12 Apr Ultimate Houston Foodie Guide 2023
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Texas cities are legendary in their own way. Whether they are home to important American history, have electrifying music scenes, or beautiful countryside, the Lone Star State looms large in many an imagination. However Houston is truly a place that is all things to everyone. As one of the United States’ largest metropolitan areas and the most important financial hub in the region, people are drawn to live here. That means a diverse population injecting culture and weaving a tapestry of influences from around the world, shaping all points from the historic Third and Fifth Wards to treasured neighborhoods like Acres Homes and Sunnyside. Nowhere will you taste that multicultural explosion the way you will in Houston’s foodie scene.
Living in Space City is to experience just about anything you can imagine. After all, this is the home to major league teams like the Rockets, Texans, and Astros. Amazing museums, like the Houston Museum of African American Culture, are beckoning. Shopping meccas like the Galleria mean you can always find what you need. Prepare for an explosion of different cultures, flavors, and cuisines to satisfy every palate – from homegrown soul food to international offerings like Nigerian cooking and Haitian cuisine. Fresh seafood is flown in daily from the Gulf of Mexico, leading to everything from down-home fish and chips to opulent Caribbean dinners. Are we getting hungry yet?
Look, there’s so much to do and see in Houston; you will need to be adequately fueled! So, we’ve prepared the Ultimate Houston Foodie Guide for you to stay local and discover amazing things to do in your city. The nightlife here gets serious, and all the live music available in Houston means the kind of foot-stomping that can really work up an appetite. Enjoy a globalized palette spanning curry to West African kitchens, signature concept dishes, unique flavor pairings, and anything else you could want. Grab your belly and get ready to grasp your fork. Here’s the Ultimate Houston Foodie Guide for 2023.
1. The Turkey Leg Hut
4830 Almeda Rd., Suite A/B, Houston, TX 77004
It doesn’t get more Texas than this Black-owned business. Chef couple Lynn and Nakia started hawking their delicious signature treats in the rodeo parking lot! The soul food staple of turkey legs might seem a tad thin for a restaurant theme – until you see the menu. Imaginative takes on the classic include Cajun crawfish and Hennessy glazed varieties. Go beyond and sink your teeth into everything from swamp fries to pasta yaya. The pair also love giving back to the community, throwing block parties to feed local homeless folk.
Must Try Dish: Florentine Leg
3711 Travis St., Houston, TX 77002
If none other than the national rise-and-shine show Good Morning America rates a restaurant as having among the top five best breakfasts in the country, it might just be worth getting up early for! Houston’s The Breakfast Klub is the brainchild of entrepreneur Marcus Davis, who wanted to bring a special touch to the day’s first meal. Drawing from traditions across America, get going with some pork chops and eggs, or hit your sweet spot with the outstanding wings and waffles. There are also family meal options and changing daily specials. Be sure to be the early bird for this one; it packs up quickly!
Must Try Dish: Katfish & Grits
3. Ester's Cajun Cafe & Soul Food
5007 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX 77018
Just hearing the word “Cajun” rings the dinner bell in our brains. But Esther’s Cajun Café and Soul Food is hands-down the very best of its kind in Houston. The eponymous owner has applied generations of her own family’s recipes and traditions to serve up some of the most sublime victuals ever to bubble up from Bayou country. From the first glance at the menu, you can practically catch the waft from the kitchen: ox tails, fired chicken, turkey necks, peppered steak. It all sounds like the simplest of flair, but Esther’s magic touch delivers a magical mix of herbs and spices to every bite. Expect a classy ambiance that harkens back to 1940s elegance packaged in a familiar vibe and a friendly space.
Must Try Dish: Cajun Pasta
5015 Almeda Rd., Houston, TX 77004
Eating is important, but sometimes you need to go to a place where the fun is next level. Bar 5015 is the self-proclaimed “Legends Only” spot for live entertainment featuring artists old and new. Perhaps their biggest claim to fame, however, is their artisanal cocktails like the Witch’s Brew or the Jim Beam Dreamsicle. Pair up their thirst-quenching concoctions with a hopping patio space, and you’re already ahead of your nightlife game. Now add outstanding food like po boys, lip-smacking wings, and jerk lamb chops and grits.
Must Try Dish: Voodoo Eggrolls
5959 Richmond Ave. Suite 160, Houston, TX 77057
We all hear it in our hearts from time to time – a calling back to the motherland. African cuisine has risen in America in recent years, creating a perfect, sensual connection to the continent for a community long separated from it. Taste of Nigeria is Houston’s top eatery sporting the foods of Africa’s most populous nation. Tiffaney and Rasak Odewale import fresh West African ingredients for a dining experience like none other. Try out the efo riro for a nice vegetarian bite before moving on to mainstays like yam porridge and the yuca fish dish, abacha.
