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Houston’s restaurant scene is characterised by an eclectic array of international and interstate influences. Most famous for barbecue and Tex-Mex, food in Texas also borrows flavours from nearby Louisiana as well as the various immigrant populations that have settled here. These 10 restaurants represent the best dining in the city.
With a large portion of the state bordering Mexico, Texas cuisine takes extensive inspiration from the tacos, enchiladas and tamales of its Southwestern neighbor. El Real Tex Mex describe themselves as vintage Tex-Mex, an American regional culinary category born out of the cross border rail travel between Texas and Mexico which occurred towards the end of the 1800s. The restaurant is housed in a restored cinema, making for an ambience that is at once vibrant and retro.
El Real Tex Mex 1201 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX + 1 713 524-1201
If Texas is known for one dish, it’s barbecue, and Houston is home to some of the best smoked meat joints in the country. Among these, Gatlin’s is consistently ranked as one of the best for its perfectly seasoned brisket, and melt off the bone ribs. As true Houstonians with strong links to both Texas and Louisiana, these regionally inspired flavours shine through in their most celebrated dishes.
‘Fried Chicken and Champagne?…Why the Hell not?!’ so goes the mantra of Max’s Wine Dive. The home of this unique dining philosophy pairs Southern comfort food with truly great wines from around the world, proving that true Texas fare can be raised to the ranks of fine dining. Merging innovative modern cooking with Southern classic dishes, the resulting menu is what they refer to as ‘gourmet comfort food’. A carefully curated wine list has been prepared to accompany these dishes, which can be enjoyed amidst the rock and roll melodies of the juke box.
Celebrated Chef Robert Del Grande opened RDG Bar Annie following the closure of his wildly popular Bar Annie. With an outdoor dining terrace and warm wood panelled interiors, RDG Bar Annie combines contemporary design with an appreciation for an elegant past in which people donned their finest garb for an evening out on the town. The speciality here is meat, and items such as the steak tartare and hanger steak consistently receive rave reviews.
Among the variety of culinary influences that infiltrate Houston, Texas’ proximity to the Cajun and Creole cooking of its neighbour Louisiana has brought some of the nation’s most unique flavours to the Lone Star State. Brennan’s of Houston is the quintessential Southern restaurant, combining exceptional Creole cooking with genuine hospitality.
Underbelly claims to offer ‘the story of Houston food’ by incorporating fresh, local and underused ingredients in a celebration of Houston’s history as a port city and centre of agriculture. The architecture and interior decoration of the establishment are also notable. Designed by Houston-based Collaborative Projects, the modern Southern Interior is characterised by barn-like ceilings and hand-crafted furniture.
Authentic Mexican food is also a staple within Texas, and Hugo’s restaurant is one of Houston’s most praised examples of this cuisine done right. The restaurant was opened in the Montrose district in 2002 with the goal of bringing traditional, regional Mexican cuisine to the people of Houston. Hugo’s is also noteworthy from an architectural standpoint, with sweeping staircases, wide windows and intricate detailing on the brick facade,
Haven restaurant has ‘Lone Star State Roots’, in the most literal sense. Chef Randy Evans opened his green-inspired restaurant in 2009 to highlight the produce of farmers, ranchers, fishermen and artisans from throughout the state of Texas. In addition to this, the restaurant grows many of its own spices in the large garden out back, and a beekeeper works manages the nearby hive. Diners are able to check the origins of their dishes on the large map at the restaurant’s entrance. Evans created his menu, which is described as Texas Modern Cuisine, by considering the state’s multicultural communities, incorporating elements of the Vietnamese, Mexican, Acadian, German, Czech and Polish communities that reside here. Featured dishes include fried oyster tostada, shrimp corn dogs and wild Louisiana catfish.
Occupying a corner location in Houston’s historic Warehouse District, Oxheart restaurant is a four-star establishment that expertly brings out the flavors of the simplest of ingredients. The range of reasonably priced tasting menus on offer here are served in a comfortable and homey environment, adding an element of sincerity to the meal. Rustic wood tables built by a local carpenter and hand-painted murals fill the spaces here, while waiters attend to diners dressed in leather aprons.
In true Texas style Rudy’s first opened as a convenience store and gas station before the barbecue restaurant was added in 1989. Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q has since garnered a reputation as one of the best places for authentic Texas barbecue in the state. The interior of this Houston favorite screams small town America with red and white checkered table cloths, wood beamed ceilings and a red, barnyard-esque facade. The restaurant boasts barbecue pits that are 100 per cent wood fired with oak, which burns more slowly than the popular mesquite used by others, ensuring the juiciness of their meats.
Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ 14620 Northwest Fwy, Houston, TX, United States +1 713-462-3337