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20 Houston Restaurants For Your 2020 Bucket List

Dai
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Kata Robata

For a decade, Kata Robata has garnered devotees with premium, fresh sushi like this spicy tuna roll. (Photo: David A Brown Photography)

Houston has morphed into a dining mecca, drawing tourists with more than 10,000 diverse eateries and restaurants. Yes, we said it: tourists. In the last year or so, we’ve gotten calls from out-of-state friends and family members quizzing about all the great dining options in town. They wanted to explore Houston’s bucket list of eateries. 

Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are already internationally known for their restaurants, and now, Houston is right up there with them. Naturally, we felt that should have been the case all along. Our city, after all, showcases so many cuisines, from Argentinian steak to Vietnamese pho. There are so many places to try, but since 2020 is around the corner, we’re starting with just 20.

We wanted a mix of cheap eats and high-end establishments along with spots that offer a snapshot of the locals and the city’s diversity. Here is our short list of essential restaurants – old and new – for visiting friends and relatives devoted to a sumptuous and sometimes, dizzying tour of what the city’s restaurants have to offer.

Arco Seafood Restaurant
9896 Bellaire Blvd., Suite K
713-774-2888
A favorite of many Chinese families for Peking duck and fresh, market-priced Cantonese seafood. 

BCN Taste & Tradition
4210 Roseland
832-834-3411
If you want something buzzy, trendy and delicious, head to chef Luis Roger’s newest concept MAD. But if you crave classic Catalan flavors and great ingredients, BCN Taste has your number. 

Blood Bros BBQ
5425 Bellaire Blvd.
713-664-7776
The Wong brothers and pitmaster Quy Hoang fork over meats and sides inspired by the culinary riches of Houston’s diversity.  

Politan Row
2445 Times Blvd.
713-489-2546
Food halls are ideal for when you and friends can’t agree on where or what you want to eat. So far, the buzz has been positive for the new Politan Row with its smartly curated group of restaurants and bars. 

Brennan’s of Houston
3300 Smith Street
713-522-9711
Open since 1967, this Gulf Coast-inspired gem oozes charm and impeccably executed Creole and Cajun classics. 

Café Caspian
12126 Westheimer Rd. #100
281-493-4000
A beloved home away from home for many Persian immigrants, who praise its kebabs and tender rice pilaf. 

Coltivare Pizza & Garden
3320 White Oak
713-637-4095
Come at peak hours and you’re going to wait for 30 minutes or more, but the Italian fare is worth the wait.  

Don Café
9300 Bellaire Blvd.
713-777-9500
Never tasted a banh mi? Start here for the Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with meats and the three Cs: cilantro, cumber and carrot. 

El Tiempo Cantina
Multiple locations 
The heirs of Mama Ninfa Laurenzo continue the tradition of seared, juicy fajitas with all the fixings. It’s interactive food at its best. 

Feges BBQ
3 Greenway Plaza, Suite C-210
832-409-6118
Former chef, now revered pitmaster Patrick Feges and wife Erin Smith push the envelope and give Houston barbecue a modern flair in an office-tower food court. What to order? Brisket. 

Hugo’s
1600 Westheimer Rd.
713-524-7744
Chef Hugo Ortega’s flagship introduced many Houstonians to the regional tastes of Mexico. Already been? The award-winning chef has the Oaxacan-inspired Xochi and Mexican seafood-driven Caracol

Kata Robata
3600 Kirby Dr., Suite H
713-526-8858
Chef Manabu Horiuchi sets the impeccable tone for this popular Japanese restaurant. One out of every three chefs we’ve interviewed will declare this to be his/her favorite sushi and sashimi spot. 

Killen’s STQ
2231 S Voss Rd.
713-586-0223
Ronnie Killen made a name selling steaks and barbecue. Here, he showcases wood-fired steaks along with a few barbecue-inspired items, including smoked beef short rib with espresso barbecue sauce. 

Mala Sichuan
9348 Bellaire Blvd. 
713-995-1889
Not only does Mala Sichuan serve up some of the best Sichuan specialties in town, but it is also a good starting point to explore Houston’s vibrant Chinatown. It’s also a few doors down from Six Ping bakery

Nancy’s Hustle
2704 Polk
346-571-7931
A favorite of many toques, this tiny nook, with chef Jason Vaughan helming the kitchen, has garnered fans with its bold flavors and surprising twists. A must-try: Nancy Cakes with whipped butter and trout roe. 

One Fifth Gulf Coast
1658 Westheimer
713-955-1024
One Fifth (which changes concept every six month) is the brainchild of award-winning chef Chris Shepherd. One Fifth highlights dishes from the Gulf Coast states and will open through July 31, 2020. Already been? Shepherd also owns Georgia James steakhouse and UB Preserv

Pondicheri
2800 Kirby
713-522-2022
How about an Indian breakfast to jumpstart the day? Chef Anita Jaisinghani continues to captivate with her ever-evolving menu. 

Shun Japanese Kitchen
2802 S Shepherd Dr.
832-409-5888
Chef Naoki Yoshida cut his teeth at one of our favorites, Nippon, in the Montrose area. Now, he and sous chef Dylan Thompson are putting their spin on classic Japanese izakaya. 

The Breakfast Klub
3711 Travis
713-528-8561
Politicians and community dine in perfect harmony over plates brimming with waffles and wings or fried catfish and grits. 

Tony’s
3755 Richmond
713-622-6778
There is a reason why Tony’s has been around for nearly six decades. Restaurateur Tony Vallone keeps flavors vivid and quality high by hiring uber talented, young chefs with a knack for classic and creative fares. 

Editor’s Note: Buzz dining columnist Dai Huynh is a James Beard food-journalism award winner and longtime Houston-based restaurant writer. See Dai's Chef’s Corner column to find out where the experts eat.

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