The Houston Guide
Houston is a proper Texan city. In other words, it’s massive, folksy, and utterly charming. The nineteen museums within the Museum District are all world-class, Chinatown here is a mini-metropolis within the city, shopping requires its own itinerary, and extra days tacked onto your trip are never a bad call. As for the food, we’ll put it this way: Houston managed to bring home twelve James Beard nominations. And that was just last year.
Blacksmith1018 Westheimer Rd., Montrose | 832.360.7470
David Buehrer was one of the first people to offer top-quality artisanal coffee to the local community back in 2008 via his first business, Greenway Coffee. He then built Blacksmith and doubled his dedication to serving the best coffee in town. Everything is fresh and handmade—down to the caramel and ganache added to flavored drinks. The breakfast menu has a loyal fan base, thanks in no small part to the house-baked, square-cut biscuits, which serve as the foundation for fried eggs, fresh marmalade, and bowls of red-eye gravy.
Boomtown Coffee242 W 19th St., The Heights | 713.862.7018
Espresso-obsessive Matt Toomey has dedicated himself to roasting and sourcing the best cup of coffee possible. A single shot of espresso here is composed of four different coffee beans tested to meld with milk while maintaining their flavor. When fans line up in the morning, they know Boomtown Coffee will deliver. The standout here is the Crüd (a combination of cold-brew espresso, chicory vanilla, and cream), with an additional "crack rock"—a gigantic ice cube of espresso that dissolves over time to slowly release an extra shot. Genius. During the week, food trucks provide a rotating variety of accompaniments for your to-go cup.
Catalina Coffee2201 Washington Ave., Sixth Ward | 713.861.8448
Some of the best coffee in Houston comes from Amaya Roasting Company, a local coffee brewery specializing in seasonal beans and delivering them straight to the city's best cafés, like Catalina. For a kick of energy, try a lavender latte or the less-caffeinated jasmine tea, which is sweetened with honey from local bees. Fair warning: There's no Wi-Fi and very few outlets. But it's a nice change of pace to see café attendees engaging in deep conversations or getting lost in a book. The pastries are giant, so bring a friend.
Common Bond Cafe & Bakery1706 Westheimer Rd., Montrose | 713.529.3535
Common Bond's head chef, Roy Shvartzapel, returned to his hometown with one lofty goal: to build the best bakery in Houston. After assembling an all-star team of globally trained pastry chefs, he opened to lines around the corner, all waiting for his world-class breads, pastries, and viennoiseries (fancy for "croissants"). After a pistachio-cream-filled croissant (trust us on this one), turn your eye to the brunch menu: lavender lattes, chorizo mussels, and classic grits await. Also worth noting: The chocolate chip cookies are likely to rank among the best you've ever had
Fat Cat Creamery1901 N Shepherd Dr., The Heights | 713.869.1080
This is a beloved local ice cream spot with an ever-evolving menu of handcrafted flavors. Fortunately, every choice is the right one thanks to Fat Cat's uncompromising dedication to Texan farmers. Fruit is always seasonal and provided by neighboring farms, and eggs are delivered fresh twice a week. If an ingredient is imported, expect the very best, as is the case with the crowd-favorite Mexican vanilla.
Kolache Shoppe3945 Richmond Ave., Greenway | 713.626.4580
Czech immigrants left their culinary mark on Texas back in the 1800s with the gift of the kolache—a bite-size pastry filled with something sweet or savory. While many local bakeries serve some variation of the kolache, the Kolache Shoppe on Richmond Avenue has held on to its location and clientele for fifty-plus years. Each variation in the display case deserves a try, but for savory flavors, the winning combination is sausage, egg, cheese, with a little slice of jalapeño tucked into the dough. Sweet kolaches look a little different—like thumbprint Danish versus pigs in a blanket, but the cottage cheese kolache at least allows for a moment of feigned healthy eating.
Steel City Pops420 E 20th St., The Heights | 832.497.1471
Disguised as a throwback to the ice pops of your youth, Steel City pops are actually a serious upgrade. Expect flavors like strawberry shortcake, vanilla bean (with a cookie in the middle), pineapple, and jalapeño. Ask for your pop dipped in a layer of chocolate, or sprinkled with espresso dust, or drizzled with caramel (or all of the above). If the menu doesn't keep you occupied, the Ping-Pong table will.
Tacos Tierra Caliente2003 W. Alabama St., Montrose | 713.584.9359
Also referred to as "the taco Truck outside West Alabama Ice House," Tierra Caliente is another runner-up for best tacos in Houston. Served in soft, chewy corn tortillas, the famed ingredient here is the addictive green sauce (spicy, be warned); the best order, $1 breakfast tacos. And as for customer service, let's just say the staff kept this place open during Hurricane Harvey. The most winning feature of all is its proximity to the West Alabama Ice House, a Houston institution. Take your order next door to the picnic table and sip a can of Lone Star in the backyard.