I get it: you really want In-N-Out in Houston. You were crushed when the news came out that the Westheimer location wasn't going to work out. You hate that Dallas and Austin, San Antonio and Waco—yes, Waco!—have something that we don't. You've heard about "animal style" and the "super secret menu" and you want to experience these things for yourself. That's completely normal. However, I can't help but feel that your desire for In-N-Out is blinding you to a whole world of fast food chains that this city is missing out on.
I promise you the day will come when In-N-Out opens here and you'll get to wait in a line that will make the Halal Guys opening look like the grand opening of yet another mattress store in Montrose. It won't be today or tomorrow or even necessarily soon, but it'll happen. In the meantime, let us speak our other desires into the air in hopes they may one day become realities. After all, we did get Shake Shack.
Honorable Mentions: While Houston does not have a Steak 'n Shake proper inside the city, there are a couple of outposts that aren't a terrible drive away. Still, if you're team "Houston Needs More Burger Options," you can't not dream of a day when there's a Steak 'n Shake inside the Beltway. And hey, maybe I'm alone in this, but I miss Noodles and Company. Yes, the ones were problematic while they were open, but that parmesan chicken was amazing.
Listen, I'm not out here trying to dethrone Whataburger as the food stop on the way home after a night of partying, I'm just saying that sliders are some of the best drunk food around. Seriously, all White Castle needs to be a late night destination is Pedialyte on tap.
Top Pot Doughnuts
Are you ever tired of the doughnut topping arms race? It feels with every new doughnut spot opening the toppings get a little thicker and a little taller. Doughnuts are super close to becoming the Bloody Mary of the breakfast scene. Top Pot aims for a more vintage doughnut experience, which is not a bad option to have in this current doughnut landscape.
Having never been to Canada, I can't speak on Tim Horton's firsthand, but all my friends who've made the trip up north swear by it, so they make the list. All I'm saying is that if Burger King can try and force their various Cheetos-covered offerings on us, they can expand Tim Horton's down this way too.
There's nothing weirder than seeing a Big Boy statue in a city lacking an actual Big Boy restaurant, but if you keep your eyes open you'll see a couple around town. Someone needs to fix that. Although I'm sure there would be some crazy legal hurdles involved, someone needs to bring a Frisch's Big Boy to town, if for no other reason than to save our friends and neighbors from having to smuggle Frisch's sauce from the Midwest.
Confession: I have no idea if I'd even enjoy Nando's, I've just listened to so many British-based podcasts that have mentioned it that I can't help but be curious about it. I suppose that Nando's is my In-N-Out, their sauces my very own "animal style" to crave without having a frame of reference.
Here I have saved the most controversial option for last. I enjoy James Coney Island as much as the next hot dog lover, and their chili is very good, but it's not Wienerschnitzel good. Those who've experience the joy of a good Wienerschnitzel chili dog or have gorged themselves on an order of chili fries know what I'm talking about. Don't worry, there's still room for JCI: they do make killer corn dogs and tots.