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25 Classic Restaurants Every Houstonian Should Visit At Least Once

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New restaurants pop-up all over Houston daily. Some close within a year, while others close after several years of being the hottest and trendiest restaurant in town. It takes years of dedication and loyal customers to stand the test of time, which is why we're paying tribute to Houston's longstanding restaurants where generations of families have insured their existence today. Ranging from eateries of the early 1900's to late 60's, here's where every Houstonian should dine and take in the city's culinary roots.


A third part of our classic restaurant series featuring landmark institutions established in 1970 to the early 90's is coming.
In the meantime, did we miss a restaurant that should have been acknowledged? Sound off in the comments below or in the forum.


Looking for more old school restaurants? Check out the first part of our series.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Molina's Cantina

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7901 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77063
(713) 782-0861
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Year Established: 1941

Origins: After moving from Mexico and working his way up from dishwasher, Raul and his wife Mary Molina purchased their first restaurant Old Monterrey Inn located at 1919 West Gray. A year later, the family sold their shares and opened Mexico City Diner at at 3916 South Main, which was later named Molina's Mexican City Restaurant before finally settling on Molina's. Several years later the Molinas expanded to 3606 Bissonnet for 10 years (prior to Cleburne Cafeteria relocating there in 1969), then 7933 Westheimer, later moving to 7901 Westheimer. Other locations opened within the last few years: 4720 Washington Avenue in Rice Military and 3801 Bellaire Boulevard in West University.

Why it's worth visiting today: Three words: Original. José’s. Dip. This dip made of chili con queso with spicy ground beef is the restaurant's signature dish and easily why you'll leave with the rest of your unfinished meal in a to-go box. It's hard to move away from the dip and homemade salsas, but when you do, a number of Tex-Mex classics that will satisfy. Big appetites will appreciate the Mexico City Dinner, the meal that includes a taco, enchilada, tostada, a tamale topped with chili, guacamole, chili con queso, rice, beans and flour tortillas. An added bonus: the possible sighting of the 41st President of the United States, George H. W. Bush.

[Photo: Google]

2. Cleburne Cafeteria

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3606 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 667-2386
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Year Established: 1941

Original location: First located in what's now known as Midtown at Cleburne and Fannin, Nick and Pat Mickelis purchased the cafeteria from original owners Anabelle Collins and Martha Kavanaugh in 1952. The couple later moved the restaurant to its current location in 1969 (previously a Mexican restaurant from the Molina family).

Why it's worth visiting today: There's not many places in Houston outside of schools and hospitals where you can find a cafeteria, let alone one where taste as good as it looks. Chicken-fried steak, roast beef and other homestyle meals served in a spacious dining room, makes every visit feel as if you're eating your grandmother's cooking at her house. Baked-from-scratch biscuits and pies are always a treat.

[Photo: Google]

3. Tony's

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3755 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77046
(713) 622-6778
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Year established: 1965

Origins:

Why it's worth trying today:

[Photo: Tony's/Facebook]

4. Brennan's of Houston

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3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-9711
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Year established: 1967

Origins: The sister restaurant to Commander’s Palace in New Orleans resides in the John F. Staub landmark built in 1929, which once housed by Junior League of Houston. Owned by Owen Brennan and the Brennan clan until a dispute in 1974, split the ownership. Adelaide, John, Ella, Richard and Dorothy, Owen's siblings were awarded full control of Brennan's of Houston. In 2008, a fire caused by Hurricane Ike forced the restaurant's closure. After a 16-month restoration, Brennan's reopened in 2010.

Why it's worth trying: It would be hard to do a classics list and leave off this Midtown mainstay. The New Orleans import serves up classic New Orleans-Texas Creole fare in surroundings that give new meaning to the word "elegant." White table cloths, exposed brick, huge windows where light streams in, they're all perfect accents to a menu that includes old-school touches like turtle soup. Bonus: the signature bananas foster is prepared tableside -- and it doesn't get more classic than that.

[Photo: Brennan's of Houston]

5. Pizzitola's BBQ

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1703 Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77008
(713) 277-2283
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Year Established: 1935

Origins: Originally opened as Shepherd Drive Barbecue Stand by proprietors John and Lela Davis at Shepherd and Long. The couple later moved to 1703 Shepherd in the 50's after their business was bulldozed for the construction of Interstate 10. Jerry Pizzitola took over as owner/pitmaster in 1983 after the patriarch's passing.

