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10 Family-Owned Houston Restaurants We Love

By Amber Ambrose
January 8, 2014

Big cities aren't just centers of commerce, clusters of developments or meccas for culture - they're also a great places to find restaurants that embody the soul of the people who live there. This couldn't be more evident in places owned and run by families, who lend their passions and much of their lives to the business of feeding people. While this list is a mere snapshot of all the family-owned restaurants in the city, they're certainly ones we've come to love as we would our own families.

  • Paulie's

    Paul Petronella - one of Houston's recent Zagat power players - grew up in the kitchens of Italian restaurants helmed by various uncles and relatives. We're thankful he's keeping the family name (and food) alive in Montrose's neighborhood Italian spot and simultaneously adding his own next-generation touches like a quality coffee program, a killer wine bar next door and housemade pastas.

    1834 Westheimer Rd.; 713-807-7271

  • Niko Niko's

    Yet another restaurant that spans generations, Niko Niko's started out as a humble food stand selling Greek comfort food in 1977. It has since progressed to its current status as a city icon - thanks, in small part, to an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - after being passed on from mother Eleni Fetokakis to instantly recognizable son, Dimitri Fetokakis (his caricature is in much of the advertising).

    2520 Montrose Blvd.; 713-528-4976

  • Molina's Cantina

    One of the original Tex-Mex institutions in town, the Molina family began their restaurant adventures in 1941. It has since endured a world war, plenty of presidents, the Kennedy assassination, hurricanes, tropical storms, recessions and countless other hardships, but we're happy to see it continue to thrive in the capable hands of yet another generation of Molinas.

    Multiple Locations

  • Laurenzo's Prime Rib

    The Laurenzo family has been cooking up great food since the late 1940s, with several successful restaurants still operating today. One of the most recent additions to the family business is namesake Laurenzo's Prime Rib, serving up plenty of, well, prime rib. There are also other options on the menu, including Tex-Mex favorites that the family has perfected at its sister concept, El Tiempo.

    4412 Washington Ave.; 713-880-5111

  • Jonathan's The Rub

    Jonathan Levine is the proverbial godfather of this Brooklyn-style chophouse and Italian restaurant, leading several family members in its operations. The whole family is involved in day-to-day duties, with Levine's son, daughter and nephew all playing various roles.

    9061 Gaylord St.; 713-465-8200

  • Cafe Lili

    Lili herself (pictured) is often found in the kitchen of this homey Lebanese haunt frequented by patrons looking for food that reminds them of home. Not only will the food take them back, but the laid-back atmosphere and jovial employees will make guests feel as if they're also a part of the family.

    5757 Westheimer Rd.; 713-952-6969

  • Spanish Village

    Houston does love its Tex-Mex restaurants, and many claim allegiance to this family-run gem near the Medical Center. It's got the typical hokey Mexican decor, with lots of Christmas lights strung throughout, and that's exactly the way we love it.

    4720 Almeda Rd.; 713-523-2861

  • The Breakfast Klub

    How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. In addition to having some of the best soul food in the world, they're also a family business. Marcus Davis is the head of the enterprises - they also own Reggae Hut and more recently Julia's Bistro - and there couldn't be a better man to run one of our favorite spots in H-Town.

    3711 Travis St.; 713-528-8561

  • Barbecue Inn

    Amazing fried chicken? Check. Homemade ranch dressing you'll want to bathe in? Check. Waitresses that call you 'sweetie'? Check. All the hallmarks of a proper family-owned and run restaurant are at this Heights stop for comfort food. The Skrehot family has been satisfying cravings for three generations and counting, and it will always occupy a large space in our hearts.

    116 W Crosstimbers Rd.; 713-695-8112

  • Adair Kitchen

    With yet again a family legacy heavily ingrained in the industry, this rustic Galleria-area restaurant is owned and operated by siblings (Nick and Katie) whose family also operates local chains Skeeter's Mesquite Grill and Los Tios. The food is down-to-earth - just like the Adair family - with many healthy, fresh options.

    5161 San Felipe St.; 713-623-6100


Places Mentioned

Niko Niko's

Greek • Montrose

Food25 Decor14 Service18 Cost$18

Italian • Montrose

Food24 Decor17 Service17 Cost$19
The Breakfast Klub

Breakfast • Midtown

Food25 Decor13 Service20 Cost$16
Laurenzo's on Washington

American • Washington Corridor

Food21 Decor20 Service23 Cost$39
Cafe Lili

Middle Eastern • Briargrove

Food24 Decor11 Service23 Cost$20
Adair Kitchen

American • Galleria

Food- Decor- Service- CostI
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