Top 10 Restaurants on Washington Avenue

Categories: Top 10

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Honorable mention: Wabash Feed, where you can buy fresh yard eggs as well as vegetables, fruit trees and herbs to grow yourself at home.
After last week's Top 10 Restaurants in Rice Village kerfuffle, we've made extra-double sure that this week's list is wholly and completely intact. Now, that doesn't mean your favorite restaurant necessarily made the cut -- that's a whole other conversation for the comments section.

What did make the cut this week, however, were some of the city's best restaurants in an area that's increasingly going two ways. Washington Avenue was briefly the center of all things nightlife-y and clubby for a few short years, before -- as always happens in Houston -- the scene began to mutate and evolve into other areas of the city. Some nightlifers have moved back to Midtown, while others have set their sights on the East End as the next great party scene.

What's left on Washington Avenue are two things: (1) the husks of once-popular clubs gone south and (2) bars/restaurants that have either seriously stepped up their food game or are still serving the same great food that made them popular in the first place. At this point in time, Washington Avenue could go the way of the Richmond Strip and become a ghost town. But I think it's far more likely that as the cruising crowds move away, the historic street will become even more of a food corridor and destination than it already is.

In order for that to happen, however, we have to support the restaurants that are currently there -- great places like Soma Sushi, El Tiempo, J. Black's Feel Good Lounge, The Counter, Candelari's, Molina's Cantina, The Blue Fish and Patrenella's. Or you can start with one of our top 10 picks below.

Disclaimer: For purposes of this post, "Washington Avenue" has been defined as the strip of Washington running from Westcott to Studemont, with a few blocks north or south on either side. Anything further west of Westcott and you're running into Rice Military; anything further east of Studemont and you're running into the Old Sixth Ward (which has its own, unique scene with places such as Catalina, Star Pizza, Beaver's, Liberty Station and the upcoming Julep and Cottonwood).

See Also:

Top 10 Restaurants in Rice Village

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Sandwiches
The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Sushi

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Photo by Troy Fields
10. Sammy's Wild Game Grill

Although the Moon Tower Inn guys have been stymied in their attempts to get up and running again over the past year, you can get your wild game hot dog fix at Sammy's -- and more. Depending on the season, the chili-cheese fries could feature anything from rattlesnake to elk in the chili on top, while wild game sliders see antelope, venison, buffalo, elk and kangaroo in between their buns. And if you're a spice-hound, you'll want to buy some of Sammy's wonderful ghost pepper sauce to take home with you.

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
9. TQLA

I still think that TQLA's name was a mistake -- it leads people to believe that TQLA is only a bar, or only serves tequila -- but the food and the drinks are certainly not. Chef Tommy Birdwell is still turning out the same high-quality food that made me fall in love with TQLA when it opened in 2010, dishes such as crawfish corncakes with lime butter, pumpkin seed-crusted salmon with fried green tomatoes or blue corn-fried oysters with chorizo cream. Southwestern food has never tasted better nor more updated, even in simple adaptations like TQLA's green chile-laced burger with jalapeño cheese and avocado.

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8. Sushi Tora

Ken Tanagi rules the roost at his sushi restaurant, backed up by his mother -- Mami -- of the infamous, now-closed Coco's Yakitori. The pair run a tight ship, making excellent rolls and serviceable sushi to a packed house nearly every night. But be warned: It's very loud inside, not only because of the music Tanagi plays but also because of the amount of screaming at his co-workers he does on a nightly basis. It's all in good fun, though, and you'll always get dinner and a show at Sushi Tora.


Location Info

Sammy's Wild Game Grill

3715 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

TQLA

4601 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Sushi Tora

920 Studemont, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Laredo Taco Place

915 Snover St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

El Rey Taqueria

910 Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

BRC Gastropub

519 Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Benjy's on Washington

5922 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Branch Water Tavern - CLOSED

510 Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Max's Wine Dive

4720 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Coppa Ristorante Italiano - CLOSED

5555 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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63 comments
freespiritwander
freespiritwander

Patranella's gets my vote....comes with renown garden...and El Tiempo MARKET - not the restaurant    These places are not stale like most of the places you chose for your article. 


swimfast
swimfast

Just an FYI, Tommy Birdwell is no longer at TQLA.  He left in June.

 

 

Star Pizza Houston
Star Pizza Houston

We're actually west of Studemont. Our address is 77 Harvard. It's on the corner of Harvard and Washington Avenue, directly one block east of Heights.

jessefullen
jessefullen

@starpizzahou @eatingourwords it's weird. They mentioned you in saying your location was outside the area - east of studemont. Whoops.