Why it's worth trying: The smokey slow-cooked barbecue produced is reminiscent of its days as Shepherd Drive Barbecue Stand due to Pizzitola's adaptation of the Davis family recipe. Hill Country sausages, ribs, brisket and chicken are smoked for hours until tender from the smokehouse's original hickory wood burning pit. Desserts far outshine the lackluster sides, where coconut pineapple cake and banana pudding are always suburb.

[Photo: Wolfgang Houston/Panoramio]

6. James Coney Island

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3607 S Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 524-7400
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Year established: 1923

Origins: Two Greek immigrants and brothers — Tom and James Papadakis — opened their first hot dog stand on the ground floor of the Beatty-West Building at 1011 Walker in Downtown Houston, selling sandwiches and bowls of their “secret-recipe” chili. The name was selected off a coin toss and would become ingrained into the hearts of Houstonians for decades to come. A second location would open at Town & Country Mall in 1968, with several more throughout the 70's and 80's. In 2013, the restaurant changed its name to JCI Grill and introduced an expanded menu.

Why it's worth trying: Although the original location closed in 1993, the locally owned and operated hot dog restaurant continues to serve up the classics that keep its loyal customer base coming back. Coneys covered in chili and topped with chopped onions and cheese are crowd favorites but its gourmet dogs (think beef frankfurter with chipotle mayo, guacamole and cilantro) are bringing in a new wave of fans.

[Photo: Wolfgang Houston/Panoramio]

7. This Is It

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2712 Blodgett St
Houston, TX 77004
(713) 521-2920
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Year Established: 1959

Origins: Frank and Mattie Jones originally opened this soul food institution at 1003 Andrews in Houston's Freedman's Town, now known as Midtown. The restaurant moved to 207 Gray in 1982 and relocated once more to its current Third Ward address in 2010 where Jones' grandson Craig Joseph Sr. and wife own and operate the beloved diner today.

Why it's worth trying: The family-run diner's down-home Southern classics are food for the soul. Fall-off-the-bone oxtails, smothered pork chops, and fried chicken keeps this Third Ward restaurant busy during lunch hours and Sundays. Don't skip the macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes, both compliment any entree of your choosing.

[Photo: Steve B./Yelp]

8. Gaido's

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3800 Seawall Blvd
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 762-9625
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Year established: 1911

Origins: Patriarch San Giacinto Gaido, an Italian immigrant, opened his seafood restaurant at 21st Street Pier adjacent to Murdoch’s Bath House and later moved to its current location in the 40's. Gaido later established Pelican Club, a private supper club adjacent to the restaurant and a cafe. The cafe's name changed to Casey's in 1987 and in 2013, Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar.

Why it's worth trying:The seasonal seafood menu guarantees you're receiving the freshest and highest quality dishes. It's also why there's a crowded dining room in the evenings decades later. Order their famous Galveston Bay oyster platter and shrimp bisque, and be sure to heed this warning: make a reservation or be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table in the evenings.

[Photo: Gaido's/Facebook]

9. El Patio

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6444 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 780-0410
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Year Established: 1964

Origins:

Why it's worth trying:

[Photo: Google Maps]

10. Lankford's Grocery & Market

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88 Dennis St
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-9555
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Year established: 1938

Origins: Nona & Aubrey Lankford started their business with a fruit stand in Houston's Fourth Ward. In 1939, the duo moved across the street to its current location where they continued to operate as a grocery store. In the early 70's the Lankfords began to experiment with selling sandwiches, graduating to their claim to fame a few years later, burgers. Their rise in popularity as a neighborhood cafe led them to abandon the grocery portion in the 90's.

Why it's worth trying: It's one of several wallet-friendly options along Westheimer's growing and pricy restaurant row. Serving non-frills burgers from a converted garage, this homey eatery has captured the hearts of not only Montrose residents but the nation. The quaint cafe was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and landed on Gourmet magazine’s list of "20 Burgers to Eat Before It’s Too Late." While the burgers live up to the hype, breakfast is the next best thing. Generous portions of eggs, hash browns and sausage is the reason why the early morning meal is the best way to start the day.

