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When in search of barbecue close to UH and TSU campuses, look no further than Rays.
Rays Real Pit BBQ Shack

Where to Dine Near the University of Houston and Texas Southern University

With barbecue, Caribbean cuisine, burgers, and more, dining options in the areas surrounding UH and TSU go far beyond college town expectations

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When in search of barbecue close to UH and TSU campuses, look no further than Rays.
| Rays Real Pit BBQ Shack

The neighboring campuses of the University of Houston and Texas Southern University in Houston’s Third Ward have long been a part of the city’s landscape and rich history. And with a new semester upon us, the Cougars' debut in the Big 12 Conference, and several neighborhood developments, the area is a hub of activity and excitement.

Thankfully, the neighborhood is filled with options for dining and drinks that go far beyond stereotypical college town expectations, with many establishments owned and operated by school alumni. There are iconic and soulful Houston classics like the original Frenchy’s Chicken, mom-and-pop burger joint Cream Burger, and Houston This Is It Soul Food, newer establishments like the Lymbar and the Rado Market & Cafe, and plenty of places for caffeine pick-me-up or study break whether you’re a student or just in it to experience a beautiful representation of the diversity of Houston. Here’s a list of some of the best restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, and bars to explore around UH and TSU.

Missing your favorite TSU or UH hangout? Shout it out in the comments.

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The Lymbar

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Travel just a few miles away to Midtown’s mixed-use development, the Ion, to chef David Cordua’s Latin and Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. An ideal spot for a fancier pre- or post-sport game event, diners can revel in bites like chicken chicharrones and shareable plates like beef empanadas, plus craft cocktails.

A distant view of the bar at the Lymbar with bar stools, hanging plants, and red cushion seating.
Switch up your typical UH/TSU haunts with a visit to the Lymbar in the Ion.
Dylan McEwan

Turkey Leg Hut

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Former UH basketball player Nakia Price and her husband Lynn first launched Turkey Leg Hut in the parking lot across from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Now, the Third Ward brick-and-mortar restaurant draws long lines with diners looking to get their hands on its giant specialty turkey legs, which are stuffed with colorful combinations, like mac and cheese, dirty rice, and spicy Cajun Alfredo.

Stuffed turkey leg from the Turkey Leg Hut.
Turkey Leg Hut offers an Instagramable meal.
Amy McCarthy/EHOU

Reggae Hut

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Serving Caribbean cuisine to Houstonians for over 20 years, this bright and cheerful cafe transports diners to the Islands with heaping plates of jerk chicken, oxtails, and brown stew chicken.

Hibachi Bros (Food Truck)

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Owned by TSU alum and parnter Philip Taylor, this Third Ward food truck has been deemed Houston’s first Black-owned hibachi, serving Japanese-styled hibachi entrees. Try its popular “bro-rito,” burritos, which are filled with hibachi griddled chicken, steak, and shrimp, and topped with one of their signature sauces.

Houston This Is It Soul Food

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Ask any Houstonian where to go for traditional Southern food and it’s likely This Is It will be a top suggestion. Open since 1959, this Third Ward soul food restaurant is one of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in Houston, with its Third Ward location open since 2010. Indulge in hearty, entrees like smothered turkey wings or pork chops and saucy braised oxtails, and choose from a laundry list of sides, including cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, candied yams, and baked macaroni and cheese.

The Doshi House

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Owned by a UH alum Deepak Doshi, this eclectic coffeehouse, art space, and vegetarian café is a cozy option located in the heart of the Third Ward. Grab a pastry, specialty coffee, or its Not-So-Butter chicken, a vegetarian curry made with seasoned soy protein, and then settle in for a study break or a book chapter or two.

The Rado Market & Cafe

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The newest addition to Third Ward is a dose of history and neighborhood pride. Lucille’s chef Chris Williams renovated Eldorado Ballroom to include a multi-use venue, with a cafe that serves up breakfast tacos, sandwiches, and a juicy, flavor-packed oxtail smash burger, plus a market that offers grab-and-go options fueled by local Black entrepreneurs, including fresh juices and desserts. When the weather’s cool, grab a blanket and a bottle of wine to enjoy in the nearby Emancipation Park, and be sure to check out the next-door Hogan Brown Art Gallery, which features original works by Third Ward’s finest.

The Blodgett Harvest sandwich, stuffed with roasted squash and peppers, collard green pesto, vegan ricotta, red pepper aioli, and arugula on a hoagie roll, with a side of chips.
Visit Rado Market & Cafe with appetizing sandwiches, community-chosen wines, and desserts made by Third Ward entrepreneurs.
David “Odiwams” Wright

Soul Food Vegan

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Soul Food Vegan proves that vegan food is far from boring. Houston chef Tramone “Taliek” Terry takes classic Southern Creole comfort food like jambalaya and gumbo, offering a flavorful, vegetable-based spin with fresh produce grown right behind the restaurant.

