Even though Houston is the 4th largest city in the US, there’s more restaurants in this city than anywhere else in the country. Locals eat out 5 times per week on average! The axiom is true, everything IS bigger in Texas… and now you know why!
While you can’t possibly try every restaurant in Houston, here’s 10 family-friendly places you have to eat at to get the authentic Houston experience.
1. D’Amicio’s Italian Market Cafe
5510 Morningside, Suite 140, Houston, TX 77005
This family owned restaurant specialises in Northern and Southern Sicilian cuisine. But if you feel inspired to cook at home, there’s plenty of mouth-watering Italian ingredients available in the deli and mini food market.
It’s been a while since our food tour in Rome in 2013, but the memories of those authentic flavours are still vivid. D’Amicio’s brought back those wonderful, rich flavours and more with their home-style, down-to-earth dishes that southern Italy and Sicily is known for.
The marketplace setting is just like stepping into Sicily, minus the expensive airfare. So it’s an easy choice for me - this restaurant takes the top spot on my list.
What to try:
- Meat lasagne (made with fresh, tender, homemade pasta)
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Bowties with suga sauce
- Gelato - salted caramel, strawberry sorbet, Nutella (our kids kicked their gelato cups dry)
- Cannoli with sliced almonds, cherries, pistachio (the traditional crunchy shell received a modern twist)
The kids portion sizes are quite large… would you expect anything else? 1 dish could have been shared by my 2 kids.
2. Berryhill Baja Grill
1717 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056 (multiple locations)
Fresh, flavourful food inspired by the Baja region of Mexico. From the colourful, inviting, festive décor to the prompt, friendly service, everything about Berryhill Baja Grill was spot on.
Simply order and pay at bar, grab a number and before you know it, the food is brought out. If you only order one dish, it has to be the fish tacos. I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear of diners dragging themselves over broken glass to their hands on these little delights. Frequently rated as “the best fish taco ever” and “best fish taco east of Southern California”, I was curious by the hype. But I’m pleased to say, they lived up to that and more. These authentic tacos are filled with juicy morsels of Swai fish (related to catfish but not bottom feeders). There was no fishy taste at all, and the delicate fish takes on marinade flavours beautifully.
What to try:
- 3 combo: grilled fish Baja taco, chicken chimichanga, beef enchilada
- Cheese quesadilla & beef soft taco (for the kids)
- Fresh squeezed mint lemonade (made with real lemons)
- Tres leche dessert (one of the best desserts in Houston, according to my 6-year-old son)
Take advantage of the complimentary corn chips and salsa bar, but save some room for the main course.
3. Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen
2327 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
Don’t be fooled by the rather ordinary building façade. As soon as we walked through the front door, some kind of voodoo magic instantly transported us to New York City. I was almost certain.
From the heavenly scent of smoked meats, to the hand-drawn caricatures adorning the walls, everything resembled the classic delicatessen experience I had come to love in New York City. My sordid love affair with Reuben sandwiches was reignited.
Every dish we tried was jam-packed with flavour, but not too salty like some NYC delis I've been to.
What to try:
- Fiddler on the roof of your mouth (pastrami & corned beef sandwich)
- Bagel with cream cheese (my son loves them for some reason!)
- Zof tots (with sour cream & Russian dressing)
- Matzo ball soup
- Potato knish (like bread and mash potato combined with a flaky crust)
Kenny & Ziggy’s have the biggest menu I've ever seen. It literally is almost too big to hold up! But don’t let all the options overwhelm you. Most guests share 1 sandwich and a matzo ball soup.
4. Black Walnut Café
2971 Hawthorne Dr, Conroe, TX 77303 (multiple locations)
Since 2002 Black Walnut Café has been perfecting fast casual dining, offering something for everyone. The top food quality speaks for itself – customers keep coming back again and again.
We visited the branch at Galaxy FBO located in Conroe, about 50 minutes north of Houston’s city centre via car. There are plenty of other locations around Houston that are closer, but we chose this one because of its unique view… an airport runway! In fact, it’s the only restaurant in the US within a regional airport on the 3rd floor overlooking a runway.
This particular branch of Black Walnut Café is very popular with locals and has received high acclaims on Foursquare and review websites. And unlike typical airport food, this restaurant freshly prepares every dish and the pricing is very reasonable.
What to try:
- Tex-mex omelette
- Cordon bleu eggs Benedict
- Texas-cut challah French toast
- Fruit bowl
- Freshly squeezed orange juice (it’s really fresh!)
If you’ve got the money, try the $100 Burger. Yes, it’s a burger that costs $100, but you also get a bonus $100 gift voucher to use on your next visit (on any food except another $100 burger – you can understand why). Or if you’ve slept in, don’t worry the entire menu is available all day (including breakfast). After you’ve finished eating, take a short walk around Galaxy FBO – it’s a beautiful, relaxed small airport, which is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of major commercial airports.
5. Sweet Paris
797 Sorella Ct, Houston, TX 77024 (multiple locations)
If you love crepes, this is the place to go. Bright, light, funky pastel interiors paired with French-inspired modern décor bring a distinctive sophisticated European ambiance to the frequently brash bigger-is-better attitude of Texas.
The ordering process was fast and efficient, and food came out in less than 3 minutes. Our kids loved watching the crepes being made behind a window. This is as good as a crepe can get.
