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The 18 Best Restaurants in Houston

If you’re a newcomer to Houston, you’ll be surprised at its vast international feel—and nowhere is that more obvious than in its restaurants. It’s not just Tex-Mex (though there’s plenty of that, too)—you’ll find all sorts of cuisine from around the globe, from BBQ and Creole to Indian and Vietnamese. Eat your way through the city with this list of the best Houston restaurants.

Brennan’s of Houston

meal at brennans houston.

Brennan’s has been a fine dining institution in Houston since 1967, even after it burned down during a 2008 hurricane and reopened a couple of years later. Its wide-ranging Southern/Creole menu and well-honed service make it one of the best restaurants in Houston for a special evening out.

Uchi

uchi houston.

Foodies familiar with the original Uchi in Austin were thrilled when it opened a second location in Houston in 2012. The restaurant’s creative and beautiful sushi dishes are worth the sometimes-lengthy wait for a table (reservations are highly recommended).

Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar

pasta dish at tommy restaurant and oyster bar houston.

In Clear Lake, Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar is your destination for crawfish enchiladas, Louisiana-style gumbo, oysters on the half shell, and seafood platters—with a helping of gracious hospitality on the side.

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Ninfa’s on Navigation

ninfa's on navigation houston.

The original Ninfa’s, on Navigation Boulevard, is where you go to find the roots of the national fajita craze. It began with tacos al carbon created by Mama Ninfa, which are now part of a broader Tex-Mex menu that includes enchiladas, handmade tamales, flautas, and much more.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

steak at pappas bros steakhouse houston.

Looking for a traditional steakhouse with old-school ambiance and finely aged meats? Try Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, which has two Houston locations. Leave room for indulgent sides like roasted wild mushrooms and jumbo lump crab mac and cheese.

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Xochi

meal at xochi houston.

Located downtown at the Marriott Marquis Houston, Xochi showcases the diverse, flavorful cuisine of Oaxaca, Mexico, from slow-cooked lechon (suckling pig) with plantain molotes (corn pastries) to a full menu of dishes with mole sauce.

The Kitchen at The Dunlavy

kitchen at dunlavy.

This popular spot for brunch is one of Houston’s prettier settings for a meal, with chandeliers overhead and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of Buffalo Bayou Park and the city skyline. The menu features salads, grain bowls, smoothies, sandwiches, and breakfast dishes.

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La Griglia

meal at griglia restaurant houston.

This River Oaks favorite has been serving up reliable Italian fare in a convivial atmosphere for more than 25 years. Between the fresh fish, wood-fired pizza, and various types of pasta, it’s tough to go wrong with anything on the menu.

Kiran’s

kirans restaurant houston.

Kiran’s isn’t your typical neighborhood Indian restaurant. This fine dining spot serves an intriguing mix of classic Indian dishes (butter chicken, curries), Indian street food (samosas, pakoras), and non-Indian options (foie gras, goat cheese and beet salad) in an elegant space in Upper Kirby.

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Green Seed Vegan

burger and kale at green seed vegan houston.

For a healthy lunch or smoothie between museum visits, try Green Seed Vegan, which started as a food truck but has since expanded into a full restaurant. The all-vegan menu includes paninis, wraps, salads, and tacos.

Benjy’s

benjy's houston dining room.

This popular Rice Village joint offers something for everyone—vegan pasta and baby kale salad for vegetarians, heavenly pan-seared scallops for seafood fans, sticky pork ribs and lamb burgers for meat lovers, and a full brunch menu for those looking for a laid-back late-morning meal.

The Pit Room

bbq sandwich at the pit room houston.

Wondering where to eat some genuine Texas BBQ in Houston? Try The Pit Room. Diners happily wait in long lines to dig their teeth into the restaurant’s to-die-for beef ribs, brisket, and jalapeno-cheddar sausage.

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Nancy’s Hustle

nancy's hustle houston.

This little bistro in East Downtown is relatively new on the Houston restaurant scene, but it’s already popular with locals for its intimate atmosphere and eclectic menu. If you’re dining with a group, consider ordering a bunch of small plates for sharing.

REEF and 3rd Bar

reef houston dining room.

Long one of the best places to eat in Houston for seafood lovers, REEF shut down for nearly two years following damage in Hurricane Harvey in 2017. It’s reopened with an all-new menu that still showcases the best of the sea, including oysters on the half shell, grilled snapper and salmon, and pickled Gulf shrimp.

Bombay Pizza Company

pizza at bombay pizza company houston.

Italian and Indian may seem like an unlikely mix, but it works surprisingly well at Bombay Pizza Company. You can order standard pizzas like cheese or pepperoni, or take a chance on pies topped with saag paneer, tandoori pork, or grilled vegetables with Indian spices. Pasta, curries, kati rolls, and mini-burgers round out the unique menu.

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Bravery Chef Hall

counter at bravery chef hall houston.

Houston is in the midst of a food hall boom, with several opening downtown in the past year or two. Bravery Chef Hall is one of the newest, featuring a variety of stalls overseen by some of Houston’s leading chefs. Options include everything from fresh sushi and heirloom pasta to Vietnamese cuisine and diner food with a global twist.

Indigo

meal at indigo houston.

Ordering a tasting menu at the 13-seat Indigo restaurant isn’t just about enjoying a meal; it’s an educational experience. The staff put the restaurant’s neo-soul dishes into the context of African-American history, explaining how slavery and mass incarceration have influenced the food this community eats today. Reservations are essential.

Rosie Cannonball

baby lettuce with roe at rosie cannonball.

This brand-new restaurant in Montrose aims to serve “European comfort food”—think gourmet pizzas, fresh pasta, Basque-style chicken and fish, and plenty of creative vegetable dishes. There’s a lengthy wine list to match.

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 Sarah Schlichter was hosted by Marriott and Visit Houston. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. June Naylor contributed to this story.

By Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at sschlichter@smartertravel.com.

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