Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant

Udipi

Udipi

You don't get much more vegetarian-friendly than a restaurant whose menu doesn't contain a shred of meat on it. The southern Indian cuisine at Udipi is entirely meat-free, but that doesn't mean it's boring or won't fill you up. Offering everything from playful, light-hearted fare like creamy, sweet mango lassis and springy idlis to more substantial dishes like fragrant aloo gobi and navratan korma, Udipi encourages you to experiment with vegetable-based dishes in an easygoing environment with reasonable prices. And what's more, it's bringing that attitude and its delicious food to the suburbs: Udipi also has locations in Katy and Sugar Land.

Jenni's Noodle House

When Jenni's Noodles moved to South Shepherd and West Alabama, gay smiles filled the 'Trose. Now the gay-friendly eatery offers its Dream Rolls and Angry Udon inside the sacred Loop. Jenni's is famous for serving traditional Vietnamese dishes with interesting names and plenty of culinary twists that are tasty and fun. And the service is always friendly. This is a come-as-you-are eatery that has magically avoided the clichés of so many other restaurants.

Fins

Fins' salt and pepper shrimp may sound like a simple dish, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in its flawless execution. All the ingredients are very fresh and flavorful. Plump, juicy shrimp are very lightly battered and fried until perfectly crispy outside and succulent within. The generous grinding of pepper adds a nice hint of spice, while the sweet heat of the ginger is an unexpected treat. Served with sweet sautéed onions and green bell peppers, this understated dish provides maximum satisfaction.

Stella Sola

Yes, Stella Sola is owned by local celebrity chef Bryan Caswell, and yes, Stella Sola can be a bit pricey for dinner and wine, but brunch is its great egalitarian offering. Served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, brunch brings nothing less than this "Texas-Tuscan" restaurant's spot-on food at far more reasonable rates. Knock down a "toad in a hole," with egg housed in homemade brioche, along with ham, mushrooms and cheese, for only $9, or grab a plate of shrimp and polenta (which is really just grits) with some bacon for $11. And since this is an Italian-inspired eatery — Stella Sola means "Lone Star" in Italian — don't forget a glass of Prosecco to wash it all down.

Irma's
Stephanie Meza

Irma's has been a Houston institution for years, holding court in a cramped but festive building almost directly underneath 59 South. The crowd is full of regulars, who know not to ask for menus (a list of available items will be delivered orally). This is the place to fill up on the fine frozen margaritas, fresh lemonade and crisp, salty chips dipped into fantastic guacamole. It's depressing how often guacamole in this town is presented at baby-food consistency, betraying a prepackaged pea-green color and all but flavorless. Not so at Irma's, where chunks of ripe avocado stand out for texture, garlic flavor is prominent and fresh cilantro and minced jalapeño garnish a bowl of guacamole done right.

Pho Binh

Tucked into a nondescript block of Beamer well south of Hobby Airport lies the Pho Binh trailer and the best soup in Houston. That's right, it's a trailer: a temporary building with a weensy kitchen and two tiny rooms packed with tables. The gracious staff turns out bowl upon bowl filled with broth so pure, you want to bathe in it. Meats like chicken, rare beef and pork meatballs are moist-tender-delicious, and the long, smooth noodles slip-slide down with the greatest of ease. It is, quite simply, perfection in a bowl. That said, be sure to get there early; they run out of this pho goodness each and every day. You might have to share a table — that's how small it is — but that just means you get to chat with your neighbors.

CHA Champagne & Wine Bar

Cha has an amazing selection of reds and whites, plus an excellent list of Champagnes. Though you can pop a $400 bottle of bubbly here, you can also purchase a delightful glass for less than $10. Cha also has a small menu of delicious nibbles, including perfectly baked flatbread pizzas adorned with truffle oil and sea salt, cheese plates, and smoked duck breast that perfectly complement the Champagne and wines without overpowering them. Even those generally averse to wine bars will enjoy luxuriating in Cha's cozy interior while listening to a local live musician or heading to the second-floor patio for an unparalleled view of downtown.

Frenchy's Chicken
Jeff Balke

Since its humble beginnings as a sandwich shop in 1969 near the University of Houston, Frenchy's has been churning out the best Creole chicken in town. Moist meat underneath crispy, seasoned skin, Frenchy's golden bird always comes fresh from the fryer. And those sides, those sides! Fluffy, buttery biscuits, flavorful greens and spicy red beans and rice with a hunk of andouille sausage, all ready to pack up and go from one of Frenchy's nine locations. Sadly, founder Percy "Frenchy" Creuzot died this year, but his legacy of amazing Creole food lives strong as ever in Houston.

Canopy
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

With its smooth, velvety chocolate filling, crunchy hazelnut tart shell and rich and flavorful Nutella sorbet, the chocolate hazelnut tart at Canopy is to die for. The combination of flavors is classic, but the textures are what really make this dessert luxurious. One will never be enough. If any recipe has ever been worth stealing, this is it. And, as with many items at Canopy, it's the simplicity of the fine ingredients that makes this so amazing.

Givral's Sandwich & Cafe

Every college student knows the best place to stretch your dollar is at a Vietnamese sandwich shop. Where else can you get three meals for the price of a single dish at most sit-down places? Les Givral's clean, trendy interior isn't all hype — there's a reason there are now three of them in the city. Sure, prices have gone up in the last few years, but it's still cheaper and tastier than Subway or Quiznos. While you're here, don't forget to try some of the fabulous teas from the refrigerated case, and grab some chips. We also recommend the sweet fried rice with char-grilled chicken.

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