Year-round access to fresh and diverse produce, surrounding acres of ranch land, the bountiful Gulf of Mexico, and a vibrant international population have given rise to some of the most well-regarded, eclectic, and exciting restaurants in Houston. And they're family-friendly to boot!
1/The Chocolate Bar
1835 West Alabama St., Montrose
You could say we have a soft spot in our hearts for dessert shops, but The Chocolate Bar has probably led to more soft places in our tummies. Single slices of up to 14 unique cakes are on display, which my son claims are big enough for a mammoth. An additional 20 custom ice cream flavors also are available for those who like their chocolate cold. And that’s just one side of the store, as the other half is devoted to everything chocolate: chocolate-dipped Twinkies, Oreos, fortune cookies plus chocolate pizza, chocolate cowboys, chocolate boots… well, you get the picture. If it can be made with or covered in chocolate, you’ll find it here. Additional location: Museum District/Rice Village. $$
KidTripster Tip: Next door to both Chocolate Bar locations is the equally delightful Candylicious with retro, bulk, and novelty candy. Gather up your sugar fix for the year!
2/The Hobbit Café
2243 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby
Brunch? Lunch? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Whatever your little hobbits are in the mood for, The Hobbit Café has you covered. Open since January 1972, much prior to The Lord of the Rings movie craze, the restaurant serves themed-sandwiches like The Gandalf (avocado and mushroom with melted cheese), Bilbo the Magnificent (guacamole, tomato, cucumbers, and alfalfa with mayo), and the Fatty Lumpkin (tuna salad with tomato and melted cheese). With spectacular Hobbit-sized portions, their burgers, enchiladas, and award-winning vegetarian options will satisfy the whole Shire. Oh, and don't forget the yummy smoothies! $
1600 McKinney St., Downtown Houston
Lake House sticks to Texas staples like burgers, hot dogs, and tacos with a pleasant staff and lovely atmosphere. Located within Discovery Green, it’s a great place to grab a bite surrounded by a lake, playground, splash pad, and the library. It's fully accessible by rail and bus. The fresh lemonade is my family’s favorite. $$
3422 N. Shepherd Dr., Garden Oaks
Cottonwood is a unique Houston experience, tucked into a busy location in Garden Oaks. Laid-back Houston culture is on full display here, as there’s a splendidly-serviced bar with craft cocktails next door to outdoor picnic tables and bean bag tosses. Take a slow Texas-style start to the day with a breakfast panini, Tres Leches French Toast, or the filling biscuits and gravy plate, or knock down a lunch panini or burger. The young hipster staff is absolutely outstanding with our three wild hungry boys and never bat an eye at our requests for high chairs, lidded cups or extra napkins. Our kids regularly massacre the donut holes served with a special dipping sauce that is on the edge of too much yum! $$
KidTripster Tip: On the north corner of the restaurant, there’s a small entry through the fence to get to Graham Park. We always love to run around while waiting for food or afterward our meal.
2220 Bevis St., The Heights
With three boisterous boys, we’re always on the lookout for spacious and relaxing outdoor seating, and CRISP fulfills our needs with its 5,000-square-foot patio and garden. It has options galore with heavy hitter meals like Beer Can Chicken, Surf and Turf Risotto, and Grilled Beef Tenderloin competing with equally-transcendent lighter dishes such as Grilled Spiedini, Tossed Scampi Di Mare, and our favorite, the Vegetarian Gyro Plate with chickpea fritters. We always end our mountainous meals with Death by Brownie, covered in red wine chocolate fudge. $$$
One of the best deals in Houston for local, organic, fresh meals, Ruggles Green is the first place that we go with our gluten-free, vegetarian, and dairy-free friends. Ruggles uses locally-sourced produce from our favorite farmers market vendor, Gundermann Farms. We also tend to end up here frequently due to the kids’ meals that mimic the quality of the adult versions with ample portion sizes that would satisfy teenagers or potentially be split between smaller kids. $$
7/Goode Co. BBQ
5109 Kirby Dr., Museum District/Rice University
You can’t come to Houston and not have BBQ, so start your journey here. Meats by the pound have been slow-smoked with mesquite at Goode Co. BBQ for the past 35 years, and the craftsmanship shows. It has comparably quick service for BBQ, sassy western décor, and great outdoor seating on busy Kirby Drive. The beef brisket is my family’s choice with a healthy side of homemade jalapeño cheesebread. And don’t forget their iconic pecan pie on your way out the door! Additional locations: Katy, Northwest Houston. $$
1000 West Gray St., Montrose
Pizaro’s Pizza offers excellent handcrafted pizza fired in a brick oven at 900°F. Pizzas are cooked in 90 seconds and served straight to your table with fresh, whole milk mozzarella and sauce from real San Marzano tomatoes. Enjoy bringing in your own bottle of wine to this pizzeria, and if you haven’t had enough, take a shot at the Nutella Flatbread topped with powdered sugar for dessert. Staff is very welcoming to kids, as my boys love running up to the counter to chat; they always respond in kind and answer the boys’ bizarre questions. Additional location: Memorial West. $$
9/Bernie's Burger Bus
5407 Bellaire Blvd., Bellaire
Another burger location? Yes, because the burgers are made from grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free natural black angus brisket and chuck – a mouthful, just like the food. The condiments here are scratch-made, and you have eight different options for fries and shakes. With local favorites Saint Arnold and Karbach on tap, hop on Bernie’s Burger Bus for ride to burger heaven! Additional location: Katy. $$
10/Natachee's Supper 'n Punch
3622 Main St., Midtown
Natachee’s Supper ‘n Punch serves up real, down-home southern fare for those in search of home cooking. Their signature alcoholic punches, fried pickles, and all-day breakfasts exemplify Houston’s unique, diverse, and laid-back foodie culture. My boys love watching the trains pass on the outdoor patio, and they fight over the vintage lunch boxes that the kids’ meals are delivered in. $$
Carla Reed and her three boys visit the Houston farmers market every Saturday to stalk the chefs purchasing their ingredients to decide where to eat out. But she can also throw down a burger with the best of them.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.