[Photo: Google Maps]

11. Christie's Seafood & Steaks

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6029 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 978-6563
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Year established: 1917

Origins: What began as a fish stand along Galveston’s waterfront, Turkish immigrant Theodore Christie expanded his beachside venture into a restaurant in the area now known as the Medical Center on Main Street in 1934. Christie would later adopted James "Jim" Priovolos in the mid 60's (whose surname became Christie) who in turn relocated the restaurant to its current Westheimer haunts in 1979.

Why it's worth trying: Fried shrimp and steaks the size of Texas are a must at this Gulf Coast institution where everything is made fresh in house. From homemade seafood chowders and bisques to fish and shellfish, it's the best of Gulf Coast and comfort food rolled into one. Kiddos will be thrilled to know the family-run restaurant's patriarch invented the sandwich-ready fried fish patty (a menu staple) that would later bring about fish sticks, this is according to local lore.

[Photo: Google Maps]

12. Cream Burger

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3116 Scott St
Houston, TX 77004
(713) 659-7660
Year established: 1946

Origins: Willie and Verna Greenwood opened their roadside burger stand, originally known as Willie’s Cream Burger (because ice cream and burgers were on the menu), along Willow Glen Street on Houston's southwest side. Several years later, the couple relocated to its current Third Ward location in 1961.

Why it's worth trying: Sometimes you want a break from the foie gras, truffled sprinkled, gourmet concocted burger. That's where Cream Burger steps in. Hot-off-the-grill beef patties sandwiched between lightly crisped buttered buns, is as simple and delicious as it gets. It's why this Third Ward burger stand is a neighborhood favorite for residents, Texas Southern University and University of Houston students. Order hand-cut fries plus a milkshake and you'll have enough money left over to splurge for a crazy topping, grass-fed pricey burger later.

[Photo:Stacy C./Yelp]

13. Dot Coffee Shop

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7006 Gulf Fwy
Houston, TX 77087
(713) 644-7669
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Year Established: 1967

Origins: After finding success with their refrigeration and restaurant supply businesses, Pete and Jim Pappas eventually followed in their father's footsteps, H.D. Pappas, opening their first restaurant in Downtown Houston. Jim purchased Dot Diner located off Main across from Houston Chronicle. Jim's oldest son Harris helped managed the diner which later relocated to its current location in Gulfgate. Harris and Jim's other son, Chris opened The Brisket House (now Pappas Bar-B-Q) on Pierce in 1967, which led to other concepts in the 80's and 90's — The Strawberry Patch (now Pappas Bros. Steakhouse), Pappas Seafood House, Pappasito's Cantina, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Yia Yia Mary's Greek Kitchen and Pappas Burger.

Why it's worth trying:

[Photo: Molly Block/Flickr]

14. Triple A Restaurant

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2526 Airline Dr
Houston, TX 77009
(713) 861-3422
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Year established: 1938

Origins: George Schmidt opened his downtown cafe in 1938, relocating Trucker's Cafe to its current location in 1942. Schmidt's nephew Sonny Schmidt, along with his wife and Lucille took over the restaurant continuing to serve comfort food quickly to the area's blue-collar clientele. Sonny and Lucille's son Cecil later managed the store that is now run by his own children: Matthew, Christine and Michael.

Why it's worth trying: Classic Americana and Southern fare is what you'll find here. Comfort dishes like chicken and dumplings, roast beef and chicken fried steak are guaranteed to be consistent. With prices comparable to Luby's (three sides, entree and bread for under $10), the homemade offerings and its throwback digs is a triple win.

[Photo: Edgar V./Yelp]

15. Frank's Grill

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5001 Telephone Road
Houston, TX 77075
Year Established: 1954

Origins: Originally Frank A. Jones’ Sandwich Shop, the cafe set up shop in the Pecan Grove neighborhood at 4702 Telephone Road before changing its name to Frank's Grill. The diner would later open a second location at 5903 Clinton, formerly Bertrand’s Cafe which relocated next door to 5901 Clinton. Franchised locations opened throughout Houston in the 90's and 2000's. The original restaurant moved to new haunts a few blocks down in 2013.

Why it's worth trying: Breakfast. Massive portions of made-to-order eggs, hot-off-the-griddle sausage and strips of crispy bacon is why this longtime diner is packed every morning. Heartier appetites will be happy with chicken-fried steaks that spill over the plate, pork chop and steak eggs to pair with breakfast.

