Whether you're getting your friend gang back together over spring break or you're looking for a place to house your huge, hungry family at dinner, the 10 (okay, 12) restaurants below should fit the bill—and split it for you too:
This is our Platonic ideal when it comes to group dining, save the parking peccadillos (carpooling or Ubering to this downtown destination is your best bet). Thanks to an abundance of options—which ranges from ramen to barbecue to Greek fare to fusion French crepes—and seating, as well as the convenience of counter service, everyone should be more than satisfied at this underground food hall. Even the tap wall has options outside of beer, including draft wine and kombucha.
By day, this backyard beer-and-brats joint is a family-friendly spot for chowing down on hot dogs and burgers, though the shaded picnic tables get snapped up fast. By night, the focus shifts more to Moon Tower's in-house brewery, whose offerings like A Kolsch Day In Hell pair perfectly with its Black Sabbath tacos and Cheesus Christ Almighty double-stack of grilled cheese sandwiches.
Now with four locations since its downtown debut a few weeks ago, this chic counter service chain specializes in all things, well, local: 44 Farms roast beef sandwiches, Gulf shrimp salads, Pat Greer's homemade kombucha on draft and many more Houston foodstuffs make up the menu (which also includes several vegan and gluten-free options). The sunny, sprawling patio at the Upper Kirby location is one of the prettiest in the city, and is dog-friendly to boot.
A quick trip through the cafeteria-style line will net you some of the tastiest barbecue this side of the Rodeo's annual cook-off—if you can manage to choose between a three-meat plate and the "Hyde Pork" sandwich on fluffy challah buns. On a nice day, the long line of picnic tables on the patio fronting Montrose Boulevard are a no-brainer, though there is also plenty of room to spare upstairs in the charming, two-story stone house that was built in 1930.
This quirky restaurant stands as a testament not only to the creativity shown by the University of Houston students whose school project on authentic Mexican street food was transformed from a taco stand in the parking lot of a Super Kmart on Westheimer, but also the enduring popularity of its tacos de trompo, cups of elotes and slushy mangonadas. There's usually a line at the counter for lunch and dinner, but don't be dismayed; it moves fast, and it gives you time to pull a few tables together for a crowd.
It doesn't get more Texan than this dance hall which also happens to serve amazing chicken fried steak and venison chili (no beans!). In season, there are even crawfish boils on the big patio that covers nearly half a block. The Palace takes reservations from two to 20 people, making it easy to plan ahead here, and even lets you book tables near the stage for those performances you don't want to watch from way back in the bar.
The ultimate come-and-go-as-you-please place has your group covered whether you're in the market for Tex-Mex staples like frozen margaritas and creamy queso or craft cocktails and upscale tacos (think roasted Brussels sprouts and tamarind-braised Berkshire pork). Private events are also very easily arranged here, and the indoor-outdoor space welcomes your four-legged friends in addition to your standard, two-legged variety.
When virtually every group dining at a restaurant is just that—a big, boisterous group—you know a place can handle a crowd. No matter which of its seven locations you visit (the massive Second Ward temple to Tex-Mex along Navigation Boulevard is our favorite), you'll find a delicate dance of servers weaving in and out of packed rooms, balancing trays filled with sizzling fajitas and gooey cheese enchiladas being borne off to some lucky bunch of diners.
If you really want to experience the breadth of variety Houston has to offer, there's no better place than the food courts inside two of its biggest and best Asian grocery stores. At the Taiwanese-owned 99 Ranch Market, you'll find a line-up—literally, as each joint is lined up next door to each other near the entrance to the market—of pho, Viet-Cajun crawfish, Korean comfort food and Chinese dim sum. And in Korean-owned Super H Mart, just down the street, you'll encounter a dizzying array of Korean food stalls offering everything from fresh-baked bread and pastries to ultra-spicy fried chicken and scorching hot bowls of bibimbap.
Carnivores will want to carve out plenty of time to soak it all in at these sanctuaries of steak. Both cater graciously to large groups, both offer private upstairs rooms with views of downtown, and both encourage lingering, the better to enjoy your 40-ounce tomahawk ribeye from HeartBrand Beef in Yoakum (that's at Vic & Anthony's) or your A5 Kobe from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan (B&B Butchers is one of only nine restaurants in the U.S. licensed to serve the ultra-exclusive stuff).