Ben Zwirek
Ben Zwirek

No Star Pizza Houston? Typical H Press...

Anse
Anse

When I'm looking for something fast, El Rey will always be on my short list of options. But I do wish they were a bit more consistent. One day the rotisserie chicken will be heavenly, on another it will have the texture of a well-worn radial tire.

Wuwu
Wuwu

Coppa love fest never stops, so so over rated folks, stop this madness it's just not that good, period end of story.  Branch Water, jezz, that place is awful terrible bad.

 

My list top 5.

1. TQLA

2.  Lorenzo's

3. Benjy's

4.  Big Red Penis

5.  Max's

 

...

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Hate to nit pick but BRC and Branchwater are both on Shepherd.  And I too love los dos; one of the last bastions of original restaurants on Washington avenue before it became Douchington avenue in the last 5 years so much so that I now avoid it like the plague. What about Mardi Gras grill too? Talk about falling off, look at Candelari's, used to be my happy hour place of choice, now it's all valet parking, lousy food, and a total pearl bar douchery in terms of their clientele.

Kelli
Kelli

Katherine, Katherine, Katherine....I love ya and for the most part (95%) this list is right on the money but how can you leave out Los Dos Amigos? You named one of their dishes as your number 1 last year (rightfully so, that dish is damn delicious) and has some of the best menudo in town.

FRL713
FRL713

Laredo is certainly solid if you can handle the crowd.  But no love for El Tiempo?  That menu and the grilled meat/seafood items are classics.  I frequently recommend it to my out of town guests in search of high quality tex-mex.  I strongly disagree with the Coppa ranking, but to each his/her own I guess.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Laurenzo's doesn't even get a mention?  I'm guessing we haven't been there much.  Their burger is one of the best in town, as are the Shrimp & grits.   The prime rib tacos are also worth a try.  And El Rey and Laredo over Los Dos Amigos, even though they ranked in both your and Robb's top ten food places that you have to eat?

 

Very odd and questionable choices for this round...

Jonteezy23
Jonteezy23

@HomeRonTX we went to Laurenzo's which is part of El Tiempo...never been there though. Is it good?

dhurls17
dhurls17

coppa #1.....i ate there about 6 months ago and it was the worst meal i have had in hou.... i have had many many great meals in hou and not to many bad....this was by far the worst....

 

the waitress had no idea about the menu and raved about a gelato, espresso dessert....what it was....a cup of coffee and she dumped a ball of gelato in and there it was for $12....

 

i generally trust the press and the reviews but soemone must have paid someone off for this ranking...althou i hope they have a new chef, owner, mngt......

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

 @Wuwu Drove by BRC today and the cock is pink now.  Prob for breast cancer awareness month?  Touching.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

BWT has the greatest sticky toffee pudding anywhere.  Chicken fried oysters, chicken pot pie, salmon sandwich, I've never had a meal I did not like there.  BRP on the other hand was a ton of yuck when I was last there, which admittedly was a year or so ago.  The menu items made my mouth water but the product on the plate never lived up to the description.  Never.  Kelli28 should order the egg sandwich at Max's.

Aggie_Kelli
Aggie_Kelli

 @Wuwu I love Coppa, I think it's amazing and Max's is terrible, ate there twice, hated it both times.

Anse
Anse

I ate at Max's for my birthday a month ago. For thirty bucks, I got what was basically a glorified Long John Silver's fried seafood combo. The wine was pretty good, though.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

 @Wuwu Well you just dispensed with their all too obvious metaphor....

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @gossamersixteen I know they're on Shepherd, but that area is still considered the Washington Avenue corridor. (That's why we defined the area in the post "as the strip of Washington running from Westcott to Studemont, with a few blocks north or south on either side.") Although, in retrospect, perhaps "Top 10 Restaurants in the Washington Avenue Corridor" would have been a more appropriate title.  :)

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @Kelli See my response to Jim (FattyFatBastard) below...

carriebwc
carriebwc

 I don't get El Tiempo.  I find the food to be overrated and totally overpriced.  To each his own!

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @FattyFatBastard [quiet, tiny voice] Los Dos hasn't been living up to expectations lately. I don't want to talk about it. I'm sad.

Guest
Guest

 @dhurls17 Coppa - quit going five months ago.  Food was just OK, but turning my $16 tip on an $80 tab (apps and drinks at the bar) into a $100 tip was the deal closer.  Especially when the manager told me to take it to AMEX, and then failed to respond to AMEX's inquiry.

