My Top 10 Restaurants in Houston!

When I arrived in Houston in June of 2016, my roommate Anne-Marie said to me “You could come back for the next ten summers and still not see all the restaurants worth seeing”. For those that don’t know, Houston is huge. It’s the fourth biggest city in the USA and it has a massive dining culture. Houstonians love to eat out, and it’s reflected in the sheer amount (and variety) of restaurants the city has to offer. In 2005 USA Today proclaimed Houston the “dining-out capital of the nation” and it’s been reported that the city’s residents eat out at restaurants more often than those from other major cities. Basically, it’s a great place to live if you’re a foodie, and one thing that’s interesting about Houston is its relative lack of national chains in favor of local ones. This is evident in the dominance of local families such as the Pappases and the Carrabbas which you may or may not see featured in this list (#SpoilerAlert). Anyway, with that said, there aren’t too many rules for this list; these are the top 10 restaurants I have personally eaten at, and given that I’ve lived next door to NASA for the past year, expect inclusions to come from South Houston and its outlying communities.

#10 Aiya Sushi & Ramen


Location: League City, TX

What to get: The Salmon Nigiri- it’s everything you want in raw fish; beautiful texture that’s soft to the bite and full of flavor.

What makes this place: You might have to wait a little longer than other sushi places, but it’s worth it because better attention is paid to the food. The best example of this is the Crunchy Roll, which I found to be neater and better prepared than at other nearby sushi places. The difference was that we were able not only to finish the Crunchy Roll this time, but not feel like ass afterwards.

Trivia: We went here on July 3rd before heading off to see the fireworks at the Kemah Boardwalk with some newlywed LSU graduates. I never know quite how much to order when it comes to sushi, but in this instance I actually under-ordered and headed back to the counter to ask for some more.

#9 Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Lobster Ravioli, of course. Don’t think I need to elaborate on why that’s the bomb.

What makes this place: The family history behind Carrabba’s is super interesting, and reading it one can see why the food here is so damn good. The family describes getting off the boat at Galveston and starting a legacy that began in the Houston area. When they got off that boat, they carried with them not just the Sicilian recipes they had been raised on, but a love of Creole and Cajun cooking- seafood in particular. There’s an eclectic mix here of traditional Sicilian fare and recipes which reflect the local produce of the Gulf. Did I mention their wood-fired pizzas as well?

Trivia: We came here sometime in 2016, where I immediately became impressed by the classy interior design and low, atmospheric lighting. At the time I described it as being a fancy, upscale Olive Garden, but in truth it’s much more than that.

#8 Aquarium Restaurant


Location: Kemah, TX

What to get: The Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake. I got this for dessert and honestly it’s one of the greatest cheesecakes I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a whole helluva lot in my time).

What makes this place: It’s a restaurant that’s also an aquarium, so there’s that. Aside from being able to engage in a staring contest with a moray eel whilst you eat, the food on offer is awesome (and pricey). Best for a special occasion!

Trivia: When we visited this place in July of 2016, we had just seen Finding Dory at the movie theater, and that was why we chose the Aquarium Restaurant (yep, that is the actual name) over the many others that the boardwalk offers.

#7 Sam’s Boat


Location: Seabrook, TX

What to get: Gotta be the crab cakes. As far as entrees go, I highly recommend the Blackened Mahi Mahi for lovers of quality ocean fish.

What makes this place: The atmosphere. The design of the building is interesting. I keep calling it “Sam’s Club” because it’s the size of a bloody warehouse. There’s a nice maritime aesthetic that blends well with the sports bar setup, and the patio offers a lovely view of Clear Lake.

Trivia: We ate here for July 4th, 2016 and after we finished our meal we were able to enjoy a view of the fireworks from one of the outside balconies.

#6 Ichibon Seafood & Steakhouse

Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Yaki Beef was exquisite, and everything you want beef to be; slender cuts of meat full of flavor and not too chewy.

What makes this place: Although you can get sushi here, what you really ought to do is come for the Hibachi experience. It’s a right laugh. Seriously- you need to try this at least once in your life because it’s like going to the circus. At the time my roommate Aaron and I were sleepy but once the spectacle started we were woken right up, the server flinging clumps of rice in our direction and setting off flames that made us go “WOAH” with wide-eyed astonishment. I can’t stress enough how much of a hoot this is- to say nothing of the gourmet cooking.

