places for a decadent seafood dinner, but Hai Cang's careful preparations have elevated it into one of the area's most reliable go-tos. Best known for its signature lobster preparations — ginger-scallion and salt and pepper are both must-order — the kitchen also turns out whole fish, steamed clams, and other ocean fare. Round out the meal with some sizzling short ribs and stir-fried pea shoots.

As with many other Chinatown restaurants, dining here with six or eight people is more fun than two or three, since it allows everyone to try more things and better distributes the cost. Round up some friends and make an occasion out of dinner.

Oporto Fooding House and Wine
125 W. Gray St.
Houston, TX 77019
Spanish | $$

Oporto's Greenway Plaza original location may be gone, but its Midtown sibling has been the better, more sophisticated option since it opened in 2015. Simply put, the restaurant, designed by Austin's Michael Hsu (Uchi, Understory), is gorgeous with extensive use of light-colored wood. 

As one would expect, the menu mostly consists of dishes that can be shared among the table, preferably with a bottle of wine from the extensive list. Recommended choices include the roasted oysters, seafood pizza, hangar steak, and chicken curry empanadas.

Photo by Jessica Matos
La Lucha
1801 N. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77008
Cajun/Creole | $$-$$$

The team of chef Bobby Matos and sommelier/general manager Matt Crawford has been a winning one for restaurateur Ford Fry at State of Grace, so it’s no surprise that this Heights restaurant has been a hit. A comprehensive set of interior renovations completely distinguishes the space from its former life as Hunky Dory, especially the reconfigured bar. Menu highlights include the roasted oysters, the buttery crawfish bread, and the fried chicken, which arrives both juicy and crispy. Crawford’s carefully chosen champagne list makes it a fun place to celebrate special occasions.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Ninfa's on Navigation
2704 Navigation Blvd.
Houston, TX 77003
Mexican | $$

Houstonians of a certain age will trade stories about seeing Mama Ninfa Laurenzo in the dining room of her eponymous restaurant, but even the restaurant credited with popularizing fajitas can't rest on its reputation. Under the direction of executive chef Alex Padilla and the ownership of Legacy Restaurants, Ninfa's has expanded its dining rooms, upgraded its kitchen with a wood-burning grill and oven, and even improved its parking. Yes, the fajitas, queso, and margaritas remain best in class, but it's Padilla's specials that really set the restaurant apart from other Tex-Mex restaurants. Breaking with tradition to order limited-time items like wood-roasted octopus or lamb barbacoa yields big rewards.

While the Laurenzo family has moved on to the growing El Tiempo chain, the original Ninfa's on Navigation remains a special place with a unique vibe. Credit that to the staff, many of whom have been there for years.

Les Ba'get
1717 W. 34th St., Ste. 800
Houston, TX 77018
Vietnamese | $$

Originally a food truck, Les Ba'get really came into its own with a move from its original home in Montrose to a larger space in Garden Oaks. Chef Cat Huynh uses high-quality, locally sourced ingredients that elevate staples like pho, spring rolls, and vermicelli above what's found in other restaurants. A sophisticated beverage program offers lots of pairing options, too.

Prices are a little higher than what diners are used to paying for this style of cuisine, but the flavor and elevated presentation more than justify the increased cost. 

Photo by Eric Sandler
Pinkerton's Barbecue
1504 Airline Dr.
Houston, TX 77009
Barbecue | $$

Grant Pinkerton has come a long way from tailgating before Longhorns football games. Now, his Heights barbecue joint turns out expertly cooked brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, sausage, and more. A full beverage program that includes both cocktails and a well-chosen selection of wines, as well as signature sides like jalapeno cheese rice and smoked duck and sausage jambalaya, make Pinkerton's a worthy dinner destination, too. 

