For people outside of the area, the Houston dining scene is probably a bit of a mystery. There's no one single restaurant or style of cuisine that carries the city's food banner on a national level. But anyone from the area will tell you – when it comes to eating out, Houston is booming.These are the 15 best restaurants in Houston.
So why is Houston’s culinary culture such a hidden-in-plain-sight gem? In 2005, the H ouston Chronicle published a report detailing why eating out in Houston is so frequently both cheap and delicious. And there truly is no easy answer. Their reasoning including everything from the city’s lax zoning laws to its highly-developed freeway network.
But our list is less concerned with the factors that led USA Today to call Houston "the dining-out capital of the nation" than where you can find the city's best meals. While compiling this list, we dug up everything from fancy Italian dining at Da Marco Cucina E Vino, Modern American tasting menus at The Pass, and upscale farm-to-table dishes at Oxheart, to Hubcap Grill and Beer Yard, a folksy burger spot complete with a horseshoe pit.
There are also several restaurants imprinted with distinctly Houstonian touches, including Brennan’s of Houston, with its Texas Creole cuisine, Reef, with seafood that takes full advantage of the city’s proximity to the coast, world-class Tex Mex at Hugo's Regional Mexican Cuisine, and Killen’s Steakhouse, which proves what we had already assumed – Texas is a place where people know a good steak when they see one.
There's also farm-to-table spot Underbelly, with its ambitious slogan "the story of Houston food," which borrows flavors from the city's large Vietnamese large population and prominently features local ingredients.
In order to assemble our ranking of the best restaurants in Houston, we first consulted our rankings of the 101 Best Restaurants in America, the 50 Best Casual Restaurants in America, America’s Best Steakhouses, and The 101 Best Burgers in America. We also supplemented our list with pre-existing rankings in both print and online from some of Houston’s leading authorities, including Houston Press, Houstonia, Ketchup on Restaurants, Houston Chronicle, Culinary Houston, and H Town Chowdown. So, without further ado, here are the best burgers, tacos, Texas steaks, fresh pastas, sushi rolls, foie gras, and more Houston has to offer.
15) Brennan's of Houston
You’ll find bananas foster, turtle soup, shrimp remoulade, and anything else you’d expect from an upscale Texas Creole dining experience at Brennan’s of Houston – an institution that’s been receiving raves from both locals and visitors for 40 years. In addition to the top-notch takes on Southern favorites, Brennan’s is renowned for its beautifully decorated and comfortable dining area, as well as its Southern hospitality – Zagat has awarded Brennan’s top honors in Houston for both Service and Décor.
14) Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
Fast casual dining is elevated at Upper Kirby’s Giacomo's Cibo E Vino, where renowned Houston chef Lynette Hawkins delivers Italian classics like potato gnocchi with gorgonzola and cured meats carefully seasoned and served on small plates – and all made from scratch, of course. In addition to the vino selection – as ample as you’d expect given the name – you can choose from a selection of amped up Italian cocktails, like dry lambrusco with blood orange juice and citrus.
Want more Houston content? Find it here. For more great restaurant coverage in other cities, check out our rankings of the best restaurants in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Austin, New Orleans, and San Francisco.