Long before Houston's Lower Westheimer was ground zero for hot new restaurants, there was Hugo's — the critical favorite from chef Hugo Ortega and his restaurateur wife Tracy Vaught. After their success with eternal brunch favorite Backstreet Cafe, Vaught and Ortega decided to take a shot at making the sort of interior Mexican food that Ortega and his brother Ruben, the pastry chef, had grown up eating in Mexico. The result was the best Mexican restaurant Houston had ever seen, a title that Hugo's still holds 11 years later. The humble Hugo Ortega's story of finally making it after crossing the Mexican border three separate times and working his way up from a dishwasher is the American dream personified.

Ninfa's on Navigation

2704 Navigation Blvd., Houston

Although it's hard to imagine today when you're seated inside the enormous gardens and grounds of Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth, there was a time when the restaurant seated only 16 people instead of 1,000.
Erika Wilkins
Although it's hard to imagine today when you're seated inside the enormous gardens and grounds of Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth, there was a time when the restaurant seated only 16 people instead of 1,000.
Kreuz Market may not be the oldest barbecue joint in Lockhart, but it's our food writers' top pick in the Barbecue Capital of Texas.
Wyatt McSpadden
Kreuz Market may not be the oldest barbecue joint in Lockhart, but it's our food writers' top pick in the Barbecue Capital of Texas.

Details

The Voters Bill Addison, Atlanta Magazine (formerly at The Dallas Morning News) Jodi Bart, Tasty Touring Leslie Brenner, The Dallas Morning News Addie Broyles, Austin American-Statesman Teresa Byrne-Dodge, My Table Magazine John DeMers, Delicious Mischief Teresa Gubbins, CultureMap Dallas Syd Kearney, Houston Chronicle and 29-95.com Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram John Mariani, Esquire Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman Hanna Raskin, Seattle Weekly (formerly at the Dallas Observer) J.C. Reid, Texas Monthly and 29-95.com Scott Reitz, Dallas Observer Ron Ruggless, Nation’s Restaurant News Patricia Sharpe, Texas Monthly Edmund Tijerina, San Antonio Express-News Daniel Vaughn, Full Custom Gospel BBQ Robb Walsh, Houstonian Magazine Virginia B. Wood, Austin Chronicle

How They Voted Voters were asked to choose the 30 Texas restaurants that they believed every Texan should eat at once before they die and that any visitor to the state should have on his or her hit list. The rules were loose, except for the following requirements: The restaurant must still be open and the general public should at least have a shot at being able to eat there (i.e., no members-only restaurants or private dining clubs). Voters were encouraged to consider restaurants across every price range, every cuisine and every part of the state. The results were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and tallied, with the restaurants listed above receiving ‚ÄĒ by far ‚ÄĒ the majority of the votes across the board. Geographical regions for the purposes of the list were aligned with the seven regions traditionally defined by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Related Stories

More About

713-228-1175

voiceplaces.com/ninfas-houston-2928773-l/

"Mama" Ninfa Laurenzo is popularly credited with inventing fajitas and inspiring an entire nation to embrace Tex-Mex food in the form of flat beef strips delivered on an iron comal so hot it's hilariously and wonderfully unsafe. And although other Tex-Mex restaurants picked up on and diluted Ninfa's fajitas over the decades (and although all of the other Ninfa's were sold off to franchisees), the original Ninfa's on Navigation still makes its fajitas the old-fashioned way — the right way, if you ask many die-hard Tex-Mex fans — with outside flank steak. Although the patio has been greatly expanded and modernized, inside you'll still find that familiar jangly maze of rooms and abuelitas making tortillas as you walk in the front door.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

5839 Westheimer, Houston

713-780-7352

voiceplaces.com/pappas-bros-steakhouse-houston-2379533-l/

"Any list of essential Texas restaurants must include at least one upscale steakhouse," says Edmund Tijerina, food critic at the San Antonio Express-News. And although he was referring to Bohanan's in San Antonio, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse rocketed to the top of our list with by far the most votes from our panel of food writers. This Houston-based steakhouse with possibly the best wine list in the state is the gold standard when it comes to high-end steakhouses, and although it's from a family that's made a business of exporting Houston concepts throughout the state (Pappadeaux, Pappasito's, Pappas Bar-B-Q and more), this clubby, ultra-plush steakhouse has only one other location — in Dallas.

Patillo's

2775 Washington Blvd., Beaumont

409-832-2572

Owing to its proximity to Louisiana, this Beaumont barbecue joint offers a geographically appropriate blend of East Texas-style barbecue and Cajun cuisine. Patillo's is also "one of the few barbecue joints left in Southeast Texas that hand-makes the classic East Texas 'juicy link,'" says freelance food writer J.C. Reid. Houston Chronicle food writer Syd Kearney calls it simply "East Texas barbecue and white bread" and defends Patillo's famous links, saying simply: "No bitching about the tough sausage casing. You should have to work for sausage this good."

