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2020’s Takeout Standbys, According to Houston Chefs and Food Writers

Where the city’s culinary obsessive dined during this truly weird year

A colorful array of sliced raw fish, including salmon and tuna, along with julienned veggies on a black tray. A plate of crisped nori and bowl of rice sit to the side.
A stunning takeout sushi platter from Kata Robata
Kata Robata
Amy McCarthy is a staff writer at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

2020 was the definition of a weird year, but even though we’ve all (mostly) been stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Houston restaurants still brought some really killer cuisine to the table during these truly tumultuous times.

To kick off the Year in Eater, a look back at the biggest stories and best meals over the past twelve months, we reached out to some of the city’s top chefs and food writers to find out where they ate the best takeout of 2020. From Chinatown takeout feasts to top-notch sushi and everything in between, these takeout dishes were tops, according to the experts.

Troy Guard, chef, Guard and Grace: I like El Tiempo Cantina and Tampico. They both kill it!

Sherman Yeung, chef/owner, Tobiuo Sushi & Bar: Chinatown mostly, Hong Kong Food Street was a favorite.

Chris Shepherd, chef/owner, Underbelly Hospitality: Kata Robata, the hand roll platter was killer for the both of us.

Erin Smith, Feges BBQ: Paulie’s, Mala Sichuan, Bang Bang!, Slowpokes. Those last two are in Spring Branch!

Mai Pham, Eater contributor: I did my best to support Houston’s Chinatown this year, never using apps, always calling directly to the restaurants and ordering for pickup. The Asian mom and pops were the ones I frequented the most — the ones that didn’t have a strong social media presence, the ones that I knew needed help.

I’d go to Shanghai Restaurant for the sweet and sour pork and salted toasted spareribs; Wing Kee for their magnificent Chinese barbecue (especially the roast pork); Nguyen Ngo and Thim Hing for banh mi; Bodard Bistro for nem nuong cuon (sausage spring rolls) and banh xeo; Pho 54 and Pho Ga Dakao for chicken pho; Tony Thai for all my favorite Thai dishes, especially the tom kha gai and the tofu pad Thai; Kim Son for their $28 family meal special; One Dragon Restaurant for braised pork belly and sheng jian bao (crispy bottom bao); San Dong Noodle House and Golden Dumpling House for dumplings...I could go on.

Alex Au-Young, Phat Eatery: Brett’s BBQ in Katy, Mein in Chinatown. For delivery, the app Chowbus has so many Asian restaurants to choose from.

Caroline Fontenot, Eater Houston photographer: Pizza at Cane Rosso, barbecue from the Pit Room, Teotihuacan, Nobie’s.

Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi, executive chef, Kata Robata: Huynh Restaurant.

  • Megha Bhandari, contributor, Eater Houston: Paulie’s has been a regular take-out choice for me since restaurants began reopening. It is a good bargain, the quality of the food has remained consistent and they make it quick and easy to call and pick-up orders. I have also regularly ordered take-out from Tarka, P. King, Shun and La Tapatia throughout the year.

Victoria Dearmond, pastry chef, Underbelly Hospitality: There’s a sushi place in my neighborhood called Tamashi that we’ve really enjoyed picking up from. Pork belly bowl and spicy tuna rolls for the win.

Ryan LaChaine, chef/owner, Riel: Virtual food hall Click Robot Run, Love Buzz and Sticky’s Chicken.

Alba Huerta, owner, Julep: Kata Robata, Riel, UB Preserv, Ninfa’s, B&B Butchers

James Lundy, executive chef, the Union Kitchen: For takeout, it was Gringo’s and Jimmy Changas, Palinuoro and Local Table. All are in Katy, where I spent a lot of time this year with the opening of our Katy location. Supporting local was a big deal to me.

Brittanie Shey, associate editor, Eater Houston: We already cook a lot so 2020 didn’t require much adjustment there, but when we wanted takeout it was usually because we wanted comfort food with low effort on our part. So we got a lot of La Mexicana — usually fajitas by the pound and a couple giant frozen margs — pizza from Love Buzz or burgers from Hobbit Cafe. Lei Low’s at-home cocktail kits and pre-made drinks were also a major balm during the doldrums of summer isolation. My husband’s birthday was in late March, right after the shutdown began, and we got pizzas and cocktails to go from Love Buzz and ate them on our tiny back patio and I think I’ll always remember that humble little celebration.