Restaurants come and go as tastes change. However, there are some institutions that remain. Whether it’s because they mastered the puffy taco or their barbecue is the stuff of legend, there are a few places around the Lone Star State that have survived the test of time.
What are some of these eateries that define the Texas dining experience and at which every Texan should eat at least once before they die? These are the top 16.
Established in 1950, Whataburger is originally from Corpus Christi, Texas and those who hail from its state of origin have remained loyal for generations.
When it’s unmistakable orange and white striped bags turn up, everyone gets excited.
2. Moeller’s Bakery
4201 Bellaire Blvd, Houston
For four generations, this bakery has served up sweet treats to little ones and longtime patrons.
Since 1930, the baked goods have been made and decorated from scratch to the delight of everyone who walks through those doors.
3. Lopez Mexican Restaurant
11606 S Wilcrest Dr, Houston
A good Tex-Mex restaurant will keep a loyal customer base. Lopez’s is so good, that it’s kept people coming back for thirty years.
The owners, who came from Mexico, opened this restaurant with hopes of providing a better life for their family and in the process provided happiness to many others.
4. Smitty’s Market
208 South Commerce St., Lockhart
In Lockhart, barbecue is a true religion and after a decade-long feud that began in 1999, things have finally settled down for the best.
Now there is the “new” Kreutz market down the street with some of the coals from the original Kreutz market, and then there is Smitty’s which still occupies the same century-old store in which Charles Kreuz first began smoking meat in 1900.
3800 Seawall Blvd, Galveston
A stone’s throw distance from the Gulf of Mexico, this seafood restaurant is as fresh as it gets. For 102 years, the chefs have been serving up Watkins’ Bisque — a secret recipe — and people haven’t been able to resist coming back for more.
Don’t be fooled though, even though it’s casual, you’ll be hard pressed to walk up from the beachfront and find a seat with no reservations.
222 9th St., Dickinson
Ramshackle and rowdy, the oysters here are the freshest you can get. Most are pulled off boats only a few miles from the restaurant itself.
However, don’t get too excited to take the family. Gilhooleys has famously banned children from crossing the threshold.
2775 Washington Blvd., Beaumont
There’s a little bit of Texas and a little bit of Louisiana are rolled up into this restaurant. Naturally, its geography dictates that this restaurant serves a perfect blend of East Texas-style barbecue and Cajun cuisine.
Its most famous form comes in the shape of hot links, handmade East Texas barbecue at its finest.
8. Babe’s Chicken Dinner House
104 N. Oak, Roanoke
Like its name suggests, Babe’s serves chicken. Lots of it. For two decades, the chicken fried steak and fried chicken have been luring folks back as they try to define the spice mix that encircles each breaded piece of chicken. Perhaps you should give it a whirl, too.
9. Cattlemen’s Steakhouse
2458 N. Main St., Fort Worth
Smack in the middle of Fort Worth’s bustling stockyards is Cattlemen’s. Since 1947, the aged beef and massive steaks have been making mouths water.
However, be aware that their charcoal-grilled meat doesn’t come any more cooked than medium. Your request for well done won’t even be heeded.
10. El Fenix
1601 McKinney Ave., Dallas
Opened in 1918 by Mike Martinez, El Fenix is the reason that we know what a Tex-Mex combo plate is.
Thanks to this place, heart-melting portions of cheese and sauce coat tortillas and meat to create that familiar comfort food that we all love. So in a sense, this restaurant has fed families all over the America for generations.
11. Louie Mueller BBQ
206 W. 2nd St., Taylor
Louie Mueller’s legacy is so well known, his restaurant doesn’t need much of an introduction. Since he fired up his first pits in 1942, barbecue has been the all-consuming passion of this family.
In 2006, the restaurant was awarded an America’s Classic award by the James Beard Foundation. Not only that, but the restaurant remains in the family and both Mueller’s grandchildren are in the barbecue business themselves.
12. Blue Bonnet Cafe
211 Highway 281, Marble Falls
The reason you go here is pie. The reason you come back is pie. The Blue Bonnet Cafe is the epitome of small town restaurants and it serves up breakfasts that will remind you of your grandmother’s.
Here you can order breakfast or pie all day. There is even a weekday pie happy hour. Either way, just make sure that you remember to bring cash.
13. Green Pastures / Mattie’s
811 W. Live Oak St., Austin
Elegant southern plantation style grounds surround this historic house that is now a restaurant. The original owner, Mary Faulk Koock , turned her gardens into what is now known as the “grande dame of Austin restaurants.”
If you’re looking to try fine dining in an upscale atmosphere just blocks from one of the most casual neighborhoods in Austin, this is the place for you.
14. Matt’s El Rancho
2613 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin
The not-so-humble, self-proclaimed “King of Mexican Food” may not be too much of an overstatement.
Whether you’re there for the mango margaritas or Bob’s queso, named for former Texas Land Commissioner and El Rancho regular Bob Armstrong , no one has left disappointed since 1952.
15. Ray’s Drive Inn
822 Southwest 19th St., San Antonio
This is the place to get puffy tacos (the other being Henry’s Puffy Tacos). However, fans have been raving about Ray’s since 1966, so there must be something to the hype.
If you don’t agree that this is the place to go, clearly you need to try another taco.
16. The Big Texan Steak Ranch
7701 Interstate 40 East, Amarillo
This restaurant takes the idea that “everything is bigger in Texas” and applies it with gusto. Among other things, here you can take on the 72-oz steak challenge.
For decades, food warriors have tried to eat “The Texas King” steak and all the sides in under an hour. If they succeed, the $72 meal is free.