Photo by Kimberly Park
Bernie's Burger Bus Bellaire (Closed)
5407 Bellaire Blvd.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Burgers | $-$$

From a bus serving burgers at Lizard’s Pub to four brick-and-mortar restaurants, there’s no stopping chef Justin Turner’s sophisticated burger concept. Bernie’s makes everything (except its buns) in house: all of its sauces, including ketchup, pickles, and its custom-blended beef patties. While the Detention, a double cheeseburger that uses grilled cheese sandwiches for buns, gets all the likes on social media, no one can deny the simple pleasure of a classic Principal burger: the slow-roasted garlic tomatoes really tie the whole sandwich together.

The chef’s relentless desire for excellence means he’s constantly tweaking the menu and adding specials to keep people coming back for more. 

Courtesy photo
Maison Pucha Bistro
1001 Studewood St.
Houston, TX 77008
French | $$-$$$

This restaurant from chef Manuel Pucha and his brothers Cristian and Victor aims to be a neighborhood-friendly addition to The Heights. The menu blends French classics like lobster bisque, duck confit, and steak frites with a few nods to the family’s Ecuadorian heritage like shrimp ceviche. Victor’s signature black and white chocolate souffle ranks as one of the city's best desserts, and a well-priced wine list created with assistance from consultant Shepard Ross offers plenty of good choices.

Courtesy photo
Blackbird Izakaya (Closed)
1221 W. 11th St.
Houston, TX 77008
Japanese |

At a time when ambitious Japanese concepts from both local and out-of-town operators seem to be on an upswing, this casual spot from veteran restaurateur Ken Bridge (Ritual, Lola’s Diner, etc.) and chef Billy Kin remains highly satisfying. With a compelling menu of well-priced raw items, skewers, entrees, and more, Blackbird serves as either a place to get a quick snack and a beer or an elaborate, multi-course meal. Bridge has said before that he considers the space at 1221 W. 11th St. to be a test kitchen for different ideas; let’s hope this one sticks around for awhile.

Photo by Julie Soefer
The Classic (Closed)
5922 Washington Ave.
Houston, TX 77007
New American | $$-$$$

Credit restaurateur Benjy Levit for realizing it was time for a change at the Washington Avenue location of Benjy’s. The new restaurant features a fresh take on a range of staple dishes — everything from matzo ball soup and steak tartare to roast chicken and a solid cheeseburger. In addition to the new menu, an all-new look feels lighter and brighter than before, which helps makes the restaurant equally enticing for a casual weeknight dinner or a decadent weekend brunch.

Courtesy photo
B&B Butchers and Restaurant
1814 Washington Ave.
Houston, TX 77007
Deli | $$$-$$$$

Benjamin Berg's steakhouse on Washington Ave. has been packed since day one thanks to the combination of the rustic charm of its setting in the historic Dittman Building and a throwback menu that includes classic dishes like beef Wellington, prime rib, and crab Louie. While the retro touches are welcome, B&B also serves a full range of dry-aged cuts, including USDA Prime, Texas wagyu, and even authentic Kobe from Japan. 

Smooth service, an eclectic wine list, and a second-story patio that provides a dramatic view of the downtown skyline all help set it apart from other steakhouses.

Photo by Eric Sandler
One Dragon
9310 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77036
Chinese | $-$$

Arguments about which restaurant serves Houston's best soup dumplings may not erupt as frequently as best burgers or barbecue, but most passionate diners have their favorite place. One Dragon is our nominee. The xiao long bao have thin skins and a fragrant, intensely pork-flavored broth that makes it easy to slurp down three or four. Round out the meal with some crispy bottom pork bao, Ma-Po tofu, and stir-fried pea shoots.  

Arnaldo Richards' Picos
3601 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
Mexican | $$-$$$

The new Picos is bigger than the southwest Houston original and sports a more luxurious interior. Chef-owner Arnaldo Richards has added a few new dishes to the menu from the 30-year-old original location. While it's hard to resist old favorites like chilorio or cochinita pibil, new dishes like osso bucco and duck in mole sauce are not to be missed. The Sunday brunch buffet offers an extensive selection at a reasonable price of $30.  

Richards' daughter Monica serves as beverage director, and her additions to Pico's lineup of signature shaker margaritas are a worthy addition to the family legacy. 

