Your Opinion

The 8 Hottest Fast-Casual Chains in Houston

By Marcy de Luna  |  September 1, 2015

With counter-service joints from near and far expanding quickly into Houston, our city has no shortage of quality fast-casual restaurants. To see which spots are truly destined for greatness, we asked Houstonians to vote for their favorites, choosing from high-quality restaurants with between two–50 locations nationally. Scroll down to see the ones that are changing the chain game in HTX.

  • 1. Torchy's Tacos

    Why it made the list: The Austin-based joint has made its mark on Houston with tacos boasting tongue-in-cheek names like Trailer Park and Dirty Sanchez, plus unique ingredients like Jamaican jerk chicken and ahi tuna. 

    Must order: The trio of politically themed tacos: the Democrat comes with a liberal helping of shredded beef barbacoa, avocado, queso fresco, cilantro and onions; the Republican with grilled jalapeño sausage with shredded cheese, creamy poblano sauce and pico de gallo; and the Independent with fried portobello mushrooms, black beans, roasted corn and escabeche carrots. 

    Multiple locations

  • 2. Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana

    Why it made the list: Fans flock to this BYOB spot for its authentic Neapolitan pizzas. The Houston 'za joint with two locales takes the thin-crust icon to a whole new level, serving up piping hot pies cooked 90 seconds at 900 degrees inside an imported Italian brick oven.

    Must order: We all love a good simple margherita,​ but don't skip the Salsiccia e Funghi, a flavor-packed combo of roasted mushrooms, sausage, housemade mozzarella and basil, or the Fino topped with cured fennel sausage, goat cheese, garlic and mozzarella​.

    Muultiple locations

  • 3. Hubcap Grill

    Why it made the list: Big on taste, the juicy burgers here are stacked with handmade beef patties and interesting toppings (think Cheetos and cheese sauce) in a laid-back environment. Bonus: the Heights and Kemah branches offer a roster of local craft beers.

    Must order: Voted one of Zagat Houston's top five burgers of 2014, the Hubcap burger is served with a duo of beef patties and cheese, plus the special house mayo sauce. ​In an ode to Elvis, the popular Sticky Monkey comes topped with crunchy peanut butter, bacon, American cheese and grilled bananas. Spring for a side of pizza fries dressed with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.

    Multiple locations

  • 4, Local Foods

    Why it made the list: True to its name, this hip and casual favorite shines a spotlight on local vendors by using ingredients from Gunderman Farms, Black Hill Ranch, Pola Cheese and more in its excellent gourmet sandwiches, salads and prepared meals.

    Must order: The crunchy chicken on a Slow Dough pretzel bun with provolone, pickles, potato chips and buttermilk dressing and the seasonal summer salad with mixed greens, market veggies, goat cheese, sprouts and fruit with an herb vinaigrette.

    Multiple locations

  • 5. Dish Society

    Why it made the list: The chef-driven, farm-to-table concept hits the spot with fast and fresh dishes that utilize local ingredients. There's also a top-notch wine selection, some of which pop up in spritzers like a bubbly elderflower drink and a white apple sangria. Note: it goes from counter to table service for dinner.

    Must order: Grilled ancho chicken, Nutella-stuffed French toast and Southwest scramble

    Multiple locations

  • 6. MOD Pizza

    Why it made the list: The build-your-own pizzas can be topped with anything from mozzarella to pesto to barbecue chicken at this Seattle-born pie chain, now with five Houston-area locales.

    Must order: The Mad Dog (mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, crumbled meatballs and red sauce) or the Dominic (white sauce, Italian cow's milk cheese, chopped basil, red onion, sliced tomatoes and sausage).

    Multiple locations

  • 7. Jus Mac

    Why it made the list: Our favorite comfort-food dish — mac 'n' cheese — gets an upgrade at this quaint eatery, which studs the gooey casserole with everything from chicken and pulled pork to steak and roasted veggies. You can also expect a short list of panini, salads and apps.

    Must order: The menu is split into two sections: Radical (featuring creative options like the spicy Hangover topped with hashbrowns, fried egg, pico de gallo and habanero sauce) and Conservative (like the Cheeseburger with ground beef, onions, garlic and colby and jack cheeses).

    ​Multiple locations

  • 8. VertsKebap​​

    Why it made the list: Started by a duo of University of Texas at Austin grads, this expanding chain specializes in doner kebabs, a Middle Eastern specialty that they grew up with in Germany. VertsKebap lightens up the sandwich by piling in fresh veggies and making sauces in house.

    Must order: Beef or lamb shawarma on bread, or for a more healthy spin, in a salad bowl.

    Multiple locations