The shopping district abutting Rice University has always been known for its great dining options, whether French, Italian, or Turkish. The recent addition of two excellent hamburger joints makes it even more difficult to figure out where to eat after hitting Urban Outfitters. 

Benjy’s 

Benjy Levit’s cool neighborhood haunt has been serving his creative local fare since 1995. At brunch, try the shakshuka loaded with fresh vegetables or the crisp chopped salad with egg, bacon, avocado, and beets. Dinner brings crowd favorites including caramelized scallops, crunchy chicken, and the ever-popular brussels sprouts with bonito flakes.

Coppa Osteria

Peer into the “dough room” to watch as pastas and pizzas are made by hand at this lively Italian spot. Standouts include the beef carpaccio, the Houston Dairymaids cheese board, the ribeye, the pepperoni and goat cheese pie, and, especially, the divine, lightly creamy spaghetti carbonara with salumi toscano and an egg that’s broken tableside by your server.

Croissant Brioche

You’ll feel right at home at this quaint café, especially when tucking into an enormous, buttery almond croissant. Busy students and hungry families descend here for the superior baked goods, soups, and sandwiches—try the French dip and slurp up the broth afterward. If you still have room, go for an indulgently creamy frappé.

Helen Greek Food & Wine

You’re in for an authentic Greek experience in this cozy dining room. Start with the chickpea dip, the feta-rich tipiti dip, and, when tomatoes are in season, the dakos salad made with barley bread, heirloom tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, and feta. Follow that with the honey-sweet cheese pie—quintessential Greek street food—and the savory Cretan wedding rice in meat broth. The extensive wine list, curated by sommelier Amala Brown, includes selections from Santorini.

El Meson

Paella gets the attention at this friendly Spanish restaurant, but the tapas are worthy too. Standouts include Gulf shrimp bathing in a creamy white wine sauce, ham and mushrooms sautéed in a nutty garlic oil, and succulent lamb meatballs cooked in brandy. Best of all, though, is the velvety foie gras with caramelized apple, pear, and plenty of pork juices—autumn on a plate.

Image: Alice Levitt

Hopdoddy

This fast-casual, Austin-based burger chain, which opened its Village location last year, offers booths and bar seating. The place is known for its handmade egg buns, and for good reason: They make the perfect bookends to the eatery’s awesome flavor combinations, including an Angus beef burger with mushrooms, goat cheese, and pesto, and a grilled chicken sandwich with poblanos, avocados, and pepper jack. Get the parsley-sprinkled fries, and finish with a shake—we like the s’mores variety. 

Istanbul Grill and Deli

The lahmacun, or cheesy, thin-crust Turkish pizza, is a specialty at this friendly spot with red-checkered tablecloth and a covered patio. It’s perfect for sharing, as are the grilled kebabs, from lamb to chicken to eggplant. Start your meal with the lebni—yogurt with dill, garlic, and walnuts—and finish with the baked rice pudding.

Le Peep

There’s something relaxing about settling in for a meal, set to a soundtrack of softly playing adult-contemporary. For our money, the best breakfast is Buddy’s Favorite, a skillet packed with potatoes, sausage, eggs, and cheese, served with a biscuit. At lunch, you can’t go wrong with the BLT with egg.

Image: Chuck Cook

Punk’s Simple Southern Food

It’s all about comfort at this casual hangout. Crunchy buttermilk fried chicken is the star, but don’t forget the sides, especially the mustard-rich deviled eggs, tangy mac 'n' cheese, and warm corn hushpuppies with a spicy rémoulade. Save room for dessert: We recommend the ’Nana Puddin’—sweet banana and vanilla mixed with Nilla Wafers—and Mommia’s gooey butter-cake bites.

Shake Shack

The NYC import’s second Houston location occupies a massive corner spot, but you’re still likely to encounter long lines. Get your hands on a juicy Angus ShackBurger, or upgrade to the Shack Stack, which adds a portobello mushroom to a patty with cheese. The mega-thick “concrete” shakes (strawberry pie rules) require a spoon, but the black-and-white shakes are perfect for dipping your crinkle-cut fries.

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In this Article

Shake Shack

$ Hamburgers Multiple Locations

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Punk’s Simple Southern Food

$$ Cajun, Creole, Southern 5212 Morningside Dr.

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Istanbul Grill & Deli

$ Mediterranean 5613 Morningside

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Hopdoddy Burger Bar

$$ Hamburgers 4444 Westheimer Rd., Ste. H100

Fans queue up at this cult favorite/Austin import on nice afternoons, contentedly awaiting their lavish Primetime burgers, which top rich Akaushi beef pattie...

El Meson

$$$ Cuban, Latin, Spanish 2425 University Blvd.

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Helen Greek Food & Wine

$$$ Greek 2429 Rice Blvd.

Helen is fascinated by the shared passions of Greek and Texan cuisine—and there are many, it turns out, including a love for such ingredients as quail and ok...

Coppa Osteria

$$$ Italian 5210 Morningside Dr .

Great Italian food and remarkable interior design makes Coppa Osteria a household name in the Rice Village area. The resturant prides itself on its homeade p...

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Benjy’s

$$ American/New American Multiple Locations

Both locations of benjy’s—the original in Rice Village and its second location on Washington Avenue—have a chic dining room with their own spins on funky, mo...