Sartin's Seafood Restaurant

3520 Nederland Ave., Nederland

409-721-9420

sartinsseafood.com/

Sure, Kim Sartin Tucker's restaurant sells food other than barbecued crabs. But that other stuff isn't why people make hours-long drives to this cutely shabby seafood shack in Nederland where the motto is: "We got the crabs." Sartin's is "home to one of the only native dishes of Southeast Texas," Reid says. "Barbecue crabs." And Kearney remarks that Sartin's is at its best when "you're digging into a huge plate of crabs, catfish, stuffed crabs and fried Gulf shrimp."

Tony's

3755 Richmond Ave., Houston

713-622-6778

voiceplaces.com/tonys-houston-2375822-l/

Tony Vallone has hosted everyone from exotic royalty and sitting heads of state to Tony Bennett and Oscar de la Renta since opening his namesake restaurant in 1965, and although Vallone's focus hasn't always been Italian, he was instrumental in elevating that cuisine to fine-dining status with a restaurant that's held its coveted "see-and-be-seen" status for decades. Today, Tony's is still widely recognized as one of the top — and correspondingly most expensive — restaurants in the state. "Not only is Tony's one of the best Italian restaurants in the U.S. today," said Mariani in 2011, "it's one of the best restaurants period."

Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Road, Houston

713-528-9800

voiceplaces.com/underbelly-houston-4539207-l/

Although it's still an infant by this list's standards, food writers across the state and the nation heralded chef Chris Shepherd's ambitious restaurant in Houston, which combines the city's tapestry of ethnic cuisines with an impressive array of locally produced, caught, raised or grown ingredients. Shepherd's unique and innovative menu bills itself as "The Story of Houston Food" and revels in remixing them in dishes such as Korean braised goat and dumplings, in a warm, casual setting that makes the open kitchen feel like a natural part of the wood-and-steel dining room.


Prairie & Lakes

Babe's Chicken Dinner House

104 N. Oak, Roanoke

817-491-2900

babeschicken.com/our-kitchens/roanoke/

As its name would suggest, chicken is Babe's signature dish. Babe herself — Mary Beth Vinyard — passed away in 2008, but husband Paul still runs the place they started in a 100-year-old warehouse in Roanoke two decades ago. People swear by Babe's original recipes for chicken-fried steak and fried chicken — and these are the only options at the original Roanoke location — although the restaurant chain is now equally famous for its Mamma Jo's roast (based on Paul's mother's recipe), the green chowchow that comes with its catfish and — believe it or not for a fried-chicken place — its vegetables.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
53 comments
therowdydog
therowdydog

Marble Falls is the only location on the "Hill Country" list that is actually in the Hill Country. Just sayin'.

elizabeth.joslin
elizabeth.joslin

I do not feel much pity for those in cities that have/cuisines that have already been well represented. If you re-search, I am sure you will find food in east and west Texas that also has deep roots and is delicious. Maybe do something on those areas in the future? Or small town food? Something, to make up for this representational oversight.

bsmith37
bsmith37

Where is Austin the the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q located?

melissamyers2
melissamyers2

Go to perini ranch and you will be amazed! Incredible food / perfect sharing sizes! Incredible authentic flavors and great atmosphere! Their beef is incredible and this place makes one proud to call Texas home!

Vndallas
Vndallas

When I first moved to Dallas, I was constantly told to head over to Fort Worth for Joe T's.  I finally went after being here for about two years, and boy was I disappointed.  I've never seen a place so over-hyped. The food tasted as if it came out of a supermarket freezer.   Then after that, I found that every hyped place I tried in Fort Worth was the same, a major disappointment..Kincaids, Cattlemen's, Angelo's BBQ, and Reatta were all nothing special.  No wonder the last time I was in Cow Pie, all the new restuarants are either chains or Dallas area transplants.  Fort Worth is a lousy restaurant town.

cbren30301
cbren30301

What......no chili on the list. I'm a D@# Yankee and I love me some Texas chili. My place of choice, Tolbert's in Grapevine. I take any fellow Yankee that visits to Tolbert's for a great bowl of red. I love to share the stories of Frank X and Terlinqua. 

mycatbarney
mycatbarney

I live in Beaumont, and the Patillo's BBQ on 11th Street has been gone for a year and a half.  It was torn down and replaced by a Jack in the Box.

wood.scott
wood.scott

How could you not include City Market in Luling?  Better than Kreuz's or Smitty's and a real restaurant rather than a hobby like Franklins.

Scott Cessac
Scott Cessac

All right for my hometown of Nederland making the list!

Trey Covington
Trey Covington

El Ranchito and La Calle Doce!!!! For REAL Mexican food!!

douglas.davis
douglas.davis

Sorry if this is double-posted... I'm a little disappointed that South Texas (the coast and Valley) and pretty much overlooked.  I would at the least add Kings Inn located in Rivera Beach, just south of Kingsville and on Baffin Bay.  Family-style fried seafood (locally caught speckled trout, shrimp and oysters) and sides.  True, its fried, but damn its good and steeped in tradition and history.

