Houston’s Hidden Gems

New to the Bayou City, or a long-time resident looking to get to know your city better? We polled our agents to find out their favorite spots in the city. This is what they came up with.

Zelko Bistro – This quaint bungalow converted into a restaurant specializes in local food sourcing. One favorite dish is their enormous cheese plate, which comes with delicious honey, nuts, and dried fruit. Their Captain Crunch chicken will be the captain of your taste buds. – Jessica St. John

Armand Bayou Nature Center – Everyone knows about Buffalo Bayou, and rightfully so, but with a kayak and a 25-minute ride from downtown you can feel like you are in a jungle. It’s not unusual to have having flying fish land in your kayak, pelicans swoop over your head, or alligators pop their snout up uncomfortably close to your paddle. – Scott Weaver

Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall – The Menil Collection is probably the most recognized art museum in Montrose, well-known to locals and visitors alike. But few know about this piece in a satellite building of the museum, even though they drive past it frequently. The building is devoted entirely to Flavin’s installation, a sensuous but utilitarian arrangement of fluorescent light tubes which, according to the Boston Globe, radiates an atmosphere reminiscent of both “carnival and cathedral.” Flavin completed his design just two days before his death in 1996, and his studio completed the installation posthumously. Angel Marie Fultz

Happy Fatz – This eatery in the Heights is known for its amazing gourmet hotdogs with unique toppings—try the Bayou Boss with brisket
and barbecue sauce, or the Al Capone Chicago dog with dill pickle and crisp peppers. However, Happy Fatz also offers great breakfasts and amazing desserts and coffee. The owner is a doggy lover, so pups are allowed on the porch. They even have hooks to put your leashes on. – Ashley Williamson Tilton

Brother’s Tacos – If you are looking for the best hangover cure, drive on over to this little taco stand in EADO. The joint always has a line of locals snaking out the door, but it moves swiftly. With deliciously homemade tortillas and an assembly line of fresh ingredients, your heart’s desires will be realized once you bite into one of these breakfast tacos. – Aurora Catellano Pisana

Hot Bagel Shot – This tiny no-frills gem in River Oaks has been making bagels and cream cheese from scratch daily for over 30 years in Houston. If you are from the Northeast and are looking for a taste of home, this is about as close as it gets to your neighborhood kosher bagel shop. Bagels are deeply infused with flavor – local favorites include the honey wheat, jalapeño, and strawberry varieties. – Angie Griesinger

Gatlin’s BBQ – this world famous barbeque joint in Oak Forest has been featured on the Food Network, so they’re not exactly hidden, but we couldn’t leave it off our list of Houston recs. Their meat is perfectly done, and their addicting barbeque sauce will have you coming back again and again for another fix. – Amy Horneman

Petrol Station – If you’re seeking craft beers and great burgers, look no further than this burger joint in Oak Forest. The menu is simple, but the food is out-of-this-world. Try the Rancor Burger, a half-pound of angus beef with bacon, cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg, or Mary’s Lamb Burger, a blend of ground lamb and angus beef, feta cheese, cucumber, red onion, and yogurt dressing. While you wait for your food, kick back on the patio and enjoy an ice-cold microbrew. – Amy Horneman, Aurora Castellano Pisana

Coltivare – This awesome farm-to-bistro restaurant in the Heights brings local farm-fresh dining and local ingredients to central Houston. The creative Italian-inspired cuisine would be worth the trip in any environment, but the intimate house-turned-restaurant with an attractive garden out back and the trendy-but-casual atmosphere only enhance the bistro’s rich yet down-to-earth flavors. – Amy Horneman

Argentina Café – If you haven’t tried Argentinian food before, this authentic eatery tucked away in a strip mall near the Galleria will convert you on the spot. Try the empanadas, the mushroom quiche (not the egg-based item you would expect, more like a mushroom tart), and the flan (a firm, creamy custard that must be tried even if you normally skip dessert). – Nicholas Harlan Bourgeois

Roost – The menu at this Montrose establishment changes every 4-5 weeks in order to keep it local, seasonal, and always offering something new. The two menu staples, fried cauliflower and donut holes with coffee ice-cream, are definitely worth the trip. – Julia Shockley

Izakaya – This “traditional Japanese drinking establishment” in Midtown only opened its doors in July 2015, but it has already garnered its share of loyal patrons. The Chronicle gave the place a rave review, calling their fare a mix of “Japanese comfort food and Asian-inspired street food,” however, the chefs incorporate an element of the unexpected in each menu item. Izakaya also offers unique cocktails and a wide selection of sake. – Julia Shockley

Southern Goods – If you’re craving authentic Southern cooking then you must try Southern Goods in the Heights. Fried green tomatoes, pig wings, and beef burnt ends are just a few favorite dishes on their ever-changing menu. Think Southern comfort food meets world class gourmet cuisine. – Katharine Plangman, Amy Horneman