Chris Shepherd — perhaps Houston’s most famous chef — is celebrated for creating restaurants like his now-retired flagship Underbelly that tell Houston’s story through food. For the James Beard Award winner, that means immersing in the lesser known traditions of H-Town’s Asian communities, Indian enclaves, Latin neighborhoods, Creole kitchens and more. Find his uniquely delicious dishes at his restaurants — Georgia James, Wild Oats and Pastore Italian Kitchen.
Every neighborhood in Houston has options worth exploring. Foodies know that Lower Westheimer in Montrose has risen to national notoriety for its superstar chefs, cool coffeeshops, bustling bakeries and trendy-bar-next-door vibe. But other districts are vying for gastronomic greatness: In Downtown, hotel restaurants are surprisingly chic, like James Beard-winning Hugo Ortega’s Xochi inside the Marriott Marquis, the new C. Baldwin hotel’s Rosalie, and Bayou & Bottle in the Four Seasons. In EaDo, a trio of exciting spots from the nationally lauded crew Agricole Hospitality — Miss Carousel cocktail bar, next-door pizza place Vinny’s, and Gulf-Coast-cool Indianola — draws a crowd nightly, and Nancy’s Hustle has quietly become one of the most talked-about restaurants in Texas.
River Oaks and the Galleria boast a handful of high-end steakhouse experiences, like Doris Metropolitan, Steak 48 and Mastro’s. Inside the mall, find stylish sushi and more at Nobu and, across the way, amazing Indian food at the palatial and beautifully designed Musaafer. The Heights is the latest ’hood to emerge as a foodie destination, with outposts of many Houston go-tos — Common Bond bakery, Local Foods sandwich shop, The Burger Joint, farm-to-table fave Dish Society — opening here in the last few years. It’s more pedestrian-friendly than other areas, which makes for an easy and fun progressive dining experience.
While reliable online restaurant guides from OpenTable, Zagat and Yelp are available to help newcomers get their culinary bearings, many visitors like asking for local recs. Suggestions for fine-dining may include Tony’s, B&B Butchers, Uchi and Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; hole-in-the-wall haunts and casual hot spot as might be Gatlin’s Barbecue, El Tiempo, Breakfast Klub and Mala Sichuan.
For those looking to get a little closer to their food, local farmers’ markets spring up around Houston on the weekends, where vendors proudly display their homegrown fare and homemade product. The Urban Harvest Farmers Market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays year-round, and boasts more than 50 farmers and vendors selling everything from freshly harvested produce and artisan breads to grass-fed beef and emu eggs.