Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Houston’s food scene is as diverse as the city itself. In fact, when famed chef Anthony Bourdain visited earlier this year to film Parts Unknown, he bucked a number of traditional assumptions about Texans and their food (not everything is drenched in melted cheese, you know). What he found, and what I’m sure you’ll find, too, is that Houston is a city where you can get pho for breakfast, BBQ for lunch and Tex-Mex for dinner. Just don’t forget to throw a few Southern comfort food classics and sweet treats in the mix, too. Here are 30 of our favorite dishes to get your kids started exploring the vast (and delicious) Houston food scene!
1. Queso (and tacos) at Torchy’s
Torchy’s Tacos2411 S Shepherd Dr
Why kids need to try it: Torchy’s is a quick and easy spot to get your queso fix. Made with green chiles and topped with guacamole and cojita, it doesn’t get much better than this. And don’t get us started on the tacos (especially fried avocado). You really can’t go wrong ordering anything off the menu, and at around $4 a taco they’re super affordable.
Ragin Cajun Restaurant4302 Richmond Ave
Why kids need to try it: Crawdads. Mudbugs. Freshwater lobsters. No matter what you call them, crawfish are southern staple. There is something special about eating these little suckers fresh out of the pot with a group of friends, usually poured right on the table. At Ragin’ Cajun, ask for them on the mild-side if you are worried about spice for your little ones. Our kids also love eating the potatoes, corn and sausage that come with the boil. It is a lot of work for a little meat, but worth it!
3. Grilled Cheese at Little Matt’s
Little Matt’s6203 Edloe St
Why kids need to try it: Don’t get me wrong, the grilled cheese at Little Matt’s is great, but we would eat anything off the menu just to visit this place. This West U restaurant is a huge family-favorite due to their food, arcade/iPad games for the kids and overall atmosphere with excellent service. Did I mention there is “free” wine or beer with order of an entree? (Tips highly encouraged there, but we don’t mind.)
4. Ice cream cone from Hanks’ Ice Cream
Hank’s Ice Cream9291 Main St
Why kids need to try it: Hank’s Ice Cream has been in business since 1985 and is famous for its Southern-inspired flavors. The menu is different each day, but expect to find offerings like banana pudding, sweet corn and sweet potato pie. There are traditional flavors, too if your kids aren’t feeling so adventurous. Peruse all of the photos in the shop, and you might even spot a teenage Beyonce with Destiny’s Child.
5. Hummus from Kasra Persian Grill
Kasra Persian Grill9741 Westheimer Rd
Why kids need to try it: It’s a mystery, but all kids seem to love meals that involve dipping. And hummus? Mine would eat it up with a spoon if they could. Introduce your kids to some traditional Persian flavors at Kasra and they will be begging for the taftoon bread on the regular.
6. Hot chocolate from The Chocolate Bar
The Chocolate Bar1835 West Alabama Street
Why kids need to try it: With candy, chocolate and cake filling every corner of this store, The Chocolate Bar is a kid’s dream come true. Their hot chocolate is so good that on the one cold day of the year, it’s worth batting Rice Village parking just to try it. In the summer, try the frozen hot chocolate to satisfy your craving.
7. Empanadas at Marini’s Empanada House
The Original Marini’s Empanada House10001 Westheimer Rd
Why kids need to try it: I think the name says it all. Marini’s is a restaurant completely devoted to empanadas. No matter your fancy—sweet or savory—this spot has you covered. They have traditional offerings and flavors I guarantee you haven’t seen before. Your kids will probably be begging for the mac & cheese or pizza version as soon as they spot it on the menu.
Pho Binh Heights2916 White Oak Dr
Why kids need to try it: While the kids might call it “chicken soup,” we know better. There are a lot of great pho houses in Houston and Pho Binh is honestly just one of them. With several locations around the city, it’s a reliable spot to get your pho fix. The kids love trying to use chopsticks before giving it up and slurping the flavorful noodles right out of the bowl.