Brothers Taco House

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Open bright and early at 5 a.m. on weekdays, this taco joint is known to garner long, quick-moving lines during breakfast hours. The wait is understandable, though. Fresh homemade flour tortillas are filled with tasty options like egg paired with potato, chorizo, picadillo, or barbacoa, and for $2 a taco, it’s an inexpensive, filling way to start the day.

Rays Real Pit BBQ Shack

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Located just down the street from the UH and TSU, this family-owned and operated restaurant is known for its traditional East Texas-style barbecue, with hickory-smoked brisket, beef ribs, and tender turkey. The fried catfish and shrimp are also not to be missed.

Frenchy's Chicken

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Houstonians flock to this institution and its many locations, which are known for its New Orleans-style, Creole staples like iconic golden-brown fried chicken, boudin links, dirty rice, and sweet potato pie — always paired best with a strawberry soda. Considered the flagship outpost, the newest Third Ward location is located just blocks away from the original, which opened in 1969. Enjoy the upgrades, like the covered patio, and the two-lane drive-thru and the outdoor walk-up window that helps minimize wait times.

Frenchy’s fried chicken with french fries, roll, and jalapeno.
Frenchy’s is an essential Houston food bucket list item.
Frenchy’s

Cream Burger

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With over 60 years in business, Cream Burger is as iconic as it gets. The Greenwood family has been serving no-frills burgers, chili cheese hotdogs, hand-cut fries, and their signature milkshakes, in the Third Ward, since 1961. Bring cash and get in line on game days to experience a piece of Houston history.

EaDough Pastries & Provisions

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Just a couple of miles away from the college campuses, this East Downtown walk-up café and bakery is ideal for a quick latte and kolache in the morning, or a smash burger for lunch before heading to class.

Pink's Pizza

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Though Pink’s has seven locations, the UH location, which opened in 2014, is significant in that its the first location to offer a full-service bar and a welcoming environment for students to grab an inexpensive meal and a locally-brewed beer with the option of enjoying a study break in the on-site library lounge. The specialty pizzas, including the Big Boss — a meat lover’s-style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, beef, and bacon and Canadian bacon — and the Bada Bing, which is topped with prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, mozzarella, Roma tomato, spinach, and mushroom, are a major draw.

The Nook Cafe

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UH’s on-campus café and bar is a place where everyone knows your name. Established by UH alumni, it’s open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight, with coffee drinks, breakfast plates of chicken and waffles, lunch options like Cowboy Nachos, plus cocktails for a nightcap in the evenings. Check its website for special events, including movie and game nights, drag shows, and more.

Cochinita & co.

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Just a six-minute drive from UH’s campus, this Lawndale restaurant helmed by James Beard award semifinalist Victoria Elizondo is the perfect place to devour divine Mexican cuisine. Once a shared space with Kickin’ Kombucha, Cochinita & Co has solely taken over, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with favorites like build-your-own breakfast tacos and the cochinta pibil — flavorful, Yucatán-style barbecued pork.

The Lymbar

Travel just a few miles away to Midtown’s mixed-use development, the Ion, to chef David Cordua’s Latin and Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. An ideal spot for a fancier pre- or post-sport game event, diners can revel in bites like chicken chicharrones and shareable plates like beef empanadas, plus craft cocktails.

A distant view of the bar at the Lymbar with bar stools, hanging plants, and red cushion seating.
Switch up your typical UH/TSU haunts with a visit to the Lymbar in the Ion.
Dylan McEwan

Turkey Leg Hut

Former UH basketball player Nakia Price and her husband Lynn first launched Turkey Leg Hut in the parking lot across from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Now, the Third Ward brick-and-mortar restaurant draws long lines with diners looking to get their hands on its giant specialty turkey legs, which are stuffed with colorful combinations, like mac and cheese, dirty rice, and spicy Cajun Alfredo.

Stuffed turkey leg from the Turkey Leg Hut.
Turkey Leg Hut offers an Instagramable meal.
Amy McCarthy/EHOU

Reggae Hut

Serving Caribbean cuisine to Houstonians for over 20 years, this bright and cheerful cafe transports diners to the Islands with heaping plates of jerk chicken, oxtails, and brown stew chicken.

Hibachi Bros (Food Truck)

Owned by TSU alum and parnter Philip Taylor, this Third Ward food truck has been deemed Houston’s first Black-owned hibachi, serving Japanese-styled hibachi entrees. Try its popular “bro-rito,” burritos, which are filled with hibachi griddled chicken, steak, and shrimp, and topped with one of their signature sauces.

