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three smash burgers with cheese with caramelized onions from Trill Burger. Mark Champion

The 11 Best Food Pop-Ups in Houston

Get in line or book your spot for these pop-ups serving special smash burgers, Burmese dishes, and so much more

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During the height of the pandemic, pop-ups saw a rise in size and scope in the dining scene of Houston. Many chefs went the grassroots route, temporarily showcasing their talents at stands at events or venues as a means to bring their cuisines to the public in their own way without high overhead costs. While everything has seemingly reached a new normal, with some chefs returning to a brick-and-mortar format, pop-ups are still relevant in the Houston food landscape and can be an exciting way to explore different, lesser-known cuisines or blooming concepts.

These blink-and-you-’ll-miss-it experiences, however, can inspire major FOMO, but, fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from. From Burmese cuisine and premier omakase experiences to some of the best burgers in the city, here are some of the must-try pop-ups in Houston right now.

Don’t see your favorite pop-up on the list? Shout it in the comments.

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Burmalicious

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​​An authentic Burmese eating experience is hard to come by around town, but former MasterChef finalist and food blogger Suu Khin is aiming to educate Houstonians on the rich and adventurous flavors of the Southeast Asian region. At Khin’s Burmalicious pop-ups, expect a seven-course foray into the rich flavors of Burmese cuisine with dishes like her ohn no khao swe — coconut noodles with shrimp and quail eggs, or the shan tofu, fried tofu bathed in a tamarind jaggery aioli with chickpea and caviar.

Trill Burgers

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Recently named Good Morning America’s “Best Burger in America,” Houston rap legend Bun B’s nationally recognized burger sensation has made waves around the country, debuting at festivals like Coachella, and, most recently, landing a restaurant residency in Vegas. In Houston, the somewhat elusive pop-up has, too, drawn in crowds at places like 8th Wonder Brewery with people lining up around the block, vying to get a smash burger topped with sauteed onions, pickles, and a special sauce. The brick-and-mortar is slated to open sometime this year. In the meantime, check their Instagram for updates on where they may pop up next.

Bun B holding two double-patty Trill Burger smash burgers loaded with cheese.
Trill Burgers is slated to open a brick-and-mortar sometime this year.
Becca Wright

The Bake Happening

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Pastry chef Andrea de Gortari’s home-based bakery has been churning out some of the most elaborate and tasty cakes and pastries that have been taking social media by storm — even landing an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. From custom cakes and cookies to her holiday treat boxes, the Bake Happening is making some of the creative and sought-after baked goods in town. Check their Instagram for holiday specials and ordering.

Kin HTX

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Top Chef alumna Evelyn García and chef Henry Lu have teamed up to put their mark on the Houston dining scene with their Southeast-Asian tasting menu dinners. Expect dishes like pork belly in an umami-rich kombu broth, cod dumplings with basil and caviar, and refreshing desserts with a Southeast-Asian Latin flair a la their sticky cajeta pudding with lemon verbena sorbet. Their events are constantly selling out, and if it is any indication, their first brick-and-mortar restaurant Jun by Kin, slated to open in late 2022, is poised to be a smash.

Khoi Barbecue

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A love letter to their Central Texas upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, this brother-run traveling barbecue pop-up marries the vast flavors of Vietnam with smokey cuts of barbecued meats. The culmination of these cuisines is showcased through expertly smoked brisket cuts that adorn bowls of pho, or you might be lucky enough to score some of their smoked caramel fish sauce wings. Either way, this family-run barbecue stop is bringing together two of Houston’s most integral food groups: barbecue and Vietnamese cuisine.

Knives in Water

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Comfort food in a relaxed setting predicates this pop-up kitchen by chef Ryan Grimes. Knives in Water is dishing up down-home plates of fried fish, gumbo, jerk pork tacos, and various other Southern food specialties at various bars around town — providing the perfect way to cap off a night of boozing. Check their Instagram to see where the caravan is rolling to next.