 

Agree with Fatty on Laurenzo's.  Shrimp and grits best in town (Backstreet close second), burgers, fish, everything I have had.  Service top notch.

STFU
STFU

 @dhurls17 Hey guys I'm from NY and ate here once, I'm the expert to end all experts!

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

 @dhurls17 They REALLY need to can the valet.  Bad for business.  See that big parking area out there?  Right by the restaurant?  It's yours Coppa.  For your customers.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @dhurls17 I'm really bummed to hear that you had a bad meal at Coppa. I know a handful of other people who've had similar experiences, but -- unless my friends are lying to me) -- they've been very few and far between. I've been very lucky to always have a terrific meal there and everyone I've sent there for dinner has come back raving about it, too.

Megan
Megan

@dhurls17 Um, affogato (the dessert you just maligned) is a traditional Italian coffee drink. And WHY does everyone assume that these places pay for editorial consideration?

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

 @kshilcuttOops I know you're right, I'm guilty of skimming/jumping straight to the list -- saw that after the fact. Busy day here at the office. At least you didn't call it the Heights -- people in the Heights proper seem to hate that (as would I).

Kelli
Kelli

@kshilcutt Ah I was typing my comment during that exchange....what a shame though :/

FRL713
FRL713

 @carriebwc The menu is overwhelming and the prices high.  However the grilled beef and shellfish items are superb.  The portions are also extremely generous.

Nate
Nate

 @kshilcutt  @FattyFatBastard After seeing Los Dos make the top of your list last fall, me and the woman went there last winter.  Frankly, I was baffled as to how that dish and that restaurant could even make the top 100 list, much less be number 1.  I guess it wasn't just us...

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

 @kshilcutt That's a shame.  I haven't been since 2010.  Perhaps the uptick in business was unwelcomed by the regulars?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

 @Jalapeno  @dhurls17 I refuse to valet out of principle.  Even Downtown, I can always find a free spot.  I still recall going to Phillipe on a blind date, spending $200, and then watching her scorn as we left because I chose not to valet.  Needless to say, she didn't get a second date.

dhurls17
dhurls17

 @Megan  @dhurls17

 ummm yes i know megan..i am from ny, we know a little about italian food there..im also not an italian food snob cause i am from ny..i think hou has some great italian choices....but coppa was awful all around..... the way the drink was presented and tasted was terrible...also i did order food...and the linguini and clams only tasted like garlic...hey maybe i caught them on a bad day but the food and service was terrible....for a night out and spending over 100 plus tip i was very dissapointed....

 

 

jimbo1126
jimbo1126

 @kshilcutt  @Kelli I wondered about Los Dos Amigos too. I love the food, but you're certainly right about the "unfriendly and clipped" service. There's a palpable scorn there.

Kelli
Kelli

@kshilcutt That hurts my heart and my stomach, its around the corner from me :(

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @Kelli  The last few times I've been, it's like I'm going to an alternate universe version of the place. The food has been flat, the service unfriendly and clipped. It hurts my heart.

dcc624
dcc624

@FattyFatBastard @Blake @Jalapeno @dhurls17

Chez Nous 4 stars. Foie gras the best.

Avenue G Humble

In a old house

CougarBait
CougarBait

 @dhurls17  @Megan Hi! Hope you are doing well dhurls17. I hope this doesn't come off putting but please enlighten me when you ordered linguine (It is spelled with an 'e') with clams. I have worked there since we opened and we have never had clams with our linguine.

 

You mentioned twice on how you were from NY and once on how you weren't a food snob. Well palette preference is quite subjective, you may be more apt for Olive Garden for all anyone may know. As far as a food snob, I would agree that you aren't. A food snob would know how to spell "linguini (linguine) at the very least and most other words like abbreviations for management, correctly. 

 

Affogato, as Megan pointed out, is a traditional Italian dessert and comes with Espresso. I can guarantee that none of my fellow co-workers EVER brought out a french press and poured it on your "ball of gelato". 

 

Now as far as service, you didn't have me, but I do apologize if you had a less than stellar experience. However, I do love this restaurant and do love food. I happen to think that Brandi does a great job, my own opinion. I do believe that everyone should be allowed to share their own opinion especially on an open forum like this. However, if you are going to insult Coppa Ristorante Italiano and the Chef, Management and Owners at the very least get all of your facts straight so you don't look like a fool.

 

Have a Blessed Day, Sir/Ma'am!

carriebwc
carriebwc

 @dhurls17  @Megan Sorry to hear that.  I have only had great meals there.  Maybe it was an off night?

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