9. Pan dulce from El Bolillo Bakery
El Bolillo Bakery2421 S Wayside Dr
Why kids need to try it: If your kids have not been introduced to the awesomeness that is pan dulce, El Bolillo Bakery is the way to do it. With over 20 different pan dulce offerings as well as cakes, and tres leches, it is hard to leave this bakery without wanting more. I even heard a rumor that they are making unicorn pan dulce now. *Swoon*
10. Chicken & waffles at Breakfast Klub
The Breakfast Klub3711 Travis Street
Why kids need to try it: There’s a reason why the line wraps around the block to get in to the Breakfast Klub. The classic southern dish is the perfect balance of sweet maple syrup and crispy fried chicken wings. Granted, all my kids need to hear is “waffles” before they are ready to jump in the car.
11. Shrimp Po’ Boy at BB’s Cafe
BB’s Cafe2710 Montrose Boulevard
Why kids need to try it: The self-proclaimed home of Tex-Orleans cooking, BB’s is the best spot to get a taste of Cajun eats in the Houston city limits. The can’t-miss dish is obviously a Po’ Boy— fried seafood, lettuce, tomato, pickles and spicy mayo. What kid doesn’t love fried shrimp sandwiched by crunchy French bread? But they’ve got a regular fried shrimp basket if that’s not quite up their alley.
12. Glazed pork ribs at Pinkerton’s Texas Pit Barbecue
Pinkerton’s Barbecue1504 Airline Dr
Why kids need to try it: Must be something about being born in Texas, but our kids love ribs, and have from a very early age. Now Pinkerton’s is not the cheapest BBQ in town, but it is all wood-fire smoked and super tasty. Plus, it’s fun to see your littles with happy, sauce-smeared faces.
Crave Cupcakes1151 Uptown Park Blvd
Why kids need to try it: You go to enough kid birthday parties and you become a cupcake expert. We all get excited when we see that the hosts sprung for Crave. Everything from the frosting and never-dry cake to the inventive (and rotating!) flavors make these cupcakes stand out. Add in gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free options, mini sizes and even doggie treats—everyone leaves here happy.
14. Brisket from Goode Company
Goode Company BBQ20102 Northwest Freeway
Why kids need to try it: You can’t make a Texas food list without including Goode Company. We generally love all of the BBQ at Goode, but we particularly enjoy their brisket. Pretty sure it’s written somewhere in the Texas handbook that all kids must love smoked meat as soon as they can eat solid foods.
15. Breakfast tacos from Tacos A Go Go
Tacos A Go Go3704 Main St
Why kids need to try it: Kids need to try breakfast tacos, period. But Tacos A Go Go (locations in the Heights, Midtown, Oak Forest and Cinco Ranch) is an especially fun spot. You build your own taco entirely, which makes it a great spot for picky eaters, and the Katz’ coffee will get parents sufficiently caffeinated. You can’t go wrong with bacon, egg and cheese wrapped in a corn tortilla.
Fung’s Kitchen7320 Southwest Freeway
Why kids need to try it: Head to Chinatown on the weekends for the fun experience that is a dim sum brunch with kids. The six aquariums at the entrance to the restaurant are certainly a distraction for little ones (maybe don’t tell them you’re eating the contents later?). And the high action of trying and sharing a variety of dumplings, pork buns, noodles and sweets from the roving carts makes for a dining experience they won’t forget.
17. Quesadilla from Lupe Tortillas
Lupe Tortilla’s Restaurant15315 North Fwy
Why kids need to try it: I’ll admit it. We are currently stuck in a quesadilla rut. No matter where we go, the kids want to order quesadillas. Since we are now connoisseurs, I can say that Lupe Tortilla has some of the best. It really is all about the tortillas. (And the fact that several locations have an outdoor playground.)
18. Hot glazed donuts from Shipley’s Do-Nuts
Shipley’s Donuts9979 Beechnut St
Why kids need to try it: Showing up early to Shipley’s has its benefits, and nothing beats a freshly glazed donut right out of the fryer. While you might see this staple outside the Texas border nowadays, it had its humble beginnings right in H-town in the 1940s. These days, you don’t even have to get out of the car for this one. Three cheers for the drive-thru!
19. Fried chicken from Frenchy’s
Frenchy’s10414 Richmond Ave
Why kids need to try it: If you’re going to indulge in some fried chicken, then Frenchy’s is the place to go in Houston. You can get a family meal for everyone to enjoy, and tack on sides like dirty rice and collard greens. It’s greasy and it’s wonderful.
