Houston certainly has a great combination of classic Texan fare such as steaks, barbecue, and Mexican food, but they also have a huge selection of ethnic places from which to choose. Expect to find great international fare from Vietnam, India, and South and Central America in this international city.

Here’s our favorites:

1. Hugo’s

Hugo's

Hugo’s serves authentic Mexican cuisine in a beautifully-restored 1925 Art Deco building in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. Chef Hugo Ortega came to Houston in 1984 with no money, no concept of the English language, and no job prospects. He unwittingly began his career in the food business by landing his first job as a busboy. He eventually found employment at Backstreet Cafe, where he was responsible for developing many of their innovative dishes and gained notoriety as one of Houston’s finest chefs. Ortega was a James Beard finalist for Best Chef: Southwest for 2012 and 2013. Hugo’s uses fresh and inspired ingredients to offer contemporary, inspired twists on the flavors from his native Mexico. The food is solid, and their margarita has often been voted as the best in Houston – read more here (Photo by T.Tseng)

2. REEF

Reef
REEF is a sleek, upscale seafood restaurant that has been named the “#1 Seafood Restaurant in the U.S.” by Bon Appetit. Chef Bryan Caswell is a multiple James Beard award nominee and is a champion of the sustainable seafood movement – many fish on the REEF menu are caught as a by-product of fishermen trying to catch more popular fish species. Chef Caswell has also made appearances on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Next Iron Chef series. Be sure to stop by the restaurant’s swank 3rd BAR cocktail bar – the drinks are good and there’s a great view of the Houston skyline – read more here (Photo by DL)

3. The Breakfast Klub

Breakfast Klub

The Breakfast Klub opened in 2001 in a bright yellow building in Houston’s Midtown neighborhood. In the years since Marcus Davis and his wife, Melvinie, opened the coffee shop it has since been recognized as one of the “best breakfast restaurants in the nation” by such publications as USA Today, Esquire, and Forbes. All types can be found here, from CEO’s of some of Houston’s largest companies, to blue collar workers, college students, and tourists. The restaurant also serves as a bit of a community center by hosting poetry readings and art shows. Go for the homemade sausage, bottomless cups of coffee, and friendly portion sizes. They are only open for breakfast and lunch – read more here (Photo  Ed T.)

4. Uchi

Uchi Houston

Uchi Chef and Sushi Master Tyson Cole was named “Best Chef Southwest” by James Beard Foundation for 2011, and he opened a Houston outpost of his original Austin location in 2012 to much fanfare. It has been busy ever since. Uchi is modern, stylish, and fun with unique, awe-inspiring seafood that pushes the boundaries of traditional Japanese cuisine. The menu changes daily based on the fresh seafood available, but favorites include the hot and cold tastings, makimono, yakimono, tempura, and the amazing sushi and sashimi – read more here (Photo Ed Schipul)

5. Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

Kata Robata Sushi Grill

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill offers an astonishing blend of Japanese tapas-style dishes in a smartly designed and modern space in the Upper Kirby neighborhood. The menu is extensive and runs the gamut from grilled Kobe beef and whole squid to ramen soup to inspired sushi creations found nowhere else. The vibe is modern and bordering on high-end. Chef Manabu €œHori€ Horiuchi attended culinary school in Osaka, where he graduated with top honors before making his way to Houston. He is a James Beard €œBest Chef Southwest€ nominee – read more here (Photo by Jason Armstrong)

6. Killen’s BBQ

Killen's BBQ

Killen’s BBQ in Pearland has achieved the tell-tale mark of barbecue greatness – a line of hungry devotees forms outside the place every day before opening time. The draw – slow-cooked brisket with a peppery bark and massive racks of smoked beef ribs. Arrive early, grab a ticket, and share your excitement with the other giddy folks in line. In addition to the brisket and beef ribs, try some house-made sausage, pork ribs, chopped pork, or turkey. Don’t skimp on the excellent sides or the dessert either – both the creamed corn and the bread pudding get rave reviews. Killen’s has only been open since 2014, but Ronnie Killen has earned the right to have his joint named as one of the “Top 5 Best BBQ in TX” by Texas Monthly. They cook and sell up to 2,500 pounds of barbecue a day – read more here (Photo by T.Tseng)

7. Benjy’s

Benjy's

Benjy’s is an upscale, stylish cafe and lounge that is perfect for anytime from brunch to happy hour and beyond. The secret behind the success is really very simple – the service is prompt and friendly and the food is solid farm-to-table fare. Various local accolades that Benjy’s has earned include €œBest Happy Hour,€ €œBest Martini,€ €œBest Business Lunch,€ €œBest Appetizers,€ €œBest Bar,€ and €œBest Restaurant.€ It’s hard to wrong at Benjy’s, Two of its most popular draws are the Happy Hour with its craft cocktails and appetizers and the Weekend Brunch with their Famous Crunchy French Toast – read more here (Photo by mario)

