The Expert Guide to the Best Restaurants in the Woodlands

In search of a great meal? We present our list of the best restaurants in the Woodlands and surrounding areas, as of the summer of 2020. Thanks to the global pandemic, some new openings and revisits, there have been several changes to the list since our last update.

Our expert panel of foodies, chefs, and writers have worked together to assemble this guide. We’ve seen lots of these sorts of lists published, but they usually leave us scratching our heads and wondering how some marginal establishments made the list. To make our list, a restaurant has to deliver a consistently great experience, and has to make foodies want to come back for more.

(Our expert panel is anonymous by design, so restaurants aren’t tempted to provide special service.)

We defined “The Bubble” as the region bounded by I-45, Sawdust Road, FM 2978, and FM 1488. We’ve included a few select restaurants outside the bubble if they’re outstanding and close enough to be a reasonable drive for dinner.

Dining Destinations - Three Stars

These restaurants are among the best in the entire Houston area, if not the state.

Raising the bar for dining in the Woodlands

TRIS

Chef-driven restaurants are rare in The Woodlands, but Chef Austin Simmons demonstrates how successful they can be. Formerly known as Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, TRIS features innovative cuisine, and everything from the outstanding burgers to the most elaborate entree shows the kind of attention to detail that is the hallmark of a great restaurant. Chef Austin has the uncanny knack of combining diverse and unique ingredients into dishes that surprise and delight, while maintaining the integrity of the cuisine. Steaks are also a strength; prime, of course, but Akaushi Texas Wagyu and in-house dry aged cuts are offered as well, and Japanese A5 (Miyazaki) is available for the true connoisseur.

TRIS has a bit of a split personality. Upscale and slightly formal at dinner, much more casual at lunch. Happy hour is a great time to sample different dishes (including that incredible burger); the well-priced list of offerings is the perfect way to begin your night out.

Many establishments slip a notch when the name on the door isn’t in the house, but not Tris; Simmons has created a well oiled machine. Chef Cortney Taraboi helms the kitchen in the maestro’s absence, and we can’t detect any difference at all. That is the mark of an outstanding organization.

 

Read our full review >

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$$$ and $$$$ | American, Burgers, Seafood, and Steaks
Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room

24 Waterway Avenue | The Woodlands 77380
281-203-5641
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World-class Mexican cuisine in a cozy setting

Belly of the Beast

To say we were impressed by Belly of the Beast is an understatement. Chef Thomas Bille has brought his Los Angeles and Downtown Houston sensibilities (Ritz Carlton, Ford’s Filling Station, Otium, Xochi) to a small family restaurant in Old Town Spring, and the results are exceptional. From the first bite of the sharp, blindingly fresh housemade ceviche to the rich, nuanced, layered flavors of the Mexican Hummus and the Yellowfin Tuna Tostada, BotB surprises and delights.

The breadth and complexity of the tacos is simply astounding. From the vegetarian Calabacitas (summer squash, yellow corn, poblano cremata, burrata) to the lush Carne Asada (citrus marinated flank steak, grilled onions, guacsalsa), to the surprising K-Town (smoked Berkshire shoulder, Korean glaze, miso yogurt, scallion kimchi), to the phenomenal Birra (Prime beef, queso chihuahua, onions, cilantro, salsa roja) Chef Thomas delivers bites that are nothing short of a revelation. Cozy, comfortable setting; gets busy on weekends… but it’s well worth the wait.

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$$ | Mexican
Outdoor Dining

26510 Border St | Spring 77373
In Old Town Spring
346-351-1153
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Modern American bistro in an upscale park setting

Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar

Housemade is a term you’ll hear at Fielding’s Local. Owner Cary Attar is passionate about the details, and his customers are the beneficiaries. His partner, Chef Edel Goncalves, has created a tightly edited menu featuring local, all-natural, and organic ingredients. This chef-driven approach to the food delights and surprises, be the dish based on pan-roasted chicken, housemade bacon, or 44 Ranch beef.

Creekside Park has a genuine destination restaurant. The airy, modern bar doesn’t disappoint, with superb craft cocktails and a rotating selection of beers on tap.