Houston This Is It Soul Food

Ask any Houstonian where to go for traditional Southern food and it’s likely This Is It will be a top suggestion. Open since 1959, this Third Ward soul food restaurant is one of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in Houston, with its Third Ward location open since 2010. Indulge in hearty, entrees like smothered turkey wings or pork chops and saucy braised oxtails, and choose from a laundry list of sides, including cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, candied yams, and baked macaroni and cheese.

The Doshi House

Owned by a UH alum Deepak Doshi, this eclectic coffeehouse, art space, and vegetarian café is a cozy option located in the heart of the Third Ward. Grab a pastry, specialty coffee, or its Not-So-Butter chicken, a vegetarian curry made with seasoned soy protein, and then settle in for a study break or a book chapter or two.

The Rado Market & Cafe

The newest addition to Third Ward is a dose of history and neighborhood pride. Lucille’s chef Chris Williams renovated Eldorado Ballroom to include a multi-use venue, with a cafe that serves up breakfast tacos, sandwiches, and a juicy, flavor-packed oxtail smash burger, plus a market that offers grab-and-go options fueled by local Black entrepreneurs, including fresh juices and desserts. When the weather’s cool, grab a blanket and a bottle of wine to enjoy in the nearby Emancipation Park, and be sure to check out the next-door Hogan Brown Art Gallery, which features original works by Third Ward’s finest.

The Blodgett Harvest sandwich, stuffed with roasted squash and peppers, collard green pesto, vegan ricotta, red pepper aioli, and arugula on a hoagie roll, with a side of chips.
Visit Rado Market & Cafe with appetizing sandwiches, community-chosen wines, and desserts made by Third Ward entrepreneurs.
David “Odiwams” Wright

Soul Food Vegan

Soul Food Vegan proves that vegan food is far from boring. Houston chef Tramone “Taliek” Terry takes classic Southern Creole comfort food like jambalaya and gumbo, offering a flavorful, vegetable-based spin with fresh produce grown right behind the restaurant.

Brothers Taco House

Open bright and early at 5 a.m. on weekdays, this taco joint is known to garner long, quick-moving lines during breakfast hours. The wait is understandable, though. Fresh homemade flour tortillas are filled with tasty options like egg paired with potato, chorizo, picadillo, or barbacoa, and for $2 a taco, it’s an inexpensive, filling way to start the day.

Rays Real Pit BBQ Shack

Located just down the street from the UH and TSU, this family-owned and operated restaurant is known for its traditional East Texas-style barbecue, with hickory-smoked brisket, beef ribs, and tender turkey. The fried catfish and shrimp are also not to be missed.

Frenchy's Chicken

Houstonians flock to this institution and its many locations, which are known for its New Orleans-style, Creole staples like iconic golden-brown fried chicken, boudin links, dirty rice, and sweet potato pie — always paired best with a strawberry soda. Considered the flagship outpost, the newest Third Ward location is located just blocks away from the original, which opened in 1969. Enjoy the upgrades, like the covered patio, and the two-lane drive-thru and the outdoor walk-up window that helps minimize wait times.

Frenchy’s fried chicken with french fries, roll, and jalapeno.
Frenchy’s is an essential Houston food bucket list item.
Frenchy’s

Cream Burger

With over 60 years in business, Cream Burger is as iconic as it gets. The Greenwood family has been serving no-frills burgers, chili cheese hotdogs, hand-cut fries, and their signature milkshakes, in the Third Ward, since 1961. Bring cash and get in line on game days to experience a piece of Houston history.

EaDough Pastries & Provisions

Just a couple of miles away from the college campuses, this East Downtown walk-up café and bakery is ideal for a quick latte and kolache in the morning, or a smash burger for lunch before heading to class.

Pink's Pizza

Though Pink’s has seven locations, the UH location, which opened in 2014, is significant in that its the first location to offer a full-service bar and a welcoming environment for students to grab an inexpensive meal and a locally-brewed beer with the option of enjoying a study break in the on-site library lounge. The specialty pizzas, including the Big Boss — a meat lover’s-style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, beef, and bacon and Canadian bacon — and the Bada Bing, which is topped with prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, mozzarella, Roma tomato, spinach, and mushroom, are a major draw.

The Nook Cafe

UH’s on-campus café and bar is a place where everyone knows your name. Established by UH alumni, it’s open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight, with coffee drinks, breakfast plates of chicken and waffles, lunch options like Cowboy Nachos, plus cocktails for a nightcap in the evenings. Check its website for special events, including movie and game nights, drag shows, and more.

Related Maps

Cochinita & co.

Just a six-minute drive from UH’s campus, this Lawndale restaurant helmed by James Beard award semifinalist Victoria Elizondo is the perfect place to devour divine Mexican cuisine. Once a shared space with Kickin’ Kombucha, Cochinita & Co has solely taken over, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with favorites like build-your-own breakfast tacos and the cochinta pibil — flavorful, Yucatán-style barbecued pork.

Related Maps