Home Food + Drink Eat like a local at 15 classic Houston restaurants

Eat like a local at 15 classic Houston restaurants

Cleburne Cafeteria has been around since 1941 in Houston | Courtesy of Cleburne Cafeteria

Pull up a seat at one of our 15 highlights of Houston’s oldest restaurants that have been serving up classic dishes across the city for more than 50 years.

Each of these restaurants have been landmarks in Houston for more than 50 years—some of them stretching toward a full century of service.

In a city overflowing with diverse culinary cultures, James Beard Award winners, and trendy fare from the latest must-try restaurants, we’re highlighting some of the places that were here first.

Have a look at some of our picks for these essential historic eateries around town, then snag a seat so you can eat like a local.

15 Essential Historic Restaurants in Houston

Christie’s roots go back to a fried fish po’ boy stand in 1917 | Courtesy of Christie’s Seafood & Steaks
  • Christie’s Seafood & Steaks in West Houston | 1917 – One of the only places in Houston that can claim a century of service, Christie’s built its reputation on the fried fish po’ boy and have since expanded to include fresh Gulf catches and shrimp sandwiches, baked oysters, strip sirloin steaks, and much more. The family-owned seafood house can be found just west of Fountain View Drive along Westheimer, which opened at this location in 1965. Open at 11am daily; closed Mondays.
  • West Alabama Ice House in Montrose | 1928 – Nearly 100 years ago, this neighborhood haunt got its start as a literal ice house, selling blocks for home refrigerators, but now provides a smattering of its signature red picnic tables along the street and in the spacious backyard to become one of the city’s bonafide communal watering holes. Swing by for an ice cold brew and pair it with offerings from nearby taco truck, Tacos Tierra Caliente. Monday to Saturday 10am to midnight; Sunday noon to 11pm.
  • Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue near Washington Avenue | 1935 – Across five decades, the open-pit joint originally known as Shepherd Drive BBQ was ran by John and Leila Davis, an African American couple that served as one of the founding families of Houston’s BBQ scene. Today, Pizzitola’s (named for Jerry Pizzitola, who stewarded the spot after John’s death) serves up many of the same no-frills offerings alongside the original sauce recipe in a classic East Texas BBQ dine-in atmosphere. Open daily 11am to 8pm; closed Sundays.
  • Avalon Diner in River Oaks | 1938 – A one-time addition to the Avalon Drug Store, the “justly famous” classic American diner serving up breakfast all day has branched out to include newer locations in West Houston and Stafford. And while you can pick up an omelette or pancakes off the griddle any time of the day, the original drug store burger and chicken fried steak are can’t-miss dishes. Original location on Westheimer is open Monday to Friday 6:30am to 3pm; Saturday and Sunday 7am to 3pm. Other locations’ hours vary.
Since the 1920s, West Alabama Ice House has provided ice cold drinks on their spacious patio | Courtesy of West Alabama Ice House
  • Lankford Grocery & Market in Montrose | 1938 – Originally doling out fruit and then deli sandwiches until the 1970s, Lankford’s big, messy burgers are a true Houston staple and longtime Houstonians undoubtedly will have a touch of nostalgia for the greasy stacked patties, gooey cheeses, and toppings that ooze out of the bun—like the mac and cheese, jalapeño, bacon and fried egg-topped Grim Burger that’s a crowd favorite. Sunday to Wednesday 9am to 3pm; Thursday and Friday 9am to 8pm; Saturday 7am to 8pm.
  • Tel-Wink Grill in Gulfgate | 1940 – Near the intersection of Telephone Road and Winkler Drive, this daytime diner draws crowds in the late mornings, so be prepared to stake a spot early or make a friend in the fast-moving line. But fret not, the wait is worth it when plates of biscuits and gravy, triple decker sandwiches, or classic breakfast offerings hit the table. Monday to Friday 6am to 3:30pm; Saturday 6am to 2:30pm; Sunday 7am to 1:30pm.