Read our full review >

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$$$ | American
Happy Hour and Outdoor Dining

26400 Kuykendahl Rd | Tomball 77375
281-351-2225
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Iconic Craft BBQ

CorkScrew BBQ

When Will Buckman quit his job with the phone company to focus on barbecue, some thought he was crazy. Our first taste of Will’s brisket, served from a trailer on Budde road, convinced us he was crazy like a fox. Along with wife Nichole, Buckman has built Corkscrew BBQ into one of the best BBQ joints in the world – Texas Monthly named them to their prestigious Top 10 list in 2017. From the superlative brisket to the gargantuan beef ribs (Saturday only) Corkscrew’s meats do not disappoint. But don’t skip the sides, or Nichole’s remarkable cobblers. And get there early. Corkscrew routinely sells out by mid-afternoon, and the line starts an hour or more before opening.

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$$ | BBQ
Outdoor Dining

26608 Keith St | Spring 77373
832-592-1184
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World class BBQ, outstanding specials

Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue

World class craft barbecue is the draw at Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue, a classic Texas barbecue joint located just off Main Street in Tomball. It’s also one of the best on the planet; in 2017, Texas Monthly ranked them #6 in the nation in their prestigious list. We agree. Pitmaster Scott Moore, Jr. and his brother (and chef) Greg smoke some of the best brisket, ribs, and sausage to be found in the state. Thursdays are a special treat, when housemade pastrami is added to the mix; don’t miss it. Wednesdays have become a big deal with the appearance of the Smoked Burger on the menu; it’s a destination burger worthy of a trip. (Update: The burger spawned its own restaurant.)

Read our full review >

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$$ | BBQ
Outdoor Dining

200 N Elm St | Tomball 77375
832-761-0670
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South African Cuisine in an upscale, modern setting

Peli Peli Woodlands

The Woodlands now has its own outpost of this incredibly popular Houston-based restaurant. Bringing the interesting (but not scary) cuisine of South Africa, Executive Chef Ryan Stewart’s team presents an intriguing array of grilled meats, seafood, and other dishes designed to please the jaded palate. Beautiful room is comfortable and inviting, slightly upscale but not stuffy. Owners and staff reflect the diversity of Houston.

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$$ and $$$ | American, Seafood, and Steaks
Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room

1201 Lake Woodlands Dr., Suite 304 | The Woodlands 77380
On the mall ring road, south side
281-257-9500
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Serious Steaks from a Master Chef

Killen’s Steakhouse

When Ronnie Killen announced he was coming to the Woodlands, locals stood up and took notice. Why? Because this classically-trained chef has developed a reputation for serving some of the best beef in Texas. Classic steakhouse vibe packs in hungry carnivores; expertly prepared steaks (wet aged, dry aged, and wagyu) brings ’em back for more.

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$$$ and $$$$ | Steaks
Happy Hour

1700 Research Forest Dr | Shenandoah 77381
281-323-4004
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Best Around Town - Two Stars

These restaurants deliver the best dining experiences in the Woodlands area.
(Presented in Alphabetical Order)

A casual, chef-driven steakhouse with a solid wine list

Burgers & Bordeaux

Don’t be fooled by the name; this neighborhood steakhouse has offerings that go far beyond burgers, and a sophisticated, well-curated wine list to match. Chef Charlie Watkins (Café Toulouse, Sierra Grill) takes his Inner Loop sensibilities to the Magnolia area, and locals can’t get enough of his well-executed, French-influenced cuisine. Appetizers are a particular strength; from the rich and bold Spicy Bacon Plate to the elegantly savory Warm Goat Cheese (with addictive basil tomato coulis), these small plates are perfect with a well-priced bottle of Old World or California wine. The eponymous burgers are thoughtfully conceived and expertly executed, and the house aged steaks are prepared with a deft touch.

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$$ and $$$ | Burgers and Steaks
Happy Hour and Private Room

4900 Farm to Market Rd 1488 | Conroe 77384
Marcel Town Center, 545 Woodland Square Blvd
936-242-1373
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Latin cuisine with a Texas flair

Churrascos

The Woodands outpost of Michael Cordua’s successful empire has hit its stride in the scenic waterway district. Delicious latin-influenced cuisine including Cordua favorites like the chimichurri-topped churrasco steak and the iconic tres leches are present and accounted for. New lighter options are available as well, all are skillfully executed by the well-managed staff.

