The famous chili biscuits at Lucille’s

Image: KC Taffinder

Sure, you can eat inside the museums themselves—and in the case of The Menil Collection and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, we recommend that you do. But other options abound for those exhausted by the McDonald's inside the HMNS or the soggy sandwiches you thought would hold up better in the cooler you wagged to Hermann Park.

Monarch Bistro at the Hotel Zaza

Chef Jonathan Wicks' modern Texas cooking is best enjoyed on Monarch’s sumptuous patio, with a to-die-for view of Mecom Fountain. It’s also a favorite for weekday happy hour and Sunday brunch. Go light with a Gulf fish crudo or indulge with a country ham pork tenderloin.

Danton’s

Gulf seafood gets the Cajun treatment at this popular spot, where chef Danton Nix is famous for his Crab Danton with garlic remoulade, hefty po-boys, and gumbo with a dark, chocolaty roux. Raw oysters are best enjoyed in the mahogany-paneled bar at happy hour, while the blues brunches pack them in on Sundays.

MF Sushi

The Museum District is an appropriate setting for sushi as art, which it is here. Chris Kinjo’s precise cuts, spare seasonings, carefully molded quenelles of rice and stylishly draped slivers of kampachi or o-toro all culminate in an evening that’s as much experience as meal. Once again, the menu is full of surprises, including an outstanding umeshisomaki that twirls Japanese plums (ume) and minty leaves (shiso) into a tartly sweet maki roll that’s unlike any other.

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Dak & Bop

Image: Kate LeSueur

Dak & Bop

This is one of the only places inside the Loop to consistently find Korean fried chicken—which makes sense, as KFC is their specialty. What makes it so good—and so different—is that it’s fried twice, giving the chicken an extra-crispy exterior and a supremely juicy interior that’s elevated even further by a spicy red chile sauce. We recommend cooling off the burn with Dak & Bop’s hand-cut fries and a Cool Cloud Cucumber cocktail with yogurt. Yes, yogurt.

Barnaby's

Named for the owner's childhood dog, Barnaby's has a little bit of everything: queso, baby back ribs, hot dogs, lasagna, veggie burgers and even a meatloaf bruschetta. But it's probably best known as a hot spot for breakfast and brunch, so get there early during the mornings and weekends to avoid long waits.

Lucille’s

Chef/owner Chris Williams makes serious soul food after his grandmother Lucille’s own recipes—including her famous chili biscuits. Fried green tomatoes and a watermelon salad are comforting on a hot day, while the oxtail sandwich and roasted grouper over johnnycakes are tempting twists on Southern standards.

Bodega’s Taco Shop

Build your own burritos (or tacos or salads) as big and bold as you want them at this homegrown fast-casual spot near the HMNS. You can’t go wrong with the pork carnitas, cilantro-lime rice, and bacon-avocado ranch dressing. Enjoy the fruits of your labor on the patio with a frozen margarita or a house-made strawberry agua fresca

The curried chicken salad sandwich at Jade Stone Café in the Asia Center. Courtesy Jade Stone Café

Jade Stone Café

The Asia Society set the bar for in-museum dining with Jade Stone Café, an intimate, sunny space with a smart menu that perfectly complements its setting. A Szechwan Salad Trio gets you a Szechwan pasta salad, curried chicken salad, and Asian slaw, while the Jade Club piles turkey, ham, crisp bacon, Havarti cheese, lettuce, tomato, and wasabi aioli on fresh wheatberry bread.

Pinewood Café

This cute bistro in Hermann Park serves a short menu of wraps, salads, and burgers, but the build-your-own grilled cheese menu is our favorite. With a choice of seven different kinds of bread, seven cheeses, seven proteins (including hummus and bacon), plus plenty of other vegetables and additions, the options are nearly endless—and the kids will love it.

MFAH Food Truck Court

Every day at lunchtime a different Houston food truck sets up shop right next door to the Cullen Sculpture Garden. You might have Filipino street food one day, gourmet waffle sandwiches the next, and then enjoy your unique, locally made lunch in the sunshine. We recommend camping out on the grass in the Sculpture Garden under the oak trees for the ultimate Museum District picnic.

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