10 Houston Restaurants Every Out-Of-Towner Should Visit

On Wednesday afternoon, I mused that some day I hoped for visitors to Houston to feel as excited about our dining scene as I was about New York City's. The sheer breadth and depth of ethnic and regional cuisines present here is staggering, although it still has a long way to go before it approaches New York proportions.

I strongly agree with Robb Walsh's assertion that Houston is the South's "new creole city." And we have a lot to offer the rest of the food-loving nation right now as a result. I started thinking about the ten restaurants or food experiences that I would recommend to an out-of-towner eager to dive head-first into Houston's rich pool, and all of these are definitely head-first destinations -- no simple tourist attractions here.

But the great thing about all ten of these restaurants is that they're not merely novelties for out-of-towners; they're useful and well-loved by locals as well. And because of that, Houston can be content to know that even if rest of the world never discovers how wonderful this city truly is, the wonder will still be there for us to enjoy.

10. Barbecue and dirty rice at Gatlin's

Visitors naturally expect Houston to have a wealth of great barbecue. And while we do have some good places, the out-of-body experiences sought by true 'cue-hounds are often found very far outside the city limits. Not so with Gatlin's, where charming but distressingly odd hours give way to Texas barbecue done right: low and slow, with a thick smoke ring around a juicy brisket or rib meat that drops from the bone before your teeth even get to it. And the thickly liver-laced dirty rice abolishes the notion that a barbecue joint with good 'cue will have bad sides.

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Katharine Shilcutt