Beautiful waterfront location with one of the most scenic patios in the Woodlands is perfect for happy hour; the bar is a hotspot after work. Well priced brunch is also turning heads.

Read our full review >

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$$$ | Latin American and Steaks
Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room

21 Waterway Avenue | The Woodlands 77380
281-367-1492
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Burgers and American favorites, chef-driven and scratch made

Fielding’s Wood Grill

Gourmet burgers cooked over a wood grill are the centerpiece at Fielding’s Wood Grill, the original member of the Fielding’s family of restaurants. Founder Cary Attar sweats the details, and believes in making everything in-house, from the custom grind of 44 Ranch Beef to the house cured bacon. Culinary Director Edel Goncalves takes these ingredients and creates unique burgers and an evolving menu of appetizers and entrees that keep the regulars coming back for more. The appeal of Fielding’s extends past the burgers; a very popular weekend brunch features creative spins on brunch classics, and the bartenders pull mugs from a great selection of locally brewed beers when they’re not slinging craft cocktails. Service is brisk and efficient.

Read our full review >

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$$ and $$$ | American and Burgers
Happy Hour and Outdoor Dining

1699 Research Forest Dr | Shenandoah 77380
832-616-3275
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Brazilian Steakhouse on Lake Woodlands

Fogo de Chao

Fogo de Chao is a carnivore’s delight. Bands of roaming gauchos patrol the dining room, offering diners slices from expertly roasted cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and more. But you won’t want to pass up the epic Market Table, an expansive display of charcuterie, cheeses, vegetables, and prepared creations. (It’s a filling meal by itself, and a bargain for lunch during the week.)

The Hughes Landing setting is upscale, airy, and comfortable. Service is professional without being stuffy.

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$$$ and $$$$ | Latin American and Steaks
Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room

1900 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 | The Woodlands 77380
In Hughes Landing's Restaurant Row
281-498-4200
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Serious chef-driven comfort food in a fast casual setting

The Kitchen

Fast casual meets upscale cuisine at The Kitchen, the laid-back cousin of the award-winning Tris. Don’t let the counter service fool you; Chef Austin Simmons has created a serious menu full of creative dishes. We’re especially fond of the Greek Chicken and the new Steak Salad. Burgerphiles love the Kitchen as well; Chef Austin knows his burgers. Breakfast/Brunch is another don’t miss; the addictive Cinnamon Roll Pancakes may be the best breakfast item around. Wine drinkers rejoice… the Kitchen sells wine at retail prices (not restaurant prices) so you can get a great bottle for as little as $10. Carefully curated craft beer selection. Service surprises for fast casual, GM Austen Goodwin and his team are raising the bar in this segment.

(Formerly Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen)

Read our full review >

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$$ | American, Burgers, Salads, and Sandwiches
Outdoor Dining

4526 Research Forest Dr | The Woodlands 77381
281-203-5650
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Handmade contemporary Italian cuisine

Papa Amadeus

Don’t be fooled by the modest strip center location. Papa Amadeus crafts some of the finest Italian food in the Woodlands area. Chef Arturo Huerta’s meticulous personal approach delivers delicious results. Everything is handmade in house; from the pastas to the balanced, classic sauces, to the more innovative dishes featured in the evenings. The classics are beautifully executed; we keep getting drawn in by the flawless chicken parmigiana and the light, pillowy gnocchi. Well priced, curated wine list.

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$$ | Italian

25602 I-45 Suite 101 | Spring 77380
Next to Firestone
281-719-5873
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Brooklyn-style pizza with a Texas accent

RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta

The Woodlands has no shortage of great pizza places. But one name comes up over and over when asked for recommendations. RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta serves honest-to-Vito New York street pizza, either traditional (cheese only) or with your choice of toppings. They’re serious about pizza: RC himself travels around the nation competing against the best pizza makers in the country, and has repeatedly brought home the hardware.