[Photo: Mark B./Yelp]

16. Spanish Village

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4720 Almeda Rd
Houston, TX 77004
(713) 523-2861
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Year established: 1953

Origins: Originally owned and operated by Larry Pico. At one point, there were two Spanish Villages. John and son Joe Medina later purchased the rights to the restaurant upon Pico's retirement. After a dispute with Pico who became The Medinas' landlord, the father/son team relocated to the Heights (4811 Lillian), leaving Pico's to take over the restaurant again but under a different name, L. Pico Village. John eventually parted ways with his son, taking the restaurant's name with him to the Almeda location and his son (who trademarked Spanish Village without his father's knowledge) eventually closed the Heights restaurant in 1995/1996.

Why it's worth trying: Situated along the Almeda Corridor, in the area formerly known as Third Ward, this well-beloved eatery has been serving up authentic Tex-Mex fare for decades. The Enchiladas a-la-Taylor are divine but anything that's covered in queso and chile con carne are top notch. Grab a seat on the enclosed patio, perfect for people watching while sipping a cold margarita.

[Photo: Google Maps]

17. Doyle's Restaurant

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2136 W 34th St
Houston, TX 77018
(713) 686-8271
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Year established: 1954

Origins: n/a

Why it's worth trying: It's a Houston classic serving Italian-American cuisine. No-frills spaghetti and meatballs and sausage po' boys are as nostalgic as the restaurant's vintage setting. If pasta isn't you cup of tea, order one of the few burgers offered on the menu.

[Photo: City-Data]

18. Demeris Bar-B-Q

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2911 S Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 529-7326
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Year opened: 1964

Origins: After acquiring Sanders Barbecue, Gus Demeris and cousin Nick opened the first Demeris Bar-B-Q on South Shepherd. The family opened several more locations from the late 60's into the 70's. Three locations remain open today.

Why it's worth visiting today:Traditional barbecue ribs have made this family-run smokehouse a favorite among locals. Smoked jalapeno sausage, turkey and chicken are also on the menu, while fajitas and steaks are available at the original Shepherd location.

[Photo: Wolfgang Houston/Panoramio]

19. Frenchy's

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3919 Scott St
Houston, TX 77004
(713) 748-2233
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Year Established: 1969

Origins: Percy "Frenchy" Creuzot Jr originally opened as a take-out service only, serving one item: po' boy sandwiches. A few years later, the restaurant's signature fried chicken would appear on the menu, solidifying it as one of the top places in town for the Southern treat.

Why it's worth trying: This Third Ward institution helped usher in Creole cuisine with its special blend of spices, creating a flavorful and crispy chicken that rivals America's fried favorite KFC. Just ask Houston native and mega superstar Beyoncé Knowles, who sings its praises in interviews and songs. Slammed daily with Third Ward residents, students from neighboring University of Houston, Texas Southern University and people from all walks of life, the wait for the famed chicken can take a while but is well worth it. Creole seasoned fries, spicy dirty rice and braised greens are a must to pair with any meal, but leave room for a slice of homemade sweet potato pie.

[Photo: Urbanspoon]

20. Yale Street Grill

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2100 Yale St
Houston, TX 77008
(713) 861-3113
Year established: 1923

Origins: Originally known as Yale Pharmacy.

Why it's worth trying: Part antique store and diner, this Heights institution remains a favorite for diners in the city. The old school vibe where soda fountain stools and other relics remain in tact is part of its charm. Classic burgers and blue plate style specials with chicken-fried steaks and meatloaf are comforting. Kids of all ages will delight in malts, shakes and sodas made the old-fashioned way.

[Photo: Roadarch.com]

21. Avalon Diner

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2417 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 527-8900
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Year established: 1938

Origins: This old-fashioned diner opened next to Avalon Pharmacy.

Why it's worth trying: The pharmacy may be long closed but this River Oaks diner is prescribing daily dosages of down-home food. Hearty breakfasts and blue plate specials served at the counter make this retro eatery comfort food central. Old-fashioned hamburgers dressed with tomatoes and lettuce are better than any fast food burger and the old school milkshakes and floats are the icing on the cake.

[Photo: Roadfood.com]

22. Barbecue Inn

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116 W Crosstimbers St
Houston, TX 77018
(713) 695-8112
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Year Established: 1946

Origins: Louis and Nell Skrehot turned a cozy house on Crosstimbers into their longstanding restaurant. The menu originally consisted of barbecue, but as time went by, more items were added.

