It’s no secret. Texas has fantastic food. But, one thing I’ve noticed lately, having lived in this state for the past eight years, is that the bar is propelling skyward. Sure, central Texas has always held the national attention when it comes to BBQ and our love of brisket, but there’s so much more food recognized now. Houston is America’s most diverse city, San Antonio has always had a strong Mexican culture, but in today’s food world, these places are delivering on different levels.
Look, I’m fat. I know a few things in this world: where to get a beer in a dive, where the bookstores are, and where to eat. I obsess about food. I don’t watch movies. I watch people argue about egg consistency on cooking shows or work on mastering it on my own in my home kitchen.
Plus, thanks to Coronavirus, a lot of our mom and pop businesses are struggling. It’s essential to showcase the meals we love around the country and the world. There’s too much good food out there to let it go to waste.
If you’re ever coming through the Lone Star State, by all means, grab some Snow’s BBQ in Giddings, or hit Blood Brother’s down in Houston. But, don’t think this place is just Tex-Mex and smoked meats because there’s plenty that’ll surprise you. Here are a few places I’ve hit that I love.
Rudy’s Breakfast Tacos – Statewide
Rudy’s isn’t a deep dark secret or anything. It’s a solid BBQ chain that’s across the whole state. The food is always reliable. You could call it the McDonald’s of BBQ, but that’s a disservice because it’s continually substantial when provisions are provision-less. But, what’s the secret weapon at Rudy’s is that they sell made to order breakfast tacos. If you’re not from Texas, breakfast tacos are a thing here. And really, what’s not to love about endless varieties of bacon, egg, and cheese in a tortilla? They’re always cheap and fast and are arguably the state breakfast with kolaches being the only other possible competitor.
What sets Rudy’s breakfast tacos apart is that there are options. Scrambled eggs, beans made from leftover brisket, potatoes, brisket, etc. Plus, they hook it up. A breakfast taco from Rudy’s isn’t some tiny little snack. It’s a meal. Get there before 11 and give their breakfast tacos a whirl. While you can grab one anywhere, I dare you to try a few combinations and say they’re not a top taco when it comes to morning meals.
M & M Grill – Houston
Zero bullshit: the best burger in Houston is in this tiny spot with terrible parking called M & M Grill. The menu is half Arabic/halal. The other is Tex-Mex. But everything is incredible. If you’re looking for a Frankenstein burger that’s loaded and spilling over with ingredients, don’t sleep on this spot. From grilled jalapeno burger to a mango habanero, or their take on the spicy chicken, this spot has everything for the carnivore, but also if someone is vegan, too. Walking in, you’ll immediately wonder if you’re in the right place because it doesn’t look like your average burger joint, thanks to such a diverse menu. But, even if you’re not feeling a burger that day, the halal, tacos, everything is devastating.
Despite just mentioning a solid burger, I’ve been working diligently on cutting my meat intake down. I try to eat a 75/25 vegetarian diet these days for my stomach health. That said, I try a lot of shitty vegan/vegetarian food in the process of finding the good stuff. I go down to Galveston regularly, and let me tell you – Pho20’s vegetable pho is the best I’ve had anywhere. I’ve had pho all over this country and in Sydney and let me tell you. This is hands down The Best—fresh veggies, adequately taken care of tofu, and an ultra-flavorful broth.
A few weeks back, I was drunk as fuck down in San Antonio for my dude’s wedding. After wandering the streets looking for a halfway decent dive open during COVID, we ended up saying screw it and hit a food truck. Friends, lemme shoot you straight: this unassuming little spot has the best birria tacos I’ve ever had. They do the sauce, the cheese, everything right. Plus, they sell these badass street tacos, and all of it is so cheap. If I’m drunk, I’m after grease and substance. Aye-Geez straight up did not disappoint whatsoever. I wanted to fuck my food. When you’re in SA, look for the little blue truck.
Another Galveston spot. Island-themed food that’s creative packed with bold, bright flavors, and they don’t skimp on portion size. If you’re a salad person, this is the best option for a green, leafy salad with all sorts of exciting ingredients. They also have a ton of treats from a local bakery. The staff is always relaxed and mellow.
I’ve lived in the south for a long time, but I’m originally from Chicago. So, I’ve still got a soft spot in my heart for “yankee food” like bagels and pastrami. Big City Bagels does both 100% right. The little Northwest Austin storefront has no bells and whistles. There’s no fun, ironic music playing or exciting décor. It’s a man and his griddle—no need for small talk. The bagels, sandwiches, and vibes do the talking. If you’re from the north need a bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel, this is the destination. The same goes for proper pastrami with Russian dressing. Everything is untouchable.
Should I follow this up? Let me know. I’ll drop some more knowledge if anyone wants more pro-tips on spots around the country where I end up stopping for tacos and a tallboy.
Robert Dean is a journalist living down in Austin, Texas. His work has been featured in Forbes, Consequence of Sound, Austin American-Statesman, Mic, Fatherly, Daily Grindhouse, and Farce the Music, to name a few. He's also been on CNN and NPR.