clock menu more-arrow no yes

10 Contenders for Houston's Next Wave of Classic Restaurants

View as Map

Observing Houston's restaurant spaces can feel like being backstage at a fashion show with its constant cycle of wardrobe changes: the cheerful colors of Tex-Mex replace the rich tones of Italian heritage in a matter of days, for example. Despite this nightmare of here-today-gone-tomorrow uncertainty Houston still supports a substantial number of businesses that each garner distinct praise and devoted followers. These 10 (okay, one entry counts twice) restaurants are so full of promise - and regulars -they will surely be featured on local "classics" lists 20 years hence. Lucky us.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

Copy Link
500 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 520-8222
Visit Website
Established: 2006

When Chef Marco Wiles introduced his upscale-casual pizzeria to Montrose he did more than offer delicious goods; the place oozed Italian charm with its cozy rooms and inviting patio, which made it an instant hit with locals. Folks still flock there for the authentic wood fired pizzas, fresh seafood, pastas, and creative greens such as the parsley & pancetta salad. Ordering the homemade desserts is essential; all signs point to a sweet future, pun sincerely intended.

[Photo Google Maps ]

2. Hugo's

Copy Link
1600 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 524-7744
Visit Website
Established: 2002

Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s Montrose collaboration is such a mainstay of Houston it is difficult to believe they have only been open since 2002. They continue to present faithful and respectful interpretations of Mexico’s incredible cuisine while keeping flavors approachable to the local palate through their exquisite menu of Ceviche, mole, chiles, seafood, and more. This foundation of award-winning quality makes Hugo’s a shoe in for future success.

[Photo Google Maps ]

3. Onion Creek Café

Copy Link
3106 White Oak Dr
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 880-0706
Visit Website
Established: 2002

The Creek Group brought us The Heights’ Onion Creek Café in 2002 and continues to churn out massively successful spinoffs with different-enough atmospheres catering to singles, families, and everyone in between. In addition to creating yummy foods and serving a solid beer, wine, & coffee program, these beloved locales also have a history of supporting community events including cook-offs and farmers markets. This philosophy of involvement and local pride sets the stage for long-term residency for Onion Creek and its sisters.

[Photo Onion Creek Cafe/Facebook ]

4. MAX's Wine Dive

Copy Link
4720 Washington Ave Ste B
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 880-8737
Visit Website
Established: 2006

Two things in life never go out of style: Champagne and fried chicken. Fortunately both can be enjoyed at Max’s along with all sorts of elevated variations of classic comfort dishes from local Chef Michael Pellegrino like the Max’n Cheese featuring a truffle cream sauce and three kinds of cheese or the chicken friend ribeye with eggs. An edgy-yet-comfortable interior and high-energy vibe ensure this Houston-based chain will stay on the radar for years to come.

[Photo Max's Wine Dive/Facebook ]

5. Bernie's Burger Bus Stop

Copy Link
5407 Bellaire Blvd
Bellaire, TX 77401
Established: 2010

The concept of the hamburger is not new but Bernie’s interpretations make you feel like every bite is a revelation – because it is. From the juiciest and most flavorful Angus beef to the homemade condiments and inventive toppings, addictive fries, and to-die-for shakes there simply are no failing grades. As such, Bernie’s will always get straight A’s and perfect attendance, clichés be damned.

[Photo Eric Sauseda/Groovehouse ]

6. Kata Robata

Copy Link
3600 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 526-8858
Visit Website
Established: 2009

Incomparable ingredients and original interpretations from Chef Manabu Horiuchi culminate in the remarkable indulgences enjoyed by guests at this renowned Upper Kirby establishment. Given its consistently positive press and loyal following one should expect to keep Kata reservations in the rotation for a long, long time.