Why it's worth trying: Despite its name, fried chicken is the go-to dish here. It's what the restaurant does well. Underneath the crackling golden skin hides the moist and flavorful meat that has landed this dish on a number of best of lists including Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine magazines. You can never go wrong with the fried Gulf Coast seafood offerings or Texas-size chicken fried steak.

[Photo: Barbecue Inn/Facebook]

23. Mytiburger

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2211 W 43rd St
Houston, TX 77018
(713) 686-7078
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Year established: 1967

Origins: Jess and Ann Jackson opened this Garden Oaks roadside, which Katy Green, who worked at the restaurant for several years purchased the business in 1988. After a brief closure in 2012, Shawn Salyers took over the neighborhood burger shop.

Why it's worth trying: Thin beef patties stuffed between lightly grilled buns and simple toppings of cold lettuce and juicy tomatoes is what makes the Texas-style burgers serves here a classic. If you want to get really fancy, the neighborhood mainstay now offers fried egg as a topping. Old-fashioned hand-breaded onion rings and fries serve as the perfect accompaniments, with too-thick-to-suck-through-a-straw malts coming in a close second.

24. Burger Park

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6704 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Houston, TX 77033
(713) 733-6108
Year established: 1968

Origins: This South Park food stand originally operated as Bonus Burger, a Texas-based hamburger chain with several locations throughout the Houston area (including where Tookie’s in Seabook now stands). Harry Reesby later took over the property and named the restaurant Burger Park. After Reesby's passing in 1995, Gil and Oak Kim purchased the restaurant.

Why it's worth trying: There's a reason why this small shack has a long line of customers nearly every evening and weekends: the home-style burger. Using fresh beef, this southeast Houston gem produces juicy and well-seasoned burgers, accented with crispy iceberg, tomatoes and if you wish, perfectly melted slices of cheese. Polish off the meal with their famous slush and repeat it all again on your next visit, just remember to bring cash.

[Photo: Ken H./Yelp]

25. Brenner's Steakhouse

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10911 Katy Fwy
Houston, TX 77079
(713) 465-2901
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Year established: 1936

Origins: Originally named Brenner’s Café, German immigrant Herman and Lorene Brenner served sandwiches, fried chicken and the occasional steak. The construction of the Katy Freeway forced the couple to relocate, deciding to open at the former Birdsall hunting lodge where the restaurant thrived as a steakhouse before closing briefly in 2002. The steakhouse was purchased shortly after Mrs. Brenner's retirement by Tilman Fertitta's Landry's.

Why it's worth trying: This West Houston establishment charms with its picturesque scenery as does the wet-aged steaks. For the those less inclined to go the bovine route, lamb shack and cornish game hens are a great substitute. Don't leave without ordering the warm apple strudel, a dessert that comes from the recipe archives of Lorene Brenner.

[Photo: Brenner's Steakhouse/Facebook]

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1. Molina's Cantina

7901 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77063
Year Established: 1941

Origins: After moving from Mexico and working his way up from dishwasher, Raul and his wife Mary Molina purchased their first restaurant Old Monterrey Inn located at 1919 West Gray. A year later, the family sold their shares and opened Mexico City Diner at at 3916 South Main, which was later named Molina's Mexican City Restaurant before finally settling on Molina's. Several years later the Molinas expanded to 3606 Bissonnet for 10 years (prior to Cleburne Cafeteria relocating there in 1969), then 7933 Westheimer, later moving to 7901 Westheimer. Other locations opened within the last few years: 4720 Washington Avenue in Rice Military and 3801 Bellaire Boulevard in West University.

Why it's worth visiting today: Three words: Original. José’s. Dip. This dip made of chili con queso with spicy ground beef is the restaurant's signature dish and easily why you'll leave with the rest of your unfinished meal in a to-go box. It's hard to move away from the dip and homemade salsas, but when you do, a number of Tex-Mex classics that will satisfy. Big appetites will appreciate the Mexico City Dinner, the meal that includes a taco, enchilada, tostada, a tamale topped with chili, guacamole, chili con queso, rice, beans and flour tortillas. An added bonus: the possible sighting of the 41st President of the United States, George H. W. Bush.

[Photo: Google]
7901 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77063

2. Cleburne Cafeteria

3606 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 77005
Year Established: 1941

Original location: First located in what's now known as Midtown at Cleburne and Fannin, Nick and Pat Mickelis purchased the cafeteria from original owners Anabelle Collins and Martha Kavanaugh in 1952. The couple later moved the restaurant to its current location in 1969 (previously a Mexican restaurant from the Molina family).

