With dozens of brand-new destinations and more opening every day, there’s never been a better time to dine downtown.
If you find a larger TV in Houston than the massive screens here, you’re probably in the outfield of Minute Maid Park itself. This sports bar named for retired Astros second baseman and seven-time All Star Craig Biggio offers ballpark-inspired fare such as warm pretzels, hot dogs and messy mounds of nachos, but that’s not all: A clever kids’ menu and tasty creations like wild boar mac ‘n’ cheese and flatbreads topped with smoked brisket make the place fun for all ages and palates.
A walk-up crêperie window and al fresco dining overlooking Discovery Green are just two elements that set chef Philippe Verpiand’s downtown spot apart from his Uptown stronghold, Étoile Cuisine et Bar. This is also currently the only place in town to find the reblochon-cheese-and-lardons-loaded potato casserole called tartiflette, and one of just a few serving the elegant, airy dessert known as île flottante.
Chef Richard Sandoval aimed to make his restaurant in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel “the living room of Houston,” and he’s largely succeeded—if your living room boasts leather Chesterfield sofas, a massive whiskey selection and a private Topgolf Swing Suite. Look for well-executed staples such as a B&B Burger with remoulade and a 45-day aged USDA Prime ribeye.
The interior here is just as crazily colorful and creative as the late-Victorian-era Sweeney, Coombs, and Fredericks Building that houses the restaurant on its ground floor. An adjoining fairy light–strung patio is the ideal spot to try the over-the-top margaritas and tacos, including the Goldie Hawn (fried cauliflower and brussels sprouts), the Krispy Kaktus (nopales), and a deep-fried dessert taco stuffed with bananas and Nutella.
At this location—one of four in greater Houstonia, counting The Woodlands and Galveston—Old World dining trends blend with a modern, industrial-chic interior. The menu includes everything from classic dishes of linguine alla vongole and veal chops to small plates of panini “shooters” and tuna bruschetta. And you’ve got to love any restaurant that offers an ample cheese selection on its dessert menu.
A cute, counter-service destination tucked into the bottom floor of the Franklin Lofts, this tacos-and-tortas joint keeps things casual with grab-and-go bottles of ice-cold beers and Jarritos, from-scratch aguas frescas, and a straightforward selection of street food. We love the Chilango (Mexico City–style) tacos al pastor and the elote with mayo, cotija cheese, chile powder and lime.
At this hyper-local chain’s fourth location, you can perch above Main Street in the large, second-story dining area, or sit inside near the bustling open kitchen, where you can watch the pros make your truffled-egg-salad sandwich or salmon poke salad. Big booths that seat a crowd are packed during all-day weekend happy hours.
In a city filled with kale salads, it’s rare to find a stand-out like the one here, threaded with pine nuts, pancetta, apples and ricotta. You’ll want to leave room for the equally delicious wood-fired pizzas and polenta “tots” with spicy tomato dipping sauce. At breakfast, the sugar-crusted Italian donuts called bombolini are a must.
This is the upscale sister restaurant to Osso & Kristalla; both come courtesy of Astros owner Jim Crane, hence their proximity to the stadium. And if the team isn't knocking it out of the park on a given night, you can guarantee the kitchen here is. The modern Italian menu, overseen by former Brennan’s executive chef Danny Trace, elevates staples in exciting new ways. Try the foie gras “freeze” and smashed Texas blueberries in a tuna crudo, the plump gnocchi with a stunning walnut mascarpone, and, if you’re a chocoholic, the H-Town Dream Cake.
The fourth restaurant from James Beard Award–winning chef Hugo Ortega focuses exclusively on cuisine from the Oaxacan region of Mexico, which means a fascinating array of moles, along with the iconic street food known as tlayudas (the one stuffed with mushrooms and Texas goat cheese is our current favorite) and dishes based around insects. Pastry chef—and brother to Hugo—Ruben Ortega works his freshly-ground cacao into hot chocolate and a tamarind mole cake topped with, yes, candied ants.