5 Restaurants to Hit for Final Four Weekend (And 5 to Miss)

Categories: Top Five

Dining out this weekend is guaranteed to be mass (or approaching critical mass) chaos. Shelby Hodge, writing for CultureMap, reports that nearly all of the high-end places close to downtown are booked solid for the weekend, while just as many other popular restaurants have been designated as official Final Four viewing party locations for visiting fans. 29-95 has a full list for all four team's fan bases, which includes spots like Christian's Tailgate and Cadillac Bar (and a Chili's? WTF?).

In other words, look forward to a total clusterfuck if you want to eat out. And that's before taking into account all the road closures. So what's a visitor to our fair city to do?

We've compiled a list of five restaurants to hit this weekend and five more to definitely miss. We love restaurants from both sides of the list (and feel that they're all very representative of the bounty that Houston has to offer), but those on the miss side are more likely to be overly crowded and therefore miserable for out-of-towners (as well as for us natives).

Photo by mlsnp
Pizzitola's is hard to miss at night.


Miss: Goode Co. Barbeque

Hit: Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue

Here's the thing: Goode Co. is all things Houston and all things Texas. But it's going to be jam-packed on a good weekend and its regular barbecue simply isn't as good as its wild game and desserts.

For the real deal, head to Pizzitola's on the edge of the Washington Avenue hospitality zone. Ribs are what you want here, and lots of them. We prefer ours without sauce so you can really taste the flavor of the smoke -- that right there is what Texas barbecue is all about, after all. Order a big pitcher of sweet tea to wash it all down and don't be surprised to hear the old-school waitresses say, unironically, "Y'all come back now, y'hear!"

Xuco Xicana small.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Texas black drum ceviche at Xuco Xicana


Miss: Ninfa's on Navigation

Hit: Xuco Xicana

Ninfa's on Navigation may have some of the best traditional Tex-Mex in town, but it's also one of the most crowded spots in Houston -- and that's on a good day.

Instead, head over to the newly revamped Xuco Xicana (pronounced "chuco chicana") in the old El Patio building, smack in the middle of the Downtown/Midtown hospitality zone, and experience a take on Tex-Mex that's both modern and a welcome throwback to the quality cooking once done in Houston's best enchilada kitchens. Try Chef Jonathan Jones's tacos ahogadas, tender barbacoa, spicy carne guisada tacos or just a belly-warming plate of cheese enchiladas. Bonus: At night, the upstairs portion of Xuco Xicana features strong drinks and great DJs, while Sunday brunch is a great place to console your tequila-sodden stomach over Mexican-tinged French toast.

Photo by Java Junky
Bubba's screams "welcome." Or maybe that's the freeway noise.


Miss: The Counter

Hit: Bubba's Texas Burger Shack

The Counter might be smack dab in the middle of all the excitement in the Washington Avenue hospitality zone, but we simply won't stand for visitors eating California burgers while they're here.

You'll feel like a native in the best possible way if you head to Bubba's Texas Burger Shack (IT HAS TEXAS IN THE NAME), right on the edge of the Galleria hospitality zone. Sure, it's under a freeway overpass, but welcome to Houston. That's just part of our charm. Bubba's makes a mean cheeseburger that's made even better by an abundance of ice-cold Saint Arnold beer. You have to drink our beer while you're here, after all, and a Saint Arnold Lawnmower will cool you down fast if it's hot outside.

Photo by Groovehouse
Whole heads of garlic in the boil? You're in the right place.


Miss: Mardi Gras Grill

Hit: Moon Tower Inn

Yes, it's right in the thick of things in the Washington Avenue hospitality zone, but you'll pay dearly for it by having to wait ages for your mudbugs at Mardi Gras Grill.

Instead, head to one of Houston's favorite icehouses and relax on the sprawling lawn while you enjoy crawfish, "damn good dogs and cold ass beer." Hell, Moon Tower is big enough to host all four NCAA teams at once -- as long as they don't mind sharing picnic tables with strangers. Sundays are crawfish days starting at 3 p.m. and it's all-you-can-eat for around $15. If you go on a Friday or Saturday, however, Moon Tower only serves dogs, but they're some of the finest sausages in town.

Photo by heyjebbo
It's actually a lot nicer inside. Trust us.


Miss: Reef

Hit: Bayou City Seafood n' Pasta

Despite its plum location, stunning interior and fabulous food, Reef isn't recommend for this particular weekend. Come back another time, when the restaurant won't be slammed, to experience Gulf seafood at its most creative.

