house of pies W.Ross Wells

Photo by W. Ross Wells via

Houston, the commercial center of the state, is full of Texas bravado mixed with country and sophisticated styles. The area, carved into a port with gumption and luck, is flush with oil rigs which cemented its status. Commercial interests, workers, and developers have moved Houston through booms and busts. The city might be daunting for the first time visitor, but if you’re looking for an authentic experience of the Lonestar State, this is it.

When you land in a major metropolis, the first order of business is getting from the airport into town, and Houston has the economical Airport Direct service with Metro (about $15), shuttle services (about $25), and taxis (around $45). By the time you check into your hotel, you’re hungry and ready to head out for some chow in one of the Houston eateries.

Houston has its own trendy chef scene and an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of fancy dining establishments. If you’re looking for more modest restaurants that have worked their way up with an eye to local color, here’s a short list of fun Houston eateries to add to your itinerary.


Pet friendly Barnaby’s, with multiple locations, has been serving big portions and its famous chopped salads for over a decade. You can find the bright restaurants festooned with dog and pet portraits around town. Visitors to the Museum and Heights districts will find the newer locations. The original is on Fairview and a popular spot for breakfast.

The Chicken Ranch

Fancy your fried chicken with a notorious side of history? Eat at the Chicken Ranch restaurant, and don’t miss the front painted to look like the famous Texas bordello. (Check out the fictionalized version on Netflix: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”) Throw your carb aversions aside and dig into wings, dirty rice, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and buckets of fried chicken. You’ll find the Chicken Ranch Restaurant in the greater Heights neighborhood.

This is it Soul Food

The ambiance is cafeteria basic, but seeing the crowds that pack the place attests to a soul food menu that’s anything but common. This is one of Houston’s oldest soul food restaurants with two locations, the original in Midtown and the other across the street from Texas Southern University. Miss the crowds and come well before noon or for a late lunch of ox tails, fried catfish, and Ms. Gladys special fries.

Original Ninfa’s on Navigation

More than forty years ago, Mama Ninfa launched the fajita craze by serving sliced beef in handmade flour tortillas. Original Ninfa’s packs them in nightly. Locals know to arrive before 7 p.m. or endure long waits. It’s worth it for an indulgence in Tex-Mex flavors.
Goode co. armadillo palace Ruben Lopez Jr.

Photo by Ruben Lopez Jr. via Trover

Armadillo Place

The Goode Company restaurants made their mark on Houston during the last four decades, but opening up a music venue across the street turned Armadillo Place into an icon. Dig into Texas comfort food and BBQ while tapping your toes to live bands most nights of the week.

This post is part of the #‎HipmunkCityLove Project.