Houston Travel Guide: Where to Eat in the Super Bowl City, From the Chefs Who Know it Best

Take it from the pros.

Houston is set to host Super Bowl LI on February 5, and the city’s dynamic restaurant scene is ready to roll out the welcome mat with some mind-blowing fare. 

The culinary profile of America's fourth-largest city is making waves beyond Texas, with high praise coming from the likes of celeb chef David Chang and the New York Times. With so many great options, deciding where to dine can be tough... whether you're in town for the big game, or traveling any time.

Who better to ask for advice than nine top local top chefs? Here’s where to eat in the Space City, according to the experts.

1.  The Pit Room

Photo by Scott Sandlin

Open since September, The Pit Room is already a hit with chef Ryan Pera of Coltivare. “All of the meat here is thoughtfully smoked slow and low. It’s one of best new barbecue spots in town.” While stellar 'cue favorites (brisket, ribs, and a trio of house-made sausages) will make barbecue lovers rejoice, you can’t go wrong with the killer tacos: “Get the brisket tacos. The tortillas are made with brisket drippings.” 

2.  Crawfish and Noodles

Photo: Julie Soefer

James Beard winning-chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly celebrates crawfish season at one of his favorite spots, Crawfish and Noodles. “This restaurant represents a true blending of cultures: Vietnamese and the Gulf Coast blending together to create happiness," says Shepherd. "Order the spicy garlic crawfish. I start with five pounds and go from there. Also, the salt and pepper crabs are a must, and the turkey necks are delicious.” 

3.  Riel

Photo: Courtesy of Bradford Eu/Eu Entertainment

Although Riel has only been open for less than a month, it's already earning high marks from five-time James Beard Award finalist Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s. Ortega hits up the cozy neighborhood eatery for a romantic date night with his wife. His suggestion on what to order? "The borscht soup, the roasted carrots dish, and the hanger steak." 

4.  The Hay Merchant

Photo: Julie Soefer

The Hay Merchant has made a name for itself not only for its 80 craft beers, but also for its seriously good eats from chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, including the monster Cease and Desist Burger, a favorite of chef Kate McLean’s of fine-dining restaurant Tony's. “Hay Merchant's menu speaks to my soul. It's all stuff I want to eat. Their double burger was what first got me, but their crispy pig ears are also addictive.” 

5.  Alamo Tamale & Taco

When celebs like Martha Stewart and Michael Bublé come to town, they head to The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation for Tex-Mex fare by Alex Padilla. When the chef feasts with his family, he heads to Alamo Tamale & Taco for the chicken tamales. “It's a small hole-in-the-wall, but I love going there with my kids. Top the tamales off with the red salsa.” 

6.  State of Grace

Photo: Julie Soefer

Chef Robert Del Grande of Houston’s Cafe Annie is a big fan of Atlanta chef Ford Fry's State of Grace restaurant in Houston. The James Beard Award winner recommends the Cheese Enchilada a La Felix. “This dish is perfect for sharing. And the oyster bar can’t be beat.” 

7.  Kata Robata

Two-time James Beard nominee Bryan Caswell of Midtown's Reef ranks Upper Kirby’s Kata Robata as tops in his book. "Since Manabu Horiuchi is one of the best sushi chefs in town, the only tough decision about eating at Kata Robata is what to order. His omakase is the stuff dreams are made of, and the restaurant has one of the most flexible, celiac-friendly, gluten-free menus in all of Houston.” 

8.  13° Celsius

Photo: VJ Arizpe

William Wright of Helen Greek Food & Wine winds down with a glass of wine and a hearty sandwich at chill wine bar and cafe, 13° Celsius. “My go-to is the Italiano, only I like it with smoky speck instead of prosciutto. The staff is always ready to direct you to something delicious on the wine menu. I love to drink something geeky and funky.” 

9.  Sinh Sinh

Photo: Julie Soefer

The seafood at casual Vietnamese/Chinese eatery Sinh Sinh comes with the stamp of approval from James Beard Award winner Justin Yu of Oxheart. "The star of the show is the live spot prawns, fish, crabs, soft shell crabs, and other shellfish in the tanks, lined up as you walk in. Get them simply prepared: steamed or quickly stir fried. It'll cost a pretty penny, but it's worth it.” 

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