Photo by Carla Gomez
1201 Saint Emanuel St.
Houston, TX 77003
New American | $$-$$$

Chef Paul Lewis, working with Agricole partners Ryan Pera and Vincent Huynh, incorporates an eclectic array of influences into Indianola's crowd-pleasing menu. Anchored by flavorful interpretations of classic dishes like chicken and rice and ricotta gnudi, the restaurant also gets playful with throwback dishes like ham dip and blue crab imperial. A well-priced wine list, cocktails by sister concept Miss Carousel, and a comfortable dining room make it easy to linger.

Photo by Eric Sandler
Gatlin's BBQ
3510 Ella Blvd.
Houston, TX 77018
Barbecue | $$

Pitmaster Greg Gatlin's Garden Oaks outpost constitutes a comprehensive upgrade from the old days on 19th Street, including in the kitchen. Brisket, pork ribs, and sausage are more consistently well-executed than ever before, and the signature sides — dirty rice, green beans, and mac and cheese — taste just a little better than ever. Already ranked by Texas Monthly as one of the state's top 50 barbecue joints, Gatlin's collaboration with executive chef Michelle Wallace has produced a slew of new menu items, including creative sandwiches and a smoked seafood gumbo that's a must-order every time it shows up on the specials board. 

Photo by Julie Soefer
Local Foods
2424 Dunstan Rd.
Houston, TX 77005
New American | $$

This sandwich concept from proprietor Benjy Levit and chef Dylan Murray has grown to five locations on the strength of its creative sandwiches, seasonal sides, and sophisticated design. Menu staples like the "crunchy" chicken, truffled egg salad, and Gulf shrimp and crab all have devoted fans. Salads that utilize the same locally sourced ingredients are also available. Over the years, each location has evolved to include a few unique elements, typically in the form of dinner-only menu items. 

Aga's Restaurant & Catering
11842 Wilcrest Dr.
Houston, TX 77031
Indian | $$

The groups of people waiting outside testify to the quality of this southwest Houston restaurant. Diners will find an almost intimidating list of Indo-Pak favorites to choose from. Start with the signature goat chops, shrimp biryani, and some garlic naan. Add a curry or two. Service is fast and efficient, meaning that the wait to eat will be over quickly. 

Photo by Danh Phan
The Rice Box - River Oaks
1111 Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77019
Chinese | $-$$

John Peterson describes his restaurant as "Chinese takeout from the future," and it's easy to see why. With food inspired by both traditional Chinese American food and trips to China, plus a designed influenced by Blade Runner, this restaurant offers a lot of value and style. The River Oaks flagship sets a new standard for the Rice Box courtesy of its upgraded design; improved ingredients (the beef now comes from 44 Farms); and an expanded menu that includes more noodle dishes, dumplings, soup, and, for the first time, dessert.  

Aladdin Mediterranean Cuisine
912 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern | $

With locations in Montrose and Oak Forest, this Mediterranean cafe serves up an appealing array of vegetables, skewered meats, and freshly baked pita. Rich and meaty, the lamb shank is a signature item. Best of all, most people will eat for $15 or less, and BYOB makes it easy to enjoy a meal with an affordable bottle of wine. 

Photo by Chuck Cook
Phat Eatery
23119 Colonial Pkwy., Ste. B2
Katy, TX 77449
Chinese | $-$$

Chef Alex Au-Yeung's bold flavors and creative dishes have made this Katy restaurant a hit. Diners who are new to the cuisine should consider staples like roti with chicken curry, satay skewers, and laksa. Those with more adventurous palates will find the chef's funky bak kut teh (pork ribs with pig trotters and stomach) to be a delightful mix of textures and flavors. No wonder Au-Yeung is already contemplating a second location.

Photo courtesy of Landry’s, Inc. Signature Group
Vic & Anthony's
1510 Texas Ave.
Houston, TX 77002
Steakhouses | $$$-$$$$

If only for its crab cake — a magical dish full of lump crab that manages to hold together with hardly any filling thanks to its chive beurre blanc — this downtown steakhouse from Landry's Restaurants would rank among Houston's very best. Of course, there's also a full menu of USDA Prime, Texas akaushi from HeartBrand Beef, and even Japanese wagyu to consider. Picking a favorite side is difficult, but the creamed spinach and duck fat potatoes are particularly strong. 

