Top 10 Restaurants in Midtown
Although Midtown may be more well-known for its bars and late-night clubs, there isn't a shortage of good food to be found -- even if the neighborhood is steadily losing many of the Vietnamese restaurants that once saturated the area.
Photo by Elaine Mesker-Garcia Midtown is also home to extensive, beautiful, highly technical works of local graffiti artists like Weah.
In keeping with Midtown's current incarnation as the drinking-out capital of the city, much of the best food can be found in its pubs: Community Bar and Saint Dane both host wildly popular steak nights, while the Midtown Drinkery is where you'll find Chef Bob (coincidentally, formerly of Community Bar) cooking up a storm on Thursday nights.
Leon's Lounge offers some of the best empanadas you'll find in town (and, yes, they're homemade) while its neighbor across McGowen -- craft beer bar Mongoose versus Cobra -- has an excellent selection of sandwiches, sausages, cheeses and other grub (with healthier options on the way). Its sister bar, 13 Celsius, is even more notable for its own sandwiches, with meat and cheeses sliced to order. And Coaches Pub offers one of the more respectable pub burgers in town, a burger that's a steal at lunch.
And although it's not a restaurant, Spec's Deli also makes some of our favorite sandwiches in the city. Grab one at lunch and browse through the small but fascinating grocery section in the downtown liquor warehouse for some interesting side items and drinks to take back to the office with you.
But there's more to Midtown's food offerings than just pub grub.
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, Midtown is defined as south of I-45 (the Pierce Elevated), west of Highway 288, north of Highway 59 and east of Bagby. For a map of the area, visit the Midtown Houston website.
Honorable mention: Natachee's Supper 'n Punch
Photo by Troy Fields An open-faced meatloaf sandwich and signature punch at Natchee's.
Nearly half of this list is located on what we like to call "The Best Block in Houston," a.k.a. the strip of land housing the Continental Club and Big Top as well as some of the best, most unique restaurants in the neighborhood. First up is Natachee's Supper 'n Punch, which one housed its own horse -- Lacy -- in the attached, grassy side yard until health inspectors told her to giddy-up and go. While sad, it made more room for the crowds that spill out of Natachee's in the evenings and the kids who play in its large sandbox area. The earnestly down-home joint on Main Street serves food your Southern mother might have made -- including an all-day breakfast -- but the menu really shines when you go for the basics: chicken-fried steak, meatloaf sandwiches and the pork 'n cheezy burger with thick strips of real bacon. The sweet potato pie and peach cobbler are must-haves, too.
10. Kim Tai
Photo by Troy Fields Pho tai, crispy egg rolls and cafe sua da at Kim Tai.
While it certainly looks sketchy from the outside, this family-run Vietnamese diner represents the best of Midtown's recent past with its solid pho, spring rolls and bun with crispy egg rolls and chargrilled pork. In keeping with the changing area, Kim Tai also offers diner classics like cheeseburgers, chicken-fried steak sandwiches and (like Natachee's) breakfast all day long. The egg rolls are hard to beat, and the iced Vietnamese coffee will make sure you don't fall asleep at work after a pho lunch, but the best bet here is the addictive ban bot chien that's topped with green onions and crispy fried garlic. The bright lights from Mongoose versus Cobra and Leon's Lounge a few feet away have hopefully helped raise Kim Tai's profile, as it's as deserving of the same praise (if not more) that's heaped on Mai's, Van Loc, Pho Saigon or any other Vietnamese joint in Midtown.
9. Les Givral's
Lines stack up for lunch each day at Les Givral's for its signature banh mi sandwiches.
Les Givral's has one of the most confusing names and one of the most confusing back stories of any restaurant in Houston. It's named after Givrals, a bakery in Paris which opened a branch in Saigon during the middle of the 19th century and became a fixture in the city. When one of the Givral Cafes was closed two years ago, Saigonese mourned its loss. No one quite knows when or why the apostrophe was incorporated into our own Les Givral's when it opened here, but the Les Givral's at 2704 Milam is one of the few remnants of the glut of banh mi shops "Little Saigon" held not 10 years ago. Half the banh mi shops Robb Walsh visited in his 2001 "Desperately Seeking Sandwiches" story are now gone, and this Les Givral's is actually the reincarnation of a Givral's Sandwich Shop that was originally run by Nga Chung before it was taken over by Staci Le's family in 2001. Le now runs the Les Givral's on Congress, but it's the little sandwich shop on Milam that still draws the biggest and most loyal crowds for one thing and one thing only: banh mi. And don't be fooled by imitations: Les Givral's Kahve on Washington pales in comparison to the original.
Photo by Troy Fields Bullfighting depictions and other Spanish scenes decorate Majorca's walls.
What makes the tapas at Majorca interesting is that they're more strongly influenced by North Africa than at any other tapas bar in town, and this twist works to its advantage by giving Majorca a little added edge. Chef Hicham Nafaa's extensive menu includes typical Spanish classics like paella, albóndigas (fat, filling meatballs that are best enjoyed with a fried egg on top) and gambas con arroz (prawns with rice). The merguez lamb that features in many dishes is wonderful, especially when tucked into a crusty sandwich and the delicious, cinnamon-spiced, house-made sangria is so good, you'll want to go ahead and order a pitcher and down it with friends on the patio fronting Midtown's busiest street. On weekends, Majorca offers no-cover live flamenco music and Sunday brunch here is also one of the best values in town: an all-you-can eat Spanish/Mediterranean spread with bottomless mimosas for just $14.95.