Travel

9 Reasons Why This Is Houston's Best Food Neighborhood

East Downtown, or EaDo, is having a moment.

June 19, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Welcome to Your Friendly Neighborhood Guide, a series of travel itineraries from locals who love their hometown haunts, nooks, and crannies so much, they're inviting us over for the inside scoop.


It’s late June in Houston, Texas, which means the thermometer’s stuck at a steady 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Houston heat. Residents know that comes with its own cast of mosquitoes and mist, sweat and steam. The beginning of summer portends a sluggish inferno that sticks around (on your skin, on the sidewalk) until September.

Yet for a city known for its downright awful weather, Houston’s been the recent recipient of a whole other type of heat, particularly when it comes to the way we eat. Over the past six years, people have turned their sights on the city, joining in unison to exalt Houston’s multicultural ethos, its relaxed posture, its cowboy-boots-at-dinner-pho-slurping-craft-brew-swilling-biking-to-a-baseball-game spirit. David Chang applauded our culinary scene. GQ’s food critic, Brett Martin, is adamant in singing the city’s praises. Even our summers can’t keep ya’ll away.

But we Houstonians know—have known—one thing for certain: Houston’s been cool. (No worries that it took the rest of you a while. Come on down, the weather’s fine.)

One place Houston’s adolescent boom can be felt most cogently is in East Downtown, or EaDo—which is to say, the part of the city that borders downtown on the east side. The area maintained a sizable Chinese population up into the ‘90s, when, as Houston’s Chinese population surged, the newer immigrants began to settle in the southwest part of the city, in what is now a sprawling Chinatown. The east side community moved to join them as surrounding black and latino neighbors filled the space they left behind. It’s these communities who forged the framework of Houston’s east side.

In recent years, the arrival of a soccer stadium and luxury condos have changed the neighborhood’s spirit, look, and even name: The triangular area was rebranded as EaDo, a moniker that stuck for some and not for others. Whatever you may call it, the area has always been a culinary sweet spot—and what with a swath of new dining options, even more so now.

So hop on the highway and get outside (and east) of the loop. Here are my top nine.

1. Brother’s Taco House

(1604 Emancipation Ave)

Pink and you can’t miss it: No really, this taco spot is bright pink, you can’t miss it. Opt for the cozy, doughy flour tortillas, a Texas Mexican mainstay. And because it’s Texas, feel free to eat tacos at any time of the day: fluffy with eggs and potatoes in the morning or juicy with barbacoa by lunchtime. Don’t mind the line, it moves fast—and also, when has a line ever been a bad sign?

2. Sparkle’s Hamburger Spot

(1515 Emancipation Ave)

One of my favorite burgers in Houston is directly catty corner from Brother’s Taco House. Together, these two have this intersection cornered. Sparkle may look no-nonsense, but their burgers are anything but. They’re full of nonsense (but, like, the good kind). This is a burger that will keep you full for hours, even days. I always go classic cheeseburger but some of the more dressed up routes certainly won’t hurt.

3. Nancy’s Hustle

(2704 Polk St Ste A)

No visit to the East Side—heck, no visit to Houston—would be complete without a stop at Nancy’s. The joint feels like a raucous house party with a pantry full of hand-cut pasta and boudin noir. Take note, however: Nancy’s is no secret. Over the past year, the spot’s received national media attention, so calling ahead is your best bet. I like to snag a spot at the bar and peek into the kitchen as the unbelievably chill cooks sling out dish after dish. Bonus points for the super sweet servers who are more than willing to guide you through the menu and make sure you have the best dining experience possible. Seriously, listen to them!

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4. 8th Wonder Brewery

(2202 Dallas St)

Like many cities across the country, Houston has felt the quakes of the recent craft-beer boom. This brewery, in particular, happens to be my favorite. Named after the now defunct Astrodome (which many consider to be the 8th architectural wonder of the modern world), 8th Wonder’s beers are like the spirit of the city hoppified. Pro tip: If you’re there in the summer go right for their Haterade, a high-octane gose that feels like a fruit gusher exploded in your mouth.

5. Rodeo Goat

(2105 Dallas St)

Houston may be hot, but we Houstonians never shy away from a good patio. Rodeo Goat’s got just that. Plus an extensive—like, really extensive—beer and burger selection. Grab one of each and head to a table on the patio (don’t worry, there are outdoor fans). The name’s weird, sure, but the grub definitely is not.

6–8. Indianola/Miss Carousel/Vinny’s

(1201 St Emanuel St)

This tri-fold dining experience right in the heart of EaDo’s main drag sits like a jewel box on the corners of Dallas and St. Emanuel. You could, theoretically, spend an entire evening inside this one building: Starting out at Indianola, a buzzy dinner-time diner with poppy pink sofas and punchy plates, then stroll over to Miss Carousel the funky, flirty cocktail bar next door. The drinks there are super inventive, so take care to ask your cocktail server their thoughts. Then finish out the night with a pepperoni slice from Vinny’s, a New York–style pizza joint that’s also in the building. (I know, the description is enough to give you concept whiplash, but I promise, any (or all!) of them are worth a visit.)

9. Huynh

(912 St Emanuel St)

Because no guide to Houston would be complete without a Vietnamese restaurant, this EaDo classic also happens to be one of the city’s best. I’ve been known to go in, order a whopping iced coffee, and take whatever they’ve got going for the lunch special. But for those who don’t have the luxury of living just a drive away from this gem, I’d recommend the garlic beef tips or anything with vermicelli because, well, duh. Everytime I go, the service is incredible—but then again, that’s Houston for you.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

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Valerio Farris

Written by: Valerio Farris

3 Comments

chris10 June 23, 2019
“ya’ll” ??

Are you actually from TX? It’s y’all.
 
Julie June 19, 2019
Tried Rodeo Goat for the first time last week & loved it. Can't wait to try out some of these others.

Also check out Tout Suite for coffee, pastries, and some great meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
 
Amanda L. June 19, 2019
I think Cafe TH and Seaside Poke are at least as good, if not better, than all of these places!