  • Cleburne Cafeteria in West University | 1941 – Eighty years and 2 devastating fires later, the cafeteria on the corner of Bissonnet and Edloe keeps coming back thanks to its devout regulars that frequent the counter service restaurant every week (and sometimes daily). Known for their delectable holiday feasts, Cleburne also features a standing menu of fresh meats, fruits and veg courtesy of local farmers markets, and daily-made desserts and bread. The dining room is massive but plan ahead if you drop by on Sundays as lines can get long. 11am to 8pm daily; closed Saturdays.
  • Cream Burger in Third Ward | 1946 – Seventy-five years after Verna and Willie Greenwood opened the simple burger and ice cream stand near Scott Street, their daughters, Beverly and Sandra, continue serving up a straightforward menu of burgers, hot dogs, fries and ice cream. The cash-only spot is popular with the community and nearby university students. Open at 11:30am daily; closed Sundays.
Brunch offerings from Harry’s Restaurant in Midtown | Courtesy of Harry’s Restaurant
  • Barbecue Inn in Independence Heights | 1946 – Across three generations (and hopefully a fourth), the family-owned retro eatery has been dishing ribs alongside signature chicken fried steak and fried chicken plates to diners who have helped make it a Houston institution. Open daily 10:30am to 9pm; closed Sundays and Mondays.
  • Harry’s Restaurant Cafe in Midtown | 1948 – Along Tuam Street, the popular brunch haven draws big lunchtime crowds that are after its menu of Greek-inspired classics, omelettes, Latin breakfast dishes, downhome Southern plates, and other items that amount to a tour of the globe on your fork. Monday to Friday 7am to 2pm; Saturday and Sunday 7am to 3pm; closed Tuesdays.
  • Someburger in the Heights | 1955 – Once a Texas chain consisting of 40 restaurants, the Someburger location on the corner of Studewood and 11th Street in the Heights is a beloved institution to the neighborhood, instantly recognizable in its green bare bones building trimmed in yellow. But though the shop may be small, the no-nonsense burgers served up are big in flavor and easily paired with hand-dipped milkshakes and malts for a classic American meal. 10am to 8pm daily; closed Sundays.
  • The Original Kolache Shoppe in South Houston | 1956 – Not far from the Gulfgate area, this family-owned shop has passed Czech recipes from generation to generation, ensuring that Houston’s early risers always have access to the delicious, fruit-filled pastries that Texans have come to love. The savory sausage klobásníky rolls also make a great companion to the sweet variety and, if you add a cup of coffee, then your morning meal is set at this no frills bakery on Telephone Road. Monday to Saturday 5am to noon; Sunday 6am to 1pm.
Sandwiches, fried wings, and oxtail mac-and-cheese at Houston’s This Is It Soul Food | Courtesy of Houston’s This Is It Soul Food
  • This Is It Soul Food in Third Ward | 1959 – Some sixty years later, Craig Joseph continues to serve up Southern soul food cuisine in the restaurant once ran by his grandparents, Frank and Mattie Jones, that was originally founded in Freedmen’s Town in Fourth Ward. Having moved a few times since then, its current location on Blodgett Street in Third Ward is still renown for smothered pork chops and oxtails, fried catfish, ham hocks and more. Open at 11am daily; closed Mondays.
  • Alfreda’s Soul Food in Third Ward | 1964 – Recently moved into new digs on Griggs Road in South Side, Alfreda’s has long been serving a wide variety of Houstonians and visitors alike. And while the traditional dishes like oxtails, smothered wings, and fried fish remain popular, the breakfast is not to be missed either when diners can dig into chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and more. Thursday to Sunday 11am to 5pm.
  • China Garden in Downtown | 1969 – Rockets fans and eager concert-goers might be familiar with the oldest Chinese restaurant in the city, which sits along Leeland Street, just a block away from Toyota Center. The family-owned restaurant opened their doors more than 50 years ago to serve what was the center of Houston’s burgeoning Asian population. But today, it’s an institution for all Houstonians, offering well-known Chinese American dishes alongside chow mein, dumplings, Hunan plates and more. Tuesday to Saturday 3pm to 9pm (open at 11am on Thursday); closed Sunday and Monday.

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