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Crispy fried chicken at Himalaya
Bill Addison/Eater

15 Iconic Houston Dishes To Try Before You Die

Fajitas, fried shrimp, and more essentials on any Space City bucket list

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Crispy fried chicken at Himalaya
| Photo by Bill Addison/Eater

For both natives and transplants alike, Houston has an incredible culinary history that is just begging to be explored. In its 179 years of existence, Houston's chefs and restaurant owners have blended a variety of global cuisines and thrown in their own unique touches to produce some truly iconic dishes.

But what are Houston's most iconic dishes? With so many excellent dishes, cuisines, and restaurants to choose from, it's hard to narrow down a list of the city's definitive dishes. That said, some plates, like the crispy fried shrimp tails served up at Christie's Seafood since 1917 and Brennan's Shrimp Chippewa should be on any Houstonian's bucket list.

Whether in need of an excellent place to start in exploring Houston's culinary culture or just need a refresher of some old favorites, these 11 iconic dishes are definitely worth a try.

Is your favorite H-Town original missing from this map? Shout it out in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Rainbow Lodge

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2011 Ella Blvd
Houston, TX 77008
(713) 861-8666
Visit Website

In addition to its namesake ingredient, Rainbow Lodge's rich and hearty bowl of smoked duck gumbo features Andouille sausage and topped with wild rice pilaf for a multi-textured off-the-charts savory indulgence.

Rainbow Lodge/Facebook

2. Coltivare Pizza & Garden

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3320 White Oak Dr
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 637-4095
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This deceptively simple bowl of steaming noodles dressed with freshly cracked tellicherry peppercorns, parmesan, and olive oil has received national acclaim and a devoted following of locals who are happy to wait for a table just to get their hands on this cacio e pepe.

Andrea Weir

3. The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

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2704 Navigation Blvd
Houston, TX 77003
(713) 228-1175
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The home of sizzling plates of fajitas, Ninfa's is a must-stop for any Tex-Mex enthusiast. The beef skirt steak is perfectly marinated, and unique protein add-ons like quail and chorizo seriously amp up this typical Tex-Mex offering.

Ninfa's on Navigation/Facebook

4. Niko Niko's

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2520 Montrose Blvd
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 528-4976
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Gyros aren't unique to Houston, but Niko Niko's creates the city's most classic version of this popular handheld sandwich. A flavor-packed and juicy combination of chopped lamb and beef seasoned generously and served in a warm, soft pita with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.

Niko Niko's/Facebook

5. Brennan's of Houston

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3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-9711
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Brennan's Shrimp Chippewa brings dinner and a show via succulent shrimp sautéed in Cognac tableside served with sun dried tomatoes and a hearty serving of stone ground grits spiked with goat cheese.

Brennan's/Facebook

6. Kenny & Ziggy's Deli

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2327 Post Oak Blvd
Houston, TX 77056
(713) 871-8883
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Should you find yourself in need of a burger capable of feeding a family of four, get to Kenny & Ziggy's for the Big Reubowski. Pat LaFrieda brisket and short rib combine to make an ideal burger patty, then it's all topped off with a massive pile of housemade corned beef, sauerkraut, and copious Russian dressing.

Paula Murphy

7. Hugo's

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1600 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 524-7744
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Pretty much anything on the menu at James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega's namesake eatery is an excellent choice, but the lamb barbacoa is truly a Houston icon. Marinated with chiles, garlic, and avocado leaves, this perfectly spiced protein is the definition of tender.

Bill Addison/Eater

8. Rudi Lechner's German Restaurant

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2503 S Gessner Rd
Houston, TX 77063
(713) 782-1180
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Hot and crispy pan-fried breaded veal cutlet served alongside Austrian potatoes and choice red cabbage or sauerkraut. Live music and a beer hall vibe interior up the charm.

9. Christie's Seafood & Steaks

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6029 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 978-6563
Visit Website

Christie’s has been serving Gulf favorites to locals since 1917 and the fried shrimp paired with remoulade sauce is a must-try. The traditional sauce is prepared using homemade mayonnaise and garlic until it’s smooth and decadent.