RC’s goes beyond pizza, with outstanding wings, delicious calzones, and great plated entrees. This isn’t your average pizza spot, which is why it earned a spot on our list.

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$ and $$ | Italian and Pizza

501 Sawdust Rd | Spring 77380
281-298-4663
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Contemporary Texas cuisine in a comfortably upscale room

The Republic Grille

The flavors of Texas are served up on a plate at The Republic Grille, a locally-owned bistro located centrally in the Woodlands (with a new, second location on the far west end). Entrees like chicken-fried steak, shrimp & grits, pork chops, and fried chicken satisfy the appetites of hungry Texans, and the upscale casual setting (featuring historic photos of the early days of the Woodlands by noted photographer Ted Washington) serves as a comfortable backdrop for families, couples, and groups of friends. The chicken-fried-steak is getting a bit of a reputation; numerous publications have named it among the Houston area’s best.

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$$ and $$$ | American and Salads
Outdoor Dining and Private Room

4775 W. Panther Creek, Suite 490 | The Woodlands 77381
(also 30340 FM 2978 Rd #800 / 281-789-7119)
281-789-7119
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Handcrafted burgers in a quaint small town setting

Tejas Burger Joint

The burger at Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue was just too good to offer one day a week, so Scott Moore and his team opened Tejas Burger Joint, offering a variety of superb, handcrafted burgers every day. The flagship Smokehouse Burger (ground brisket, smoked and then seared on a griddle, topped with housemade bacon and smoky cheddar) is one of the best burgers in the Houston area. Cozy, casual setting on Tomball’s Main Street.

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$$ | Burgers

214 W Main St | Tomball 77375
832-349-6116
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Seafood, Crab, and Steaks at Hughes Landing

Truluck’s

The popular seafood and steak chain has landed at Hughes Landing, and locals have already made it a preferred destination. Crabs are front and center, and Truluck’s does them well. Chef Shane Flynn is a master of seafood, and his menu reflects this expertise. Those wanting something less aquatic head for the selection of prime steaks and choice filets. Cocktail Hour at Truluck’s is a scene; the half-priced cocktails and nice selection of seafood appetizers satisfy those looking to see and be seen at the stylish bar.

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$$$$ | Seafood and Steaks
Happy Hour and Private Room

1900 Hughes Landing Blvd, Suite 600 | The Woodlands 77380
281-465-7000
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Upscale Italian in a cozy, romantic setting

Via Emilia

Great upscale Italian food can be tough to come by in the Woodlands, but Via Emilia is an exception to this rule. Tucked away in a strip center on Kuykendahl and Woodlands Parkway, Via Emilia prepares northern Italian specialities with verve and aplomb, and the gracious staff provides flawless service in the lovely dining room. Skillfully prepared seafood, meats, and pastas are great choices, and be sure to save room for the stellar limoncello cake.

Read our full review >

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$$$ | Italian
Happy Hour and Private Room

10700 Kuykendahl Rd | The Woodlands 77381
281-465-9555
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Modern Italian in a chic, upscale setting

Zanti Cucina Italiana

Upscale Italian cuisine comes to the Northwest Woodlands with the opening of Zanti Cucina Italiana, the brainchild of three brothers who bring extensive food & beverage background to this new endeavor. Outstanding housemade pastas, Neapolitan pizzas, and strict attention to detail are the draws here. You don’t have to drive downtown for a great Italian meal anymore… or even to the front of the Woodlands.

Read our full review >

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$$ and $$$ | Italian and Pizza
Happy Hour and Private Room

10000 Research Forest Drive | The Woodlands 77354
281-259-1300
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Foodie Favorites - One Star

These restaurants serve very good food that consistently exceeds expectations.
(Presented in Alphabetical Order)

Cali-Mex Cuisine in a festive spot on Waterway Square

Baja Cantina

Baja is the region of Mexico south of California, and Baja Cantina brings California’s spin on Mexican food to the Woodlands. A talented team has come together to bring this lighter take on Mexican cuisine to the business types who congregate at lunch, families at dinner, and the millennial party crowd on weekends. We think all groups will enjoy such specialities as the spectacular tuna soft taco, the huge nacho tower, and the unique pork belly and mint salad. Cocktail program looks promising; their margarita was smooth and flavorful, with unique herbal accents that aren’t usually found ’round these parts. House made aqua frescas will keep the designated driver delighted.  Just don’t come looking for Tex-Mex; Baja Cantina is a whole different state of Mexican food.