Instead, enjoy the old-school vibe at Bayou City Seafood, where the service is Southern, the food is Cajun and the atmosphere is all Houston. It's also right on the edge of the Galleria hospitality zone but away from the madness. You can feed an army of college students here -- beware of enormous portion sizes -- for a relatively sane price. Indulge in the dark roux-ed gumbo, the fresh catfish and the crawfish étouffée (you can never have too much crawfish).

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Location Info

Bayou City Seafood n' Pasta

4730 Richmond, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Bayou City Seafood the best in Town!!! Thank you Chris!! keep up the Great Food!!!


Thinking it's the perfect time to explore some lesser-known and new-to-me spots.

Supak Ryan
Supak Ryan

Something about telling out-of-towners -- bearing in mind the power of first impressions -- to go exclusively to The Galleria and "Bro Central" just doesn't sit right with me. These neighborhoods aren't the true strengths and glory of Houston, they're pale carbon-copies of better neighborhoods elsewhere.

My $0.02, I could be wrong, etc...rs


Clusterfuck is a very apt description, and the use thereof makes me smile! Great list! Love the Hit/Miss, it's a great guide to, though we love them and you love them, you're just gonna be pissed, impatient and living off your own body fat if you try going this weekend, so go "here" instead. So much for my Saturday afternoon buffalo burger...*sigh*.


And if you really want some great boiled crawfish, enjoy competition (cooking that is, not just that on the basketball court), cold beer and good times, come to the Hideaway on Dunvale. No where near the madness of Downtown, Mid-town or Washington, $25 all you can eat crawfish, 610 AM broadcasting live. This is going to be a FUN one!

Derekand Ryan Hall
Derekand Ryan Hall

Moontower is the best place on this list. A diverse,fun crowd that is drawn together by great food, the best selection of beer in Houston (sorry no BL), and a setting like no other. They bring the country to the city with the yard, picknick tables, and horseshoes....and their current quest for world domination just added something new to their arsonal...crawfish.....very good crawfish.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Excellent suggestions K. We all know that the places you suggested that the readers "miss" will still be slammed beyond comparison. Also the majority of peeps don't have enough gumption to go out and FIND something interesting and creative. Still for the sheer amount of people coming into this city this weekend, we are for sure to get a few intrepid adventureres and this list is definitely a help. Props to helping the jems of Houston.

The Counter - Houston
The Counter - Houston

And I thought you liked us! http://blogs.houstonpress.com/...

With our ridiculous number of combinations, you can make your burger as "California" or as "Houston" as you want. Just know, although the brand is from CA the owners here are Houston residents for over 30 years. Locally owned and operated!

Regardless, happy to be included with reputable names like Goode Co, Ninfa's, Mardi Gras, and Reef. Hope we'll see you again, Katherine!


I got reservations and Vic and Anthony's for tomorrow night pretty easily today. A little later than I wanted, but not by much.

We're taking a drive out to the country on Saturday, though. I'm not going anywhere near downtown on Saturday.


I'm about 1/4 mile from Bayou City Seafood and have meant to try it for ages.


well remember its just an opinion, there are a ton of good places to eat, and in not a fan of bubbas burgers, but I do love The Little Bitty Burger Barn, they were just on the food network, GO Houston and she is correct about Ninfa's. YUK, anf the chron sucks they ned a new food critic, we all know who she loves, lol, gotta love Houston and the foodies, love ya all, keep it up!

Huck Crane
Huck Crane

Only the Houston Press would actually tell people not to go to some of our most beloved restaurants. Seriously, who writes an article that tells you NOT to go to some of the restaurants we are so proud of?Also, Pizzitola's is closed on Sundays, isn't it?

If I were any of the places you steered people away from, I'd pull my advertising and go to 29-95.com.


Driving down Washington today, as I do often (strictly commuting), it suddenly hit me – and I should have realized this long before now: all of the construction on Washington throughout the past few months has been leading up to Final Four weekend. Coincidence, I think not! I guess the city / powers that be / venue owners want to assure that pristine blacktop greets media and fans who will presumably flock to this party district. Sad really that this is among the areas we, as a city, are showcasing.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I do like you, The Counter! And I trust you'll get more than enough business this weekend. ;)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Our most beloved restaurants will be slammed this weekend. These are merely suggestions for occasionally overlooked alternatives that are every bit as good, albeit in different ways. Don't try to turn this negative, because it isn't. :)


I think I will just avoid all these "flocking" hospitality zones. Thanks for the head's up, KS!

Huck Crane
Huck Crane

Fair enough, Shilcutt. You have a good point. But I still think this article can be misconstrued.And Pizzitola's is closed on Sundays (according to the Houston Press). Maybe not the best place to suggest, seeing that most of these out-of-towners are here for the entire weekend?

I wasn't trying to turn it negative, my bad.

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