Like most big cities, Houston is comprised of many unique neighborhoods. Midtown Houston’s location west-southwest of Downtown allows easy access to the Central Business District with less traffic. Separated by an elevated section of Interstate 45, I spent two weeks in midtown getting to know a city I’d lived in for two years during my medical residency training 25 years ago. Gosh, has it changed! Between Downtown and the Museum District, it’s an ideal location from which to tour the area.
With an area of only 1.24 square miles, everything is walkable if you choose, and the restaurants range from old establishments to up-and-comers. It doesn’t surprise me that Houston was named the “newest capital of great food” by Food & Wine and the country’s most exciting food city by Tasting Table magazine.
The glory of staying in a smaller neighborhood is the ability to walk out your door and choose between many food options. Just outside my door, I have the choice of crepes, pizza, Chinese, Mexican, street tacos, Japanese, and just a little further to Thai and great soul food.
Visiting other destinations in Texas? Check out our other delicious guides:
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- The 8 Best Mexican Restaurants in Keller
- The 7 Best Grapevine Mexican Restaurants
- The 8 Best Bars in Grapevine
- The 7 Best Main Street Grapevine Restaurants
- The 9 Best Restaurants In Midtown Houston Texas
- The Breakfast Klub
- Russo’s New York Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen
- Coco Crepes, Waffles & Coffee
- One Dim Sum
- Nua Thai
- La Calle Tacos & Tequila
- Cyclone Anaya Mexican Kitchen
- Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill
- The Hobbit Café
- Which of these restaurants in Midtown Houston do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
The 9 Best Restaurants In Midtown Houston Texas
3711 Travis // +17135288561
Chicken and Waffles, first established as late-night meals at Harlem’s Wells Supper Club, remains a popular southern dish. And nowhere in Houston does it garner as much attention as here in midtown at The Breakfast Klub. Open for breakfast and lunch, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll miss the line at this nondescript building that needs no sign visible from the street to assure a crowd at this restaurant by going before 9 a.m. on Sunday.
There are churches nearby, dispensing early service parishioners, sure, but the parking lots are packed, front and back; front for carry-out and pre-orders, and back for the lucky few who nab a spot to wait in line to sit in this space surrounded by great art, happy noise, and the delicious smell of fried chicken.
The chicken comes with a scent of the number of spices they use to perfect their three drumsticks and three wings that accompany a large Belgium waffle, lightly dusted with powdered sugar, with a strawberry on top. Accompanied by hot sauce, syrup, and butter, and even ketchup, when my dish was delivered, the very polite server asked me to be sure my order was exactly right prior to driving away.
Highly rated with awards from Zagat’s, Esquire, Texas Monthly, and Good Morning America, as well as Reviews.org, there are many other dishes to try. Wings & grits, pankakes or waffle, pork chops & eggs, klub’s benedict, French toast, green eggs & ham, biskits & gravy, or katfish & grits lead the menu. A breakfast special of choice of bakon, homemade pan sausage, ham, or turkey and two eggs served with potatoes or grits and choice of toast or biskit is an early bird special available only Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but did hear more than one person comment, “Damn fine coffee.” And the sign outside the building gives you a hint of what to try after your chicken and waffles dish: “Building Wakanda … one grit at a time.”
And, if you ask about the knitty gritty, you may just get their take on fish, grits, and politiks.
People here are cheerful and friendly and obviously love feeding people great food. They’ve mastered the execution of this soul food classic.
306 Gray at Bagby // +17135331140
When in need of a place with cable to watch the World Series or a beer or a great meal, Russo’s fits the bill. For me, it was an easy choice after working a long day and wanting a slice. Their thin crust pizza is sold by the very large slice, just $5 for cheese and an additional charge for toppings.
If you’re interested in a meal, the soup, salad, appetizer, and Italian food selections will please most palates. And pizza always seems to work well with the children.
They offer eight salads with EVOO. They serve their soup by the cup or the bowl, tomato basil, vegan minestrone, and tortellini brodo, made fresh to order from their Italian recipes.
For appetizers, they offer Cauliflower Fritti with a house-made marinara sauce, East Coast Calamari, Mozzarella Fritti, Jumbo Liberty Wings, Insalata Caprese, Russo’s homemade meatballs (beef and veal in a Chianti-braised beef sauce), truffle garlic knots (yum!), Italian garlic bread, and Pomodoro Bruschetta. Several people could make a meal out of just a few of these. For favorite daughter, I think she’d choose the cauliflower fritti, the East Coast Calamari, and the Pomodoro Bruschetta.