[Photo Kata Robata Sushi + Grill/Facebook ]

7. Underbelly

Copy Link
1100 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 528-9800
Visit Website
Established: 2012

Memorable meals in Houston can mean many things but when consumed at Chris Shepherd’s Montrose destination the experience is truly exceptional. With a daily evolution of menu options representing the complex melting pot of Houston’s diverse cultures, guidance from one’s server is to be taken seriously and this is a good thing since the eyes will inevitably steer towards, well, everything. Enjoy what you can and go back for more. Relax, you’ve got the time.

8. Peli Peli

Copy Link
110 Vintage Park Blvd, Ste P
Houston, TX 77070
(281) 257-9500
Visit Website
Established: 2010

Five years ago South African cuisine had but a sole promoter in Houston via the delightful Leibman’s store in west Houston, until Peli Peli made its debut. Since that time Chef Paul Friedman has welcomed guests who have embraced the flavors of South Africa’s rich and varied culinary history with such enthusiasm that the second location is set to open in The Galleria this March. Given that the menu is inspired by classic dishes of French, English, Indian, and Dutch origins it’s only natural that Peli Peli itself will command a timeless presence.

[Photo Peli Peli ]

9. Killen's Steakhouse and Killen's Barbecue

Copy Link
2804 S Main St
Pearland, TX 77581
(281) 485-0844
Visit Website
Established: 2010 (Killen's Steakhouse) and 2014 (Killen's Barbecue)

Skill and ingredients alone do not create definitive dishes or enduring endearment, though they do play an integral role in the final result of an experience and there is no shortage of either in Pearland. Also crucial is the appreciation and respect paid by the person behind the meal, in this case Ronnie Killen and his unfailing attention to the minute details of his operation – so finely and expertly tuned that he quite literally cannot keep his product on the carving board due to popularity. There are few guarantees in the restaurant business but as long as beef has Ronnie Killen Houstonians will have two extraordinary havens for carnivorous gratification.

10. Ruggles Green

Copy Link
801 Town and Country Blvd
Houston, TX 77024
(713) 464-5557
Visit Website
Established: 2008

Defined as Houston’s First Certified Green Restaurant™, this organically and locally focused fast-casual favorite is well on its way to classic status thanks to its promotion of good-for-you and good-for-the-environment menu and business practices, which is a theme that is likely to enjoy solid longevity (as well it should). Of course, it helps that everything on the menu tastes good too.

[Photo: CityCentre]

1. Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

500 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Established: 2006

When Chef Marco Wiles introduced his upscale-casual pizzeria to Montrose he did more than offer delicious goods; the place oozed Italian charm with its cozy rooms and inviting patio, which made it an instant hit with locals. Folks still flock there for the authentic wood fired pizzas, fresh seafood, pastas, and creative greens such as the parsley & pancetta salad. Ordering the homemade desserts is essential; all signs point to a sweet future, pun sincerely intended.

[Photo Google Maps ]
500 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

2. Hugo's

1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Established: 2002

Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s Montrose collaboration is such a mainstay of Houston it is difficult to believe they have only been open since 2002. They continue to present faithful and respectful interpretations of Mexico’s incredible cuisine while keeping flavors approachable to the local palate through their exquisite menu of Ceviche, mole, chiles, seafood, and more. This foundation of award-winning quality makes Hugo’s a shoe in for future success.

[Photo Google Maps ]
1600 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

3. Onion Creek Café

3106 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
Established: 2002

The Creek Group brought us The Heights’ Onion Creek Café in 2002 and continues to churn out massively successful spinoffs with different-enough atmospheres catering to singles, families, and everyone in between. In addition to creating yummy foods and serving a solid beer, wine, & coffee program, these beloved locales also have a history of supporting community events including cook-offs and farmers markets. This philosophy of involvement and local pride sets the stage for long-term residency for Onion Creek and its sisters.