Why it's worth visiting today: There's not many places in Houston outside of schools and hospitals where you can find a cafeteria, let alone one where taste as good as it looks. Chicken-fried steak, roast beef and other homestyle meals served in a spacious dining room, makes every visit feel as if you're eating your grandmother's cooking at her house. Baked-from-scratch biscuits and pies are always a treat.

[Photo: Google]
3606 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77005

3. Tony's

3755 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77046
Year established: 1965

Origins:

Why it's worth trying today:

[Photo: Tony's/Facebook]
3755 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77046

4. Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006
Year established: 1967

Origins: The sister restaurant to Commander’s Palace in New Orleans resides in the John F. Staub landmark built in 1929, which once housed by Junior League of Houston. Owned by Owen Brennan and the Brennan clan until a dispute in 1974, split the ownership. Adelaide, John, Ella, Richard and Dorothy, Owen's siblings were awarded full control of Brennan's of Houston. In 2008, a fire caused by Hurricane Ike forced the restaurant's closure. After a 16-month restoration, Brennan's reopened in 2010.

Why it's worth trying: It would be hard to do a classics list and leave off this Midtown mainstay. The New Orleans import serves up classic New Orleans-Texas Creole fare in surroundings that give new meaning to the word "elegant." White table cloths, exposed brick, huge windows where light streams in, they're all perfect accents to a menu that includes old-school touches like turtle soup. Bonus: the signature bananas foster is prepared tableside -- and it doesn't get more classic than that.

[Photo: Brennan's of Houston]
3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006

5. Pizzitola's BBQ

1703 Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77008
Year Established: 1935

Origins: Originally opened as Shepherd Drive Barbecue Stand by proprietors John and Lela Davis at Shepherd and Long. The couple later moved to 1703 Shepherd in the 50's after their business was bulldozed for the construction of Interstate 10. Jerry Pizzitola took over as owner/pitmaster in 1983 after the patriarch's passing.

Why it's worth trying: The smokey slow-cooked barbecue produced is reminiscent of its days as Shepherd Drive Barbecue Stand due to Pizzitola's adaptation of the Davis family recipe. Hill Country sausages, ribs, brisket and chicken are smoked for hours until tender from the smokehouse's original hickory wood burning pit. Desserts far outshine the lackluster sides, where coconut pineapple cake and banana pudding are always suburb.

[Photo: Wolfgang Houston/Panoramio]
1703 Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77008

6. James Coney Island

3607 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77098
Year established: 1923

Origins: Two Greek immigrants and brothers — Tom and James Papadakis — opened their first hot dog stand on the ground floor of the Beatty-West Building at 1011 Walker in Downtown Houston, selling sandwiches and bowls of their “secret-recipe” chili. The name was selected off a coin toss and would become ingrained into the hearts of Houstonians for decades to come. A second location would open at Town & Country Mall in 1968, with several more throughout the 70's and 80's. In 2013, the restaurant changed its name to JCI Grill and introduced an expanded menu.

Why it's worth trying: Although the original location closed in 1993, the locally owned and operated hot dog restaurant continues to serve up the classics that keep its loyal customer base coming back. Coneys covered in chili and topped with chopped onions and cheese are crowd favorites but its gourmet dogs (think beef frankfurter with chipotle mayo, guacamole and cilantro) are bringing in a new wave of fans.

[Photo: Wolfgang Houston/Panoramio]
3607 S Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77098

7. This Is It

2712 Blodgett St, Houston, TX 77004
Year Established: 1959

Origins: Frank and Mattie Jones originally opened this soul food institution at 1003 Andrews in Houston's Freedman's Town, now known as Midtown. The restaurant moved to 207 Gray in 1982 and relocated once more to its current Third Ward address in 2010 where Jones' grandson Craig Joseph Sr. and wife own and operate the beloved diner today.

Why it's worth trying: The family-run diner's down-home Southern classics are food for the soul. Fall-off-the-bone oxtails, smothered pork chops, and fried chicken keeps this Third Ward restaurant busy during lunch hours and Sundays. Don't skip the macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes, both compliment any entree of your choosing.