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$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour and Outdoor Dining

24 Waterway Ave Suite 160 | The Woodlands 77380
Waterway Square
832-432-2252
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South-Texas-Style BBQ served from a food truck

BBQ Godfather

Do you like your barbecue with a little kick? Then BBQ Godfather has you covered. Award-winning competition pitmaster Tony Faour brought his South Texas style ‘Q to Deacon Baldy’s food truck park, and the locals have been lining up ever since. Each meat gets a unique rub, and the perfect sauce is available for those who prefer it. From the delicious pork ribs to spicy brisket, BBQ Godfather offers unique versions of all the Texas BBQ classics. Sides are top notch as well; don’t miss the sweet potato casserole or the mac & cheese burnt ends. Sandwiches come on a crusty Italian loaf… just don’t call it French bread, or you risk the ire of the Godfather himself.

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$ and $$ | BBQ
Outdoor Dining

5447 Fm 1488 Rd | Magnolia 77354
713-828-5960
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A broad array of modern comfort food in a sleek setting

Black Walnut Cafe

Black Walnut is perhaps the biggest success story for restaurants originating in the Woodlands. Founded by serial restaurateur George Pallotta, the organization has spread statewide under the Black Forest Ventures umbrella. Why? Big portions of chef-created comfort food, served in an upscale, fast-casual setting. Sandwiches are a big deal here, and the broad menu offers something for everyone. We’re especially fond of the terrific pasta dishes; some proven recipes that have been popular for years, and some brand new ones.

Don’t skip brunch; it’s very popular. And save room for dessert.

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$$ | American and Burgers
Outdoor Dining and Private Room

9000 New Trails Drive | The Woodlands 77381
281-362-1678
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Flawlessly Executed Carnival Cuisine

Buldogies

Foodies in search of the best hot dogs around make the hike up to Highway 105 to drop in at Buldogies. Inside they’ll find handcrafted versions of the food that’s found at a state fair… but prepared far better. Huge hot dogs made from quality ingredients and assembled with attention to detail are the centerpiece, but the excellent sandwiches, carnival favorites, and indulgent desserts delight kids and adults alike. Foodies jump right to the City Crafted Dogs or the Outlaws, each of which is a well-balanced dish with expertly layered flavors. This isn’t James Coney Island; you don’t need to order three, although you may want to try them all.

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$ | American and Sandwiches

14543 TX 105 #406 | Conroe 77304
936-588-6688
| Map

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Quality Tex-Mex and outstanding margaritas

Casa Medina

Solid Tex-Mex entrees and big margaritas are the main attraction at this family-owned Tex-Mex spot. Owner Adan Medina and his family differentiate their place with delicious flavored margaritas; we’re partial to the Avocado Margarita, which is smooth and delicious. Service is prompt and professional in both the big dining room and the cozy bar.

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$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour

28777 I-45 | Spring 77381
281-298-9866
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Upscale comfort food in a scenic lakeside location

Del Frisco’s Grille

We love the patio at Del Frisco’s Grille; the view over the lake is perhaps the best in The Woodlands. The food satisfies too; from the legendary Del Frisco steaks, to the enticing flatbreads, cheesesteak egg rolls (believe us, it works), and well executed entrees. At lunch, we’re especially fond of the Grille Prime Cheeseburger, a double-patty creation worthy of any burger lover’s attention.

The well-trained staff anticipates patrons’ needs and provides excellent service. Chef Brian McNamara serves up outstanding specials; call ahead to see what magic he’s worked today.

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$$ and $$$ | American and Steaks
Outdoor Dining and Private Room

1900 Hughes Landing Blvd #500 | The Woodlands 77380
281-465-0300
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Elevated Vietnamese Cuisine

EAD Vietnamese Restaurant

This hidden gem is an offshoot of Huynh, one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Houston, so we were excited to hear of its opening. Upon visiting, our high expectations were exceeded.

