They’re always there for you: your restaurant besties, those faithful standbys that you can always turn to for a guaranteed great Houston meal.
When to go: Sunday afternoon, for a different kind of brunch
What to order: Pick up a bottle of Riesling at your favorite wine shop and head to chef Kaiser Lashkari’s BYOB IndoPak classic for spice-driven riffs on fried chicken and chicken-fried steak, creamy saag paneer, garlic naan, goat biryani, and the signature shredded pastrami known as Hunter’s Beef, served with the house “magic mustard sauce” that is definitely true to its name.
When to go: Midweek night, for a shot at a counter seat
What to order: Weekends here can be quite the zoo, so head in during the week to score a seat at chef Manabu Horiuchi’s sushi counter for the ultimate omakase—they’ll feed you seasonal delicacies like Japanese ice fish, fatty tuna, and tender, smoky anago (sea eel) until you say stop. If you sit at a table and order from the menu instead, the umami-powered uni chawanmushi custard, the chef’s sashimi for two, and the kobe beef skewers are great places to start.
When to go: Weeknights, when the wait is shorter
What to order: Chef Ryan Pera pulls produce from the restaurant’s own garden, so ordering the simple backyard lettuces drizzled in olive oil is a great way to ease into the menu. Italian dishes—including heavenly pizzas like a béchamel-based clam and ’nduja number, as well as small-plate servings of grilled figs with blue cheese and prosciutto or charred octopus—are some of the best in Houston.
When to go: Weeknights, for a more laid-back affair
What to order: It’s known for its beloved weekend brunch buffet, but we love low-key weeknights here just as much. Don’t even consider leaving without ordering the lechón—braised suckling pig—appetizer and a margarita. That would be a sin. But truly, any meat that chef Hugo Ortega slow-roasts or braises, whether it’s the cabrito (tender goat) or cochinita pibil, will change the game for carnivores. The cool ceviches provide a refreshing respite between meatier courses.
When to go: Sunday brunch
What to order: James Haywood and Ross Coleman’s exceptional fried chicken, gumbo, and shrimp and grits—along with a full bar—make this global soul food hub the perfect place for a hangover miracle. The house-made jalapeño-and-cheese-sausage kolache, by the way, deserves way more cred. It’s outstanding.
When to go: Weekday lunch with the coworkers
What to order: Trying to impress your entire office during an otherwise benign outing? Take your chances on the towering, eight-layer $65 Zellagabetsky sandwich, featuring all the deli meats (including tongue), plus swiss cheese and Russian dressing, on rye (finish it and get a free slice of cheesecake). Or take it (relatively) easy with Houston’s best bowl of matzoh and the glorious lunch that is The One And Only Reuben, grilled and served open-faced.
When to go: Saturday, when you have time to linger
What to order: Most people go for the garlic-buttery Viet-Cajun crawfish, prepared as spicy as they please (or don’t please). But don’t overlook the snow crab legs, the lau de (goat hot pot), beef salad, and all those eponymous noodles—we like the version with stewed beef served over top.
When to go: Weeknights, when it’s less of a madhouse, anyway
What to order: This may not be the birthplace of fajitas, but Mama Ninfa certainly was the first to make them world-famous. The flour tortillas are the best in town, and the skirt steak is smoky decadence. Get tacos al carbon or a sizzling fajita plate—best ordered with the heavenly wood-fired quail and bacon-wrapped shrimp—for the ultimate Ninfa’s experience.