Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in many cases picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we'll be rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!
It's 2:15 in the morning. The bar has just closed, and you know you're going to be in trouble tomorrow unless you find somewhere with food that will help soak up all the booze you
inadvertently gladly consumed. Where do you go?
In the past, we've rounded up the best late-night restaurants in Houston, but this year, we're taking it a step further. We're compiling a list of the best restaurants that stay open even after the bars have closed. You think midnight is late? Amateur. Some of these restaurants are open until 4 a.m. or, better yet, 24 hours.
And the best thing about this list? These eateries are all over town. No matter where you find yourself hungry in the middle of the night, there's bound to be a surefire spot nearby, ready and waiting to serve up some hangover-healing grub.
10. Waffle House What is there left to say about Waffle House that hasn't already been said? It's open 24 hours, around the clock. The events that go down there after hours are the stuff of legends. People from all walks of life, all neighborhoods, all ethnicities and in varying degrees of undress make their way into WaHo (as I affectionately call it) after lesser establishments close for the evening. I've been to WaHo at 4 a.m. and found a 30-minute wait for a table; that's how popular the purveyor of mediocre waffles and awesome hash browns is in the middle of the night. Don't be fooled by the late hour. It's a tight space, and the efficient servers aim to get you in and out in as short a time as possible.
9.Whataburger/Taco Cabana My two favorite fast-food restaurants are grouped together because that is how I recall visiting them late at night in college in San Antonio. There was a Taco C on the way home from pretty much anywhere (the original Taco C, I might add), and a Whataburger down the street another mile or so in the direction of my house. Inevitably, someone in the group would want queso and someone else would want fries. And then someone would decide that he wanted fries and queso and a milkshake and a quesadilla. Trust me, it's a great combo at 3:15 a.m. I would also swear by Taco C queso and tortillas as guaranteed hangover killers.
8. Katz's Deli If you're in the mood for something a little more upscale and...um...kosher than fast food, give Katz's a try. The sign outside is true: Katz's "never kloses." So if you're hungry, you can get bagels and lox or a corned beef and cabbage sandwich any time, day or night. In addition to truly massive sandwiches, Katz's offers great comfort food like matzoh ball soup, spaghetti and meatballs and breakfast served all day and night. Oh, and if you're feeling truly adventuresome, check out the dessert case. "World's tallest 7-layer chocolate cake"? Don't mind if I do.
7. Ruchis There are six Ruchis El Rincón de Méxicos in the greater Houston area, and most of them are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to satisfy all your nighttime Tex-Mex cravings. Where else can you get mesquite-seasoned tilapia filets with grilled shrimp, rice, french fries and salad for $14 in the wee hours of the morning? Only here. Okay, actually, there's one other place I know of, and it's also on the list. But when you're craving the greasy, fatty, Tex-Mex food of your youth, chances are Ruchis is only a short
drive cab ride away.
6. Dot Coffee Shop The coffee shop that "never locks its doors" opened in Houston in 1967. At the time, it was the first concept from the Pappas brothers, who now have a Houston empire. If your idea of comfort food falls more in line with chicken-fried steak, bacon cheeseburgers and buffalo wings than queso and enchiladas, Dot is sure to satisfy. The retro eatery promises made-from-scratch food comparable to what grandma used to make. As at Waffle House, breakfast is served all day and all night, but Dot's list of breakfast items, like French toast and banana nut pancakes, is far more extensive than ol' WaHo's.
5. House of Pies Anyone who knows me is aware of how much I love House of Pies. It's within walking distance from my house, and it's open 24 hours a day, which makes it the ideal late-night eatery. Plus, I don't have to decide between greasy-spoon grub or awesome desserts, because HOP has both. It's currently closed for renovations after a fire that shuttered it in early November, but the owners have assured Houstonians that they will have pie for Christmas this year. I don't know about you, but that's all I want for Christmas: Bayou Goo at 3 a.m. once again. Dear Santa, I hope you're listening.
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4. Spanish Flowers When dining in the middle of the night, one often has to choose convenience over taste. Is it open? Yes. Then it's going to have to do. Not so with Spanish Flowers, which is just as delicious during the day as it is in the dark after several margaritas. Piping hot, freshly made tortillas and bright, zingy salsa will go a long way toward perking up the evening, while the thick, creamy queso del mar or earthy enchiladas mole will soak up any alcohol left in your stomach while simultaneously tantalizing your tastebuds. It closes only between 10 p.m. Tuesday night and 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.
3. Pho Binh by Night Three words: Bone. Marrow. Pho. Yes, there are other restaurants that rank higher than Pho Binh on this list, but that single dish makes it one of my favorites, and a favorite among many other night owls in Houston. Pho Binh by Night in Alief is open until 3 a.m. on the weekends, and it's well worth the drive out of the Loop for some of that heavenly pho. It's rich and sumptuous and not at all the austere beef broth you might get at a shop in Midtown (though that pho is good, too). This is the king of pho, brought to you by an unassuming little spot in a strip center primed and ready for some late-night eats and people-watching.
2. Mai's Restaurant Mai's edges out Pho Binh for one reason, and one reason only: It's open later. This Vietnamese Midtown staple is open until 3 a.m. weeknights and 4 a.m. on the weekends. The pho at Mai's may not quite live up to the pho at Pho Binh, but everything else on the extensive menu is a safe bet -- be you tipsy or otherwise. Mai is great for lunch, dinner or trying-to-avoid-a-hangover meals, and the bo luc lac -- Mai's signature garlic beef, made with filet mignon -- is a hit regardless of your blood alcohol level. On weekends, you'll find yourself dining among folks in dinner jackets, jeans and tattoos, and just about everything in between.
1. Pi Pizza Truck Good news! You don't have to make it to your car for outstanding late-night grub; Pi Pizza Truck has got you covered. The truck, available for delivery till 3:30 a.m., is slinging some serious pies, from the wild-game-topped Outdoorsman -- with venison sausage and port wine syrup-coated cherries -- to the massive bacon-mac-and-cheese-topped Who's the Mac. Of course, it's not just available for delivery. If you can make your way to the truck itself after a night out, the massive slices may aid in soaking up that booze. At least it's a start. And if you're one of the lucky few who shelled out for a Pi Pizza Truck tattoo recently, then congrats: Your slice is on the house.