Soups are superb; the pho is rich and flavorful, and the chicken wonton is light years ahead of what you’ll find at a typical Chinese spot. But don’t miss the plated entrees; they are created with an eye to bold flavors and careful attention to detail.

The space is large, bright, and airy, with a sleek modern design. It’s quickly become our preferred Vietnamese destination in the Woodlands area.

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$$ | Vietnamese

17947 Interstate 45 S | Shenandoah 77385
281-651-2208
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Eclectic Family-Run Cafe

Eden Cafe

This family-run cafe has been making area diners happy with generous portions of eclectic, home-style cuisine. American favorites, Italian, and Cuban entrees are the highlights.

Owner Ulises Larramendi originally hails from Cuba, and he brings a gentle latin twist to American favorites. Service is friendly and reliable, and the family-friendly environment is filled with diners of all ages.

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$$ | American
Private Room

33418 Egypt Ln #16 | Magnolia 77354
832-934-2800
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Enticing Asian fusion in a cozy, family-run nook.

Fu Manchung

Temporarily Closed due to COVID-19

Delightfully quirky family-run Asian fusion spot with an enticing slate of unique and memorable dishes. These family recipes surprise and delight; highlights are the deep, rich pho, surprising noodle dishes, superb curry, and a slate of tasty and clever appetizers. Don’t skip the beverages; Café Su Da and Thai Milk Tea are both among the best we’ve sampled.

Calling the staff friendly does them a disservice; Paul and his team are incredibly personable and charming. Service is professional, with a delightfully personal touch. The setting is cozy, comfortable and spotless.

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$ and $$ | Vietnamese

3416 FM 2920 Suite 210 | Spring 77388
832-791-5873
| Map
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Upscale Tex-Mex from the iconic Houston family

Goode Co Kitchen & Cantina

Top notch fajitas and seafood, solid margaritas, and cold beer are the draws at this Houston-area transplant. The food is more Tex-Mex than Mexican, but big plates and well executed food rarely disappoint. Beautiful upscale setting, great service, and a professional staff draw the regulars back for more, eye-opening prices can surprise newcomers.

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$$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour and Outdoor Dining

8865 Six Pines Dr Ste 150 | Shenandoah 77380
281-826-5150
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Eclectic burgers with a variety of creative toppings

Grub Burger Bar

Towering custom burgers are on the menu at Grub Burger Bar, the Texas-based chain that foodies have grown very fond of. Skip your basic cheeseburger and go with one of the gourmet creations; the monthly specials are also often well worth trying. Save room for a milkshake; both the PG-rated and the boozy versions are very good. Fast casual service, but your food is delivered to the table, and you probably won’t see your server after that.

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$$ | Burgers, Salads, and Sandwiches
Outdoor Dining

2417 Research Forest Dr | The Woodlands 77381
281-907-9001
| Map
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Fresh and Healthy

Herb & Beet

Garden fresh salads, hefty sandwiches, and well conceived appetizers (try the avocado beet toast) are the draw at this Sawdust area restaurant featuring healthy ingredients from local sources. The modern, inviting room is a relaxing space to enjoy. Fast and friendly counter service makes it a perfect spot for a quick lunch.

Read our full review >

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$$ | American, BBQ, Salads, and Sandwiches
Outdoor Dining

448 Sawdust Road | The Woodlands 77380
at Budde
832-791-2338
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Big classic burgers in a modern malt shop setting

Jax Burgers, Fries & Shakes

Looking for a big, well-prepared burger without breaking the bank? Jax has you covered. This locally-owned restaurant chain specializes in half-pound burgers cooked the traditional way on a flat griddle. Execution is very good; the thick, juicy burgers are consistent and flavorful. Other options include third-pound burgers and an exceptional crispy chicken sandwich.

Jax has expanded from one location to several, and the quality has been maintained. Families and little league teams flock to Jax for a great burger at a great price, and it’s become a part of our regular burger rotation.