[Photo: Steve B./Yelp]
2712 Blodgett St
Houston, TX 77004

8. Gaido's

3800 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550
Year established: 1911

Origins: Patriarch San Giacinto Gaido, an Italian immigrant, opened his seafood restaurant at 21st Street Pier adjacent to Murdoch’s Bath House and later moved to its current location in the 40's. Gaido later established Pelican Club, a private supper club adjacent to the restaurant and a cafe. The cafe's name changed to Casey's in 1987 and in 2013, Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar.

Why it's worth trying:The seasonal seafood menu guarantees you're receiving the freshest and highest quality dishes. It's also why there's a crowded dining room in the evenings decades later. Order their famous Galveston Bay oyster platter and shrimp bisque, and be sure to heed this warning: make a reservation or be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table in the evenings.

[Photo: Gaido's/Facebook]
3800 Seawall Blvd
Galveston, TX 77550

9. El Patio

6444 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057
Year Established: 1964

Origins:

Why it's worth trying:

[Photo: Google Maps]
6444 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057

10. Lankford's Grocery & Market

88 Dennis St, Houston, TX 77006
Year established: 1938

Origins: Nona & Aubrey Lankford started their business with a fruit stand in Houston's Fourth Ward. In 1939, the duo moved across the street to its current location where they continued to operate as a grocery store. In the early 70's the Lankfords began to experiment with selling sandwiches, graduating to their claim to fame a few years later, burgers. Their rise in popularity as a neighborhood cafe led them to abandon the grocery portion in the 90's.

Why it's worth trying: It's one of several wallet-friendly options along Westheimer's growing and pricy restaurant row. Serving non-frills burgers from a converted garage, this homey eatery has captured the hearts of not only Montrose residents but the nation. The quaint cafe was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and landed on Gourmet magazine’s list of "20 Burgers to Eat Before It’s Too Late." While the burgers live up to the hype, breakfast is the next best thing. Generous portions of eggs, hash browns and sausage is the reason why the early morning meal is the best way to start the day.

[Photo: Google Maps]
88 Dennis St
Houston, TX 77006

11. Christie's Seafood & Steaks

6029 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057
Year established: 1917

Origins: What began as a fish stand along Galveston’s waterfront, Turkish immigrant Theodore Christie expanded his beachside venture into a restaurant in the area now known as the Medical Center on Main Street in 1934. Christie would later adopted James "Jim" Priovolos in the mid 60's (whose surname became Christie) who in turn relocated the restaurant to its current Westheimer haunts in 1979.

Why it's worth trying: Fried shrimp and steaks the size of Texas are a must at this Gulf Coast institution where everything is made fresh in house. From homemade seafood chowders and bisques to fish and shellfish, it's the best of Gulf Coast and comfort food rolled into one. Kiddos will be thrilled to know the family-run restaurant's patriarch invented the sandwich-ready fried fish patty (a menu staple) that would later bring about fish sticks, this is according to local lore.

[Photo: Google Maps]
6029 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057

12. Cream Burger

3116 Scott St, Houston, TX 77004
Year established: 1946

Origins: Willie and Verna Greenwood opened their roadside burger stand, originally known as Willie’s Cream Burger (because ice cream and burgers were on the menu), along Willow Glen Street on Houston's southwest side. Several years later, the couple relocated to its current Third Ward location in 1961.

Why it's worth trying: Sometimes you want a break from the foie gras, truffled sprinkled, gourmet concocted burger. That's where Cream Burger steps in. Hot-off-the-grill beef patties sandwiched between lightly crisped buttered buns, is as simple and delicious as it gets. It's why this Third Ward burger stand is a neighborhood favorite for residents, Texas Southern University and University of Houston students. Order hand-cut fries plus a milkshake and you'll have enough money left over to splurge for a crazy topping, grass-fed pricey burger later.

[Photo:Stacy C./Yelp]
3116 Scott St
Houston, TX 77004

13. Dot Coffee Shop

7006 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 77087
Year Established: 1967

Origins: After finding success with their refrigeration and restaurant supply businesses, Pete and Jim Pappas eventually followed in their father's footsteps, H.D. Pappas, opening their first restaurant in Downtown Houston. Jim purchased Dot Diner located off Main across from Houston Chronicle. Jim's oldest son Harris helped managed the diner which later relocated to its current location in Gulfgate. Harris and Jim's other son, Chris opened The Brisket House (now Pappas Bar-B-Q) on Pierce in 1967, which led to other concepts in the 80's and 90's — The Strawberry Patch (now Pappas Bros. Steakhouse), Pappas Seafood House, Pappasito's Cantina, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Yia Yia Mary's Greek Kitchen and Pappas Burger.

