(Updated August 2022. Originally published in 2021.)
Notable craft BBQ in a cozy backyard spot near the Woodlands
🌟 — Notable in the Woodlands area.🥇 Best BBQ
There’s a new rising star on the north side craft BBQ scene, and their name is 3rd Coast BBQ. Pitmaster Troy Mulligan is a Houston native, and has mastered his art after driving around Texas and sampling ‘Q from dozens of the state’s top pits. His dedication and research is paying dividends: The centerpiece is superb brisket; remarkably moist, beautifully rendered, and with a cravable bark created by his top secret rub. Other proteins aren’t shortchanged; the pork ribs are savory masterpieces, with a plucky texture and effortless pull from the bone. Sausage should’t be overlooked; Troy makes an outstanding boudin, with perhaps the best meat/rice balance that we’ve come across. For those eating lighter, turkey is beautifully smoky and tender. Attention to detail shows in the sides (all made in-house, don’t miss the gently spicy street corn or the excellent buns and breads (all Slow Dough, the local baking wizards.) Open Thursday through Sunday, and they’re typically sold out by 4pm.
$$ | BBQ
Family-Run Small Business and Outdoor Dining
Airy sports bar with surprisingly good food🥈 Recommended American (Traditional)
Rayford Road gets a cool new sports bar with the opening of Buffalo Run. The open, airy room features tall ceilings, lots of TVs, and no smoking or vaping. Food surprises; the experienced chef turns out superb buffalo wings, big sandwiches and burgers, and terrific NY strip steak. Buffalo Bills fans congregate here during their games; it’s a little bit of upstate New York in the Woodlands Area.
$ and $$ | American (Traditional) and Burgers
Happy Hour and Outdoor Dining
Local Pizza Chain with Numerous Locations🥈 Recommended Pizza
Freshly cut toppings on a Chicago-style thin crust (yes, that’s a thing) are the draw at this local chain of pizza spots. From the original location, Crust has spread out all over the Woodlands area, bringing its popular gourmet pizzas, big salads, and Italian entrees to hungry families. Each Crust location has a different feel, but all share the same focus on fresh ingredients (dough is made several times a day, and never frozen or refrigerated) and great customer service.
$$ | Pizza, Salads, and Sandwiches
Big classic burgers in a modern malt shop setting🥈 Recommended Burger
Looking for a big, well-prepared burger without breaking the bank? Jax has you covered. This locally-owned restaurant chain specializes in half-pound burgers cooked the traditional way on a flat griddle. Execution is very good; the thick, juicy burgers are consistent and flavorful. Other options include third-pound burgers and an exceptional crispy chicken sandwich.
Jax has expanded from one location to several, and the quality has been maintained. Families and little league teams flock to Jax for a great burger at a great price, and it’s become a part of our regular burger rotation.
$ | Burgers and Sandwiches
Detroit-style pizza, sandwiches, and more🥈 Recommended Pizza
Detroit-style pizza is a big thing right now, and Jet’s Pizza are the experts, having been offering it since the 1970’s. Our local Jet’s, helmed by transplanted northerner Alex Mangiapane, serves an excellent rendition of the thick pillowy Detroit crust, complete with crispy edges on every piece. Jet’s sauce is nicely balanced and gently tangy. Texans may not be familiar with Detroit-style pizza, and that needs to change. We generally don’t recommend chain pizza places, but we’re happy to make an exception for Jet’s. We think you’ll like it.
$ and $$ | Pizza and Sandwiches
Sophisticated Indian cuisine in a cozy family-run setting
🌟🌟 — Among the best restaurants in the Woodlands area.🥇 Best Indian
Discerning foodies looking for a great Indian restaurant now have a solid local destination. Palette Indian Kitchen creates remarkably complex, subtly spiced dishes that will please the most demanding palate. From the scrumptious Chicken Popsicles, with their lush garlic lemon creme sauce, to the savory Lamb Seekh Kabob, boldly aromatic, herbal, moist and incredibly flavorful, there is a lot to love on the expansive menu. Surprises abound; we were tickled by the gently sweet Peshwari Naan (baked in the tandoori oven with coconut, nuts, and hints of cherry) and the Goan Shrimp Curry, a subtle curry with plump, beautifully cooked shrimp and layer upon layer of flavor. Don’t let the casual strip-center location fool you; this is a serious kitchen with serious food.
$$ | Indian
Family-Run Small Business, Good for Vegetarians, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room
Contemporary Texas cuisine in a comfortably upscale room
🌟 — Notable in the Woodlands area.🥈 Recommended American (Traditional)
The flavors of Texas are served up on a plate at The Republic Grille, a locally-owned bistro located centrally in the Woodlands (with a second location on the far west end, and a third on Rayford). Entrees like chicken-fried steak, shrimp & grits, pork chops, and fried chicken satisfy the appetites of hungry Texans, and the upscale casual setting (featuring historic photos of the early days of the Woodlands by noted photographer Ted Washington) serves as a comfortable backdrop for families, couples, and groups of friends. The chicken-fried-steak is getting a bit of a reputation; numerous publications have named it among the Houston area’s best.
$$ and $$$ | American (Traditional), Burgers, and Salads
Full Bar, Happy Hour, Live Music, Outdoor Dining, and Private Room
Family-run Mediterranean restaurant in a cozy strip center setting
Zara’s Mediterranean Kitchen is a family-run restaurant located in a strip center on Rayford Road. They focus on healthy, homemade food made from fresh ingredients. Locals rave about their multiple varieties of hummus, grilled meats, vegetarian options, quick service, and lovely setting.
$$ | Lebanese and Mediterranean
Catering, Family-Run Small Business, and Good for Vegetarians