Courtesy photo
1801 N. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77008
Mexican | $$

Superica's Texan founders, chefs Ford Fry and Kevin Maxey, blend a deep love for the cuisine with elevated technique. By focusing on getting the details right — the tortillas, salsas, and queso are all first-rate — Superica gives Houston another essential destination for fajitas, enchiladas, and frozen margaritas. Pro tip: Don't miss the incredibly light pancakes on the brunch menu. 

Photo by Eric Sandler
12665 Memorial Dr.
Houston, TX 77024
Japanese | $$-$$$

No restaurant in Houston feels more like dining in Japan than this Memorial restaurant. From the shouted greetings upon entering the dining room to the menu of sushi, yakitori skewers, and noodles, the entire dining experience is designed to transport diners. Recommended dishes include the fried pork skewers, the ground chicken meat skewers with egg yolk, sea scallop skewers, and whatever nigiri is on special that day. Pairing the food with a cold Asahi or two is optional but definitely encouraged.

Courtesy photo
Melange Creperie
711 Heights Blvd., #B
Houston, TX 77007
Coffee Shops | $-$$

"Buffalo" Sean Carroll has come a long way since his days slinging crepes from a cart on a Montrose street corner. Now, he and his wife and business partner, Tish Ochoa, operate a chic cafe in The Heights with an expanded menu of crepes, salads, and sandwiches. Teaching the staff to make crepes like banana-Nutella or ham, egg, and Cheddar in his Parisian-street style is one thing, but the real trick is that Carroll has taught them to create their own version of his signature patter — the "heck yeahs" and "alrights" that helped make a stop at Melange so memorable.

The menu continues to draw inspiration from Houston's immigrant communities, which means diners could face the difficult decision of choosing between carnitas, satay, or Ethiopian-inspired wat varieties.

Courtesy of Alma Latina
Alma Latina
2203 N. Shepherd Dr.
Houston, TX 77008
Mexican | $$

Sometimes it feels like it's impossible to find Tex-Mex restaurants inside the Loop that are both affordable and satisfying, but Alma Latina will satisfy just about any craving. Most of the restaurant's entrees cost less than $15, and the lunch menu features over a dozen appealing choices for less than $10. Picking a favorite is hard, but diners who choose classics like enchiladas de mole, beef fajitas, or any of the combination plates will leave happy. 

Tiger Noodle House
21945 Katy Fwy.
Katy, TX 77450
Chinese | $$

The explosion of Sichuan restaurants across the Houston area has been one of the more pleasant trends of the past few years. This Katy restaurant has been successful enough to spawn a sister location in Rice Village. Credit for the acclaim goes to its flavorful dishes, including grilled whole fish, Sichuan spicy chicken, and flavorful soup dumplings. The friendly service helps, too.

Photo by Adrian Verde
1014 Wirt Rd
Houston, TX 77055
Burgers | $-$$

Husband-and-wife duo Sara and Paul “Buff” Burden have a straightforward ethos for their three restaurants. Start with great ingredients like 44 Farms beef and buns that are baked in house. Then add thoughtful toppings like goat cheese from Pure Luck Farms, mango chutney, and espresso barbecue sauce. Sides like housemade tater tots, non-beef options like a great fried chicken breast, and a tempting mix of beverage options (boozy and not) mean BuffBurger offers something for just about everyone.


Roegels Barbecue Company
2223 S. Voss Rd.
Houston, TX 77057
Barbecue | $$

Roegels is decidely a family affair, with husband Russell tending the pits and wife Misty overseeing sides and desserts, including her peerless bourbon banana pudding. Originally a Baker's Ribs franchisee, the Roegels broke away to serve more flavorful Central Texas-style 'cue. The results include recognition by Texas Monthly as one of the state's top barbecue joints and a devoted following for weekly specials like pastrami on Thursdays. 