Christie's/Facebook

10. Carrabba's - The Original on Kirby

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3115 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 522-3131
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Rich and creamy homemade Alfredo sauce coats fresh fettuccini, the only pasta made from scratch in house, along with sautéed mushrooms, scallions and shrimp to create the Pasta Weesie. A never-ending basket of Slow Dough goodies is perfect for sopping up every last drop of sauce.

Carrabba's

11. Picos Restaurant

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3601 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(832) 831-9940
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For this classic take on pollo en mole negro Oaxaqueño, a chicken quarter is drenched in Oaxacan-style thick, dark, rich black mole – the result of an 8-10 hour cooking process involving an extensive list of ingredients – and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with rice, refried black beans, and lots of tortillas.

Ellie Sharp

12. Goode Company BBQ

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5109 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 522-2530
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Choose from Czech sausage and assorted mesquite-smoked meats like turkey, chicken, and brisket plus made-from-scratch pies and homemade sides like Jambalaya Texana for a plate that’s filled the stomachs of Houstonians for 35 years.

Goode Co./Facebook

13. Himalaya Restaurant

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6652 Southwest Fwy
Houston, TX 77074
(713) 532-2837
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A Houston original, the crispy, spicy fried chicken packed with Pakistani flavors at Himalaya is a must for any out-of-town visitor.

Bill Addison/Eater

14. Mala Sichuan Bistro

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9348 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77036
(713) 995-1889

Mouth-tingling fare at Mala is always worth the drive to Chinatown, but the mapo tofu is the kind of dish that incites a craving weeks after eating it. On order of stir-fried green beans and red oil cucumbers rounds out a truly perfect meal.

Mala Sichuan/Facebook

15. Crawfish & Noodles

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11360 Bellaire Blvd Ste 990
Houston, TX 77072
(281) 988-8098
Visit Website

Viet-Cajun crawfish is a uniquely Houston dish, one that shines at Crawfish & Noodles. The bugs here are bathed in a spicy, buttery, garlicky sauce with hints of lemongrass that make them a bit more nuanced than the average crawfish. Pair with a bowl of noodles on the side for the full C&N experience.

16. Pho Binh By Night

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12148 Bellaire Blvd #101
Houston, TX 77072
(832) 351-2464
Visit Website

A favorite of local chefs and drinkers everywhere, the late-night noodles at this Bellaire pho spot are an essential Houston hangover prevention tool. Pho Binh By Night is open until midnight, which gives lushes just enough time to slurp up a bowl before the booze really sets in.

Bill Addison/Eater

1. Rainbow Lodge

2011 Ella Blvd, Houston, TX 77008
Rainbow Lodge/Facebook

In addition to its namesake ingredient, Rainbow Lodge's rich and hearty bowl of smoked duck gumbo features Andouille sausage and topped with wild rice pilaf for a multi-textured off-the-charts savory indulgence.

2011 Ella Blvd
Houston, TX 77008

2. Coltivare Pizza & Garden

3320 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
Andrea Weir

This deceptively simple bowl of steaming noodles dressed with freshly cracked tellicherry peppercorns, parmesan, and olive oil has received national acclaim and a devoted following of locals who are happy to wait for a table just to get their hands on this cacio e pepe.

3320 White Oak Dr
Houston, TX 77007

3. The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

2704 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 77003
Ninfa's on Navigation/Facebook

The home of sizzling plates of fajitas, Ninfa's is a must-stop for any Tex-Mex enthusiast. The beef skirt steak is perfectly marinated, and unique protein add-ons like quail and chorizo seriously amp up this typical Tex-Mex offering.

2704 Navigation Blvd
Houston, TX 77003

4. Niko Niko's

2520 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006
Niko Niko's/Facebook

Gyros aren't unique to Houston, but Niko Niko's creates the city's most classic version of this popular handheld sandwich. A flavor-packed and juicy combination of chopped lamb and beef seasoned generously and served in a warm, soft pita with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.