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$ | Burgers and Sandwiches

4334 FM 2920 | Spring 77388
(and other area locations - refer to website)
281-288-7711
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Steaks and Italian in a surprisingly fashionable hideaway

Johnny’s Italian Steak House

We never expected to find good food in the Holiday Inn off Research east of I-45. So we were pleasantly surprised by Johnny’s Italian Steak House, a mid-priced steakhouse that also features some very good Italian dishes. We’re particularly fond of their happy hour offerings – well priced appetizers perfect for sharing.

Service is attentive without being intrusive and the room is beautiful and cozy, making it perfect for a getaway with that special someone. Johnny’s demonstrates that you don’t have to pay a lot to enjoy a quality steak in a beautiful setting.

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$$ and $$$ | Italian and Steaks
Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room

19333 David Memorial Dr. | Shenandoah 77385
(Inside Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Shenandoah)
346-331-2060
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Creative Mexican food and Tex-Mex favorites

Julio’s Mexican Grill – Sawdust

The best Mexican restaurant in Magnolia has opened a second location on Sawdust road, and savvy locals are already converging. They’re drawn in by the impressive Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, which goes beyond the typical fajitas (although Julio’s are outstanding) to superb creations like the El Sabroso (lightly breaded chicken breast covered in a shrimp/poblano cream sauce). The menu is strong from top to bottom – street tacos are a don’t miss, and their al pastor may be the best on Houston’s north side. Service is friendly and professional.

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Delivery

$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour

544 Sawdust Road | The Woodlands 77380
(by PetCo)
281-419-5441
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Authentic Local Ramen Bar

Koji Ramen Bar

Ramen lovers rejoice – The Woodlands now has a legitimate spot to relax with a soulful bowl of ramen. The talented chef hails from Japan, as does the savvy manager, and they bring their expertise in this surprisingly intricate cuisine to The Woodlands area.

The tightly edited menu features several varieties of ramen; we recommend starting with the traditional tonkatsu and working your way through the well curated options. Service is friendly and professional, and the small room is beautifully adorned with custom artwork commissioned locally by the owners.

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Delivery (Doordash)

$$ | Japanese

25403 Interstate 45 | Spring 77380
832-823-5187
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Classic Italian, prepared skillfully from scratch

Nona’s Italian Grill

Foodies in search of outstanding Italian food have a surprising new spot to try. Chef owned and recently relocated to the Woodlands, Nona’s Italian Grill shows the kind of carefully crafted cuisine that is the hallmark of a memorable restaurant. From classics like the excellent Chicken Parmigiana to creative combinations featuring pastas, seafood, and outstanding steaks, we were impressed by quality of the ingredients, the solid execution, and the classic flavors of the signature sauces.

Located in a strip center on Highway 242 just west of I-45, Nona’s modest yet upscale setting is cozy, quiet, and perfect for date night. Nona’a is an excellent addition to the surprisingly thin Woodlands Italian landscape. Full bar, professional service.

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$$ and $$$ | Italian
Happy Hour

3091 College Park Dr #185 | The Woodlands 77384
936-224-3132
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Greek Cuisine and Live Entertainment

The Olive Oil

A classic Greek experience awaits hungry diners at The Olive Oil. Located in a huge strip center on Sawdust, The Olive Oil offers classic Greek cuisine, well prepared by the bustling kitchen. Favorites include the mixed grill (the marinade drizzles enticingly onto a bed of spinach beneath the meat) and the gyro. Families pack the restaurant on weekend nights, where belly dancers and musicians turn the dining room into a party.

Read our full review >

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Delivery

$$ | Greek

373 Sawdust Road | The Woodlands 77380
281-367-0114
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Upscale Tex-Mex from the popular Houston chain

Pappasito’s Cantina

Houstonians love Pappas restaurants, and Pappasitos is perhaps their most popular brand. Huge margaritas, well executed Tex-Mex classics, large portions, and great service are hallmarks of this busy local chain. Prices can be a bit surprising to those who frequent small Tex-Mex joints, but regulars say that the quality, quantity, and experience make it well worth it. Insiders know about half-price fajita Wednesday, a great bargain.