Photo by Michael Ma Photography
449 W. 19th St.
Houston, TX 77008
Vegetarian | $$

All but the most militant meat-a-saurus will find something to like at chef-owner Stephanie Hoban’s stylish cafe in the Heights Waterworks development. For example, the krabby patty sandwich utilizes jackfruit and artichoke to mimic the texture of a crab cake. The orange cauliflower’s sweet and spicy chili sauce is a very satisfying substitute for General Tso’s. With a stylish interior and a full selection of beer and wine, Verdine is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon or evening.

Roostar Vietnamese Grill
5551 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77056
Vietnamese | $

At their locations near The Galleria and in Spring Branch, owners Linda and Ronnie Nguyen exceed diners’ expectations for the humble banh mi with their flavorful meats and toppings — and the sneaky good soups. Picking a favorite isn't easy, but barbecue pork with pate yields an appealing mix of flavors and textures in every bite. The couple takes pride in their customer service, and a well-chosen selection of craft beer makes the restaurant an appealing dinner destination. 

Photo by Eric Sandler
Pho Binh by Night
12148 Bellaire Blvd., Ste. 101
Houston, TX 77072
Vietnamese | $$

Pho is nourishing at any time of day, but it's especially satisfying at night, especially after a couple of drinks. This restaurant at the western edge of Chinatown sets itself apart with its aromatic, aggressively spiced broth that's redolent with notes of clove and five spice. The ability to add a side of luscious bone marrow ups the richness of the thin, cloudy broth. Shrimp egg rolls and Vietnamese chicken salad (goi ga) serve as satisfying starters, especially when dining in a group.

Photo by Tangelo
Common Bond
1706 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77098
Bakeries | $

This Montrose cafe may have settled into a comfortable middle age — and spawned sister locations near the Medical Center and in The Heights (coming fall 2019) — but it remains a popular destination for both its viennoiserie, leavened breakfast pastries like croissants and kouign amann, as well as cookies, cakes, macarons, and other treats. On the savory side, the restaurant quietly serves one of the best Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches in the city, and the well-priced dinner menu makes it an appealing option for a casual weeknight meal. 

1834 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77019
Bakeries | $-$$

In some ways, no restaurant better illustrates the concept of a neighborhood restaurant than Paulie's. This casual, counter-service concept on Westheimer serves straightforward, Italian-American food, but consistent execution and close attention to small details are just two of the many reasons Paulie's has become a favorite spot for so many people in Houston's restaurant industry. Instead of buying dried pasta, Paulie's makes its own. Carefully trained baristas serve locally roasted Greenway Coffee from a high-dollar espresso machine while providing friendly, efficient service. Of course, no meal would be complete without one of Paulie’s signature iced shortbread cookies.

Hubcap Grill-Heights
1133 19th St.
Houston, TX 77008
Burgers | $

Houston has become home to a number of sophisticated burger restaurants that are both homegrown and imported, but this five-unit mini chain remains popular for its over-the-top combinations. Signature items like the Philly Cheesesteak Burger (topped with thinly sliced ribeye, peppers, and Swiss) or the Muffaletta (homemade olive mix) provide excellent complements to the thin patties; sturdy buns that are engineered to withstand all the juices without disintegrating into mush are a model of baking genius. Hand-cut french fries come with almost as many possible toppings as the burgers, with the "stinky" (garlic and malt vinegar) being particularly satisfying. 

4721 N. Main St.
Houston, TX 77009
American | $-$$

Greenway Coffee owners David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto have opened a number of cafes over the years — Blacksmith, Tropicales, etc. — but their Heights outpost defines their vision for the mix of coffee, tea, food, and hospitality they hope to achieve. On the beverage side, Morningstar serves both a full range of espresso drinks, as well as a matcha tea program designed for people who don't want to consume dairy. The eclectic doughnut offerings reflect Buehrer's esteem for the "Cambodian doughnut Jedis" that trained him and chef Carlos Belon. Legendary University of Houston architecture professor John Zemanek contributed to the cafe's minimal, industrial design. 

Weekend doughnut specials and recent menu additions like Japanese-style pancakes keep things interesting for regulars who want something new to snack on. 