Trivia: When we visited this place in 2016 we were actually attending the birthday of a fellow alumnus of the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. In fact, the Blugolds at the table outnumbered the Texans!

#5 Pappa’s Seafood House


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Stuffed Crabs were particularly wonderful. You can get two or three, and you better have a darn good reason for not picking the latter.

What makes this place: The Houston Press describes the Pappas family name as “the most famous name in Houston”. These guys are everywhere, and at each one of their eateries you are guaranteed top notch food. The quality and range of seafood here was second to none, and the high prices are justified. Whether you are looking for fried seafood or naked fish, gumbo or steak, or lobster fresh from the bay, this place is a true fisherman’s dream.

Trivia: My roommates and I hit up Pappa’s Seafood House for July 4th of 2017, although it was quite by accident. We had intended to grab some sweet-ass BBQ at the nearby Bone Daddy’s establishment, but found that it was closed. It’s funny because we tried to eat at Bone Daddy’s on four separate occasions this summer, but each time they were mysteriously closed for business!

#4 Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: Anne-Marie swears by the Linguine Alfredo. I got it on our second trip and it is best had with chicken. Easily the creamiest linguine dish this side of the Atlantic.

What makes this place: The authenticity, without a doubt. This was far and away the most authentic restaurant we have been to in the USA. It’s a small, indie restaurant with a cozy feel. It’s how I imagine the mom & pop eateries of New York’s Little Italy to be. It’s out of the way and not too flashy, but it’s a real hidden gem. There’s no neon or anything, just this simple, homely atmosphere. The staff are all sweet as pie and make you feel like family.

Trivia: The second time we came here Anne-Marie was handed a side of garlic bread, which I assumed for some idiot reason was given to us as a sharing basket. So I reached across the table to grab one, prompting Anne-Marie to exclaim “OI” in her best cockney accent. I’ve never seen her look so shocked. Within seconds she burst out in fits of French laughter, genuine teary-eyed hysterics, at my faux pas.

#3 Yard House


Location: Friendswood, TX

What to get: The Spicy Jambalaya has overtaken Pistol Pete as my favorite thing to come out of Louisiana. It’s influenced by Spanish and French cooking and personally I can’t think of a more holy culinary marriage. Andouille Sausage and Blackened Shrimp…that’s why this was actually my OFFICIAL favorite meal of the summer.

What makes this place: Its combination and range of American and local favorites. It’s kind of like an upscale sports bar. It’s a great place to go if you’re out on a Friday night seeing a movie or going on a date. Definitely a place to wear ya khakis and button-downs. You can get quality ribs here, fresh seafood, fancy versions of American pub classics, pizza, fried chicken, the lot!

Trivia: The only negative about our trip was that we spent the whole time regretting not getting the tower of onion rings, which we not-too-subtly stared at on the table opposite.

#2 Lupe Tortilla


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Chipotle Smoked Ribs are utterly divine. An interesting, Tex-Mex twist on one of my favorite dishes.

What makes this place: The patio is lovely. Come here on a cool, summer evening and watch the sunset whilst drinking margaritas and eating scooped guacamole off of warm and toasty tortilla chips.

Trivia: Our waiter sounded like Aaron Paul circa “You ain’t seein’ the basement, bitch!

#1 Saltgrass Steakhouse


Location: Webster, TX

What to get: The Prime Rib is my favorite cut of steak because of the one I got here. The meat was soft and succulent, and complete with this creamy lump crabmeat topping.

What makes this place: This is about as Texan as it gets. This local chain is based in Houston and it exemplifies everything that’s great about the Houstonian dining experience. I really don’t think there was anywhere else I could have put in the top spot. It’s very expensive, so come here on a special occasion, but you really get your money’s worth. The servers are incredibly professional and have the most Texan cufflinks. The interior aesthetics of this place are truly amazing, and the steak here is the best anywhere. And that’s why I suggest that if you are in Houston (or Texas for that matter) for just one day, then eat here. These folks know what they’re doing. Just writing this is giving me serious separation anxiety.

Trivia: We first came here on August 8th, 2015, a Saturday, for what stands as the greatest and most storied dining experience in the history of my travels in the USA. It kind of transcended the food itself, because of all the emotions at play. At the time, we had just driven from Wisconsin to Texas to help Anne-Marie move in for grad school. We were drained both physically and emotionally, but this meal was the highlight of our trip. We wanted a quintessentially Texan experience to mark our introduction to Texas, and we got it.

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