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$$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour

18101 I-45 South | Shenandoah 77385
936-271-9777
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Barbecue + Sushi

Q-Shi

When we heard about a little restaurant in Spring that was serving barbecue, sushi, and even some dishes that combined the two, we thought “that will never work.”  We’re glad to report that we were sadly mistaken. Ray Aker, the owner of Q-Shi, had a brilliant idea and did the hard work required to make it a reality.

Q-Shi is a very clever concept that combines southern-style barbecue with well executed sushi. The results are impressive; highlights include a Crispy BBQ Roll (an egg roll filled with brisket and cheese, then deep fried) and Smoked Meat Fried Rice (a combination of brisket, rib meat, and pulled pork, all chopped and blended into a traditional Asian fried rice). Some sushi rolls incorporate barbecue; some are more traditional.

The broad menu has something for everyone; the guy who loves sushi can enjoy it while the girl who prefers barbecue can get what she craves. Friendly, efficient service. Guy Fieri featured Q-Shi on his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, and after sampling much of the menu, we understand why.

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$$ | BBQ and Sushi

3422 FM 2920 Suite 220 | Spring 77388
281-233-1599
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Superb Tex-Mex in an unassuming strip center

Rita’s Cantina

When WAF member Bob Frasier dines at the same restaurant several times a week, it’s worth investigating. And we’re glad we did. Rita’s Cantina, located in a nondescript strip center off Hwy 249, is a restaurant we’d have driven by without noticing. But now we’re in on the secret.

Inside Rita’s is some of the best Mexican food in the Houston area. From beautifully composed combination plates to the sizzling fajitas, Rita’s food is several steps above the typical Mexican restaurant in the area. Both flavors and presentation are superb; chef Javier Gonzalez is one of the most talented in the city. His wife Judy oversees the comfortable dining room, filled with regulars who are in the know.

Read our full review >

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$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour

32015 TX-249 | Pinehurst 77362
(About 10 minutes from Woodlands Pkwy and 2978)
346-248-5097
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Great Tacos and Mexican dishes from a hidden gem

La Cocina de Roberto

A hidden gem at the far west end of Sawdust, La Cocina de Roberto began as a cozy little taqueria, serving the Timber Ridge neighborhood. But the savvy owners have added more full-fledged entrees to the menu, making it one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in the Woodlands. Tacos are still delicious: Carne asada and camerón are the standouts. Don’t miss the bargain faijta / shrimp combo, or the excellent chicken enchiladas.

Alcohol is BYOB – bring your own liquor, and Roberto will provide setups. You can’t beat a bargain margarita made with premium tequila.

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$ and $$ | Mexican
Private Room

3126 Sawdust Rd | The Woodlands 77380
832-299-6706
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Elevated Americanized Chinese Food

Shanghai Bistro

Suburban Chinese restaurants can be mind-numbingly predictable, but Shanghai Bistro brings its Manhattan sensibility to the Woodlands. No surprise, because the chef hails from New York City. His relocation brings a decidedly upscale approach to Americanized Chinese cuisine. Dishes that are often mundane are elevated by a savvy choice of better ingredients, and the housemade sauces are a welcome departure. Clean, airy setting in a strip center on Research near Gosling.

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$$ | Chinese

4223 Research Forest Dr #300 | The Woodlands 77381
281-298-9998
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World-class sandwiches in a strip center near the lake

Tony’s Italian Deli

Outstanding sub sandwiches are the draw at Tony’s Italian Deli, a notable sandwich shop in a nondescript strip center across from the entrance to April Sound. Founded by the prolific Ron Nicoletta, perfected by Hootie and Mary Trant, the new owners are moving forward with the original concept, and producing huge, tasty sandwiches that satisfy the crowd. This isn’t Subway, folks.

Choosing from the wall of options is tough. New visitors should resist the urge to build their own and delve into one of the recommended creations; our favorites are the J. Gandolfini (cold) and the Lucky Luciano (hot). Expect a filling meal, and another one at home with the half you couldn’t eat in the store.

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Delivery (Door Dash)

$$ | Italian and Sandwiches
Outdoor Dining

16235 TX 105 | Montgomery 77356
(across from April Sound)
936-588-4800
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