What to try:
- Apple cinnamon crème brulee crepe
- Ham & gruyere crepe
- Lemon & sugar crepe
- Nutella & strawberry crepe
There are multiple Sweet Paris locations, but the one we visited in CityCenter required paid parking ($5 for 1 hour). Considering the food is prepared very quickly, you’ll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the tasty crepes. No need to rush.
6. T-Bone Tom’s
707 Highway 146, Kemah, TX 77565
Serving tasty comfort food and Texas BBQ since 1974, this fixture in the Kemah community has been popular with locals for decades. After being featured on well-known TV show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it’s popularity has only grown in leaps and bounds.
When we visited for lunch on a Saturday the place was packed.
The thick, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth brisket is heavenly. And don’t underestimate the home made BBQ sauce, with flavour so deep I could have drowned in it (and enjoyed every second).
What to try:
- Brisket platter (you can choose marbled or lean)
- Ribs platter
We only ordered 2 dishes between 3 of us and still had leftovers. T-Bone Tom’s epitomises the fundamental Texas BBQ spirit, focusing on flavour and consistency. And of course, everything is big. Even the cups of water were the largest I’ve seen anywhere!
7. Goode Co
5109 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77002 (multiple locations)
This classic Texas BBQ joint has been serving up juicy mesquite-smoked meat since 1977. Eclectic décor ranges from bright neon signs to stuffed animal heads (bison, armadillo, ox) to historic photos. Throw in the 1950’s jukebox, an outdoor seating area, and even a jackalope (above the serving area), and you’ve got one unforgettable dining experience… and I haven’t even gotten to the food.
Locals flock here for comfort food – mild, tender brisket and perfectly smoked ribs. The homemade BBQ sauce sports strong, sweet tones of tomatoes.
But interestingly enough, Good Co is known for more than just BBQ. The pecan pie has been quoted by guests as the "best pecan pie in the history of the world". I have to agree, it’s pretty darn good.
What to try:
- 3 meat combo plate: beef brisket, pork ribs, jalapeno pork sausage (with rice, Austin baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw)
- Brazos bottom pecan pie
- Chocolate cream pie
- Homemade brownie
Goode Go have several locations in Houston, but we visited the Kirby Dr location which is in relatively close proximity to the Museum District. This spot is a convenient lunch stop you could enjoy in between the Houston Zoo and Children’s Museum of Houston or perhaps the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
8. Pappasito’s Cantina
2536 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098 (multiple locations)
Part of the family-owned Pappa’s group of restaurants, it’s easy to see how Pappasito’s Cantina take their dedication to quality very seriously. Every mouth-watering tex-mex dish we tried was vibrant, colourful and packed with flavour.
What to try:
- Chicken nachos
- Chicken fajitas
- Soft tacos
Enticed by the affordable prices, we ordered way more than enough food, with plenty of leftovers for the following day. Bring your appetite!
485 S Mason Rd, Katy, TX 77450 (multiple locations)
For over 65 years Luby’s has been a Texas culinary institution, serving up home-style dishes in a friendly, modern cafeteria environment. With an emphasis on fresh-from-the-farm produce and classic Americana favourites like chicken fried chicken, roast beef, fried fish, mac and cheese, and candied yams, Luby’s has built a local following.
As a newbie to the serving-line-style setup, it took me a little while to work out how the menu operated. Unlike a typical a la carte restaurant, there’s no printed menu. And I found the meal combos and prices weren’t very clearly displayed – everyone else seemed to know what they were doing though. So I just asked one of the smiling servers and they explained how it all worked. Combos included an entrée (“main course” for Australians and Britts), 2 sides and a bread roll. Kids meals included an entrée, 2 sides, jello, roll and drink.
Pricing was very reasonable and the food was quite tasty and fresh.
What to try:
- Chopped steak with roast vegetables & salad
- Fish & chips
- Chicken tenders with mac & cheese
- Carrot cake, jelly
If you’re a newbie to Luby’s like me, check out the menu (updated daily) for the particular branch you’re planning on visiting.
10500 Town and Country Way, Houston, TX 77024 (multiple locations)
This popular make-your-own-burger chain might not be unique to Texas, but what kid (or parent) doesn’t love piling up all their favourite toppings between two buns?
At home, I’m a creative cook. So the ethos of Fuddruckers’ “world’s greatest burger” resonates with me. Why should I be limited by only half a dozen types of burgers on a menu? Combining all sorts of toppings from the market fresh produce bar, I designed a work of art… at least I thought so.
What to try:
- 2/3 lb burger
- 1/3 lb burger (2 kids shared this and we still had leftovers)
- Vanilla & chocolate milkshakes
A 2/3 lb burger with wedges is big enough for 2 adults to share. Don’t get greedy like I did. But get creative with your toppings, you might just discover a brand new combo!
Finding somewhere to feed your face in Houston isn’t hard. But what is tough, is making a choice from the plethora of options. Hopefully, our culinary recommendations will help guide your next tasty adventure in Space City.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Don't forget the shrimp brouchet at Pappasitas. Biggest and best anywhere.
For a real neighborhood treat, try Andy's Hawg Wild BBQ, Tennessee style heaven right there. It's so off the beaten path it's in a residential area.
Also in Kemah, we love the Hubcap Grill. Philly cheesesteak burger and the Stinky Monkey, a burger with crunchy peanut butter and banana. I know how it sounds, but you got to give it a go. Five stars from this local.
Good list of some of the best though.
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