In addition to offering pizza by the slice, you can purchase a 12-, 16- (circle or square), or 28-inch pizza. That 28 inch looks big enough to feed a big party. They claim it serves eight to ten people. It looks bigger than that to me. I counted 21 types of pizza. in addition to the “create your own” type where you choose your own toppings.
With twenty pasta dishes to choose from, they have three shrimp dishes favorite daughter would enjoy, and a couple of chicken dishes for me. I really like that their lasagna is beef-based. Their spaghetti with meatballs dish offers an Italian sausage substitution.
They take the freshness of their product very seriously. It comes through in the taste.
In addition, they have sandwiches and calzones and then, there is the dessert case. The server loves the red velvet cake and the carrot cake and is working his way to the triple chocolate fudge cake. Also popular with customers are the cheesecakes, New York or Turtle. The Russo’s tiramisu and Italian Cream Cake (dusted with coconut) are great finishes to the meal.
218 Gray Street // +17135210700
This restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, became a fan favorite quickly. Our first two weekend breakfasts were here, and there are still so many more things to choose from.
The staff is funny. When my favorite daughter asked for a recommendation between two choices, the young man looked at her and, with a completely straight face, said “I don’t do vegetables.” That limited his ability to help with her choice but set the fun tone for the trip.
While crepes may be their claim to fame, most of the people around us, all locals by the sounds of it, enjoyed the espresso-infused drinks. I asked the same young man to help me choose between a sweet crepe, the apple pie, or a couple of scoops of gelato and he recommended the apple pie. That includes a scoop of vanilla gelato. Their sweet crepes are served with whipped cream and powdered sugar and do have gluten-free available.
Favorite daughter chose a crepe from the savory menu that first day, the chicken and avocado. All the savory crepes are prepared with a basil pesto aioli so, we learned, have a similar flavor profile.
The first day, the tables were full, so we took the crepes to go back to the apartment, just a couple blocks away. Lesson learned; when we got back, the crepes were a bit gummy. My daughter tells me that’s because the lid was placed on them right away, even for such a short walk.
I’m accustomed to more of a light crepe, not gummy, so when another travel writer joined us the next day, we went back and took claim to an outside table. All the better to enjoy people watching and dog watching as we awaited our order.
This time, I chose the cinnamon roll crepe. Favorite daughter chose the Mediterranean Crepe, which includes oven-roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, and baby greens with a Harissa aioli. Our friend chose the chicken and spinach crepe with sauteed mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, with a mushroom pesto sauce.
Their two dishes were similar enough we needed the cook to distinguish them for us. We dug in and I found the crepes about the same as when we walked with them. The cinnamon roll was in the proper shape of a typical cinnamon roll and flavorful, too.
Mostly, we enjoyed the company as we enjoyed a light breeze, away from cold weather, and the bustle along the shady brick-laid path.
Other food options include waffles, paninis, soups, and salads. I’m still trying to get back for the gelato.
For drinks and treats, they offer smoothies, coffee specialties, coffee espresso, classic favorites including lemonade, hot chocolate, sweet Moroccan mint tea, loose leaf tea, or fresh brewed iced tea. The cococcinos are ice-blended coffee drinks prepared with a house gelato. Options include caramel, vanilla, and dark or white mocha.
510 Gray Street // +13462939188
My daughter and our travel writing friend have a similar love for dim sum and I went along for the ride. And then found something I’d enjoy, too.
It’s so incredibly busy, yet the staff maintains a happy, friendly attitude. They’re not able to roll a cart of dim sum with the current restrictions, yet have an extensive menu on paper so people can circle what it is, precisely, that they want to order.
Owner Jun Hun created this Chinese bistro with truly delectable small portions of many fantastic-looking dishes. I’ve never seen anything quite like the shrimp balls. Three shrimp, deep-fried in a batter that’s made to look like flames streaming from the small plate.
BBQ pork buns, morel shrimp dumplings, pork & shrimp buns look much like the dim sum I’d become accustomed to, both here in Houston and up north in Seattle. It was so easy to imagine what it’d be like to have them on the tray going by.
The pea shoots crabmeat dumplings were a hit. I think they disappeared first.
The Stew Long Bao reminded me of the short movie from Disney that’s so wonderful. This bao wasn’t the best my group had tasted but was perfectly serviceable. I think the shrimp balls stole the show.
For me, they had a cashew chicken dish with steamed rice I ordered off the menu that fed me not only that day but for two more days.
