The brisket nachos at Candente.

Montrose remains Houston's healthiest food paradise. This is where the city's elite chefs play, opening big-money concepts that dot Westheimer Road and vie for your evening attention. But along with the James Beard bait are some of the city's most beloved stalwarts and comfort-food standbys. No matter your choice, you really can't go wrong.

Here is our run through the best of Montrose:

Avondale Food & Wine 

The former L'Olivier is a wine-focused French bistro with filling, rustic dishes, like chicken with Robuchon potatoes and crispy pork belly with spuds and arugula. There's also a 44 Farms burger and snacks, like pickled veggies and a Dairymaids cheese and charcuterie plate, for those wanting something a bit more noshable. Avondale also doubles as your favorite bottle shop, thanks to a superior selection of labels from Burgundy, the Rhône Valley, and Beaujolais, plus fun finds from Napa Valley and Sonoma.

The Burger Joint

When you're in a bind and it's late at night, or when you're coming out of the bars and need a quick beef fix, The Burger Joint is there. It's one of Houston's most beloved spots, known for its hefty burgers like the Smoke Stack, with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese, or Fire, with jalapeños and Serrano peppers. Of course, you need to pair your meaty meal with a creamy milkshake, and we'll recommend the salted caramel. That said, you really can't go wrong (try the 8th Wonder shake with Rocket Fuel Vietnamese Coffee Porter, for sure).

Candente

Our happy place is sitting down to a plate of Candente’s brisket nachos, shredded, cheddar-glazed, and topped with refried beans, plus a half-pound of meat smoked out back. Maybe yours is there, too, or possibly it's the smoked-chicken verde enchiladas, the crispy tacos served with a taco sauce that seems to ring a certain bell, or the plato épico, which combines all the great things this cousin to The Pit Room does well: enchilada, chile relleno, crispy taco, and a street-style taco el carbon.

The fun and busy dining room of Georgia James in 2019.

Image: Jenn Duncan

Georgia James

Chef Chris Shepherd’s steakhouse is a celebration of Houston’s meat fascination, with standout offerings such as a wagyu zabuton and 100-day-wet-aged hanger steak. But there are other reasons to visit this hip steakhouse: the over-the-top raw bar, Viet-Cajun roasted oysters, devilishly delicious house-cured charcuterie, Tejas Heritage chicken, and whiskey-forward bar among them.

Hay Merchant

Chris Shepherd’s gastropub is the move when you want a beer you’ve never tried before with dinner. Sit at the long bar or at a nearby cafeteria table and order the sharp, smoky fried-bologna sandwich or the chef’s famously spicy Korean braised goat and dumplings. The beer list here is among the best in the city, constantly changing with both local favorites and harder-to-find and reserve ales and lagers from across the world. 

Hugo's

Nearing the beginning of its third decade of operation, Hugo's remains the gold standard in Houston hospitality and consistency, thanks to Tracy Vaught's leadership, Hugo Ortega's cooking, and Sean Beck's expertise with the vino. Here is where Ortega perfected upscale Mexican, from undeniable crispy duck in a poblano mole to the carnival of flavors that's the arroz a la tumbada (chicken, chorizo, shrimp, calamari, mussels, and clams in rice with a salty broth). After getting your dinner fill, be sure to check Hugo's brunch service off your Houston restaurant bucket list.

La Guadalupana

Here's a very Houston feeling: Grabbing one of those tables in the parking lot of La Guadalupana late on a Saturday morning, preferably after a long night, and sinking into copious mugs of coffee. After a while, the plates come, from those perfect migas and chilaquiles, to a croissant just hammed with all the things—sausage, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, peppers, onions, cheese. While breakfast is the move here, lunch staples like chile relleno and mole poblano hit the spot as well.

Love Buzz

This place—also known as the answer to “What would a grown-up version of Mr. Gatti’s look like?”—doesn’t have much by way of parking, but you’ll quickly forgive that shortcoming over a thin-crust, sausage-laden Meat Town Bound for Flavor Town, a crisp pint of Dogfish 60 Minute IPA, and a round of Mortal Kombat. Come after 9 p.m., and you can save your spending money for Skee-ball or air hockey; slices of cheese pizza are free with the purchase of any adult beverage.

Fresh and fun plates are the order of the day at Nobie's.

Nobie's

The hip eatery owned by Sara and Martin Stayer excels with daily changing menus, mixing up neighborhood favorites with inventive plates. The beer-battered sweet potato tots with harissa and goat cheese, fried chicken dinner with arugula salad, and olive oil cake remain some of Houston’s essential feel-good fare. You can't go wrong with any of the comforting pasta dishes or grilled wonders like octopus and strip steak. The outstanding bar program run by Sarah Troxell produces a constantly evolving list of cool cocktails, though you can never go wrong with a perfectly balanced Negroni or even a shot of Fernet Branca.

