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a hand holding a white bowl of polenta grits topped with meaty gravy and a fried egg. behind the bowl are the leaves of a palm tree
Brasil’s Montrose patio is the perfect spot to enjoy a plate of polenta grits and gravy.
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11 Excellent Casual Dining Destinations in Houston

From Gulf seafood gems to the best burgers, these informal restaurants do not skimp on quality eats

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Brasil’s Montrose patio is the perfect spot to enjoy a plate of polenta grits and gravy.
| Brasil/Facebook

When you’re craving an excellent meal but don’t want to get all fancy, Houston is packed with plenty of great restaurants that keep it totally casual. With laid-back vibes, cozy patio seating, and plenty of convenient ordering options, Houston’s restaurants are making it easier than ever to enjoy a great meal that doesn’t involve dressing up — or even making a reservation.

Use this map as a guide to the city’s 10 best casual restaurants, from spots for a casual date night with pizza and fine wine to budget-friendly eats from a James Beard award winner.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Tiny Champions

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Tiny Champions is the no-frills follow-up to beloved East End restaurant Nancy’s Hustle, and it is certainly a worthy sibling. The spotlight is bright on its pizza and pasta varieties, but a closer look will reveal intriguing shared plates like braised butter beans with pickled peppers and whey-brined fried chicken, along with an excellent list of wines and cocktails. Dine inside or kick back on the string-lighting bedecked back patio peppered with picnic tables.

Better Luck Tomorrow

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Don’t let its modest exterior fool you — this Heights neighborhood gem is as much a dining destination as it is a neighborhood bar. With a menu developed by chef Justin Yu, the bar snacks here range from octopus and shishito peppers to charred quail. Its daily specials, including pasta Tuesdays and steak night Wednesday, are an excellent addition to the weekly dining rotation.

Common Bond Bistro & Bakery - Montrose

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Common Bond gets all of the love as a lauded Houston coffee bar and bakery, but it deserves praise as one of the city’s top restaurants for a top-notch meal, too. The all-day menu allows diners to leisurely enjoy lunch or dinner paired with beer, wine, and frose. Begin with a flatbread topped with port-marinated figs and pancetta, then settle in for a plate of pappardelle pasta dressed in sage-lemon brown butter. To finish, peruse the glass cases stocked with macarons, tarts, cakes, and fluffy pastries for a proper dessert, or a morning snack for the following day.

Lankford's Grocery & Market

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This family-owned Montrose hideaway has changed very little in the last several decades, and that’s the way the locals like it. With a handful of picnic tables peppered out front and a dated dining-room, Lankford Market allows its food (and beer and wine!) to speak for itself. The burgers are legendary with plenty to pick from — crunchy Frito pie burger anyone? — and Tex-Mex specials, like enchiladas with charro beans, are icing on the tres leches cheesecake. 

The Hay Merchant

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Famed chef Chris Shepherd’s Montrose bar, which is closing at the end of the year, is a solid place to drink beer — there are 70 on tap — but also to get a taste of his unique culinary style. As Shepherd strives to represent the many dynamic facets of “Houston cuisine” within his concepts, Hay Merchant is a standout and impresses with global-inspired offerings like fried okra masala presented with raita, a salty meat and olive mix-filled muffuletta and the chef’s legendary Korean braised goat and dumplings.

Acme Oyster House

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Like its wildly popular outpost in New Orleans, Acme Oyster House is a lively restaurant located on the lower Westheimer curve where guests can kick back with platters of hearty Gulf seafood eats. Cajun classics like seafood gumbo, chargrilled oysters, and shrimp po-boys are hard to beat, and there are fried seafood platters with French fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies too. Sip on a Sazerac and take your time exploring the menu — or get the party started with a round of oyster shooters.

Montrosians have spent plenty of mornings at Brasil sipping on a honey lavender latte or nursing a hangover with an order of buttermilk pancakes, but this quintessential coffee house is also one of the best places in the neighborhood for dinner. Find snacks like blistered shishitos and a three-cheese board with nuts, olives and toast, plus hearty mains like the spicy arroz con pollo, a bowl of Spanish rice and chicken topped with guajillo and arbol gravy. Snag a table on the shaded back patio during dinner, and take in a set from one of the city’s local DJs who make appearances a few nights a week.

Lucille's

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At this popular Museum District eatery, true southern plates are inspired by chef Chris Williams’s great-grandmother Lucille. Dishes like the braised oxtails, Tennessee hot duck, and catfish and grits should be paired with fluffy cornbread or hot rolls. There isn’t a bad seat in the house — the dining room quite literally resembles a home — but the patio’s also a great option, especially when there’s live jazz on Thursday nights and during weekend brunch.

The Blind Goat

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Situated among the many restaurant vendors inside Downtown’s Bravery Chef Hall, a visit to the fast-casual Blind Goat is a convenient way to score eats from one of Houston’s top chefs. Helmed by Christine Ha, the winner of MasterChef’s third season, the restaurant serves craveable bibimbap bowls, fried chicken lettuce wraps, and stellar lemongrass chicken vermicelli. Don’t forget to grab a Vietnamese iced coffee for the road.

Grand Prize Bar

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If the year-round Christmas lights and décor aren’t reason enough to chill out with a boozy beverage at Grand Prize, opt for a taste of something from the bar’s kitchen. Coined the Trophy Case Kitchen, Grand Prize allows a revolving group of Houston street vendors to offer their menus to bar patrons. Look forward to Kosher beef hot dogs and burgers from the Umbrella Fellas, vegetarian pupusas from Pupusa Mami, or bucatini with fermented garlic butter from Ghost Hand Pasta.

Backstreet Cafe

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A solid spot for a patio lunch, Backstreet Cafe keeps it breezy. Score a seat on the patio and share plates of fritto misto, bucatini with spicy crab, and flatbreads topped with Texas peaches and balsamic.

Tiny Champions

Tiny Champions is the no-frills follow-up to beloved East End restaurant Nancy’s Hustle, and it is certainly a worthy sibling. The spotlight is bright on its pizza and pasta varieties, but a closer look will reveal intriguing shared plates like braised butter beans with pickled peppers and whey-brined fried chicken, along with an excellent list of wines and cocktails. Dine inside or kick back on the string-lighting bedecked back patio peppered with picnic tables.

Better Luck Tomorrow

Don’t let its modest exterior fool you — this Heights neighborhood gem is as much a dining destination as it is a neighborhood bar. With a menu developed by chef Justin Yu, the bar snacks here range from octopus and shishito peppers to charred quail. Its daily specials, including pasta Tuesdays and steak night Wednesday, are an excellent addition to the weekly dining rotation.

Common Bond Bistro & Bakery - Montrose

Common Bond gets all of the love as a lauded Houston coffee bar and bakery, but it deserves praise as one of the city’s top restaurants for a top-notch meal, too. The all-day menu allows diners to leisurely enjoy lunch or dinner paired with beer, wine, and frose. Begin with a flatbread topped with port-marinated figs and pancetta, then settle in for a plate of pappardelle pasta dressed in sage-lemon brown butter. To finish, peruse the glass cases stocked with macarons, tarts, cakes, and fluffy pastries for a proper dessert, or a morning snack for the following day.

Lankford's Grocery & Market

This family-owned Montrose hideaway has changed very little in the last several decades, and that’s the way the locals like it. With a handful of picnic tables peppered out front and a dated dining-room, Lankford Market allows its food (and beer and wine!) to speak for itself. The burgers are legendary with plenty to pick from — crunchy Frito pie burger anyone? — and Tex-Mex specials, like enchiladas with charro beans, are icing on the tres leches cheesecake. 

The Hay Merchant

Famed chef Chris Shepherd’s Montrose bar, which is closing at the end of the year, is a solid place to drink beer — there are 70 on tap — but also to get a taste of his unique culinary style. As Shepherd strives to represent the many dynamic facets of “Houston cuisine” within his concepts, Hay Merchant is a standout and impresses with global-inspired offerings like fried okra masala presented with raita, a salty meat and olive mix-filled muffuletta and the chef’s legendary Korean braised goat and dumplings.

Acme Oyster House

Like its wildly popular outpost in New Orleans, Acme Oyster House is a lively restaurant located on the lower Westheimer curve where guests can kick back with platters of hearty Gulf seafood eats. Cajun classics like seafood gumbo, chargrilled oysters, and shrimp po-boys are hard to beat, and there are fried seafood platters with French fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies too. Sip on a Sazerac and take your time exploring the menu — or get the party started with a round of oyster shooters.

Brasil

Montrosians have spent plenty of mornings at Brasil sipping on a honey lavender latte or nursing a hangover with an order of buttermilk pancakes, but this quintessential coffee house is also one of the best places in the neighborhood for dinner. Find snacks like blistered shishitos and a three-cheese board with nuts, olives and toast, plus hearty mains like the spicy arroz con pollo, a bowl of Spanish rice and chicken topped with guajillo and arbol gravy. Snag a table on the shaded back patio during dinner, and take in a set from one of the city’s local DJs who make appearances a few nights a week.

Lucille's

At this popular Museum District eatery, true southern plates are inspired by chef Chris Williams’s great-grandmother Lucille. Dishes like the braised oxtails, Tennessee hot duck, and catfish and grits should be paired with fluffy cornbread or hot rolls. There isn’t a bad seat in the house — the dining room quite literally resembles a home — but the patio’s also a great option, especially when there’s live jazz on Thursday nights and during weekend brunch.

The Blind Goat

Situated among the many restaurant vendors inside Downtown’s Bravery Chef Hall, a visit to the fast-casual Blind Goat is a convenient way to score eats from one of Houston’s top chefs. Helmed by Christine Ha, the winner of MasterChef’s third season, the restaurant serves craveable bibimbap bowls, fried chicken lettuce wraps, and stellar lemongrass chicken vermicelli. Don’t forget to grab a Vietnamese iced coffee for the road.

Grand Prize Bar

If the year-round Christmas lights and décor aren’t reason enough to chill out with a boozy beverage at Grand Prize, opt for a taste of something from the bar’s kitchen. Coined the Trophy Case Kitchen, Grand Prize allows a revolving group of Houston street vendors to offer their menus to bar patrons. Look forward to Kosher beef hot dogs and burgers from the Umbrella Fellas, vegetarian pupusas from Pupusa Mami, or bucatini with fermented garlic butter from Ghost Hand Pasta.

Backstreet Cafe

A solid spot for a patio lunch, Backstreet Cafe keeps it breezy. Score a seat on the patio and share plates of fritto misto, bucatini with spicy crab, and flatbreads topped with Texas peaches and balsamic.

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