As expected, there were plenty of leftovers, enough for six meals, and it fed us well through the week.
2020 Louisiana Street // +18325825489
Nua Thai was a great option for a late lunch. It was crowded enough, I decided to take the meal home with me, but when I heard there was a 25-minute wait for take-away orders, I decided to have my starter there and take away the rest.
The hostess was kind enough to share with me that the crispy spring rolls take about four minutes to prepare and the spicy edamame seven minutes, so I ordered the crispy spring rolls for there (I was hungry after walking all over downtown that morning!), and the edamame and cashew chicken to go.
The restaurant is open and airy, with seating inside only. It’s not far from the elevated section of 45, so it makes sense to keep everyone safely indoors.
Other starters offered include fresh summer rolls, chicken satay, tulip dumplings, crab cream cheese roll, Thai chicken wings, Brussels sprout, coconut shrimp, sriracha wings, and lab kai salad. So many more things to choose from!
For soups and salads, they have Thai papaya salad, spicy grilled beef salad, Tom Yum, Tom Kha, seafood soup, and wonton soup. I hadn’t appreciated papaya before my time in Belize, and that was a red papaya (theirs is green) but worthy of a try next visit.
Other entrees include a spicy basil (pad kra pow), vegetable delight, broccoli lover, healthy ginger, Ka Pow Kai, eggplant basil, a peanut special, teriyaki chicken, orange chicken, and garlic pepper. They offer jasmine or brown rice with a choice of protein of chicken, tofu, beef, or shrimp.
They offer seven types of curry, pad thai, drunken noodle, pad woon sen, Tom Yum noodle soup and pad see ew. Six fried rice dishes round out the choices.
401 Gray Street // +18326358226
Located just next to the midtown sign with plenty of green space for additional seating, if you like street tacos, this is the place for you!
Go around the right side of the building (as you face it from Gray) and tap on the computerized menu. Choose from Starters, Tacos, Tacompartir Packs (Party Packs of 20 or 50 tacos), Drinks, and Desserts.
They do not accept cash, so have your credit card ready to insert as you order.
Starters include Street Elote (corn on the cob with cotija cheese and mayocrema), consome de birria, Esquite (corn off the cob), and Cevichito (shrimp and cucumber).
Their taco options include street tacos with a side of Birria consome, gringos with chorizo beans, lettuce, pico, mayocrema and yellow cheese, and Quesa-Birria with a side of consome. The meat options include beef, pig, and goat. No chicken during my visit.
Drinks include bottles of Aguas Frescas, Jarritos, Water, Chescos, or cups of Virgin Michelada.
They’re so busy, they ran out of fountain drinks (Coca-Cola) while I was there.
To finish off your meal, their current dessert offering is a cream cheese flan.
309 Gray Street // +17135206969
My all-time favorite Mexican restaurant, Pappasito’s, is in Houston, but none are located in midtown. Our down-the-street option, Cyclone Anaya, has a nice flauta dish, with two variations of beans to choose from, rice, guacamole, sour cream, and excellent chips and salsa.
As I waited a brief time for meal preparation, I was able to learn more about “Cyclone Anaya,” the man and the legend. As they tell it, the Cyclone hailed from Mexico via South America. He was one of the greatest legends in the world of professional wrestling with a career that spanned two decades. His charisma was almost as legendary as his physical agility.
Not only was he the World’s Heavyweight Champion, at one time, he was listed as one of the “Ten Best Dressed Men in America,” and featured in The Saturday Evening Post.
His wife of fifty years, Carol Berzeny, was the reigning Miss Houston when they met. Four sons and a daughter, and eleven grandchildren continued their legacy. The youngest son, Rico, is the current owner and operator.
The great respect, character, and high standards needed for a great sports career can transfer to the restaurant world. And here, at this wonderful Mexican Kitchen on Gray Street, you’ll find living proof of that commitment.
2000 Bagby Street #105/106 // +17135270261
If you’re looking for the best burger in midtown, head towards Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill.
Complete with the requisite television screens for all the sports you could watch, you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained, inside or out, while you wait for your meal.
It is the best, most conveniently located place to get a burger in the area. The staff is helpful and attentive, and the menu is easily accessed via a QR code. Just check under “grub.”
