Updated July 2021. Originally published in 2021.)
Notable craft BBQ in a cozy backyard spot near the Woodlands
$$ | BBQ
Quality Tex-Mex and outstanding margaritas
Solid Tex-Mex entrees and big margaritas are the main attraction at this family-owned Tex-Mex spot. Owner Adan Medina and his family differentiate their place with delicious flavored margaritas; we’re partial to the Avocado Margarita, which is smooth and delicious. Service is prompt and professional in both the big dining room and the cozy bar.
$$ | Mexican
Elevated Vietnamese Cuisine
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.
$$ | Vietnamese
Family favorite for upscale Tex-Mex
The Woodlands has no shortage of Mexican food, but Guadalajara Hacienda has been an area favorite for decades, thanks to its great service and a dependable kitchen. Seafood dishes stand out; the seafood enchiladas are unusual and lush. Ceviche is another standout, and looking around the dining room, you’ll see no shortage of the well-crafted margaritas. Stylish, upscale setting, ample parking.
$$ and $$$ | Mexican
Happy Hour and Outdoor Dining
Steaks and Italian in a surprisingly fashionable hideaway
We never expected to find good food in the Holiday Inn off Research east of I-45. So we were pleasantly surprised by Johnny’s Italian Steak House, a mid-priced steakhouse that also features some very good Italian dishes. We’re particularly fond of their happy hour offerings – well priced appetizers perfect for sharing.
Service is attentive without being intrusive and the room is beautiful and cozy, making it perfect for a getaway with that special someone. Johnny’s demonstrates that you don’t have to pay a lot to enjoy a quality steak in a beautiful setting.
$$ and $$$ | Italian and Steaks
Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room
Authentic Local Ramen Bar
Ramen lovers rejoice – The Woodlands now has a legitimate spot to relax with a soulful bowl of ramen. The talented chef hails from Japan, as does the savvy manager, and they bring their expertise in this surprisingly intricate cuisine to The Woodlands area.
The tightly edited menu features several varieties of ramen; we recommend starting with the traditional tonkatsu and working your way through the well curated options. Service is friendly and professional, and the small room is beautifully adorned with custom artwork commissioned locally by the owners.
$$ | Japanese
Affordable Tex-Mex from a local chain
Mama Juanita’s is a Conroe-based chain of Tex-Mex restaurants that offers some of the best values in town. From the wide variety of enchiladas to the plentiful seafood options to the traditional combo plates, there’s something here to please anyone. Happy hour offers great drink specials; service is friendly. The space is simply decorated and clean, and filled with patrons enjoying the very good food with family and friends.
$ and $$ | Mexican
Upscale Tex-Mex from the popular Houston chain
Houstonians love Pappas restaurants, and Pappasitos is perhaps their most popular brand. Huge margaritas, well executed Tex-Mex classics, large portions, and great service are hallmarks of this busy local chain. Prices can be a bit surprising to those who frequent small Tex-Mex joints, but regulars say that the quality, quantity, and experience make it well worth it. Insiders know about half-price fajita Wednesday, a great bargain.
$$$ | Mexican
Dallas-based chain specializing in upscale comfort food and whiskey
Whiskey Cake packs ’em in with locally-sourced comfort food in a trendy, upscale setting. The big room fills with families and groups enjoying upscale spins on classic dishes. Whiskey selection is impressive, and the signature Whiskey Cake dessert should not be missed.
$$ and $$$ | American, Brunch, and Burgers
Brunch, Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room