Houston, Texas, may be well-known for its heat and humidity, but the city’s thriving food paradise can make any hesitant Northerner brave the extreme temperatures for its delicious offerings. Home to the third-largest Vietnamese population in the United States, the metropolitan area boasts some of the best Vietnamese food in the nation. With both old and new, traditional and modern, Houston’s diverse foodfare symbolizes the resilient and continually shifting character of Vietnamese American gastronomy in the coastal region.
Just one look down Bellaire Boulevard in Houston and one can find a mix of phở, bánh mì, and cơm tấm shops on every street corner, offering yummy dishes and drinks for locals and tourists alike. But traditional fare aside, Houston has also been the hotbed for creative fusions, innovative cooking, and avant-garde culinary experiments because of its diverse and multicultural immigrant communities.
In recent years, Viet-Cajun cuisine has become a staple part of the metropolitan city, bringing renowned journalists, TV hosts, and documentarians to the coast in search of the food’s delightful origin story. Blending Cajun and other Southern-based ingredients with characteristic Vietnamese accoutrements, Viet-Cajun cuisine exemplifies one of the many cross-cultural exchanges that have occurred in the city’s history of migration and contact.
With the ever increasing number of Vietnamese restaurants in Houston’s growing metroplex, choosing a good spot to eat can be overwhelming. Little Saigon, wedged between Chinatown and Midtown, offers a robust selection of food that will require repeated trips to the Bayou City just to sample its eclectic menu items. Below are 10 restaurants that have passed the test of deliciousness, offering everything from Viet-Cajun crawfish to a ten-course buffet menu.
Kim Son Buffet (10603 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77072)
If you only have one day in Houston, there’s no better place to try Vietnamese food than at Kim Son Buffet. located in the heart of Bellaire’s busy neighborhood, the restaurant boasts a cornucopia of small Vietnamese plates and noodle dishes from North to South. You’ll have the opportunity to try a little bit of everything—from bún bò huế and bún riêu to rice cakes and sweet chè desserts that will have you coming back for more.
The Blind Goat (409 Travis St Suite 367, Houston, TX 77002)
The Blind Goat, Christine Ha’s Houstonian gastropub, is the perfect place for drinks and elevated Vietnamese and Asian comfort food offering tasty treats such as Vietnamese steak and eggs (lunch), crab and garlic noodles (dinner), and Vietnamese coffee panna cotta (all day). The blind “MasterChef'' season 3 winner who stole Gordon Ramsey’s heart with her rustic apple pie recipe may just steal yours with her signature “Rubbish Apple Pie,” a decadent and fruit-laden pastry — packed with Vietnamese flourishes like star anise, lemongrass, ginger, and fish sauce caramel.
Bun Cha Ca Da Nang (12168 Bellaire Blvd #333, Houston, TX 77072)
Bún Chả Cá Đà Nẵng has my father’s personal approval as a Da Nang native. Well known for its fresh seafood and quality fish, Da Nang’s most famous dishes have found its way to a warmly lit, down-to-earth establishment on the Gulf Coast. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant’s signature item is its bún chả cá, a noodle dish with fried fish cake and Central Vietnamese spices like mắm ruốc. For visitors from out of town, the counter has an array of fish cakes for to-go purchases for you to make the noodles at home. The restaurant also has a variety of other plates, including bánh xèo, the sizzling pancakes, and mì quảng, a rice noodle dish paired with pork, shrimp, and a rich bone broth.
Crawfish & Noodles (11360 Bellaire Blvd #990, Houston, TX 77072)
Chef Trong Nguyen’s restaurant Crawfish & Noodles has been mentioned practically everywhere—the Netflix series Ugly Delicious, Eater, The New York Times, you name it. If you want to enjoy a sensational, mouth-watering tub of fresh Viet-Cajun crawfish, there’s no better place to get it. The restaurant hand-selects giant crawfish for their dishes and tosses them with savory Vietnamese-inspired blends of garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and Cajun seasoning. Come during the spring crawfish season to enjoy the best seafood in the Gulf region!
Cajun Kitchen (6938 Wilcrest Dr Suite E, Houston, TX 77072)
If you can’t get enough of Viet-Cajun, Cajun Kitchen is another great restaurant to try in the area. Here, your selections of Vietnamese, Cajun, and Viet-Cajun cuisine are endless—just take your pick between appetizers like crawfish puffs wrapped in wonton and oyster nachos; main entrees like crawfish creole pasta, po-boys, and crab fried rice; and desserts like bread pudding and a side of corn nuggets.
Thiên Thanh Restaurant (11210 Bellaire Blvd, #140)
Everyone comes to Thiên Thanh for banh cuốn, the thin and silky steamed rice cakes that come with a variety of meat and vegetable fillings, toppings, and fish sauces. Traditionally a breakfast item, you can have them plain with just sauce or filled with minced pork, wood-ear mushrooms, or escargot. There are so many options that you might have to make a hard decision—or try them all.
Com Ga Houston (11505 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77072)
I can always appreciate a place that dedicates itself to one special ingredient, and Com Ga Houston is just that. Gà, the Vietnamese word for “chicken,” makes an appearance in nearly all the dishes on the restaurant’s menu and is always served fresh and delicious. The most famous dish is the chicken rice plate (“Com Ga”), which comes with soft and tender chicken served on a bed of fragrant rice and a delicious fish sauce dip. For those who prefer a different bird, the menu also offers a variety of duck plates such as cháo vịt (duck congee rice soup), gỏi vịt bắp cải (duck cabbage salad), or bún măng vịt (vermicelli noodle soup with duck and bamboo shoots).
Bun Bo Hue Duc Chuong Midnite (12148 Bellaire Blvd #124, Houston, TX 77072)
All the Vietnamese foodies I know love a good bún bò Huế, and Bun Bo Hue Duc Chuong does not disappoint. The deep bone broth blends perfectly with flavorful aromatics like lemongrass to give the noodle soup its signature umami kick. Paired with thinly sliced beef, blood cubes, and a plate of mixed vegetables, the dish takes your average beef noodles to the next level.
Hong Kong City Mall (11205 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77072)
If you’re hoping to catch a break from all the savory food you’ve been eating, walk around Hong Kong City Mall to browse clothing and jewelry shops, drink some boba, or try some delectable Vietnamese desserts at indoor cafes. The City Mall, also known as the Hong Kong Food Market, showcases the cultural flair of Bellaire’s surrounding Vietnamese Chinese communities. Whether you come for groceries or just want to window shop, it’s definitely worth a tour!
Nam Giao (6938 Wilcrest Dr Ste C Houston, TX 77072)
A favorite of my family’s is a small central Vietnamese mom-and-pop shop called Nam Giao. Well-known for their big platter of little bánh bèo plates (rice cake with pork topping), bánh bột lọc (chewy dumplings wrapped in banana leaves), and bún bò huế (beef noodle), the restaurant will transport you the heart of central Vietnamese cooking with its delicate flavors and fish sauce aromas. Every menu item comes at a reasonable price, so ordering one of their party tray options for a night out with friends might not be a bad idea.