Houston Essentials

See the best Houston has to offer in dining, entertainment and more.

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...

SHOP LIKE A GOURMET

Central Market
3815 Westheimer
Near Houston’s fabled, swanky River Oaks neighborhood, this large, upscale, intentionally maze-like store is a foodie’s delight. Its fresh produce, cheese, meats, seafood and fancy treats make it a destination market.

SAVOR GENUINE MEXICAN FOOD

Pico’s Mex-Mex
5941 Bellaire Blvd.
You can find Tex-Mex all over Houston, but this is the real deal. Chef/owner Armando Richards learned his cooking style in his family’s restaurants in Mexico; he calls it Mex-Mex. There’s a small Tex-Mex section for those craving refried beans and sour cream. Richards also carries a large selection of specialty tequilas.

GET LATE NIGHT TEX-MEX

Spanish Flowers
4701 North Main
Open 24 hours (except Tuesdays), this north Houston neighborhood restaurant features both Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican food served in a friendly, family atmosphere. Not gourmet, but good and plenty.

Andy’s in the Heights
1115 E. 11th St. in the Heights
There’s never been anything fancy about Andy’s, a neighborhood hangout popular with the all-night crowd. When you’re running on caffeine, those enchiladas, tacos and fajitas hit the spot. But try the any-hour Mexican breakfast, too. Since they’re next to a church they can’t serve alcohol, but they gladly allow the wine or beer you bring with you on ice.

EAT WITH THE FISHES

The Aquarium
410 Bagby at Memorial Drive, downtown
Purists regard the Aquarium as a downtown eyesore, but this amusement park-like restaurant is popular for its Ferris wheel, animal exhibits and the gigantic, multi-story fish tanks that surround diners.

SAMPLE SOME SUDS

The Ginger Man
5607 Morningside
This pub in a small, converted house on the edge of the Rice Village shopping area has been a popular hangout since 1985. Laid back, with a front veranda and a back deck under oak trees, the Ginger Man attracts Rice students, Medical Center workers, British and Irish ex-pats, singles and marrieds now carting around baby carriers. There’s a great jukebox and -- oh yes -- an enormous selection of draft beers from around the world.

COMMUNE WITH JOE

Catalina Coffee Shop
2201 Washington, five minutes west of downtown
This place is what a coffee hangout should be: friendly and a bit funky. Wi-Fi? Sure, but it comes with genuine atmosphere.

WINE AND FINE DINE

T’Afia restaurant
3701 Travis St.
Owner/chef Monica Pope likes to use local products and a lot of eclectic wines in this midtown Houston eatery.

Ibiza
2450 Louisiana
Excellent food, an intelligent wine list and reasonable prices.

WINE FOR WINE'S SAKE

The Corkscrew
1919 Washington Avenue
This Old Sixth Ward neighborhood wine bar, west of downtown, is housed in a 1915 auto parts store that has been refurbished into a warm, hip hangout. Best of all, there are 250 wine choices.

GET WINE TO TAKE HOME

Spec’s Warehouse Store
2410 Smith St.
Spec’s giant flagship store has one of the largest selections of wine in the country, with an incredible world-spanning array and very low prices.

Richard’s Liquors and Fine Wines
2142 S. Shepherd
Caters to discriminating wine lovers so the store is not as huge and the wine isn’t as cheap, but Richard’s has knowledgeable, personal service.

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