[Photo Onion Creek Cafe/Facebook ]
3106 White Oak Dr
Houston, TX 77007

4. MAX's Wine Dive

4720 Washington Ave Ste B, Houston, TX 77007
Established: 2006

Two things in life never go out of style: Champagne and fried chicken. Fortunately both can be enjoyed at Max’s along with all sorts of elevated variations of classic comfort dishes from local Chef Michael Pellegrino like the Max’n Cheese featuring a truffle cream sauce and three kinds of cheese or the chicken friend ribeye with eggs. An edgy-yet-comfortable interior and high-energy vibe ensure this Houston-based chain will stay on the radar for years to come.

[Photo Max's Wine Dive/Facebook ]
4720 Washington Ave Ste B
Houston, TX 77007

5. Bernie's Burger Bus Stop

5407 Bellaire Blvd, Bellaire, TX 77401
Established: 2010

The concept of the hamburger is not new but Bernie’s interpretations make you feel like every bite is a revelation – because it is. From the juiciest and most flavorful Angus beef to the homemade condiments and inventive toppings, addictive fries, and to-die-for shakes there simply are no failing grades. As such, Bernie’s will always get straight A’s and perfect attendance, clichés be damned.

[Photo Eric Sauseda/Groovehouse ]
5407 Bellaire Blvd
Bellaire, TX 77401

6. Kata Robata

3600 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098
Established: 2009

Incomparable ingredients and original interpretations from Chef Manabu Horiuchi culminate in the remarkable indulgences enjoyed by guests at this renowned Upper Kirby establishment. Given its consistently positive press and loyal following one should expect to keep Kata reservations in the rotation for a long, long time.

[Photo Kata Robata Sushi + Grill/Facebook ]
3600 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098

7. Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Established: 2012

Memorable meals in Houston can mean many things but when consumed at Chris Shepherd’s Montrose destination the experience is truly exceptional. With a daily evolution of menu options representing the complex melting pot of Houston’s diverse cultures, guidance from one’s server is to be taken seriously and this is a good thing since the eyes will inevitably steer towards, well, everything. Enjoy what you can and go back for more. Relax, you’ve got the time.
1100 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

8. Peli Peli

110 Vintage Park Blvd, Ste P, Houston, TX 77070
Established: 2010

Five years ago South African cuisine had but a sole promoter in Houston via the delightful Leibman’s store in west Houston, until Peli Peli made its debut. Since that time Chef Paul Friedman has welcomed guests who have embraced the flavors of South Africa’s rich and varied culinary history with such enthusiasm that the second location is set to open in The Galleria this March. Given that the menu is inspired by classic dishes of French, English, Indian, and Dutch origins it’s only natural that Peli Peli itself will command a timeless presence.

[Photo Peli Peli ]
110 Vintage Park Blvd, Ste P
Houston, TX 77070

9. Killen's Steakhouse and Killen's Barbecue

2804 S Main St, Pearland, TX 77581
Established: 2010 (Killen's Steakhouse) and 2014 (Killen's Barbecue)

Skill and ingredients alone do not create definitive dishes or enduring endearment, though they do play an integral role in the final result of an experience and there is no shortage of either in Pearland. Also crucial is the appreciation and respect paid by the person behind the meal, in this case Ronnie Killen and his unfailing attention to the minute details of his operation – so finely and expertly tuned that he quite literally cannot keep his product on the carving board due to popularity. There are few guarantees in the restaurant business but as long as beef has Ronnie Killen Houstonians will have two extraordinary havens for carnivorous gratification.
2804 S Main St
Pearland, TX 77581

10. Ruggles Green

801 Town and Country Blvd, Houston, TX 77024
Established: 2008

Defined as Houston’s First Certified Green Restaurant™, this organically and locally focused fast-casual favorite is well on its way to classic status thanks to its promotion of good-for-you and good-for-the-environment menu and business practices, which is a theme that is likely to enjoy solid longevity (as well it should). Of course, it helps that everything on the menu tastes good too.

[Photo: CityCentre]
801 Town and Country Blvd
Houston, TX 77024

Related Maps