Must Try Dish: Afang Soup
2712 Blodgett St., Houston, TX 77004
Did we have you at “soul food?” If so, then get ready for the very best Houston has to offer. Four generations of this Black-owned business have taken the reins since Frank Jones founded this venerable home cooking destination in 1959. You’ll feel like you’re at your grandma’s with the smothered chicken, ham hocks, and pepper steak. And, oh yes, there are amazing greens and even some refreshing okra and tomatoes. Featured on local news media over the years, the secret has been out on This Is It for a very long time. So if you haven’t gone yet, what are you waiting for?
Must Try Dish: Award-Winning Mac & Cheese
10500 W. Bellfort Ave., Houston, TX 77031
Not to be outdone by any other local soul food purveyor, Mikki’s Café has been bringing people to their tables since 2000. The recent loss of founder Jeanette Williams has not slowed down this family-owned establishment and its commitment to excellence. And now you can also see them in their newer Pearland location. Creative takes on beloved favorites include Alfredo tilapia and smothered meatloaf. You truly will not feel more at home than at Mikki’s, so be sure to come back often to try the daily specials like curry chicken and stuffed bell peppers. But save room for banana pudding and sweet potato pie!
Must Try Dish: Turkey Wings
3602 Scott St., Houston, TX 77004
It sounds like the kind of story you would see in the movies. Only this one really happened in H-Town. Founder Percy “Frenchy” Creuzot Jr. came to Houston in 1965 to work as a traveling salesman. But by 1969, he put his family’s legacy New Orleans recipes to task, risking it all to start a po boy shop and, later, his famous chicken destination. Now up to a dozen locations around Houston, his Creole traditions show up decades later in the boudin balls, shrimp lover dish, and even the Creole pecan pie. But the chicken is the showcase here. Pair it with Frenchy’s gris gris sauce or stick to BBQ and sweet chili. Expect to get your hands messy!
Must Try Dish: The 5 Wing Combo
401 Franklin St., Houston, TX 77201
The roots run deep at one of Houston’s premier West African eateries, the esoterically spelled ChòpnBlọk. This eatery Fuses American cooking methods with the cuisine of West Africa. Welcoming and friendly, hospitality is top of mind for this delicacy destination. Try out the Ghanian style roadside steak with a side of spicy yaji. The Motherland curry brings a taste of Nigeria in its honey beans and coconut sauce. There’s even some homemade African hibiscus tea to offer a sip of the continent. The lively dining room is an excellent place to meet up with old friends and make some new ones.
Must Try Dish: The Trad Bowl
5405 Bellaire Blvd., Bellaire, TX 77401
Breakfast, lunch, and brunch, The Dandelion Café serves up all of our favorite meals of the day in a big way. Owner J. C. Ricks has been busy in the kitchen since he was a small kid helping at the Thanksgiving table and never looked back. Focusing on the earlier meals of the day means everything from turkey chili and eggs to blueberry lemon curd French toast sticks. There are plenty of great vegan and gluten-free options, like avocado toast and black bean tostadas, so it’s a great choice for everybody. And if you enjoy flavored coffees, Dandelion also makes its own syrups.
Must Try Dish: Stuffed French Toast
2327 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77056
As if being among the best Caribbean cuisine in all of Houston wasn’t enough, Cool Runnings Jamaican Grill has also gotten national attention for their goodness. The Food Network’s celebrity chef Guy Fieri announced his love for this H-Town establishment, making Chef Terron Henry and co-owner Janay Henry proud. Come see what all the hubbub is about with insanely good menu items like salfish fritters and the oxtails swimming in special house seasoning. Be sure to top it all off with a slice of the legendary homemade rum cake.
Must Try Dish: Curry Chicken
8307 De Priest Dt., Houston, TX 77088
If none other than the late, great celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called Burns BBQ in Houston “some of the best Texas style BBQ you can find,” then maybe it’s worth sinking your teeth into. Running for over four decades, founder Roy Burns’ legacy has survived his passing as the family recipes have been passed down and preserved. Where to start with the awesome offerings? The brisket is practically a work of art. The links are the stuff of sausage dreams. Smoked turkey sandwiches, ribs, and burnt ends will tempt you to bring your deepest appetite to this venerated spot’s BBQ pits.
Must Try Dish: Three Meat Baked Potato
3102 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, TX 77054
For many vegetarians who are either trying to live healthier or just live by a different set of principles, it can sometimes be frustrating to find good meals geared toward their preferences. Fortunately, Sunshine’s Vegetarian Deli and Health Food Store has leveled up deliciousness for the animal-free eaters out there. And for those omnivores who may stumble into these doors, trust us, the amazing food here won’t have you longing for your meats! Be sure to try the spicy black bean Tex-Mex burger for some juicy goodness. The vegan spaghetti will make you feel serious Italian vibes and is also gluten-free. Round it out with one of the fresh juice smoothies, then do some grocery shopping on your way out to boot.
