Check your calorie counters at the door. When hitting up the Houston breakfast scene, you’ll find refined white linens and elegant ambiance wrapped around a giant piece of fried chicken and dunked in maple syrup.
This quaint and elegant ’30s-style house gushes with charm. Chef Hugo Ortega serves up some of the finest brunch delicacies in the city. My go-to’s are the crab cakes and eggs with red pepper beurre blanc that are chock-full of sweet lump crab meat. I love the rich, creamy shrimp and stone-ground cheese grits, too. For those with an extreme sweet tooth, dive into the brioche French toast stuffed with bananas, maple syrup and caramel sauce. Backstreet has several different intimate indoor dining areas, but locals know the real secret is hidden out back. When the weather is nice, be sure to request seating on the New Orleans-inspired patio with a shimmering fountain and flowering shrubbery. Sitting on the patio sipping a spicy Bloody Mary is just plain heaven.
If you mix a log-cabin-style hunters lodge with an adorable bed and breakfast, the result would be the Houston gem known as Rainbow Lodge. Known for its famous Sunday brunch, Rainbow Lodge’s rustic ambiance will make you forget that you are smack-dab in the middle of a bustling city of 2 million people. Its brunch selections are a sophisticated combination of wild game and classic fare. The succulent fowl in the Lodge-smoked duck breast salad is prepared to perfection, and the braised beef short rib “Benedict” is an authentic Texas spin on the dish. Don’t forget to take advantage of the 99-cent mimosas and champagne on Sundays.
If you don’t mind venturing outside the loop, a trip to this restaurant overlooking Lake Houston is a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Though the restaurant’s architecture is unusual for the traditional Houston suburb of Kingwood, the contemporary structure blends in seamlessly, and its large windows allow Lake Houston to set a nice backdrop while you enjoy your bottomless frozen Bellini. Though there are plenty of tasty items in the brunch buffet (including peel-and-eat shrimp), I highly recommend adding on one of the entrées. The true Texans in the crowd swear by two things: the generously portioned chicken fried steak smothered in tasso ham gravy and golden onion strings, along with the crab cake Benedict.
Though Tiny Boxwoods is one of the more casual choices on this list, don’t be fooled. With its well-manicured grounds and alluring ambiance, it is hands down one of the prettiest places to enjoy breakfast in Houston. If you crave something savory, Freddie’s carnitas, its pulled-pork breakfast tacos, are popular. For something lighter, the scones complement a rich cup of coffee. Breakfast is served daily and for a weekend bonus, bottomless mimosas are offered during Sunday brunch.
While this spot is a dive, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Houston phenomenon. On any given morning, you will find a line of eager patrons wrapped around the building waiting patiently to get in the door. Most are regulars who are more than happy to allot a few extra minutes of their morning to get a taste of the city’s most-buzzed-about soul food breakfast. It’s that good. When you walk in, orders are placed at the counter, then you’re given a super-sized mug and directed to a wall full of different coffee brews from which to choose. As for the menu, the wings and waffles drizzled with buttery maple syrup is the fan favorite.
Chiloso’s Taco House in The Heights is the prime place for breakfast tacos; its chorizo-and-egg taco has cured many a hangover. The pancakes at the Fountain View Cafe are light, tasty and addictive. Bagels are not really Houston’s thing, but the ones at New York Coffee Shop on Hillcroft are the closest I’ve found to a decent Northeastern version. For a true Texas experience, dine at Goode Company BBQ. Its venison sausage with migas is extremely popular, and its pecan waffles are sinfully delicious. Down House in The Heights is a hipster-crowd staple. Its breakfast tacos are solid, as is its take on chicken and waffles — the waffles are whole-grain, so those are pretty healthy.
Photos courtesy of Mustard Seed Photography, The Breakfast Klub, Rainbow Lodge and Eric Sauseda