For both locals and tourists alike, Houston boasts an excellent culinary history just waiting to be explored. Over the years, both chefs and restaurant owners have mixed different global cuisines, throwing in some unique touches to create some of Houston’s most iconic dishes.
But what are the best foods to try in Houston? With a lot of cuisines, dishes, and restaurants to choose from, it’s quite challenging to narrow down the city’s most definitive dishes. Also, check out the things to do in Houston!
So, whether you want to start exploring Houston’s culinary culture, or simply want to discover a few old favorites, here are some iconic dishes that you should definitely try.
The fajitas were actually first invented in Texas. This type of dish was believed to be invented by Mexican ranch workers that knew how to cook skirt steaks.
Then, during the 1940s, a Mexican lady called Ninfa opened up a Mexican restaurant, and then called the dish “tacos a la Ninfa.”
Other ingredients were also added in the mix like tomatoes, onions, chilies, cheese, sour cream and cilantro, and it became a staple.
Up to this day, you can still visit the original Ninfa’s restaurant, but alternatively, you can also check out the family-run El Tiempo Cantina.
Back in the day, a large number of Vietnamese refugees migrated to the country in 1975.
Houston was the main location for these refugees, because of it’s warmer climate and nearness to the Gulf of Mexico.
Today, Houston has the biggest Vietnamese population in the entire United States, and it reflects on the food the city itself.
In the Northwest portion, you’d come across several Vietnamese dishes, as well as in the Midtown, which used to be the old Chinatown, and the new Chinatown in the city, which is located near Bellaire.
So, why not try the delicious pho and other mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes while you’re in the area?
Another byproduct of the Vietnamese migration in Houston is the Viet-Cajun Crawfish. Keep in mind that the crawfish isn’t a traditional staple in Vietnamese food, but it was adapted later on by Vietnamese cooks that wanted to incorporate local Vietnamese flavors in the local cajun dish.
The dish is usually spicy with lots of garlic. Note that the crawfish season is a bit short, so it’s not possible to find these dishes all year long. So, while you’re in the city, look for signs that advertise for crawfish boils.
If you want to save up some cash, you can bring a pair of gloves with you, and prepare to buckle it up for a pound of delicious crawfish. One and a half pounds of crawfish are usually already enough for one person. You’d find that there are a lot of excellent options out there, such as the New LA Crawfish Boil.
Texas is well-known for its Brisket, a particular cut of beef. In Texas, these smoked barbeque brisket is art in the making. It’s smoked for at least half a day and when paired with a little tomato sauce that isn’t too sweet.
It was believed that it was the Jewish immigrants who first brought the briskets in Texas in 1916.
So, if you’re in Houston and you want to try this staple dish, an excellent pick Conservatory, an excellent spot offering other options for non-meat eaters as well.
The city is well known for its barbeque joints, and most people relate Texan barbeque with briskets and back ribs. But while you’re in the area, the barbeque pulled pork is something that you shouldn’t miss.
One of the go-to places is Rudy’s, one of the famous barbeque chains in Texas. Here, you can order a pulled sandwich or meat by the pound.
The city has one of the most legendary restaurant scenes, and it offers a lot of ethnic niche eateries that give diners a more authentic dining experience.
Notable for serving diners with one of the most delectable gyros is the Greek eatery, Niko Niko’s,
The menu of this restaurant is huge, covering everything from baklava to dolmades. But it is said that it is their gyros that are the ones to die for.
It’s seasoned perfectly, cooked at the right temperature, making it an excellent meal whether you just want to grab it as a pita sandwich or pair it with rice.
Kolache is a kind of Czech pastry and is one of Texas’ famous breakfast staples. This was first introduced by Czech immigrants who settled in the area way back in the 19th century.
Over the years, it has become increasingly popular. The pastry both comes in savory and sweet fillings ‒ the more savory ones are filled with sausages and various meats while the sweeter ones or filled with cheese and fruit.
There are many kolache shops and bakeries in the city, and one of the most popular is Kolache Shoppe, which specializes in creating heavenly kolaches. Must-tries are their strawberry and cream cheese kolaches.
Houston is known for its abundance of Tamales. if you’re not quite familiar with them, it’s a dish that has a Mesoamerican origin.
It usually has dough inside that’s steamed in banana leaf or corn husk. One of the most famous places where you can try Tamales is Alamo Tamales.
Fusion dishes are on the rise.
One of the things that Houston does so well is fusion food. So, always keep your eyes on several restaurants that recreate the conventional Southern dishes into more innovative twists like the buttermilk biscuits and hush-puppies.
To try to get a taste of this trend, head over to Punk’s Simple Southern Food.
There are often two things that surprise anyone who would visit Houston for the very first time ‒ it’s the diversity of the city and its dishes. It boasts of a wide variety of multi-cultural cuisine. So, the next time you’re visiting the city, the food on this list is a couple of dishes that you have to try.