The best way to experience Houston’s culinary scene is to try a slew of dishes with the whole gang. So get everybody together and hit one of these local treasures, each of which is great for group noshing.
Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber have built an empire (Revival Market, Eight Row Flint, Indianola, Vinny’s, Miss Carousel), but it’s their Italian pizza-and-pasta place that wins for group dining. Wait for a table with a drink in the garden as you peruse the menu of in-season offerings, then pass around bowls of perfectly al dente cacio e pepe, salumi platters with all the proper accoutrements, and wood-roasted whole fish plump with garlic and greens.
Every Saturday and Sunday, the restaurant’s colossal dining room offers a Hong Kong–style dim sum experience. Big families and groups of friends cram in for their morning-after pick-me-up, catching up over hot tea and picking out favorites from carts whizzing by filled with steamed pork buns, sticky chicken feet, egg custards and dumplings. When it’s not serving dim sum, the place is still a group dining powerhouse, serving up Peking duck and crispy whole fish made for sharing.
Some of the most exciting offerings from this brew-centric spot come in the form of family-style dishes, like the 60-count PB&J wings or the giant chicken-fried steak, made bigger, beefier, and better with cream gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits for three. If you have time to spare (45 minutes, to be exact), the Half a Pig Head—roasted, split and served with kimchi salsa, pickled vegetables and enough tortillas for at least four—is a wholly Houston experience.
While some plates here are small but mighty (ouzo-flamed halloumi, anyone?), others—like the souvlaki and gyro platters—can only be conquered by two or three people. Bring a group and build-your-own lamb, beef, pork, shrimp or vegetable gyros with the help of fluffy and hot-from-the-oven pita, and slather them with as much tzatziki as you please.
Chef-owner Kaiser Lashkari’s fried chicken platter (affectionately known as “HFC”) is a local treasure. A whole eight-piece bird soaked in spices like garam masala mix before being fried to a flawless crisp, the dish is fusion cuisine at its best. Tack on the goat biryani (think of it like Indian paella) and the hunter’s beef plate, a by-the-pound Pakistani pastrami either served hot with butter and spices or cold with sliced tomato and house mustard.
The OG Ninfa’s is often credited with spurring a nationwide fajita craze, so it’d be a shame if you didn’t bring your crew to crush some. Mixed parrillas for two come stacked with outside-skirt or chicken fajitas, succulent carnitas, plump shrimp, baby back ribs, chiles rellenos and scratch-made tortillas. Or get the flash-fried whole Gulf snapper—a thing of beauty.
Tacos on smoked brisket-fat tortillas are a must on most occasions here, but the feasts are the way to go for big groups. Feast No. 1 feeds four to six, while No. 2 packs on the meat for six to eight. Both feature brisket, pork and beef ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey, Czech-style beef and jalapeño-cheddar links, along with your choice of sides like slaw, elote and mac ‘n’ cheese. We recommend throwing in some warm, house-hot-sauce-doused chicharrones, too.
Kevin Naderi’s eclectic menu invites guests “to share, or not…” We’ll help you out here: The correct answer is “share.” Properly indulge with fried cauliflower, braised lamb crêpes, crispy curry-spiced calamari, mussels soaked in kimchi broth, and—important—the bread service, which comes with spreads like pimiento cheese and butters flecked with black garlic and stone fruit. Top it off with coffee and donut holes.