The 15 Best Restaurant's in Houston (Slideshow)

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 – 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 amped up Italian cocktails like dry lambrusco with blood orange juice and citrus.

13) Hubcap Grill and Beer Yard

Fancy French fare this ain’t, as indicated by the name. With menu items that feature the likes of sodium-bomb snack favorites like Fritos and Cheetos, a burger quite appropriately named the “Quadruple Heart Clogger,” and an outdoor dining area that features picnic tables, a bean bag toss, and horseshoe pit, Hubcap is the kind of blue collar joint that knows exactly what it is. So how does this burger shack rank among the top spots in Houston? Mouthwatering burgers with hand cut fries and buns baked on site. Even when your food could be regarded as lowbrow, it always pays flavorful dividends when you refuse to cut corners.

12) Down House

Houston Height’s local and seasonal-focused American Bistro Down House hits a wide range of sweets spots, from their chicken and waffles – which many consider to be the best in town – to shrimp tacos and kimchi burgers. Down House is also well-regarded for its eclectic cocktail menu, although if you plan to booze there come prepared – the restaurant has a special license for serving drinks in the “dry” Houston Heights area, but you need to be a card-carrying member of their drinking club.

11) Triniti

Instead of just serving meals, Triniti cultivates a full dining experience for anyone in Houston looking for adventurous New American fare. Foie gras pancakes, duck served with confit cinnamon roll and sweet potato puree, and veal sweetbreads with miso butterscotch, are just a few of the creative dinner items found on executive chef Ryan Hildebrand and chef de cuisine Greg Lowry’s menu. But the next level American food only makes for about half of Triniti’s appeal – the distinctive, metal-heavy look scored a James Beard Award nomination for restaurant design in 2013.

10) The Pass and Provisions

The Pass and Provisions covers casual and upscale with its two distinctive concepts in one space. Provisions provides pizzas, pastas, sandwiches – and other lowkey selections they can cook in their wood-burning oven – and a creative brunch menu that includes selections like eggs with braised short rib and mushroom gravy. The Pass, on the other hand, is classic upscale dining done right. Take your pick between prix fixe five and eight course tasting menus, with elegantly plated Modern American dishes like foie gras with steam buns.

9) Da Marco Cucina E Vino

There’s a time for cheap eats. But paying top dollar for high quality and not spending too much time sweating the total cost – like Tony Sopranos running up a bill at Vesuvio – also has its place. Da Marco Cucina E Vino is just that kind of eat-now-sweat-the-bill-later kind of Italian spot. With its straight-ahead Italian menu featuring homemade pastas and fresh cuts of lamb, veal, and fish, Da Marco has received numerous accolades including a near-perfect 29 rating for food by Zagat, and a 2006 notice by Gourmet magazine as one of the 50 best restaurants in America.

8) MF Sushi

Following the closing of his beloved Atlanta restaurant MF Buckhead, sushi master Chris Kinjo opened MF Sushi in an unassuming strip mall in 2012. In just a few months, MF Sushi had already earned a devoted Houston following, full of eaters opting to go “omakase” and let the chef choose their meals, which feature perfectly seasoned rice and artistically plated, flavorful fish.

7) Reef

Peer into Reef's buzzing open kitchen to watch renowned chef and devoted Houstonite Bryan Caswell expertly craft elegant, fresh seafood dishes that show his patrons the true meaning of Southern coastal culture. Caswell grew to fame under culinary greats like Charlie Palmer, Alfred Portale, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Thoughtful touches, such as presenting the lump crab lollipop with claw intact, express Caswell's devotion to the ocean. — Jess Kapadia, 2/18/11

6) Killen's Steakhouse

With some of the best plates in the Texas area, Killen’s Steakhouse attracts a hungry crowd. Some of their fan favorites include the panko breaded and fried asparagus with lump crab in a lemon butter sauce for starters, the Strube ranch beef from Pittsburg, Texas, the chicken fried sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and string beans, and the Broken Arrow Ranch venison chop with blueberry sausage and sweet corn risotto.

5) RDG + Bar Anni

A next generation version of the James Bear Award-winning Café Annie, RDG + Bar Annie, which took the torch from its predecessor five years ago, is still one of the area’s best restaurants for any kind of cuisine. Chef Robert Del Grande’s American-Southwestern dishes like coffee roasted filet of beef with smoked cheddar crepe, and cinnamon roasted pheasant with mushrooms, please adventurous diners and push palates of entry-level eaters to exciting new places. The Bar Annie menu features upscale and inventive takes on bar food, like yellowtail sashimi nachos and rabbit enchiladas.

4) Kata Robata

Delicious, creative, and reasonably priced, Kata Robata offers everything you’d want in a Japanese restaurant. While classic sushi preparations and signature rolls are spectacular, you can’t miss the winning plated dishes from chef Manabu Horiuchi, including miso lobster macaroni and cheese, uni chawanmushi, miso-crusted bone marrow, fresh catch ceviche, and grilled beef tongue. Save room for dessert; the toasted rice crème brûlée is a true standout. 

3) Oxheart

While many restaurants in Houston might be concerned with the patron’s comfort level, Oxheart is less concerned with the actual diner, and more concerned with perfecting the dining experience. Because executive chef Kevin Yu’s culinary experience was learned from the time he spent in Europe, bright colors and unique shapes aesthetically inspire most of Oxheart’s dishes.

Even though the only option is a tasting menu of four or seven courses, Oxheart’s dishes are created simply with locally grown and fresh ingredients. Oxheart’s ambiance also helps redefine the traditional fine dining experience. The restaurant only has two tables with 30 seats with no waiting area. The spray-painted walls and stack of vinyl records around the restaurant present a warm and homey feel to an already unconventional way of dining. Nonetheless, Oxheart’s intimate setting as well as its deliciously exotic dishes makes it a truly revolutionary dining experience for all goers. --Dana Kaufman

2) Underbelly

Houston’s dining scene may still be a secret to culinary outsiders, but it won't be for much longer — thanks to chefs like Chris Shepard. He insisted on an in-house butcher shop here in his first restaurant, and he works with Houston’s finest ranchers and farmers for the best possible product. Underbelly’s farm-to-table approach isn’t the only thing that makes it stand out in a sea of Houston restaurants; though, the restaurant is dedicated to telling "the culinary story" of its city, reaching back all the way to its Creole roots. Expect dishes like homemade charcuterie with pickles and toast, Vietnamese-style meatballs with gravy and a baguette, and grilled shrimp with Texas grapefruit and barrel-aged fish sauce.

1) Hugo's Regional Mexican Cuisine

Some 12 years after opening, Hugo’s has become somewhat of a Houston institution; a Mexican standout in a land in love with Tex-Mex. There’s a robust menu, a collection of regional Mexican dishes to which Ortega gives modern flourishes – consider duck carnitas tacos, crusted chicken breast with peanut mole, and grilled rainbow trout stuffed with seafood tamal topped with pipián rojo. There’s also a seasonal menu, but you may want to take cues from The Chronicle’s Allison Cook and Houstonia Magazine’s Robb Walsh, who have singled out between them notable dishes like chile and garlic-braised lamb barbacoa that’s slow-roasted in agave skin, octopus al carbon, and the  beef cheeks with pasilla chile sauce.