The 15 Best Restaurants in Houston

Houston's restaurant scene is Texas' hidden culinary gem

For people outside of the area, the Houston dining scene is probably a bit of a mystery. There's no one single restaurant or style of cuisine that carries the city's food banner on a national level. But anyone from the area will tell you – when it comes to eating out, Houston is booming.

So why is Houston’s culinary culture such a hidden-in-plain-sight gem? In 2005, the Houston Chronicle published a report detailing why eating out in Houston is so frequently both cheap and delicious. And there truly is no easy answer. Their reasoning including everything from the city’s lax zoning laws to its highly-developed freeway network.

But our list is less concerned with the factors that led USA Today to call Houston "the dining-out capital of the nation" than where you can find the city's best meals. While compiling this list, we dug up everything from fancy Italian dining at Da Marco Cucina E Vino, Modern American tasting menus at The Pass, and upscale farm-to-table dishes at Oxheart,to Hubcap Grill and Beer Yard, a folksy burger spot complete with a horseshoe pit.

The 15 Best Restaurants in Houston (Slideshow)

There are also several restaurants imprinted with distinctly Houstonian touches, including Brennan’s of Houston, with its Texas Creole cuisine, Reef, with seafood that takes full advantage of the city’s proximity to the coast, world-class Tex Mex at Hugo's Regional Mexican Cuisine, and Killen’s Steakhouse, which proves what we had already assumed – Texas is a place where people know a good steak when they see one.

There's also farm-to-table spot Underbelly, with its ambitious slogan "the story of Houston food," which borrows flavors from the city's large Vietnamese large population and prominently features local ingredients. 

To create this list we thoroughly reviewed Houston's formidable dining scene, taking into account quality, cost, reputation, and critical acclaim. And the results, in keeping with Houston's far-reaching food culture, hit all across the board. So, without further ado, here are the best burgers, tacos, Texas steaks, freshs pastas, sushi rolls, foie gras, and more Houston has to offer.

15) Brennan's of Houston

You’ll find bananas foster, turtle soup, shrimp remoulade, and anything else you’d expect from an upscale Texas Creole dining experience at Brennan’s of Houston – an institution that’s been receiving raves from both locals and visitors for 40 years. In addition to the top-notch takes on Southern favorites, Brennan’s is renowned for its beautifully decorated and comfortable dining area, as well as its Southern hospitality – Zagat has awarded Brennan’s top honors in Houston for both Service and Décor.

14) Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

Fast casual dining is elevated at Upper Kirby’s Giacomo's Cibo E Vino, where renowned Houston chef Lynette Hawkins delivers Italian classics like potato gnocchi with gorgonzola and cured meats carefully seasoned and served on small plates – and all made from scratch, of course. In addition to the vino selection – as ample as you’d expect given the name – you can choose from a selection of amped up Italian cocktails, like dry lambrusco with blood orange juice and citrus.