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Not to be missed restaurants in Houston!

I will be in Houston for a week in August and want to eat the best Houston has to offer. I need recs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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  1. Da Marco's ( (Italian), lunch & dinner
    Le Mistral (french), lunch, dinner & brunch
    Rainbow Lodge (new american, wild game) lunch dinner and brunch
    Voice (new american) breakfast, dinner
    Reef (seafood) lunch, dinner
    Catalan (spanish?) lunch, dinner
    Hugo's (mexican-not tex mex) lunch, dinner, brunch
    Textile (new american) dinner
    Feast (british) lunch, dinner
    Charivari (european) lunch, dinner

    Off the top of my head, and all pretty upscale.

    7 Replies
    1. re: danhole

      Thanks for the recs, now on to the websites to check out the menus.

      1. re: Bayareafoodiei

        Here's the website for Mary'z - excellent Lebanese food:


      2. re: danhole


        Since I know most of the CH Houston crowd Twitters and has their own website. Here is a requirement for you.

        Not to be missed restaurants that are on the cheap ($20 and less). I don't care about libations as my wife and I always drink water.
        I have all the taco trucks from Robb Walsh.
        Phoenicia Deli

        What are some others?

        1. re: LewisvilleHounder

          Marini's would easily fit that bill. I love their empanadas and haven't gotten a chance to hit Don Panza yet, so been curious to see how the two compare.

          1. re: air

            Is there a Marini's in Houston proper other than the one out in Katy? Also is tthe Katy the one to go to for the best empanadas. I believe you know I am after quality over convenience. I would drive to Katy if the quality and flavor is better. I have always wanted to go but never had the chance.

            I believe this weekend we will hit up a few tacos trucks (on Robb Walsh's list), Cafe Caspian, Phoenicia Deli, Marinis, and perhaps V's Thai. I would love to go to Indika but our budget just isn't having that. I would rather blow it on Cafe Caspian....I have a very good source for Indian in Dallas and it is not a restaurant.

            1. re: LewisvilleHounder

              Marini's opened an additional location in the Westchase area, around Westheimer and Briarpark. I've only been to the Katy location though. I have heard that family members have been seen operating both locations, and I'd hope both are exactly the same.

              I know this is a bit out of budget, but if you're at V's on a friday night, you should get the buffet. Most of the dishes there aren't on the menu. V will make anything much spicier if you ask.

          2. re: LewisvilleHounder

            Ha ha! I don't twitter, but I can give you a couple links to blogs that have some recs. Not saying I agree with all of it, and haven't eaten at a lot of them, but FWIW here are a couple:



            Also if you go to the Eating Our Words blog on the Houston Press they have a category for $7, $13, and recession tips.

            Hope this helps.


        2. What kind of food are you drawn too? What part of the country are u coming in from? What part of Houston will u be staying?

          1. Himalaya for sure. I don't care if you have a good source, it is awesome IMO.
            I would do Vieng Thai on Long Point instead of V's.
            For breakfast La Guadalupuna on Dunlavy I believe? Or Huarache Azteca in stafford. Both are mex breakfast.
            Little Bigs burgers for awesome fries and good burger.
            Xiongs on Bellaire for great Dumplings.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jscarbor

              So how was your experience like? There is only one reason I can see someone disliking the food: you happened to eat there when V wasn't in the kitchen. Rare occasion though.

              Also I have yet to see anyone else share their thoughts on V's besides myself, the regulars who have posted on B4-U-Eat, and Robb Walsh. And another anecdote: My friend who first brought me to V's lives closer to Vieng Thai. We used to go there whenever we craved Thai and after finding out about V's, we haven't been back ever since.

              1. re: air

                I didn't say I disliked it...I just think Vieng Thai is better. The penang is the best I have ever had, the salads have more kick, and they have some more funky selections like sar tor.
                Isn't b4-u-eat kind of like Zagats?

              2. re: jscarbor

                Tampico on Airline is a musty as well. The whole grilled snapper. Skip the add on's like shrimp unless you really want it because the fish is the main attraction.

              3. Here's my two cents, as someone who moved from NYC a year ago. Italian here, on the whole, is very average. Da Marco's is good for Houston, but likely much better in San Francisco. My recommendations:

                Breakfast (besides the breakfast taco stands that others will know about far more than me):

                1) Empire Cafe -- pretty good brunch fare in an excellent atmosphere
                2) Whataburger's potato taquitos --- I might get a lot of flack on this board for recommending this fast food, but the potato taquitos are one of the best breakfast items I've had in my dozens of brunches in New York and Houston. The difference in textures, salty, and sweet, with the tortilla, eggs, cheese, and fried (this is key) hashbrowns is otherworldly in my opinion.