Chubby_Kid
Chubby_Kid

I have serious problems with Cattleman's Steakhouse & Joe T. Garcia's being on this list.  I've eaten at both, knowing about their reputation and renown, and was very disappointed.  Cattleman's had some of the worst steaks I've ever had, and Joe T. Garcia's food is bland, uninteresting, and I always feel sick after eating there.

There are much better food choices in Fort Worth (Lonesome Dove, H3 Ranch) which are curiously absent from this list.  

cweichmann1
cweichmann1

Excellent choices I agree.  These top places show the wide personality of Texas cuisine from barbecue Texas style to finest dining establishments to Tex Mex to southwest cuisine to a STEAK.  Come to Texas but bring your appetite when you do.

BobDobbs
BobDobbs

The only one on this list worth the trip is Mi Tierra. I love that place.

And I am so ticked off that you didn't include THE BOILING POT in ROCKPORT, TEXAS. 

mcdallas
mcdallas

Here's a template for responding to this article:


Dear (insert cuss-word or other denigrating name),

I am so (insert word to cover your emotional state) that you didn't include (insert restaurant name here).  (Repeat restaurant name) is by far the best (style of food) in the world/country/state/region/city (select one or more).  

Obviously you have never traveled to city/county/region (select one or more) because you failed to include this establishment.  If you had been there you would have enjoyed (signature dish/off-menu item/drink) prepared with (insert emotion) by the (insert adjective) chef/cook/food preparation/owner (pick one) expert, (insert name of chef/cook/food preparation/owner).

I'm never going to read one of these ridiculous lists, until you publish next year's list.

Without respect,

(your name here).

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

I have to ask if any of the contributors to this list have ever been east of Dallas? What about Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ in Tyler? Johnny Cace's in Longview? The Big Pines Lodge in Karnack? Country Tavern in Kilgore? These are all legendary places that have shaped the food and eating habits of our state.

Ed Dravecky
Ed Dravecky

El Fenix is on the list as a cultural touchstone. Move on.

Jon Eckberg
Jon Eckberg

When will you be doing the West Texas/RGV version of your list? Or am I to assume there are no restaurants there that are worth visiting? If you had actually tried, I'm certain you'd have found any one of 1,000 Mexican restaurants there that put El Fenix to shame.

joneckberg
joneckberg

When will you be doing the West Texas edition? Or am I to assume there are no restaurants in that part of the state worth visiting?

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

WasSalt Lick BBQ in Austin missed? Shame...

Kristin Scott Dorsey
Kristin Scott Dorsey

I am originally from Kentucky and our mexican is way better than El Fenix. Yuck, that place sucks!!

Robyn Folmar
Robyn Folmar

The article states "restaurants that define Texas" - El Fenix deserves a spot. Glad to see Houston getting big food props- it's a dynamite food town and has been for 25+ years. I credit a lot to the lax zoning laws.

Michael Mercedes Rice
Michael Mercedes Rice

I'm seriously disappointed that food writers though El Fenix should be on this list. If I was going to take someone visiting from out of town out for Tex Mex, it would NOT be to El Fenix.

Ambelleina Warwillow
Ambelleina Warwillow

I WILL say that speaking on seminal Texas restaurants, not the best restaurants, yes, El Fenix does deserve a place on there. Then again, so would places like Luna's, Sonny Bryan's and definitely Stubb's. Not only are those quintessential TX restaurants, they actually serve good food, unlike El Fenix.

Marcus Watson
Marcus Watson

I've been to most of these restaurants and can only give most of them an "eh" rating....and I agree with Kendall....El Fenix...barf.

Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson

Have been to six of those on the list. Of course, there are others that should be on the list.

wherryranch
wherryranch

@Vndallas You are so wrong...that's what I hate about Dallas people...so snobby and hateful!!!!  Fort Worth is an awesome city with great food and friendly people!!!!  Unlike Dallas!!!!

cbren30301
cbren30301

Allow me to repost using the correct template as suggested below:


Dear Are you a Texan,

I am so ASTOUNDED that you didn't include TOLBERTS. TOLBERTS is by far the best CHILI/BOWL OF RED in the region (I'll refrain from saying the world since I have not yet had what the entire world has to offer as far as Texas chili).  

Obviously you have never traveled to GRAPEVINE because you failed to include this establishment.  If you had been there you would have enjoyed ORIGINAL BOWL OF RED, FRITO CHILI PIE and DONKEY TAILs prepared with LOVE & RESPECT to the original FRANK X TOLBERT. 


Nictacular
Nictacular

@Chubby_Kid I don't get down with Joe T's myself, but it is a quintessential Texas place. I think that's what the article was going for.

Nictacular
Nictacular

@cbren30301 You gotta read the follow-up articles. Tolbert's is one of the places that just missed the cut...

mcdallas
mcdallas

@douglas.davis @mcdallas Well if there's one thing you'll consistently get here on the DO comment system, it's kind words and encouragement.  You can count on that!

 
Loading...