Houston Matters

The Full Menu: Houston’s Best Hidden Gem Restaurants

Food writers discuss their favorite lesser-known, overlooked restaurants in Houston.


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They're hidden gems. Locally owned, tucked away, hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Houston that serve great food, but you probably don't know about them. And you should — at least according to our gaggle of local food writers, who discuss some of their favorites in this month's installment of The Full Menu.

Our panelists are Eric Sandler of CultureMap Houston, Felice Sloan of the Swanky Maven lifestyle blog, and David Leftwich of Houston Food Finder.

The Full Menu Panelists 2019
(L-R) Eric Sandler of CultureMap Houston, Felice Sloan of the Swanky Maven lifestyle blog, and David Leftwich of Houston Food Finder, discuss the local restaurant scene on The Full Menu.


From Eric Sandler:

Elliot’s Table: At this tiny restaurant in Timbergrove, chef Elliot Roddy serves up skillfully-crafted, Southern-inspired fare made with high quality, locally-sourced ingredients. That’s a lot of buzzwords strung together, but taken together they mean delicious takes on familiar dishes like chicken fried steak, roasted oysters, and grilled seafood. The open kitchen and friendly service mean the meal feels more like being a guest at a dinner party than a restaurant.

Roostar Vietnamese Grill: With locations near the Galleria and in Spring Branch, this restaurant has probably moved beyond “hidden gem” status, but it’s one of weekday go-tos. Owners Linda and Ronnie Ngyuen serve elevated versions of classic banh mi sandwiches with enough twists to keep things interesting. For me, that means the lemon pepper chicken wings are must order, but the Thai-inspired papaya salad and recently-introduced beef curry also help the restaurant stand out.

From David Leftwich:

Sofrito: In true Houston fashion, this is a Puerto Rican restaurant inside a car wash. From its counter with four seats (there are also a few tables it shares with the car wash), it serves fabulous Puerto Rican sandwiches with some Texas twists. My favorite is the Tripleta, which includes house-smoked brisket along with ham and roast pork. And don't forget to order a side of tostones—smashed plantains that are twice-fried. On weekends, they also offer riffs on traditional Puerto Rican dishes, such as mofongo with pork belly.

Street Food Thai Market: This neighborhood restaurant and grocery tucked into the Heights strip center offers some wonderful renditions of Northern Thai food as well as what have become American Thai restaurant classics, such as their very good pad thai. I highly recommend their khao soi gai. This rich, creamy nuanced soup weaves fragrant toasted spices with an impeccable level of heat and is threaded with tender chicken and poignant mustard greens that are topped with perfectly crisp noodles and fried shallots, adding crunch to every bite.

From Felice Sloan:

Fu Fu Cafe: If you ask some of the top chefs in Houston to list their favorite places to dine, Fu Fu Cafe would grace the top of many of their lists! Not only are they serving up some of the best soup dumplings in the city they have lots of other winners on the menu.

Flor de Cuba: This family-owned Cuban restaurant and bakery is serving up authentic Cuban cuisine. They do roasted pig on Sunday's, a lunch buffet during the week that’s a must try and some delicious Ropa Vieja and Empanadas that will have you begging for more.

Restaurants Mentioned in this Edition:

Elliot's Table
Flor de Cuba
Carnitas Uruapan
Street Food Thai Market
Fu Fu Café
Arco Seafood
One Dragon
Finger Licking
NOLA Seafood Shack
The Brisket House
La Fondida Michoacan
Dona Marie's Mexican Café
AL Quick Stop
Pampa Grill and Market
Las Tortas Perronas
Bismillah Café
Al Aseel Grill & Café
Les Ba'get

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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