Foodies beware! You may find it hard to focus on the AAM conference program in Houston while surrounded by all the delicious fare in this city. The fourth largest city in the nation touts an award-winning culinary scene getting the city some major national recognition. With more than 8,000 restaurants in the area, Houston is serving up culinary creations from more than 35 countries and American regions. It’s no wonder Houston residents dine out an average of 4.2 times a week—more frequently than diners in any other city—according to a 2010 Zagat Survey.
Make time to eat your way through Houston. Here are some of our local favorites, but we encourage our Houston museum friends to post their picks!
Elbow your way past locals for a table at Ninfa’s on Navigation. The original location turns out crispy chips, oh-so-addicting green sauce and tart Ninfaritas. Another must-do is Irma’s Restaurant Downtown. Owner Irma Galvan, who won the 2008 James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classics Award, whips up tasty breakfast and lunch grub. Say yes to the fruity lemonade.
Demeris Barbecue has been feeding Houstonians chopped beef for more than 40 years. Come hungry to Goode Company—another H-Town staple. Save room for the pecan pie. Head to Pizzitola’s along the popular Washington corridor, featuring Houston’s oldest BBQ pit.
The cherry blossom branches that drip from the ceilings make it easy to forget that Gigi’s Asian Bistro is in The Galleria. The dim sum here is a definite do. Kiran’s has perfected her Indian-French-American fare like the classic chicken tikka masala and creamy lamb saag. For more spice, Indika cooks up venison vindaloo as hot as the Montrose scene. Fans flock to Thai Sticks for fiery green curry with ground green Thai chilies and basil.
Mark’s American Cuisine, set inside a renovated 1920s church, has made Zagat’s No. 1 Food Spot in Houston for seven years running. Looking for the In Crowd? They’re at Tony’s. Expect a Texas-sized vino list—there are more than 1,000 wine choices—and upscale European-style Italian food. Set in a classic New Orleans style abode, Brennan’s of Houston serves a Texas creole-inspired menu.
Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler at Ragin Cajun. If you’re feeling adventurous (and want to live like a local) order a bucket of the crawfish. For a little less messy experience, Midtown’s Reef restaurant is well-versed in Gulf Coast seafood. The spot was recently named No. 1 Seafood Restaurant in America by Bon Appétit magazine.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the steak. For a hearty helping, hit west Houston’s Taste of Texas. The family-owned spot has an in-house butcher shop, a menu printed in 13 languages and a mean NY Strip. For a business lunch, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in The Galleria area is a safe bet, too. Date night do: Downtown’s Strip House. The all-red bordello-chic décor sets a sexy scene to take in the spot’s sinful 24-layer chocolate cake.
Think: Haute Dogs and Damn…Yankee Pot Roast at Max’s Wine Dive—offering a cheeky take on comfort food. Lance Fegan presents a constantly-changing, surf-inspired menu at the Glass Wall. Enjoy sweeping views of Downtown’s skyline from Sawyer Park rooftop bar. Nearby t’afia has an herbal cocktail to quench your thirst, too. But don’t stay out too late! The best part of waking up is Midtown’s breakfast klub, where the signature waffles and wings are well worth the wait.
AAM attendees – we look forward to sharing this culinary diversity when you’re here in May.
-Laurette Canizares and Natalie Bogan Morgan,
Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau