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Brenner’s Steakhouse/Facebook

16 Classic Restaurants Every Houstonian Should Visit at Least Once

From iconic burgers to killer Tex-Mex, these longstanding restaurants have stuck around for a reason

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Houston’s culinary landscape has broadened considerably over the years, but it always had a strong foundation to build upon. Many of the old-school eateries that paved the way for Houston’s current restaurant scene are still open today, and serving up some of the best dishes in the city.

While there are still so many new restaurants to discover, these 16 Houston restaurants have stood the test of time. From old-fashioned burgers and seafood-stuffed po-boys to killer Tex-Mex and Beyonce-approved fried chicken, here’s where to find the city’s best classic eats.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Barbecue Inn

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116 W Crosstimbers Rd
Houston, TX 77018
(713) 695-8112
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Diners have flocked to The Barbecue Inn for more than seven decades to sample the Skrehot family’s recipes. Comfort plates include the St. Louis-style barbecue ribs, chicken fried steak with gravy, and stacked barbecue sandwiches.

Barbecue Inn/Facebook

2. Brenner's Steakhouse

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10911 Katy Fwy
Houston, TX 77079
(713) 465-2901
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Open since 1936, Brenner’s rustic wood interior coupled with white tablecloths creates an upscale, but unpretentious atmosphere. The patio features a lush garden with a picturesque waterfall. Try the Gulf red snapper topped with jumbo lump crabmeat or the filet mignon paired with one of the 200 wines on hand and famous apple strudel for dessert.

Brenner’s Steakhouse/Facebook

3. Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue

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1703 Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 227-2283
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Pizzitola’s has been firing up their brick barbecue pit for more than 80 years, and it’s the only one of its kind allowed inside the city limits. Indulge on tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, pork ribs seasoned with a no-frills salt and pepper rub, fall-off-the-bone chicken, and hickory smoked sausage. For dessert, have some of Mama’s decadent bread pudding.

Pizzitola’sBar-B-Cue

4. The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

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2704 Navigation Blvd
Houston, TX 77003
(713) 228-1175
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Ninfa’s may have a location in Uptown today, but the original concept (as its name suggests) began on Navigation by Ninfa Laurenzo, a.k.a. “Mama” Ninfa, and it was here that tacos al carbon — fajita meat in warm flour tortillas with pico de gallo, guacamole and queso — were put on the map. Pair them with a heaping plate of nachos and a Ninfarita for Tex-Mex gold.

5. Backstreet Cafe

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1103 S Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77019
(713) 521-2239
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Helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega and housed in a charming 1930s-era home, Backstreet Café has served as a destination restaurant for Houston diners for almost four decades. Its picturesque patio is still buzzy as can be during weekend brunch, and guests can count on longstanding favs like shrimp and stone ground grits and jalapeño fettuccine, which has graced the menu since the early ‘90s.

6. Lankford's Grocery & Market

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88 Dennis St
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-9555

Head to Lankford’s Grocery, open since 1938, for one of Houston’s best burgers. This long-standing Montrose staple offers 20 burger varieties from an old fashioned hamburger to the Frito pie burg, made extra savory with house-made chili and crunchy Fritos. There are also lots of snacky sides like fried green tomatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese bites and tater tots.

Lankford Grocery & Market

7. China Garden Restaurant

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1602 Leeland St
Houston, TX 77003
(713) 652-0745
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This family-owned restaurant originally began as a Chinese food products import store in the ‘60s but soon transformed into the restaurant Houstonians still frequent today. Find Chinese comfort plates like fried chicken wings and shrimp dumplings, plus beef Cantonese chow mein made with fresh, house-made noodles.

8. Brennan's of Houston

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3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-9711
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Brennan’s, the simbling restaurant to New Orleans’ world-famous Commander’s Palace, is renowned for its unparalleled Creole cuisine and New Orleans-style jazz brunch, available in Houston since 1967. Snapping turtle soup, Cajun fried frog legs, and the tableside flambéed bananas foster are just a few of the classic, Louisiana-influenced dishes on the menu.

Brennan’s of Houston
Brennan’s of Houston

9. Christie's Seafood & Steaks

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6029 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 978-6563
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Beginning as a seafood stand in Galveston, Christie’s has gone through many iterations over the last 100 years. The current building, nautically painted white with blue trim, is easy to spot, and the lighthouse on top guides diners to plates of fresh seafood, including the famous fish sandwich, an original menu item since 1917.

Christie’s Seafood & Steaks/Facebook

10. Hobbit Cafe

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2243 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 526-5460
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One of Houston’s first vegetarian restaurants, Hobbit Cafe is still serving up fresh veggie-friendly eats almost 50 years later. Alongside dishes like The Gandolf, a cheesy mushroom and avocado sandwich, Hobbit now boasts an impressive menu of burgers, including the Fires of Mount Doom, topped with chorizo, hatch chile queso, sliced serrano and cilantro. The restaurant, located in an old house with a tree-shaded patio, has also become known for its extensive craft beer menu.

11. Ragin' Cajun

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4302 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77027
(713) 623-6321
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The Mandola family name is a household one when it comes to Houston dining, in part thanks to the consistently fresh and tasty eats at Ragin Cajun, which has stood at its original location for almost 50 years under the direction of Luke Mandola Sr. and his son Dominic. Find authentic Cajun eats here including po-boys served traditionally on French baguette, special muffulettas, and 100% Acadiana “rice field” pond-raised, purged crawfish when in season.

12. Tony's

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3755 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77046
(713) 622-6778
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Tony’s has been synonymous with world-class fine-dining in Houston for 50 years, and it continues to impress under the direction of chef de cuisine Austin Waiter. In addition to utilizing real crystal, silver, and linens imported from Italy, the restaurant offers elegant plates like Bolognese built with classic pappardelle, dry-aged duck and delicious desserts like tiramisu and fluffy tuxedo cake.

Tony’s/Facebook

13. Cleburne Cafeteria

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3606 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 667-2386
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While other Houston cafeterias have come and gone, Cleburne stands strong, offering beloved cafe plates like meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, blackened catfish, and turkey with dressing available year-round. There is beer and wine too, plus glass cases full of Texas-sized desserts like pound cake and chocolate icebox pie.

Cleburne Cafeteria/Facebook

14. Houston’s This Is It Soul Food

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2712 Blodgett St
Houston, TX 77004
(713) 521-2920
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Looking for the city’s oldest soul food joint? This Is It. The cafeteria-style diner offers combo plates featuring oxtails, smothered pork chops, ham hocks, chitterlings, and pig feet; sides of mac and cheese, candied yams, and black eyed peas; and old fashioned tea cakes and banana pudding for dessert.

Houston’s This Is It Soul Food/Facebook

15. Frenchy’s Chicken

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3919 Scott St
Houston, TX 77004
(713) 748-2233
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Now a beloved franchise, Frenchy’s has humble beginnings as a po’ boy shop in the Third Ward. Po’ boys remain on the menu, but the fried chicken is a famous (and Beyonce-approved) dish. Succulent, seasoned chicken joins Southern sides like collard greens, dirty rice, and gumbo.

Frenchy’s Chicken/Facebook

16. Molina's Cantina

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3801 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77025
(713) 432-1626
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The Molina family has been running Molina’s Cantina for three generations, and the warmth of family can still be felt when dining there today. Find no-nonsense Tex-Mex favorites like sizzling fajitas, crispy tacos, and cheese-oozing enchiladas, and be sure to save room for sopapillas or homemade tres leches cake.

Molina’s Cantina/Facebook

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1. Barbecue Inn

116 W Crosstimbers Rd, Houston, TX 77018
Barbecue Inn/Facebook

Diners have flocked to The Barbecue Inn for more than seven decades to sample the Skrehot family’s recipes. Comfort plates include the St. Louis-style barbecue ribs, chicken fried steak with gravy, and stacked barbecue sandwiches.

116 W Crosstimbers Rd
Houston, TX 77018

2. Brenner's Steakhouse

10911 Katy Fwy, Houston, TX 77079
Brenner’s Steakhouse/Facebook

Open since 1936, Brenner’s rustic wood interior coupled with white tablecloths creates an upscale, but unpretentious atmosphere. The patio features a lush garden with a picturesque waterfall. Try the Gulf red snapper topped with jumbo lump crabmeat or the filet mignon paired with one of the 200 wines on hand and famous apple strudel for dessert.

10911 Katy Fwy
Houston, TX 77079

3. Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue

1703 Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77007
Pizzitola’sBar-B-Cue

Pizzitola’s has been firing up their brick barbecue pit for more than 80 years, and it’s the only one of its kind allowed inside the city limits. Indulge on tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, pork ribs seasoned with a no-frills salt and pepper rub, fall-off-the-bone chicken, and hickory smoked sausage. For dessert, have some of Mama’s decadent bread pudding.

1703 Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77007

4. The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

2704 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 77003

Ninfa’s may have a location in Uptown today, but the original concept (as its name suggests) began on Navigation by Ninfa Laurenzo, a.k.a. “Mama” Ninfa, and it was here that tacos al carbon — fajita meat in warm flour tortillas with pico de gallo, guacamole and queso — were put on the map. Pair them with a heaping plate of nachos and a Ninfarita for Tex-Mex gold.

2704 Navigation Blvd
Houston, TX 77003

5. Backstreet Cafe

1103 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019

Helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega and housed in a charming 1930s-era home, Backstreet Café has served as a destination restaurant for Houston diners for almost four decades. Its picturesque patio is still buzzy as can be during weekend brunch, and guests can count on longstanding favs like shrimp and stone ground grits and jalapeño fettuccine, which has graced the menu since the early ‘90s.

