Whether you're a native Houstonian or got here as fast as you could, this city has an incredible culinary history that is just begging to be explored. In its 179 years of rich history, Houston's chefs and restaurant owners have blended a variety of global cuisines and thrown in their own unique touches to produce some truly iconic dishes.
But what are Houston's most iconic dishes? With so many excellent dishes, cuisines, and restaurants to choose from, it's hard to narrow down a list of the city's definitive dishes. That said, some plates, like the crispy fried shrimp tails served up at Christie's Seafood since 1917 and Brennan'sShrimp Chippewa should be on any Houstonian's bucket list.
Whether you're looking for an excellent place to start in exploring Houston's culinary culture or just need a refresher of some old favorites, these 11 iconic dishes are definitely worth a try.
1 Brennan's of Houston
Brennan's Shrimp Chippewa brings dinner and a show via succulent shrimp sautéed in Cognac tableside served with sun dried tomatoes and a hearty serving of stone ground grits spiked with goat cheese.
2 Carrabba's - The Original on Kirby
Rich and creamy homemade Alfredo sauce coats fresh fettuccini, the only pasta made from scratch in house, along with sautéed mushrooms, scallions and shrimp to create the Pasta Weesie. A never-ending basket of Slow Dough goodies is perfect for sopping up every last drop of sauce.
3 Christie's Seafood & Steaks
Christie’s has been serving Gulf favorites to locals since 1917 and the fried shrimp paired with remoulade sauce is a must-try. The traditional sauce is prepared using homemade mayonnaise and garlic until it’s smooth and decadent.
4 Coltivare Pizza & Garden
This deceptively simple bowl of steaming noodles dressed with freshly cracked tellicherry peppercorns, parmesan, and olive oil has received national acclaim and a devoted following of locals who are happy to wait for a table just to get their hands on this cacio e pepe.
5 Crawfish & Noodles
Crawfish is, of course, an essential meal when it's in season, and nobody does it better than Crawfish & Noodles. The bugs here are bathed in a spicy, buttery, garlicky sauce with hints of lemongrass that make them a bit more nuanced than your average crawfish. Pair with a bowl of noodles on the side for the full C&N experience.
6 Goode Company BBQ
Choose from Czech sausage and assorted mesquite-smoked meats like turkey, chicken, and brisket plus made-from-scratch pies and homemade sides like Jambalaya Texana for a plate that’s filled the stomachs of Houstonians for 35 years.
7 Kenny & Ziggy's Deli
Should you find yourself in need of a burger capable of feeding a family of four, get thee to Kenny & Ziggy's for the Big Reubowski. Pat LaFrieda brisket and short rib combine to make an ideal burger patty, then it's all topped off with a massive pile of housemade corned beef, sauerkraut, and copious Russian dressing.
8 Niko Niko's
Gyros aren't unique to Houston, but Niko Niko's creates the city's most classic version of this popular handheld sandwich. A flavor-packed and juicy combination of chopped lamb and beef seasoned generously and served in a warm, soft pita with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.
9 Picos Restaurant
For this classic take on pollo en mole negro Oaxaqueño, a chicken forequarter is drenched in Oaxacan-style thick, dark, rich black mole – the result of an 8-10 hour cooking process involving an extensive list of ingredients – and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with rice, refried black beans, and lots of tortillas.
10 Rainbow Lodge
In addition to its namesake ingredient, Rainbow Lodge's rich and hearty bowl of smoked duck gumbo features Andouille sausage and topped with wild rice pilaf for a multi-textured off-the-charts savory indulgence.
11 Rudi Lechner's German Restaurant
Hot and crispy pan-fried breaded veal cutlet served alongside Austrian potatoes and choice red cabbage or sauerkraut. Live music and a beer hall vibe interior up the charm.