Houston Tourist-Trap Survival Guide

Killer BBQ without the wait, plus can't-miss options near the Museum District
July 4, 2016
by Robin Sussman

Houston is the fourth largest city in America. It's a big, sprawling urban jungle with terrific food choices. Yes, it's a little hectic but always exciting with lots of entertainment. Whether you're coming to town for vacation or business, or you're a local needing some inspiration about where to take visitors, here's how to do Bayou City like a pro. 

How to avoid the line at Killen’s Barbecue
The perpetual line at this Pearland ‘cue joint is as famous as the food. It’s a prime stop on the way to or from the NASA Space Center if you get there before 11 AM. Optionally, you could go mid-afternoon to avoid the line or take dinner to eat by your hotel pool. The good news? Owner Ronnie Killen serves free beer on the weekends to the devoted fans who are waiting in line.

3613 Broadway St., Pearland; 281-485-2272


Skip fast-food burgers for Bernies Burger Bus
Houston is a hot burger town with many mom-and-pop shops. For an impressive burger and shake experience in a charming setting, make a beeline to one of these convenient suburban outposts with shady patios and school-themed burger names. The towering Detention burger is justly famous for its massive cheddar cheeseburger patties and “tipsy” onions, and the milkshakes are worth dieting for. Think salted caramel apple pie and cookie butter shake. Don’t leave town without trying it!

Multiple locations

How to eat like a local near Minute Maid Park
If headed Downtown for a baseball game or anything else, it’s mandatory to stop at Houston legend Ninfa’s on Navigation, the birthplace of celebrated Texas fajitas. Relish the iconic limey-stout frozen Ninfaritas while munching on sizzling tender beef fajitas with handmade (on-site, by the hour) flour tortillas and all the tasty fixings.

2701 Navigation Blvd.; 713-228-1175

Best venue for retail therapy
Cosmopolitan shoppers gravitate toward the sophisticated and vast Galleria in Post Oak for high-end fashion, makeup, and jewelry finds (Tiffany, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue). For prime eats and drinks in the area, hit Caracol for Mexican seafood, Café Annie for Southwestern fare, or La Table for French and American classics, savvy cocktails, and a French bakery.

Caracol, 2200 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-622-9996
Café Annie, 1800 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-840-1111
La Table, 1800 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-439-1000

Coolest spot near the world renowned Museum District
After culture cruising the Museum of Fine Arts, The Contemporary Art Museum, or the elegant Menil Collection, pull up a chair at beautiful MF Sushi. You’ll immediately feel relaxed in this blonde wood setting wrapped in glass with delicate dangling lights and a serene sushi bar. Order sushi master Chris Kinjo’s thinly sliced shima-aji (white trevally), served with ponzu and yuzukosho, a salty citrus-and-chile garnish, or any sashimi. It’s all spanking fresh.

1401 Binz St., #100; 713-637-4587

Where to eat generous, delicious Southern fare
Headed Downtown to the Toyota Center for a basketball game or a concert? Stop at Treebeard’s for an unforgettable Southern fix. The cafeteria setup is hassle free, affordable, and you can indulge in Cajun-style gems such as red beans, spicy sausage and rice, shrimp étouffée, thick slabs of cornbread and giant triangles of homemade carrot cake.

Multiple downtown locations

Artful dining for traveling foodies
After perusing the funky alternative art in Houston’s Warehouse District, treat yourself to dinner at nationally lauded Oxheart. Chef Justin Yu is a 2016 James Beard winner and his unique veg-centric menu (there are meat and seafood choices as well) is a must for epicureans. Tip: Reserve at least a month in advance.

1302 Nance St.; 832-830-8592

Be treated like family at Molina’s Cantina
These family-friendly suburban outposts are the oldest family run Mexican restaurants in Houston. This is the go-to for old-school Tex-Mex enchiladas, tortilla soup, throw back puffy tacos and frosty margaritas. Dig into the fresh, gratis homemade table salsa, chips, and pickled jalapeños, onions and carrots.

Multiple locations

Where to reserve a coveted table for romance
Nationally lauded The Pass & Provisions in the Fourth Ward is one of the few games in town for an inventive tasting menu in a dreamy date night setting. If you book a table, it is yours for the entire evening. Expect artful, dramatic food presentations, rare wines, whimsical cocktails and lots of privacy. Reserve a month in advance.

807 Taft St.; 713-628-9020

Best watering hole for beer geeks  
In case you haven’t heard, summer in the city is sizzling hot, so you’ll need to stop at The Hay Merchant, Houston’s top craft beer emporium, for an ice cold one, or three. The Montrose haunt also serves a killer lunch, dinner and brunch menu by James Beard winner chef Chris Shepherd. Try the 44 Farms beer bathed hot dog or half a pig’s head with tortillas and kimchi salsa.

1100 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-9805

How to play like a true Texan
Legendary Goode’s Armadillo Palace, a honky tonk music venue and chicken-fried steak restaurant, is a must-visit if only to see the mammoth 12-ft. tall mirrored armadillo in West University. The venue was recently upgraded to include new indoor and outdoor stages, a beer garden, outdoor barbecue pit and a cocktail bar. Spicy buffalo chicken, Hill Country pork chops and old-fashioned Frito pie with venison chili are new to the menu.

5015 Kirby Dr.; 713-526-9700

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