2520 Montrose Blvd
Houston, TX 77006

5. Brennan's of Houston

3300 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006
Brennan's/Facebook

Brennan's Shrimp Chippewa brings dinner and a show via succulent shrimp sautéed in Cognac tableside served with sun dried tomatoes and a hearty serving of stone ground grits spiked with goat cheese.

3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006

6. Kenny & Ziggy's Deli

2327 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
Paula Murphy

Should you find yourself in need of a burger capable of feeding a family of four, get to Kenny & Ziggy's for the Big Reubowski. Pat LaFrieda brisket and short rib combine to make an ideal burger patty, then it's all topped off with a massive pile of housemade corned beef, sauerkraut, and copious Russian dressing.

2327 Post Oak Blvd
Houston, TX 77056

7. Hugo's

1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Bill Addison/Eater

Pretty much anything on the menu at James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega's namesake eatery is an excellent choice, but the lamb barbacoa is truly a Houston icon. Marinated with chiles, garlic, and avocado leaves, this perfectly spiced protein is the definition of tender.

1600 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006

8. Rudi Lechner's German Restaurant

2503 S Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77063

Hot and crispy pan-fried breaded veal cutlet served alongside Austrian potatoes and choice red cabbage or sauerkraut. Live music and a beer hall vibe interior up the charm.

2503 S Gessner Rd
Houston, TX 77063

9. Christie's Seafood & Steaks

6029 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057
Christie's/Facebook

Christie’s has been serving Gulf favorites to locals since 1917 and the fried shrimp paired with remoulade sauce is a must-try. The traditional sauce is prepared using homemade mayonnaise and garlic until it’s smooth and decadent.

6029 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77057

10. Carrabba's - The Original on Kirby

3115 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098
Carrabba's

Rich and creamy homemade Alfredo sauce coats fresh fettuccini, the only pasta made from scratch in house, along with sautéed mushrooms, scallions and shrimp to create the Pasta Weesie. A never-ending basket of Slow Dough goodies is perfect for sopping up every last drop of sauce.

3115 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098

11. Picos Restaurant

3601 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098
Ellie Sharp

For this classic take on pollo en mole negro Oaxaqueño, a chicken quarter is drenched in Oaxacan-style thick, dark, rich black mole – the result of an 8-10 hour cooking process involving an extensive list of ingredients – and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with rice, refried black beans, and lots of tortillas.

3601 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098

12. Goode Company BBQ

5109 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098
Goode Co./Facebook

Choose from Czech sausage and assorted mesquite-smoked meats like turkey, chicken, and brisket plus made-from-scratch pies and homemade sides like Jambalaya Texana for a plate that’s filled the stomachs of Houstonians for 35 years.

5109 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098

13. Himalaya Restaurant

6652 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77074
Bill Addison/Eater

A Houston original, the crispy, spicy fried chicken packed with Pakistani flavors at Himalaya is a must for any out-of-town visitor.

6652 Southwest Fwy
Houston, TX 77074

14. Mala Sichuan Bistro

9348 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036
Mala Sichuan/Facebook

Mouth-tingling fare at Mala is always worth the drive to Chinatown, but the mapo tofu is the kind of dish that incites a craving weeks after eating it. On order of stir-fried green beans and red oil cucumbers rounds out a truly perfect meal.

9348 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77036

15. Crawfish & Noodles

11360 Bellaire Blvd Ste 990, Houston, TX 77072

Viet-Cajun crawfish is a uniquely Houston dish, one that shines at Crawfish & Noodles. The bugs here are bathed in a spicy, buttery, garlicky sauce with hints of lemongrass that make them a bit more nuanced than the average crawfish. Pair with a bowl of noodles on the side for the full C&N experience.

11360 Bellaire Blvd Ste 990
Houston, TX 77072

Related Maps

16. Pho Binh By Night

12148 Bellaire Blvd #101, Houston, TX 77072
Bill Addison/Eater

A favorite of local chefs and drinkers everywhere, the late-night noodles at this Bellaire pho spot are an essential Houston hangover prevention tool. Pho Binh By Night is open until midnight, which gives lushes just enough time to slurp up a bowl before the booze really sets in.

12148 Bellaire Blvd #101
Houston, TX 77072

Related Maps