8. Original Ninfa’s On Navigation

Original Ninfa's On Navigation

According to local legend, the fajita was invented at the Original Ninfa’s On Navigation. In 1973, Ninfa Laurenzo was a widow with five children in 1973, and her family’s tortilla factory was failing. She decided to open a taco stand next to the factory to try to increase business. After struggling for a while, her stand grew into a restaurant that eventually gained a reputation for having authentic Mexican food.  Their tortillas are still fresh and handmade, and they perennially win awards for having the best fajitas in Houston. Their guacamole and margaritas are worth checking out, as well – read more here (Photo by Patrick Feller)

9. Niko Niko’s Greek

Niko Niko's

Niko Niko’s Greek serves authentic Greek food, plus excellent burgers, pork chops, and other comfort food in a no-frills operation at reasonable prices. The family restaurant has a rich history that covers a few generations and dates back to 1977. Go for the Greek specialties such as gyro, spanakopita, or pastitsio, or go for a hearty breakfast or a heaping sandwich made-to-order. There’s often a line outside of the door, but it moves quickly. Every year, as part of their Greek festival, the restaurant hosts the World Gyro Eating Championship – read more here (Photo by ilovebutter)

10. Peli Peli

Peli Peli

Peli Peli serves Chef Paul Friedman’s vibrant and innovative South African fusion fare in a dimly-lit, romantic space in Vintage Park northwest of downtown Houston. Peli Peli’s innovative menu showcases the food of South Africa and its many influences, from the indigenous tribes to the cuisines of Portugal, Holland, Indo-Asia, Great Britain, France, Italy and Greece. Central to the many exotic spices and ingredients is the liberal use of the South African peli peli pepper. The meals are not blatantly hot, but there is a heat that lingers and adds an exotic depth to the flavor profile. For the less adventurous, there are also tamer New American menu items offered. A good list of South African wines are offered to accompany the food – read more here

11. Underbelly

Underbelly

Underbelly is chef Chris Shepherd’s pork-centric, Asian-influenced restaurant, wine bar and butcher shop in Houston’s funky Montrose neighborhood.  The space is upscale and contemporary and features lofty ceilings, exposed shelves full of ingredients, and a warm wood bar. The New American, small-plate menu changes with the seasons and the current inspirations of the chefs. The meats are house-butchered and house-cured in the glassed-in charcuterie locker, and the cuisine reflects the ethic fabric of Houston – from barbecue to Vietnamese, Korean, and Mexican fare. The food is backed by a well-researched and reasonably priced wine list – read more here (Photo by T.Tseng)

12. Baby Barnaby’s Cafe

Baby Barnaby's

Baby Barnaby’s Cafe is a casual and funky neighborhood cafe that offers friendly service and large servings of fresh and delicious American breakfast fare. Breakfast is definitely the star here – and it deserves the honor, but the original Barnaby’s is right next door and serves lunch at dinner. For either, expect heaping, healthy helpings of excellent, dependable food. Much of the clientele is comprised of neighborhood regulars who make the place a second home. The servers – often tattooed and body-pierced – offer friendly service and lively conversation. The place is small, and there may be a line. Sign in on the clipboard by the door and grab a free cup of coffee – it’s worth the wait to get inside – read more here (Photo by Jamiza)

13. Indika

Indika

Indika offers innovative and creative takes on classic and regional Indian food, along with hand-crafted cocktails, in a warm, Saffron-painted room with high ceilings and dark wood accents.  Chef Anita Jaisinghani has grown from being a self-taught cook to being nominated for “Best Chef – Southwest” in the James Beard Awards in 2012. The food is based on flavorful and sublime regional Indian cuisine, but creative “fusiony” twists are added to elevate it above standard Indian fare. Expect a daring use of ingredients not normally associated with Indian foods – such as goat brains, scallops, pomegranate seeds, and pine nuts. Indika was named the “Best Indian Restaurant in the US” by Travel + Leisure in 2013 – read more here (Photo by T.Tseng)

14. Churrascos

Churrasco's

Churrascos is a Latin-American steakhouse and a meat-lovers paradise. The signature Churrasco steak is a butterflied, center-cut, tenderloin of beef that is marinated, grilled, and served with spicy chimichurri. It was named one of the “Best Steaks in America” by Esquire. Michael Cordúa was a Nicaraguan immigrant and self-taught cook with virtually no experience in the restaurant business when he opened Churrascos in 1988. The restaurant was the first in Houston to serve Latin American cuisine that was not Mexican. Unfortunately, the venture lost money and was destined for failure before garnering a positive reviews from the New York Times and Esquire. Today, there’s a few locations in the Houston area – read more here (Photo by Tendenci Software)

15. Oxheart

Oxheart

Oxheart is the ground-breaking local and seasonal tasting-menu restaurant in the Warehouse District run by chef Justin Yu and his wife, pastry chef Karen Man. The small and informal brick building serves astonishing excellent fare without the pretension of a traditional high-end restaurant. A choice of two, 6-course menus are offered nightly – one is vegetarian, and the other is not. Both come with optional wine pairings, and both are a product the the season’s local produce. Not only is the food stunning and delicious, the presentations of the small courses are just as impressive. Knives were built by a local metalsmith. Background music is supplied by vinyl records – read more here (Photo by Kent Wang)