Must Try Dish: Black Bean Nachos
3929 Old Spanish Trail Suite 300, Houston, TX 77021
If you’ve heard that old saying that it’s the quality and not the quantity of a thing, you can forget it at Ray’s Real BBQ Shack. That’s because the quality is above reproach, and the quantity goes on and on! Sporting a packed menu loaded with meats, every taste is catered to here. From the pork sausage plate to the full rack baby back ribs to the catfish and shrimp specials, there are dozens of BBQ pit offerings. Legacy family hickory smoke recipes come through in this soul food spot; see what official pit master Ray Busch whips up over the fire.
Must Try Dish: The Max (4 Smoked Meats, 2 Fish, and 2 Shrimp)
3409 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004
Houston’s Third Ward seems to be home to many amazing eateries; It it can’t all be about the main meal. Sometimes, we need a delicious-smelling bakery to get the old sweet tooth watering. Enter Crumbville, Ella Russell’s joint, for outstanding cookies, cakes, and, yes, even cookie cakes! Which we believe we need to experience right now! An even sweeter side of Russell’s work lies in the community meetup her shop has become a hub for. From fellow entrepreneurs to kids savoring treats in a new tradition, expect lots of local conversation with your delectable delights. Plenty of gluten-free and vegan options here, too.
Must Try Dish: German Chocolate Cupcake
16. That Funnel Cake Place
6780 Martin Luther King Blvd., Houston, TX 77033
There are a lot of places in Houston that create amazing desserts that are the stuff of dentists’ nightmares. But we doubt there are any around these parts whose offerings are quite as fun-looking! That Funnel Cake Place serves up sweet dishes that recall a funhouse vibe in their over-the-top wacky presentations telegraphing an explosion of yummy, sugary goodness. Looking like ice cream sundaes melded with pancake pieces and more add-ons than you can shake a stick at, come in for a banana lush, cheesecake funnel cake, or the red velvet deluxe. As the website puts it: “you no longer have to wait for Rodeo time or your next fair or festival to be able to enjoy a hot, fresh funnel cake.” Boy howdy!
Must Try Dish: Oreo Overload Funnel Cake
17. Daranne's Soul Rolls N Eats
Cook Road, Houston, TX 77002
When you think of fusion cuisine or concept dishes, you might think of things like currywurst or maybe Thai pasta. Houston’s own Daranne’s Soul Rolls N Eats has brought down-home soul food flavors to the mainstay comfort food option of egg rolls. Where once you would have found Bok choy and Chinese spices, you can now chow down on ox tails and cabbage or turkey and smoked greens in your deep-fried, wrapped goodness. It’s truly a matter of Far East meets Deep South, something you may never have dreamed up, but hey! That’s what Daranne’s here for!
Must Try Dish: Down South Egg Rolls
6025 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
It’s kind of unfair how many incredible restaurants there are in Houston’s Galleria neighborhood. But we’re not complaining! Keeping up the area’s reputation for excellence is the sublimely simple Kamp. This fun indoor/outdoor dining experience concept spot lives up to its Girls and Boys Scouts vibe, complete with a Smokey the Bear-type mascot. The handhelds here are special, from the birria tacos to the grilled jerk shrimp rolls. Loaded potatoes overflow with brisket, beef, smoked chicken, and more. But it’s the drink menu that’s really fun here. Down a Passion-Rita or Golden Ticket for some tropical adult beverage awesomeness.
Must Try Dish: Kamp Wings paired with a Henny-Thing-4-You
1202 Southmore., Houston, TX 77004
“Coffee, vegan, & vinyl.” If there’s any motto slapped on a restaurant’s edifice that says it all, it may be the Third Ward’s Mo’ Betta Brews. Let’s get right to it: this spot takes great pride in formulating some of the most unique coffee blends in the world. And on top of that, the vegan dishes here are among the most unexpectedly creative twists on meat-based dishes we’ve ever seen. We’re talking carrot “lox” and bagels, Buffalo “chik’n” dip, hot honey shrooms and waffles, and a “Cajun croissant” stuffed with boudin rice. Vinyl records for sale right off the walls are paired with the brunch-based menu. Grooves and grooviness await!
Must Try Dish: Pancake Flight (A sampling of our Strawberry Cheezecake, Peach Cobbler and Pecan Pie pancakes.)
20. Glazed Doughnut Café
3409 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004
When you look at the sheer variety and unexpected combinations in Houston’s Glazed Doughnut Café, you may think you’ve stumbled upon more of a mad scientist’s laboratory than a donut shop! We are talking next-level choices on their endless conveyer belt of chewy, doughy, sugary goodness. And not just sugary – some of the donut offerings here are savory, too. Consider “The Macon, “a maple creation topped off with loads of bacon! The strawberry cheesecake donut has a giant berry topping it. Even beloved breakfast cereals make it onto these hand-crafted gems. You can even get a cheeseburger on a glazed donut instead of a bun! Are we ready for this
Must Try Dish: Banana Pudding Doughnut
636 Cypress Station Dr., Houston, TX 77090
Don’t let the name fool you – this Greasy Spoon isn’t a typical greasy spoon! Borrowing its name from the beloved moniker of every small town’s mom-and-pop eatery, Chef Max Bozeman created a sublime Soul Food bistro to elevate traditional cuisine to elegance. Serving up pure Southern comfort food, this spot was featured on the Food Network as a “must-visit” eatery. Think Cajun jambalaya pasta, a fried lobster, fried catfish, sauteed shrimp combo, and turkey leg stuffed with mac and cheese. Forget the diet when you walk into this place!
Must Try Dish: Lamb Chops
401 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX 77002
There are chicken wings, and then there are insanely stuffed chicken wings, hence the name Stuff’d Wings. This Houston eatery pushes the envelope on what it means to consume everybody’s favorite deep-fried snack. Starting a loyal following with a fabled food truck, they’ve now set up a brick-and-mortar location where you can get your fix. We have no idea how they stuff humble wings with seafood, mac n’ cheese, and dirty rice, and we really don’t care! Sinking your teeth into this opens up a whole new world on a dish you thought had nowhere left to go. Save your sweet tooth for the end with the Oreo banana pudding.
Must Try Dish: Return of the Mac Wings
23. French Fry House
5740 S. Wayside Dr., Houston, TX 77087
French Fry House is not a place of mystery. Their name tells you straight up what to expect: deep-fried potato goodness. But proclaiming such mastery over one of America’s favorite piping-hot salty snacks speaks to a serious spud game. And these folks deliver. Bayou fries come with shrimp and crawfish étouffée. Big Tex fries lay on the brisket and cheese piled on high. But don’t think there aren’t other options like fried chicken and egg rolls served up with an amazing chili sauce.
Must Try Dish: The French Fry of the month
24. Day 6 Coffee
910 Prairie St. Suite 100, Houston, TX 77002
Years before Houston natives Ricardo “RJ” Wilson and Jason “Ian” Wilson decided to open their Houston café, they never could have guessed the path that would bring them here. RJ had spent time living abroad in Barcelona, discovering a love for coffee culture he wasn’t accustomed to back home in Texas. This sparked a dream that has become Day 6 Coffee. Paired with the outstanding brewed beans they lovingly pour into customers’ cups is a menu of delicious foods to wash down. Stuffed pockets called kolache come with sausage, cheese, and even a vegan option. The breakfast taco hits that early morning spot. And dessert lovers are encouraged to try the peach cobbler. Once your belly is full, check out the original art for sale on the walls.
Must Try Dish: Breakfast Brisket Taco
9739 N. Sam Houston Pkwy E., Humble, TX 77396
Louisiana native Desmond Lee has been cooking since he was a youngster in the town of St. Martinsville. Using family recipes, this family-owned operation looks forward every day to making customers and their taste buds feel at home. Cajun cuisine reigns here, as the bright red crawfish dishes will telegraph to you. You can buy fish boils by the pound or get a heaping serving. Daily specials give you a reason to turn up any day of the week, from red beans and wings Monday to Kreole potato bowl Friday. Gumbo, of course, you can always get!
Must Try Dish: Zydeco Pasta
3409 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004
Another of Houston’s legendary food trucks has found a permanent home thanks to the hungry palates who can’t say no to a great chili dog! Midwest Coney Connection is a mecca for comfort food hounds who aren’t afraid of some serious Midwest-type victuals. These folks pair up Philly cheese steaks with egg rolls. The Texas Frito pie is just as spicy and decadent as you might imagine. And scarfing down the Detroit coney chili dog will put you right in Motown in no time. They’ve even got authentic Faygo pops to wash it all down with. If you haven’t tried that brand of fizzy, sugary drinks with flavors like watermelon and blue raspberry, you haven’t lived!
Must Try Dish: H Town Special (Classic coney, seasoned fries, five signature wings, and a drink)
From Pearland to the Woodlands, there are eateries for everyone in Houston’s amazing gastronomic scene. It’s important to keep in mind that what you’re tasting out of these heritage kitchens is more than just tastebud-satisfying food. The Deep South, African, and Caribbean cooking speak to generations of tradition.
More than just another foodie excursion, think of this as a means to reconnect with the past. Ancestors speak to us in many ways. Music, the arts, and historic triumphs are all powerful reminders of the past. And so is food. Love, sweat, and tears have found their way into every morsel. Being a part of that as an appreciator of the finer tastes makes you just one more stone in this cultural path.