                1) Mark's -- Excellent New American and the Fleur de Lys of Houston (not as good as the best of San Francisco, but excellent nonetheless)
                2) Hugo's--Fantastic Mexican Food
                3) Indika's-- Truly innovative and unique Indian. The top-flight Indian chef uses southwestern ingedients to make authentic Indian cuisine. Great atmosphere to boot.
                4) Kanowan-- One of the best Thai restaurants I've ever been to.
                5) China View on Katy Freeway-- Okay, this one is special. I think New York City, despite it's large Chinatown, has largely inferior Chinese food. I know from San Francisco, you are spoiled, but this place is fantastic. The chef, despite it's shared parking lot with a La Quinta Inn, is a true master, with a very unique take on modern Chinese cuisine-- my favorite: salt and pepper-baked tofu with an apple cider soy sauce.
                6) Ninfa's on Navigation--Lots of people on this board will say that it's not the same as it once was--which is likely true--but coming from New York City, where Tex-Mex is non-existent, this place was a revelation, and head over heels above any other Tex-Mex I've tried in Houston. Others might have their own Tex Mex favorites, but I'd go to at least one Tex-Mex on your trip.
                7) Goode & Co. BBQ---excellent BBQ in a central location--I especially like their smoked duck. Pecan pie is fantastic there too

                Other places I'd look into:
                Van Loc --for excellent Vietnamese (Houston has a large Vietnamese population)
                Grimaldi's --a bit of a trek in Sugar Land, but one of New York's best pizzerias just opened its first outpost in the country in Sugar Land, and it's just as good as the original.

                7 Replies
                1. re: sethnavajo

                  I have to agree that China View is an excellent choice.

                  I have never had the smoked duck at Goode Co., but I don't like the BBQ at all. Go to Pierson's & co, on T C Jester.

                  1. re: danhole

                    I had the duck at Goode Co. and I think it suffered from the same problem the rest of their barbque does, dried out and too much mesquite "flavor." To the Barbecue Inn post below I'll add fried oysters and the chicken fried steak. They sure know how to fry there.

                    1. re: James Cristinian

                      I really think the chicken fried steak at Barbecue Inn is one of the best I have ever had - but add lots of pepper to the gravy. It's a bit sweet. The pepper takes care of that, though! I have heard Triple A is actually better but I haven't tried it yet.

                      James, thanks for the heads up on the duck at Goode Co. I really like duck, but I don't like dried up poultry in any form!

                      1. re: James Cristinian

                        I'll have to try to oysters next time I'm there. Too bad I'm not a fan of cfs. I also recommend the fried oyster or shrimp po/boy at Jazzies Cafe on 19th. Like it better than B&Bs on Montrose and it is half the price! I hear they have a soft shell crab one now too, in season.

                    2. re: sethnavajo

                      I tried to go to China View but I could not stoop to actually order anything. I took one glance of the dining room and one glance of the menu, Americanized. My wife and I have been eating our way around the authentic Chinese restaurants in Dallas for quite some time. Our favorite and still unbeaten is Little Sichuan in Plano. Little Sichuan does have spicy dishes but also very light dishes as in fresh sauteed vegetables out of a restaurant owned garden. They also have seasonal white board dishes that rotate every few weeks.

                      We ended up going to Sichuan Cuisine but it is on par with Sichuanese in Plano. The dishes are a bit greasy but the flavors are almost a dead match. I like the idea of the Sichuan All You Can Eat Hot Pot. My wife and I ordered Dragon Wontons, Ma Po Tofu, Vegetable Trio in a Spicy Garlic Sauce and Fried Pig Intestines in Dried Chilies.

                      The Ma Po Tofu was a fairly common Sichuan dish and had the exact same flavors of Sichuanese. The serving size and price are a bit better as it is served enough for about four people in a Pyrex pie dish.

                      The Vegetable Trio in a Spicy Garlic Sauce had a well balance of sweet from the eggplant, spicy from the chili oil and savory from the garlic. This was our favorite dish.

                      The Dragon Wontons were ten small pork filled wontons in a light sauce of black seasame oil, black vinegar, and soy sauce.

                      The pork intestines had a nice crisp to them but had somewhat of an odd flavor as some offal meats do. The intestines were fried up with about a full pound of dried chilies, green onions, Sichuan peppercorns, chili oil and garlic. The amount of chilies was really unnecessary as no person would actually eat that many chilies. I am a chili head and I didn't eat half of them.

                      1. re: sethnavajo

                        Interesting to see the city from the perspective of a New Yorker. I'm making a note of your favorites for Chinese, Thai, Indian and Italian.

                        And I also appreciate the tip about the duck at Goode Co. As a Texan, I think their brisket, ribs and sausage and "sauce" are embarrassingly awful and it's my fervent hope that I never have to go there again.

                        But if for some reason I am forced to, I'll definitely try the duck.

                        So thanks.

                        1. re: sethnavajo

                          Cafe 101 on Westheimer has really good "Americanized Chinese." And they deliver!