Photo by Eric Sandler
Ramen Bar Ichi
1801 S. Dairy Ashford, Ste. 108
Houston, TX 77077
Japanese | $$

Houston has several options for great bowls of ramen, but this intimate restaurant next to Seiwa Market stands out for its rich, creamy broth, properly al dente noodles, and flavorful toppings. Pair that bowl of spicy tonkotsu with a wide range of appetizers, including vegetable dishes, izakaya-style raw dishes, and fried options like chicken kaarage and shrimp tempura. Limited seating means occasional waits for a table, but that's just an excuse to shop the market for something to take home.

Photo by Eric Sandler
Thien Thanh
11210 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77072
Vietnamese | $

Sometimes, a restaurant earns acclaim for one outstanding dish. Such is the case with Thien Thanh, which earned a spot in the Houston-themed episode of Netflix's Ugly Delicious for its incredible banh cuon. The delicate rice rolls are stuffed with savory barbecue and topped with fresh herbs, resulting in an irresistible mix of textures and flavors. Just be mindful of its early closing time and cash-only policy.

Photo courtesy of Pappasito's
Pappasito's - Richmond Ave.
6445 Richmond Ave.
Houston , TX 77057
Mexican | $$-$$$

With locations all over the city, Pappasito's has served fajitas, queso, margaritas, and more to generations of Houstonians. As with all Pappas concepts, quality, consistency, and generous portions are all staples of the dining experience. Half-price fajitas for two on Wednesdays pack the dining room; go early or late to take advantage of the deal. 

La Calle/Facebook
La Calle Tacos & Tortas
909 Franklin St.
Houston, TX 77002
Mexican | $-$$

Ramon Soriano Tomka opened La Calle (Spanish for "the street") to serve the authentic street-style tacos and tortas he grew up eating. Available in flour or corn tortillas, the tacos come filled with options ranging from pastor and barbacoa to shrimp, nopales, and more at very affordable prices. Want a drink? La Calle's companion cantina offers a full range of beer and cocktails.

Photo by Eric Sandler
Bamboo House
7855 N. Sam Houston Pkwy. E
Humble, TX 77396
Chinese | $$

Cooking excellent Peking duck requires serious culinary skill. The meat has to be juicy and the skin has to be crispy; in the wrong hands, it can turn into a greasy mess. Thankfully, this Humble restaurant nails the classic dish. Add in a few well-executed Sichuan dishes and hand-pulled noodles to create a restaurant that's worth the drive north. 

Photo by Paula Murphy
Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen Restaurant
2327 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056
Burgers | $$

From knishes to kishke to kasha, Kenny & Ziggy's serves both the full gamut of Old World, Eastern European Jewish comfort food, as well as a wide range of diner classics. As the movie Deli Man documented, Ziggy Gruber's Galleria-area restaurant isn't just good for Houston — it's among the best delis in the country. First-timers should start with classics like a pastrami on rye or a bagel and lox. Just save room for a massive slice of cheesecake.

Photo by Eric Sandler
369 Oriental Bistro
1009 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Chinese | $$

Every neighborhood needs a reliable restaurant that serves classic Chinese American food like General Tso's chicken, fried dumplings, and spring rolls. In Montrose, that's 369 Oriental Bistro. Best known for its signature spicy fried asparagus, the restaurant delivers high-quality versions of classic dishes at reasonable prices. Reasonably priced lunch specials make it a particularly appealing choice for a midday meal. 

4848 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
New American | $$-$$$

For a 40-plus-year-old chain restaurant, Houston’s has been attracting a lot of buzz. James Beard Award winner Justin Yu recently gave the restaurant a shout out in the Houston Chronicle, praising it for consistent execution and friendly service. He’s not alone; diners who pop in for dinner on a Sunday or Monday night are likely to find chefs, bartenders, and servers from some of the city’s best restaurants chowing down on prime rib and knocking back a couple of perfectly executed martinis. To steal a line from one of the '80s most accomplished poets, it’s hip to be square — and to eat at Houston’s.