The bliss that is settling into a squeaky booth or grabbing a spot at a Formica counter while someone cooks you a big, bountiful breakfast and refills your coffee without asking can’t be overstated. Everyone should have a favorite diner, in other words. Here are five of our own favorites.
A slice of small-town nostalgia not far from Hobby Airport, City Cafe deals in anachronisms both good (waffles made from Carbon’s Golden Malted waffle flour), bad (smoking is still allowed here), and amazing (the Jetsons-style sign outside dates to 1952). Both the grits and the CFS are made from scratch, and it shows in the honest, soulful dishes.
In 1967, 11 years after the adjacent Gulfgate was christened as the first mall in Houston, Dot Coffee Shop opened its own doors—and has rarely closed them since. This truly 24/7 diner was the first restaurant the Pappas family opened, and though it wouldn’t be their last, it remains the one Houstonians reserve the most affection for, helped along by daily blue-plate specials and from-scratch food.
Our favorite of the four Houston-area Frank’s Grill locations sits in the shadow of old Delmar Stadium, itself a reminder of simpler times. Inside the diner—where there’s often a line out the door on the weekends—you’ll find equally simple but perfect renditions of buttery hash browns, crispy bacon, and well-seasoned catfish and eggs.
This decidedly modern diner occupies a 70-year-old building in the Heights where broad windows and high ceilings house a cheerful dining room perpetually packed with families in search of omelets made with local farm eggs, chicken-fried steak with cheese grits, and peanut butter pancakes.
Patrons from all over town make pilgrimages to the bright blue awnings of Dmitri and Peggy Bokos’s Gulfgate institution, where breakfast specials, from homemade Belgian waffles to plates of biscuits and gravy, are made just the way they were when Telwink opened in 1940. Like Frank’s, there’s always a line here, but it’s worth the wait.