16. Dolce Vita

Dolce Vita

Dolce Vita brings authentic Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven to Houston. The pizzeria opened in 2006 and quickly earned high notoriety from both the local press and national publications like The New York Times. Under Chef Marco Wiles’ supervision, the crust is thin and the char is perfect. The toppings are fresh and inventive – think items like marinated clams, arugula, pear, and butternut squash. Dolce Vita is located in the Montrose neighborhood, and the vibe is casual and convivial with a slight hipster factor – read more here (Photo by Kent Wang)

17. Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen

Kenny and Ziggy

Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen brings a little bit of New York to Houston in the form of pastrami, corned beef, and matzo balls. The restaurant was recently voted €œ”Deli of the Year€” by the New York Deli Dealers Association, and they have been featured on Food Network‘s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Ziggy’s grandfather, Max Gruber, opened the Rialto on Broadway in New York City in 1927, which was the first deli to open on Broadway and was frequented by stars such as Milton Berle, The Marx Brothers, and Ethel Merman. In the early 1990’s, Ziggy headed to the West Coast and opened Ziggy G’s on Sunset Boulevard, and it became successful and attracted Hollywood celebrities. He moved to Houston and opened Kenny & Ziggy’s in 2002, and another star was born – literally: Ziggy Gruber has recently been made the subject of a documentary called Deliman, The Movie – read more here (Photo by cynthiamonsters)

18. Backstreet Cafe

Backstreet Cafe

Backstreet Cafe is the place to go in Houston when the weather lends itself to outdoor dining. Two shaded outdoor areas provide the perfect setting for an al fresco jazz, or an upscale lunch or dinner. The setting in an old house with a large bar, intimate dining rooms with fireplaces, and the restaurant is run by Chef Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught, the same team behind Hugo’s. Ortega was a 2012 James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef – Southwest. Backstreet Cafe is renowned for their wine list and their desserts – be sure to sample from each – read more here (Photo by Quinn Dombrowski)

19. Empire Cafe

Empire Cafe

Empire Café is one of those restaurants that excels at everything, from breakfast in the morning to cocktails on the patio at happy hour. The space is relaxing and roomy and is reminiscent of a neighborhood European cafe. In addition to wonderful coffee drinks and desserts, Empire offers a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Stand in line to order, find a table, then the food is delivered when ready. Two patios offer plenty of outdoor seating – read more here (Photo by mario)

20. Pho Binh

Pho Binh

Pho Binh may serve the best Vietnamese food in Houston, which is saying a lot because Houston contains the third largest Vietnamese population in the country. The place is not plush – the family-run restaurant can be found southwest of downtown in a trailer overlooking a creek. Regardless, people from all walks of life make the trek for the wonderful bowls of pho. The food is tasty and healthy and chock full of fresh meats and produce. Huffington Post actually named Pho Bihn the “Best Pho in the Country” – read more here (Photo by T.Tseng)

21. Mark’s American Cuisine

Mark's American Cuisine

Mark’s American Cuisine is a romantic and inspiring restaurant housed in a former 1920’s church with the dining areas in the sanctuary and loft. Accent lighting, vaulted ceilings, hand-painted deco walls and candlelit tables serve as the perfect setting for Chef Mark Cox’ expertly prepared seasonal cuisine. The staff takes no short-cuts in sourcing the best ingredients available, and the light sauces enhance without overpowering. Mark’s American Cuisine was named one of the “Top 10 Restaurants in the U.S.” by Zagat – read more here

22. Baba Yega

Baba Yega

Baba Yega is a funky, welcoming restaurant serving fresh, New American fare in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. The setting is a converted bungalow home. Inside, there’s a fireplace for colder weather, but outside on one of the patios is the place to be when the weather is nice. The front patio is shaded by a giant oak tree, and in the the is a courtyard patio with a fountain and waterfall. The food at Baba Yega is fresh and wholesome, and much of the produce and herbs are grown in their own organic garden. They are open for breakfast through dinner, and they have won numerous local awards for their burgers, sandwiches, and vegetarian offerings – read more here (Photo by Lindsey Turner)

23. Original Marini’s Empanada House

Original Marini's Empanada House

The Original Marini’s Empanada House is the place to go in Houston for an authentic Argentinian empanada. Since 1971. Houstonians have headed to this institution for 62 variations of piping hot empanadas with perfect crusts. There’s over 62 variations available, ranging from traditional meat fillings to more exotic selections like asparagus, Texas brisket, pumpkin, and guava. To wash things down, there’s a good selection of Argentinian wine and beer, plus yerba mate. The place has always been family-run, and the service is friendly – read more here (Photo by Wayne Truong)

Featured photo by Patrick Feller. All photos CC-BY-2.0.

See our list of the 49 best things to do in Houston here.

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