Appetizers can be shared with the group via a well-apportioned platter that includes mozzarella sticks, fried pickles, and two egg rolls. Chips and Salsa can be served with queso. My favorite is the Jumbo Pretzel, served with yellow mustard and queso. You can choose fajita or spinach and mushroom quesadillas. For a real cholesterol-charged item, order the “heart attack fries,” french fries served with jalapeños, bacon, pulled pork, melted cheese, and pico de gallo. Or, if you like breaded green beans, those are served with ranch. Parmesan truffle fries and chicken nuggets round out the options.
Seven options of burgers, including a vegetarian bean burger, give you plenty to choose from. As a purist, I like the basic burger, 1/3 pound of ground beef, served on a freshly toasted bun, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayo and mustard. Burgers are served with fries with the option to substitute parmesan truffle fries or a split order of each.
Ten choices of wraps and sandwiches, including a BLT (served on white), and four salads balance the menu, which also offers surf or turf tacos. I’ve never seen them described that way but think it’s a great idea.
Baskets, sliders, hot wings, entrees of chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, and grilled chicken breast include two sides.
Their desserts focus on their specialty fried Oreos, served in batches of three or six (trust me when I share with you that one person can easily enjoy three) and ice cream.
There’s so much more to choose from when we return. The fun and festive atmosphere during the World Series made it that much more exciting.
2243 Richmond Ave. // +17135265460
After our time in New Zealand, I’ve enjoyed following the unusual tale of the fans of The Hobbit. This is three miles away, but worthy of the trip from midtown. Once known as the Hobbit Hole, the Hobbit Café’s history, the menu tells me, “began in January of 1972 on Shepherd Drive, which served Houstonians and travelers abroad until 2000, when we moved to Richmond Avenue and became the Hobbit Café.
Inspired by the natural foods movement out of Austin, Texas, we were an early pioneer in Houston. In the beginning, influential musicians and artists visited such as Mama Cass, Neil Young, Clint Eastwood, and Peter Max. The Hobbit Hole had a health food store upstairs with an in-house bakery and a health food wholesale distribution company that served six states. In Austin, our health food store was managed by two of three Whole Foods founders, one of which named the restaurant. We have hosted many lovely people over the years and today we are fortunate to have you!”
In keeping with the Hobbit story, the food is served early and often. They specifically mention Second Breakfast, served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, and, what is it?, three dinners?
And the food portions are huge. The Fellowship Platter, a roasted garlic hummus, tabouli, kalamata olives, feta, roasted red peppers, tomato, and cucumber on a spring mix, served with pita and tzatziki could feed four. The entire meal. And that’s just an example of an appetizer!
The items reflect the story faithfully, from dragon wings and goblin pickles to orc poppers and Treebeard’s guacamole salad. Mordor has a hummus platter and the Lonely Mountain black bean nachos fit the bill.
Beverages range from Kickin’ Kombucha to Ent’s Lemonade (served in a sixteen oz. mason jar) or a Tom Bombadil. Their lemonade is delicious, with just the right amount of sweet and tart.
The smoothies range from Tropical Pippen to Arwin (banana and coconut), Tauriel (kiwi and strawberry), Legolas (avocado, spinach, and mango), Gimli (peanut butter, banana, carob, and cinnamon – it’s like Elvis was a Hobbit), or Baggins Banana.
Under soups, they have a Hobbit Soup and Morgoth’s Gazpacho … fun, right?
They offer Tolkien bowls with a variety of cold and hot proteins and vegetables. If you decide not to have a bowl, they can wrap it for you in a spinach flour tortilla.
Two entire columns of burgers and sandwiches captured my attention. You can order the Gandalf (burger with avocado topped with mushrooms and melted jack cheese), Smaug’s delight (smoked turkey breast), or the award-winning Dwalin (curried chicken salad with red grapes). I really liked the sound of the Fires of Mt. Doom Burger with beef, chorizo, Azon’s hatch Queso, guacamole, pico de gallo, sauteed jalapeños, sliced serranos, and cilantro. But one of the other dishes captured my attention.
Beyond the Shire, Gollum’s fish tacos fit my appetite. Blackened filets, shredded red cabbage, and house-made chipotle Caesar dressing on corn tortillas served with mango, pico de gallo, black beans, brown rice, and house-made red salsa. They offer two or three (Hobbit portions) and an additional charge for mahi-mahi. It was worth it.
Favorite daughter would have chosen Elrond’s Shrimp enchiladas. Or Lady Galadriel’s Magic Enchiladas, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and onions in corn tortillas topped with house-made mole sauce and melted jack cheese.