JQ’s BBQ

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If there are two things that Houstonians know and love it’s Tex-Mex cuisine and smoked meats. The two of these come together at JQ’s through their marriage of smoky barbecue and tacos like brisket birria with consommé or pulled pork carnitas in a crispy corn shell. The pop-up also ventures out to more limited offerings such as their huevos rancheros brisket tacos for brunch or their abuelita-approved spicy pork tamales. Though heavy on the festival trail, check their Instagram for their monthly calendar and make sure to pre-order, as they do not offer walk-up service.

ReikiNa

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After a short hiatus, former Uchi chef Thomas Stacy’s popular tasting menu is back with a five-course experience — this time, with three seatings held each day (Thursday through Saturday) at its new home, Native Coffee. There, Stacey wows diners with his chef-driven, Japanese-European influenced courses, like his Hamachi with apricot, smoked stuffed fish pasta, and plate-lickable desserts like the stone fruit icebox pie that uses seasonal ingredients. Be on the lookout for collaboration dinners with chefs around town. Bonus: ReikiNa is also BYOB.

Black Chef Table

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Restaurateur Marcus Davis furthers his imprint on the Houston culinary scene at this curated pop-up dinner series that showcases the cuisine of the African diaspora through the lens of various local and national African American chefs at Downtown’s Kulture HTX. From Caribbean-themed feasts to vegan-centric dinners, Black Chef Table is home to some of the best-tasting menu options and culinary storytelling that Houston has to offer.

One of Houston’s premier sushi experiences, Neo’s exclusive omakase gives diners an immersive mix of dry-aged fish nigiri courses with a mix of seasonal, avant-garde savory, and sweet courses at their multi-course tasting dinners. Fresh, meticulously crafted dry-aged bites of toro and snapper are coursed with ambitiously inventive plates, such as their fried Spanish turbot with eggplant aioli. Courses change every few months or so, and their dessert courses are equally as impressive with their frequent Underground Creamery collaborations like last menu’s Sicilian pistachio ice cream with cardamom.

Located at the Sky Lounge of Drewery Place, this newcomer omakase pop-up offers an inventive multi-course sushi experience centered around fresh nigiri ranging from barracuda to bluefin toro. More experimental courses include their Mosaic dish — a sangria gelatin with rose petals, or the wagyu cornet with squid ink. Their menus change monthly, and seats are limited so be sure to check their website and Instagram for updates. Reservations can be made online.

Burmalicious

​​An authentic Burmese eating experience is hard to come by around town, but former MasterChef finalist and food blogger Suu Khin is aiming to educate Houstonians on the rich and adventurous flavors of the Southeast Asian region. At Khin’s Burmalicious pop-ups, expect a seven-course foray into the rich flavors of Burmese cuisine with dishes like her ohn no khao swe — coconut noodles with shrimp and quail eggs, or the shan tofu, fried tofu bathed in a tamarind jaggery aioli with chickpea and caviar.

Trill Burgers

Recently named Good Morning America’s “Best Burger in America,” Houston rap legend Bun B’s nationally recognized burger sensation has made waves around the country, debuting at festivals like Coachella, and, most recently, landing a restaurant residency in Vegas. In Houston, the somewhat elusive pop-up has, too, drawn in crowds at places like 8th Wonder Brewery with people lining up around the block, vying to get a smash burger topped with sauteed onions, pickles, and a special sauce. The brick-and-mortar is slated to open sometime this year. In the meantime, check their Instagram for updates on where they may pop up next.

Bun B holding two double-patty Trill Burger smash burgers loaded with cheese.
Trill Burgers is slated to open a brick-and-mortar sometime this year.
Becca Wright

The Bake Happening

Pastry chef Andrea de Gortari’s home-based bakery has been churning out some of the most elaborate and tasty cakes and pastries that have been taking social media by storm — even landing an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. From custom cakes and cookies to her holiday treat boxes, the Bake Happening is making some of the creative and sought-after baked goods in town. Check their Instagram for holiday specials and ordering.