20. Fajitas at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation2704 Navigation Blvd
Why the kids need to try it: Ninfa’s on Navigation is a Houston Tex-Mex legend, so go for a legendary Tex-Mex dish: Fajitas. Fajitas can easily feed family (especially if you get the large), and everyone has fun building their own little tacos with sizzling grilled meat, pico, guacamole and cheese. Part of the fun is in the whole presentation!
21. Ultimate banana split from Cloud 10 Creamery
Cloud 10 Creamery5216 Morningside Dr
Why kids need to try it: Cloud 10 is known for its elevation of the ice cream arts by the hand of their award-winning Pastry Chef Chris Leung. There’s a viewing area where you can watch in awe as they put together the ultimate banana split for your fam to share. You can choose from original flavors or seasonal favorites like peach-curry or elderflower. Don’t forget to dress it up with toppings.
22. Matzo ball soup from Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen
Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen2327 Post Oak Blvd
Why they need to try it: Nothing can cure what ails you faster than a good soup. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have our own family recipe for matzo ball soup, Kenny & Ziggy’s comes in a close second. You can also get some of the best lox and bagels in town here, or a huge pastrami sandwich.
23. Hushpuppies from Punk’s Simple Southern Food
Punk’s Simple Southern Food5212 Morningside Dr
Why they need to try it: Punk’s Simple Southern Food is another one of Houston’s fantastic family restaurants. There’s a great grassy area for kids to roam free, which we love, and their comfort food options include treats like the sweet corn hushpuppies served with a spicy remoulade. They’re bite-sized, and might actually live up to their namesake…at least as long as the kids are chewing.
24. Sausage and cheese kolache from Kolache Shoppe
Kolache Shoppe3945 Richmond Ave
Why they need to try it: There is no shortage of places to get kolaches around town, but trust me when I say it is worth a visit to the Kolache Shoppe. Meat, veggie, sweet, savory—they have it all and have been in business for nearly 50 years. Kids will probably go for traditional ham or sausage and cheese, but grown ups can try something new like the ranchero jalapeño.
25. Mini burgers from Bernie’s Burger Bus
Bernie’s Burger Bus5407 Bellaire Blvd
Why they need to try it: What started out as a food truck is now a bonafide brick-and-mortar with three Houston locations. The menu (and atmosphere) is not only school-themed and family-friendly, but darn tasty, too. Everything is made from scratch with 100 percent angus beef, and the mini burger options (one standard cheeseburger, the other with bleu cheese and bacon) are perfect for mini mouths. Don’t get us started on the tots.
26. Chicken fried steak from Mia’s Table
Mia’s Table3131 Argonne St
Why they need to try it: Another southern dish that has to be sampled? Chicken Fried Steak. And Mia’s Table makes a great one. With jalapeño gravy and two side options (cole slaw, potato salad, etc.), you’ll probably leave with a to-go container or two. The promise of free ice cream cones help the kids focus on finishing their meal before dessert.
27. Fried anything from the Rodeo
Why they need to try it:
You can’t go to the rodeo (and you must go) and not try something fried from one of the many we-fry-anything booths. Fried Oreos are a family favorite, though Twinkies are a close second. Fried Snickers are also wonderful, and we still need to try fried butter. We haven’t worked our way up to that one yet.
28. Quinoa mac & cheese from Ruggles Green
Ruggles Green801 Town & Country Blvd
Why they need to try it: We love Ruggles for their “Eat Green” messages and the tasty, healthy menu. The quinoa mac & cheese will not only satisfy your kid’s desire for the gooey, cheesy meal, but quinoa pasta adds some (hidden) protein for kids. Also, if you have any vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free people in your life—this is where to take them!
29. Birthday donuts from River Oaks Donuts
River Oaks Donuts3601 Westheimer Rd
Why they need to try it: Houston parents’ IG feeds have been jam packed lately with birthday morning photos of kids blowing out candles on donuts that spell out their names. I get it. I want my name spelled out too, I just need to remember to order that in advance, and Houston’s trendiest donut shop is where to do it.
30. Bayou Goo Pie at House of Pies
House of Pies3112 Kirby Dr
Why kids need to try it: This 24-hour diner and pie shop has been in operation for more than 45 years. But we hardly think you’ll have to fight your kids to try out the local favorite. Bayou Goo is the house special, and aside from a name that’s fun to order, it manages to pack all the good stuff into one pie—think chopped pecans, sweet cream cheese, whipped cream and powdered sugar on top.
Originally Published on Mommy Nearest