1103 S Shepherd Dr
Houston, TX 77019

6. Lankford's Grocery & Market

88 Dennis St, Houston, TX 77006
Lankford Grocery & Market

Head to Lankford’s Grocery, open since 1938, for one of Houston’s best burgers. This long-standing Montrose staple offers 20 burger varieties from an old fashioned hamburger to the Frito pie burg, made extra savory with house-made chili and crunchy Fritos. There are also lots of snacky sides like fried green tomatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese bites and tater tots.

88 Dennis St
Houston, TX 77006

7. China Garden Restaurant

1602 Leeland St, Houston, TX 77003

This family-owned restaurant originally began as a Chinese food products import store in the ‘60s but soon transformed into the restaurant Houstonians still frequent today. Find Chinese comfort plates like fried chicken wings and shrimp dumplings, plus beef Cantonese chow mein made with fresh, house-made noodles.

1602 Leeland St
Houston, TX 77003

8. Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006
Brennan’s of Houston
Brennan’s of Houston

Brennan’s, the simbling restaurant to New Orleans’ world-famous Commander’s Palace, is renowned for its unparalleled Creole cuisine and New Orleans-style jazz brunch, available in Houston since 1967. Snapping turtle soup, Cajun fried frog legs, and the tableside flambéed bananas foster are just a few of the classic, Louisiana-influenced dishes on the menu.

3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006

9. Christie's Seafood & Steaks

6029 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057
Christie’s Seafood & Steaks/Facebook

Beginning as a seafood stand in Galveston, Christie’s has gone through many iterations over the last 100 years. The current building, nautically painted white with blue trim, is easy to spot, and the lighthouse on top guides diners to plates of fresh seafood, including the famous fish sandwich, an original menu item since 1917.

6029 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057

10. Hobbit Cafe

2243 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098

One of Houston’s first vegetarian restaurants, Hobbit Cafe is still serving up fresh veggie-friendly eats almost 50 years later. Alongside dishes like The Gandolf, a cheesy mushroom and avocado sandwich, Hobbit now boasts an impressive menu of burgers, including the Fires of Mount Doom, topped with chorizo, hatch chile queso, sliced serrano and cilantro. The restaurant, located in an old house with a tree-shaded patio, has also become known for its extensive craft beer menu.

2243 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77098

11. Ragin' Cajun

4302 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77027

The Mandola family name is a household one when it comes to Houston dining, in part thanks to the consistently fresh and tasty eats at Ragin Cajun, which has stood at its original location for almost 50 years under the direction of Luke Mandola Sr. and his son Dominic. Find authentic Cajun eats here including po-boys served traditionally on French baguette, special muffulettas, and 100% Acadiana “rice field” pond-raised, purged crawfish when in season.

4302 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77027

12. Tony's

3755 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77046
Tony’s/Facebook

Tony’s has been synonymous with world-class fine-dining in Houston for 50 years, and it continues to impress under the direction of chef de cuisine Austin Waiter. In addition to utilizing real crystal, silver, and linens imported from Italy, the restaurant offers elegant plates like Bolognese built with classic pappardelle, dry-aged duck and delicious desserts like tiramisu and fluffy tuxedo cake.

3755 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77046

13. Cleburne Cafeteria

3606 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 77005
Cleburne Cafeteria/Facebook

While other Houston cafeterias have come and gone, Cleburne stands strong, offering beloved cafe plates like meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, blackened catfish, and turkey with dressing available year-round. There is beer and wine too, plus glass cases full of Texas-sized desserts like pound cake and chocolate icebox pie.

3606 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77005

14. Houston’s This Is It Soul Food

2712 Blodgett St, Houston, TX 77004
Houston’s This Is It Soul Food/Facebook

Looking for the city’s oldest soul food joint? This Is It. The cafeteria-style diner offers combo plates featuring oxtails, smothered pork chops, ham hocks, chitterlings, and pig feet; sides of mac and cheese, candied yams, and black eyed peas; and old fashioned tea cakes and banana pudding for dessert.

2712 Blodgett St
Houston, TX 77004

15. Frenchy’s Chicken

3919 Scott St, Houston, TX 77004
Frenchy’s Chicken/Facebook

Now a beloved franchise, Frenchy’s has humble beginnings as a po’ boy shop in the Third Ward. Po’ boys remain on the menu, but the fried chicken is a famous (and Beyonce-approved) dish. Succulent, seasoned chicken joins Southern sides like collard greens, dirty rice, and gumbo.

3919 Scott St
Houston, TX 77004

Related Maps

16. Molina's Cantina

3801 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77025
Molina’s Cantina/Facebook

The Molina family has been running Molina’s Cantina for three generations, and the warmth of family can still be felt when dining there today. Find no-nonsense Tex-Mex favorites like sizzling fajitas, crispy tacos, and cheese-oozing enchiladas, and be sure to save room for sopapillas or homemade tres leches cake.

3801 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77025

Related Maps