Why it's worth trying:

[Photo: Molly Block/Flickr]
7006 Gulf Fwy
Houston, TX 77087

14. Triple A Restaurant

2526 Airline Dr, Houston, TX 77009
Year established: 1938

Origins: George Schmidt opened his downtown cafe in 1938, relocating Trucker's Cafe to its current location in 1942. Schmidt's nephew Sonny Schmidt, along with his wife and Lucille took over the restaurant continuing to serve comfort food quickly to the area's blue-collar clientele. Sonny and Lucille's son Cecil later managed the store that is now run by his own children: Matthew, Christine and Michael.

Why it's worth trying: Classic Americana and Southern fare is what you'll find here. Comfort dishes like chicken and dumplings, roast beef and chicken fried steak are guaranteed to be consistent. With prices comparable to Luby's (three sides, entree and bread for under $10), the homemade offerings and its throwback digs is a triple win.

[Photo: Edgar V./Yelp]
2526 Airline Dr
Houston, TX 77009

15. Frank's Grill

5001 Telephone Road, Houston, TX 77075
Year Established: 1954

Origins: Originally Frank A. Jones’ Sandwich Shop, the cafe set up shop in the Pecan Grove neighborhood at 4702 Telephone Road before changing its name to Frank's Grill. The diner would later open a second location at 5903 Clinton, formerly Bertrand’s Cafe which relocated next door to 5901 Clinton. Franchised locations opened throughout Houston in the 90's and 2000's. The original restaurant moved to new haunts a few blocks down in 2013.

Why it's worth trying: Breakfast. Massive portions of made-to-order eggs, hot-off-the-griddle sausage and strips of crispy bacon is why this longtime diner is packed every morning. Heartier appetites will be happy with chicken-fried steaks that spill over the plate, pork chop and steak eggs to pair with breakfast.

[Photo: Mark B./Yelp]
5001 Telephone Road
Houston, TX 77075

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16. Spanish Village

4720 Almeda Rd, Houston, TX 77004
Year established: 1953

Origins: Originally owned and operated by Larry Pico. At one point, there were two Spanish Villages. John and son Joe Medina later purchased the rights to the restaurant upon Pico's retirement. After a dispute with Pico who became The Medinas' landlord, the father/son team relocated to the Heights (4811 Lillian), leaving Pico's to take over the restaurant again but under a different name, L. Pico Village. John eventually parted ways with his son, taking the restaurant's name with him to the Almeda location and his son (who trademarked Spanish Village without his father's knowledge) eventually closed the Heights restaurant in 1995/1996.

Why it's worth trying: Situated along the Almeda Corridor, in the area formerly known as Third Ward, this well-beloved eatery has been serving up authentic Tex-Mex fare for decades. The Enchiladas a-la-Taylor are divine but anything that's covered in queso and chile con carne are top notch. Grab a seat on the enclosed patio, perfect for people watching while sipping a cold margarita.

[Photo: Google Maps]
4720 Almeda Rd
Houston, TX 77004

17. Doyle's Restaurant

2136 W 34th St, Houston, TX 77018
Year established: 1954

Origins: n/a

Why it's worth trying: It's a Houston classic serving Italian-American cuisine. No-frills spaghetti and meatballs and sausage po' boys are as nostalgic as the restaurant's vintage setting. If pasta isn't you cup of tea, order one of the few burgers offered on the menu.

[Photo: City-Data]
2136 W 34th St
Houston, TX 77018

18. Demeris Bar-B-Q

2911 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77098
Year opened: 1964

Origins: After acquiring Sanders Barbecue, Gus Demeris and cousin Nick opened the first Demeris Bar-B-Q on South Shepherd. The family opened several more locations from the late 60's into the 70's. Three locations remain open today.

Why it's worth visiting today:Traditional barbecue ribs have made this family-run smokehouse a favorite among locals. Smoked jalapeno sausage, turkey and chicken are also on the menu, while fajitas and steaks are available at the original Shepherd location.

[Photo: Wolfgang Houston/Panoramio]
2911 S Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77098

19. Frenchy's

3919 Scott St, Houston, TX 77004