Paulie's

One of Montrose’s most adored spots for comfort food, Paulie’s is still going strong with homemade pasta dishes focused on unique types, like the frilly, U-shaped creste di gallo—tossed with sausage, chile flakes, and pickled onions in marinara—and tiny, chubby, and ear-like canestri—served with crimini, shiitake mushrooms, and a creamy marsala sauce with garlic and sage. Paulie’s also crafts one of the finer Italian hoagies in Houston, using genoa salami and ham with provolone in oil and vinegar. Don’t sleep on the surprising shrimp BLT, either. Of course, some shortbread cookies make a Paulie’s meal complete.

The Pit Room

At this popular smokehouse, you can either spread out with a three-meat plate (always spring for the ribs), grab a patio bar stool and enjoy a one- or two-meat sandwich—the pulled pork is an under-the-radar stunner—or chomp into brisket tacos with melty cheddar, sour cream, and salsa roja. If you have room, the side of rich elote is excellent, as is the heavenly sugar-cream pie.

Ryan Lachaine, chef/owner of Riel.

Image: Will Blunt

Riel

Though the restaurant is named for Canadian resistance fighter Louis Riel and run by Canadian chef Ryan Lachaine, there’s nary a poutine to be seen here. Instead, Lachaine leans toward a more diverse, Houstonian menu, offering empanadas packed with mushrooms, Prosecco-spiked yellow-edge grouper crudo, sizzling hot hanger steak (with pierogis, naturally), and caviar ... served on house-made tater tots. Who said fine dining can’t be fun?

Rosie Cannonball

Goodnight Hospitality opened this anchor to its Montrose empire in 2019, nearly spittin' distance from both Chris Shepherd's UB Preserv and Hugo Ortega's namesake restaurant. Almost immediately, it was clear that Rosie was just as good as those stalwarts. Here, chef/partner Felipe Riccio dazzles with Mediterranean plates like chicken Basquaise and a hearty bolognese over cavatelli, plus a must-order focaccia di recco and a bunch of fun pizzas (three cheese and speck and chili oil, please). The service is warm; the wine curation is tremendous, with a mix of harder-to-nab old and new world finds; and the experience will certainly be memorable.

Rudyard's

The so-called “living room of Montrose” would be the perfect place to grab a bite alone even if the food were just okay. Luckily, chef Anthony Calleo’s cuisine is really good. Get one of his loaded 12-inch pizzas—we love the smoky Pig & Potato—or his divine Parmageddon, meaty chicken parm inside a crunchy garlic sub roll, with a side of tater tots and a dark beer to match.

Traveler's Table

It's a concept fraught with danger: Here's a range of dishes and flavors spanning the globe, from Thai khao soi, to Indian butter chicken, and from Italian seafood risotto, to Jamaican jerk chicken. Yet, owner Matthew Mitchell seems to make Traveler's Table work because it doesn't take itself so seriously; plus, the food is good. Especially, dive into the lamb tagine and beef cheek ravioli, and small plates like hummus with lamb ragu and crab samosas with spicy mango chutney. It doesn't hurt that Traveler's Table is set inside a gorgeous wood-framed space.

Nick Wong's culinary skill is on full display at UB Preserv.

Image: Jenn Duncan

UB Preserv

While Chris Shepherd owns UB Preserv, the evolved Underbelly located at the old Poscol space, this place is all about chef de cuisine Nick Wong. The California native who worked in the Momofuku empire came to Houston in 2018 to open this small but dangerously powerful restaurant, and he makes the most of the space. You could go for individual plates like hanger steak with butternut squash pajeon, cabbage salad with pretzel croutons, or the ridiculously delicious crispy rice salad with fresh veggies, or you could (and should) let your server make the decisions for you. This inventive wild ride of a restaurant is unlike anything else in the city; just strap in and let go.

Uchi

This famous Austin import offers some of the finest sushi in town for a pretty penny, plus a popular “sake social” hour that makes a meal by chef de cuisine Chris Davies affordable. Be sure to get here at 5 p.m. to score a seat and indulge in items such as sumptuous oxtails rolled inside rice panko, wagyu skewers inside butter lettuce with tangy kimchi aioli, yokai berry, or cool salmon with crispy kale. Save room for a foie gras candy bar, the most extravagant Snickers you’ve ever tasted. 

Vibrant

Not only is this restaurant vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined-sugar-free, it’s also pretty as a postcard, with a minimalistic, sun-drenched dining room. You’ll pay a bit more here, but few dishes beat the veggie-packed greens-and-grain bowl packed with field greens, quinoa, fennel, broccolini, and macadamia-cashew cheese. Cozy entrées like a green curry bowl with shiitake mushrooms, green beans, and rice are perfect for the chilly winter.