Kin HTX

Top Chef alumna Evelyn García and chef Henry Lu have teamed up to put their mark on the Houston dining scene with their Southeast-Asian tasting menu dinners. Expect dishes like pork belly in an umami-rich kombu broth, cod dumplings with basil and caviar, and refreshing desserts with a Southeast-Asian Latin flair a la their sticky cajeta pudding with lemon verbena sorbet. Their events are constantly selling out, and if it is any indication, their first brick-and-mortar restaurant Jun by Kin, slated to open in late 2022, is poised to be a smash.

Khoi Barbecue

A love letter to their Central Texas upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, this brother-run traveling barbecue pop-up marries the vast flavors of Vietnam with smokey cuts of barbecued meats. The culmination of these cuisines is showcased through expertly smoked brisket cuts that adorn bowls of pho, or you might be lucky enough to score some of their smoked caramel fish sauce wings. Either way, this family-run barbecue stop is bringing together two of Houston’s most integral food groups: barbecue and Vietnamese cuisine.

Knives in Water

Comfort food in a relaxed setting predicates this pop-up kitchen by chef Ryan Grimes. Knives in Water is dishing up down-home plates of fried fish, gumbo, jerk pork tacos, and various other Southern food specialties at various bars around town — providing the perfect way to cap off a night of boozing. Check their Instagram to see where the caravan is rolling to next.

JQ’s BBQ

If there are two things that Houstonians know and love it’s Tex-Mex cuisine and smoked meats. The two of these come together at JQ’s through their marriage of smoky barbecue and tacos like brisket birria with consommé or pulled pork carnitas in a crispy corn shell. The pop-up also ventures out to more limited offerings such as their huevos rancheros brisket tacos for brunch or their abuelita-approved spicy pork tamales. Though heavy on the festival trail, check their Instagram for their monthly calendar and make sure to pre-order, as they do not offer walk-up service.

ReikiNa

After a short hiatus, former Uchi chef Thomas Stacy’s popular tasting menu is back with a five-course experience — this time, with three seatings held each day (Thursday through Saturday) at its new home, Native Coffee. There, Stacey wows diners with his chef-driven, Japanese-European influenced courses, like his Hamachi with apricot, smoked stuffed fish pasta, and plate-lickable desserts like the stone fruit icebox pie that uses seasonal ingredients. Be on the lookout for collaboration dinners with chefs around town. Bonus: ReikiNa is also BYOB.

Black Chef Table

Restaurateur Marcus Davis furthers his imprint on the Houston culinary scene at this curated pop-up dinner series that showcases the cuisine of the African diaspora through the lens of various local and national African American chefs at Downtown’s Kulture HTX. From Caribbean-themed feasts to vegan-centric dinners, Black Chef Table is home to some of the best-tasting menu options and culinary storytelling that Houston has to offer.

Neo

One of Houston’s premier sushi experiences, Neo’s exclusive omakase gives diners an immersive mix of dry-aged fish nigiri courses with a mix of seasonal, avant-garde savory, and sweet courses at their multi-course tasting dinners. Fresh, meticulously crafted dry-aged bites of toro and snapper are coursed with ambitiously inventive plates, such as their fried Spanish turbot with eggplant aioli. Courses change every few months or so, and their dessert courses are equally as impressive with their frequent Underground Creamery collaborations like last menu’s Sicilian pistachio ice cream with cardamom.

Uwa

Located at the Sky Lounge of Drewery Place, this newcomer omakase pop-up offers an inventive multi-course sushi experience centered around fresh nigiri ranging from barracuda to bluefin toro. More experimental courses include their Mosaic dish — a sangria gelatin with rose petals, or the wagyu cornet with squid ink. Their menus change monthly, and seats are limited so be sure to check their website and Instagram for updates. Reservations can be made online.

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