And whether you go for a sweet or take-away, you’ll definitely want to check out the “Hobbit Sweets.” Examples include Bag End Key Lime Pie, Old Man Willow’s Mousse Cake (yummy!), Carrot Cake of Angmar, Brandywine Bourbon Pecan Pie, Oin and Gloin’s Cheesecake, Shelob’s Salted Caramel Cheesecake, or a Viking Blood Mead.
And speaking of mead, they have SIX pages of alcoholic beverages and Gandalf is drawn on a sign at the door. He says, “You shall not pass until you try one of our new meads today!” If you drink, I highly recommend you take his advice.
Bonus Restaurant: The Pharm Restaurant and Steakhouse in Buffalo, Texas
Pro Tip: If you live in Houston, or in Dallas, you’re bound to have friends in the other city. That happened with us. Buffalo is a great place near the middle.
My travel writer friend and I contacted another travel writing friend I’d first met on a Peru photography expedition, then at an Austin, Texas, travel writer’s conference. It turns out her family lived in the Centerville, Texas area for a couple of decades. Since she knew the area so well, she chose where we could meet.
The Pharm isn’t easy to find, I passed it twice, but it is definitely worth the visit. Buffalo is just north of Centerville, and you should ask for Michelle. She’s awesome.
Turning east from the highway (I-45), it may be easiest to spot when you watch for the Shell gas station on the left. The Pharm is before the gas station, and you’ll want to be going slow to get into the parking lot safely.
Walk in, and you’ll be beneath several elk or deer mounted over the entry, all from the owner or owner’s family members. The old way to describe it may have been “redneck heaven,” but it’s so mainstream these days, the country décor and hunting trophies, it feels like a fairly normal Western motif. Wood log pillars support the kitchen area with a whiteboard listing desserts and specials of the day.
Bud Light, Corona, and Budweiser neon signs decorate the walls, and a large Coca-Cola sign promotes the soda of choice. But the drink of the day at our table is unsweetened tea with the largest glasses I’ve seen, well over a liter each. Everything is bigger in Texas. And I want one of these glasses for my house, or to travel.
One warning, though; there is only one stall in each the women’s and men’s rooms, so be mindful of this as you’re drinking your second or third glass.
The menu is a single, Texas-ize double-sided page.
Appetizers include Crawfish Queso, Fried Green Tomatoes, Calf Fries, Texas Toothpicks (slivers of fried jalapenos), Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Fried Green Beans, Fried Pickles (favorite daughter loves these), and Chips and Homemade Salsa.
Quesadillas include grilled ribeye (one of our choices – so large, 2/3 had to be taken to go), grilled chicken breast, or cheese.
Salads include a taco salad or house salad with nine choices of dressings, and the Pharm Salad, your choice of meat on a bed of mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, shredded cheddar cheese and croutons with a choice of eight types of protein.
Sandwiches include the hamburger, cheeseburger, patty melt, club sandwich, BLT, chicken sliders, grilled chicken sandwich, CFS sandwich (chicken fried steak), or a ribeye steak sandwich.
I chose the BLT after conferring with Michelle. I’d never seen a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on blueberry bread before with mayonnaise. Michelle assured me it was a tasty combination, and she recommended the sweet potato fries to balance the flavor profile. The sweet and savory was amazing.
Plates are served with two sides or a house salad and have three types of fish, chicken fried steak, chicken strips, and smoked sausage.
If I ever make it back after 5 p.m., I’ll be trying their eight oz. hand-cut, seasoned filet, grilled over mesquite wood with their loaded mashed potatoes and a house salad.
Their dessert selection varied from a sweet pecan pie, served with vanilla ice cream, berry tarts, and a selection of cheesecakes. I was really tempted by the berry tart but decided to dodge that dessert bullet this stay. Our Fort Worth friend, though, did get the pecan pie to take home to her husband, and Michelle, with a twinkle in her eye, brought a little taste of ice cream and three spoons … just in case we decided to “test” it for him.
After the delicious dessert, we had more things to talk about, and they let us leave one car in the parking lot, while we visited Crockett, a wonderful tiny town with a Courthouse in the middle of the square. It’s where Davy Crockett stayed one night on his way to the Alamo. Legend has it, if he’d survived, he would’ve returned to homestead there.
What an exciting return to Houston after 25 years. Houston feels different, yet oddly familiar. I never spent a lot of time in the downtown or midtown area. My life revolved around the medical center, so it’s nice to be back to see how many other things there are to love.
Which of these restaurants in Midtown Houston do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, she happily goes on new adventures, especially on birthdays. Multi-generational travel remains a treasured pastime. She divides her time between Ireland and the U.S. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.