Last weekend, we made a quick trip to Houston to visit our friends and probably left five pounds heavier! The food scene was super diverse and did not disappoint. I asked here on Instagram about your favorite spots, and it’s apparent Houston locals are very passionate and opinionated about their food! Our friends Vy & Thinh are no exception, and literally had a food itinerary prepared for us. I got several requests to share where we went, so below is a roundup for anyone visiting!
Houston has a large Vietnamese population, which means no shortage of amazing food, both authentic and fusion-style! Be forewarned … this blog post is Viet-heavy as it’s my favorite cuisine, and binge watching Ugly Delicious on Netflix only intensified those cravings! We learned that there’s tons of local restaurants specializing in a specific dish (ie. only beef noodle soup) or type of food:
Nam Giao (top left)
For: Hue-style, or central-region Vietnamese small plates.
I saw this on the show and quickly added it to our list. Turns out our friends go regularly for their authentic small plates which you can enjoy like tapas. According to the menu, these dishes were served to the royal family with afternoon tea, before becoming popular street food!
My favorites were #1 banh beo (the crunchy chicharron & other toppings made for a delightful mix) served freshly steamed, and #13 nem nuong spring rolls with a grilled pork patty and crunchy stick inside. Both dishes were so good with their fish sauce mixed with fresh green chilis. We also liked #3, which is finely ground pork and shrimp with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, but would skip #6 and #7 next time (very chewy).
Crawfish Cafe (top right)
For: Viet-Cajun style seafood boils that come in plastic bags
No trip to Houston during crawfish season would be complete without a Viet-Cajun crawfish meal, but the number of restaurant choices were almost overwhelming! We ended up going to Crawfish Cafe, which was mentioned frequently by y’all on IG and also ranked high on our friends’ list. The ambiance here is non-existent (literally in the hallway of a dingy strip mall) so we got the food to-go … just make sure you have a plastic tablecloth or paper bags waiting at home!
Crawfish eating seems more like a social sport since it’s a lot of work for little meat, but a yummy sport at that. We got The Mix sauce, and a half Thai Basil, half Garlic Butter combo which were both very flavorful. I liked how the boil sauce really seeps into the seafood here (and the corn – my favorite part!), and the softshell crab rice was a nice side. Garlic noodles were just average.
Bo Ne Best Steak & Eggs
For: you guessed it….steak and eggs, lol (with a Vietnamese twist).
I drool each time I see this on my friends’ snaps. Sizzling hot plates of steak with sunny side up eggs, served alongside fresh baguettes with allegedly amazing pate and butter. We didn’t go this time, because I felt like having hard-yolked eggs and no pate just would NOT do the meal justice!
Duc Phuong Thanh Che (top left far corner)
For: Xoi Man or savory sticky rice, Banh mi sandwiches, Vietnamese desserts
A to-go snack / street food style place. We had the sticky rice topped with Asian sausages and it made for a very flavorful snack, and the banh mi sandwiches were solid. They can pack the veggies separately so you can easily reheat the sandwich in the toaster or oven for later.
Bun Bo Hue Duc Chuong (top left)
For: Bun Bo Hue, or Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup)
Bun Bo Hue is the ONLY item on the menu. It comes with the traditional components, so non-experimental eaters be warned. Our thoughtful friends had this as part of a big spread waiting for us at their home – the heat & spice were great for clearing the sinuses after travel!
Pho Dien (top right)
For: classic beef pho noodle soup
Apparently the spot for beef pho + iced drip coffee, this restaurant was packed with Vietnamese customers. A comforting bowl of pho with good broth and tender meat, served piping hot. Perfect hangover food, according to the boys! For chicken pho, I was told you need to head on over to Pho Binh (multiple locations).
Killen’s BBQ (top left)
A bit of a drive + a 45 minute line even mid-afternoon. Free cups of beer passed around on trays as you wait (a bit unusual, but no complaints from Nick). Lots of you said to get the beef rib – I was skeptical because it’s huge (comes out to about $30 per rib), but one was great cut up for sharing along with some bone-in pork belly! I’m all about the sides at BBQ, and these hit the spot (unlike Lewis BBQ in Charleston, where the brisket was Ahhh-mazing but the sides not so much). The creamed corn here was so good with a little kick to it!
Oporto Fooding (top right)
Portuguese tapas & wine bar, perfect for date night / girls night. I liked the squid fried rice and the chicken curry with naan.
Kata Robata (top left)
A number of you recommended MF Sushi, and our friends agreed it was in their top 5 Houston spots! We’ll have to make it back post-pregnancy so I can indulge in their omakase. For this trip, we grabbed lunch at Kata Rabata which had beautiful chirashi and sushi, and also pretty good ramen (not too salty) and bento boxes for non-raw fish eaters.
A cute breakfast / lunch spot (and very popular IG location apparently), but we just had their famous chocolate chip cookies (gooey with tons of chocolate) from their milk and cookie bar!
100% Taquito (top right)
An underrated street-style taco spot, in our friends’ opinion. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here, but their 3-taco sampler trio made for a yummy afternoon snack! Get them as quesadillas, which are the same as tacos just grilled with melted cheese (not the big round style quesadillas). Lots of customers around us were enjoying their pork rinds with salsa – might have to try that sometime!
I’ve never heard of the term kolache (“pastry”) before, but the sausage ones here are basically big “pigs in the blanket” with a fresh soft bun wrapped around a juicy sausage with gooey melted cheese. It’s scrumptious and addictive. Sold single or by the half dozen / dozen – ask for it to be heated up if you’re eating it right then!
Dun Huang Plaza
Giant Asian plaza (similar to ones in SoCal) with all things Asian including lots of food joints, ramen, desserts, bubble tea, bakers, and massage spots aplenty. Got several specific recommendations from you guys, but only had room left in our tummies by then for some shaved ice at Juice Bar and pastries at Six Ping.
Our husbands (exhausted from eating – lol) got Chinese foot massages, which some ladies I know swear by to help with regular high heels-wearing. Note: don’t expect a soothing spa massage. Chinese massages are rigorous and focus on circulation & pressure points similar to how acupuncture does – I nearly cried at a foot massage session!