                        2. As a fairly recent transplant from the Bay Area (and on the poorer side of the income scale), I highly recommend some of my Houston favorites:

                          Barbacoa and huevos rancheros: La Jaliciense on Yale and 14th.
                          Lengua tacos at El Ultimo Taco truck on Antoine and Long Point
                          Jellyfish/seafood salad at Vietnamese resturant Que Huong on Wilcrest and Beechnut
                          Palak Paneer and naan at Himalaya on Hilcroft and 59
                          Fried chicken and fried shrimp at The Barbeque Inn on Crosstimbers and ?
                          Quiche and biscuit with red eye ham at T'afia Sat morn market

                          You won't find better good pizza outside of the SFBA so I wouldn't bother. But the above restaurants have kept us going for the last year. Have fun! Love it for what it is!

                          1. Segari's on Shepherd for fried shrimp. Its on the more expensive side of fried shrimp but it is the best I have had.

                            1. My can't miss in Houston for overall meal and experience is T'afia. While there are a few dishes there I could have skipped, it is overall a fantastic experience, especially given that it's in the middle of BBQ and Tex-Mex country!
                              I wouldn't call them "can't miss" options, but other options for a quick bite, lunch, etc include Istanbul Grill and the huge marketplace Central Market (you could pick up some ready made options, or pick up meats, cheeses, fruit, and make your own lunch) My favorite for morning relaxation with coffee is Inversion Cafe, on Montrose.
                              For dessert, I would say Raindrop Chocolate is a don't miss-some of the best chocolates I've ever had, as well as great gelato.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: orthorunner

                                For the record,, sadly,, the Raindrop Chocolate shop on Waugh is no longer in business.. I would suggest the Chocolate Bar on Alabama,, and for the best gelato in town,, Gelato Blu on Memorial..

                                1. re: bornie

                                  So sorry to hear that!! I moved to NYC a year ago so I didn't know...but it was definitely on par with some of the best places here in the city.

                              2. Houston is known for its Vietnamese food, especially the noodle soups.

                                I've gone to quite a few Vietnamese places but Kim Noodle House is my favorite. Its a nice small restaurant off Beltway 8 and West Road in the Jersey Village area of Houston. They have a big variety of noodle soups as well as other types of Vietnamese food.
                                I like it because the food there is cooked with many fresh herbs. It tastes very healthy and is very filling.

                                I usually order my usual Chicken Noodle Soup, which is loaded with fresh chicken, rice noodles, and herbs. It is delicious.

                                They also have Spring rolls, pork, shrimps, steamed rice wraps, steak, etc all served with the signature fish sauce, if you have a friend or family member who prefers to eat something other than soup.

                                1. While they're not really restaurants, you'd be missing out to not visit Central Market or the original Spec's Liquor store in Midtown. Take my word for it. You'll love it.

                                  1. I'm a big fan of Ostioneria Mar Azul on Belfort. Try the ceviche. Best I've had since leaving Panama. Also the aguas frescas. This place is the real deal, though - not TexMex, and it's a help if you speak at least a smattering of Spanish.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Jaymes

                                      I agree with Syd (oops, n29_w95) -- Central Market should not be missed (and you can eat well there too) and Spec's is one of the biggest liquor stores in the country -- the selection is second to none.

                                      For truly authentic, Texas-diner style breakfasts, find a Kelly's Country Cookin' - there are several locations, easily found by their big green sign. This is a breakfast that will stay with you all day, served by big-haired waitresses that call you "hon" and keep your coffee cup full. They serve biscuits as big as a cat's head -- the number of pickup trucks in the parking lot tell the rest of the story.

                                    2. The Fountain View Diner is wonderful to mingle with the locals for breakfast, and later in the day, terrific burgers.

                                      1. though not a morning person i adore breakfast. you didn't mention where you are staying (or perhaps i missed it) but these two places are located downtown.

                                        1. baby barnaby's - this is located at 604 fairview. 713-522-4229; both the food and the atmosphere are lovely. their green eggs (with a mixture of spinach, cheeses, and other yummies) are delicious. bob's healthy plate, with egg whites and friut, actually makes me glad to be eating healthy because it is done so well. often healthy = tasteless or dry. not the case here. plus they offer fresh squeezed orange juice...always a plus.

                                        2. the breakfast klub- this is located at 3711 travis st; if you are in the mood for some fabulous southern food this is the place. the menu is inventive and everything i have had so far is delicious. word of warning...if you go on the weekend be prepared to wait, but trust me. it's worth the wait.

                                        1. for lunch or dinner i forgot to mention Hugo's. it's located on the corner of westheimer and mandell. this is the same hugo from backstreet cafe, but this restaurant centers on the authentic mexican food of his childhood. both ceviches that i tried were divine, and the lobster tacos are to die for. try their sangria...he gets it just right. not too sweet, not too fruity. have a lovely stay in houston!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: sungrumble

                                            Several folks have mentioned Hugo's. Houston is really lucky to have such a good, upscale Mexican place. They're hard to find, even in big cities.