This day and age, the definition of a diner is relatively ambiguous. What makes a diner a diner? Does it have to resemble a set piece in a moody crime drama, dole out cheap coffee, be capable of whipping up a smart plate of eggs and bacon? To this, we refer to Wikipedia’s definition:
Diners offer a wide range of foods, mostly American cuisine, a casual atmosphere, and, characteristically, a combination of booths served by a waitstaff and a long sit-down counter with direct service, in the smallest simply by a cook.
Doing our best to adhere to this definition – and perhaps giving a little more credence to restaurants with “diner” in their names – we give you our roundup of the best diners in Houston. Per usual, in no particular order.
1. Lola Diner
Located in the Heights, Lola is a hip modern diner that serves breakfast all day long. With over 1,500 reviews on Google, it’s hard to say that this diner is overlooked. That said, we still believe that this diner deserves more recognition. Before chicken and waffles became ubiquitous on brunch menus nationwide, Lola’s was one of the few places in town you could find the beloved dish — and dare we say they’ve perfected the recipe. Come autumn, we also recommend their Thanksgiving Sandwich, complete with stuffing, a few savory pieces of turkey, and a bed of wickedly sweet cranberry sauce.
2. House of Pies
Argue all you want, you simply cannot convince us otherwise that House of Pies is the Holy Grail of late night eats in Houston. The 24-hour diner has personally rescued this writer from excruciating hangovers with its never-ending selection of pies, cakes, and specialties. Whether you’re cravings are sweet or savory, House of Pies serves everything from Turtle Cheesecake, to Huevos Rancheros, Shrimp Po’Boys, and Philly Cheesesteaks, ensuring that you’ll find what it is you need to satisfy your late night needs.
3. Hungry Like the Wolf
From the Rubix Cube discoball, to MTV-inspired walls, John Hughes-movie lockers, year book photo cutout collage, vibrant artwork honoring 80’s heroes including their wall of 80’s album cover art, zany carpeting, and their retro collection of throwback gaming consoles, Hungry Like The Wolf is decked out head-to-toe in nostalgia.
Their diner-inspired menu serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with weekend brunches and rotating desserts. For breakfast, Hungry offers an assortment of diner classics like egg dishes, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and waffles. Their lunch and dinner menu feature comfort-food staples with appetizers such as nachos and fried string cheese, as well as salads, sandwiches, burgers, and supper options like meatloaf, chicken fried steak, and spaghetti and meatballs.
4. Victor’s Deli
As one of the few mom-and-pop restaurants in Cypress suburb of Houston, Victor’s Restaurant is a laidback establishment that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Here you can find all the diner classics, as well as a number of European dishes including potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, and wiener shnitzel. Plus, don’t sleep on their reuben sandwich which may or may not be the best in town.
5. Dot Coffee Shop
Serving up home-style, scratch-made breakfast on the daily, Dot Coffee Shop, is the next best thing to mom’s kitchen. Opened in 1967, the retro, Pappas-owned diner on Gulf Freeway and Woodridge delivers on generous helpings of your favorite comfort foods 24 hours a day. Find classics like “Houston’s best chicken fried steak”, pot roast, pancakes, omelets, and an assortment of pies.
Find awesome omelettes, scratch-made biscuits, waffles, pancakes and more inside the blue awnings of Tel-Wink diner in southeast Houston. Opened in 1940, the no-frills institution offers all-day breakfast as well as a variety of lunch options, including fried catfish fillet, grilled cheese, and Monterey chopped steak. In true diner fashion, ask for the homemade soup of the day.
7. Avalon Diner
Opened initially back in 1938 in tandem with Avalon Pharmacy, Avalon Diner is a greasy spoon institution. Now with three outposts in Houston, the diner offers an extensive menu with features ranging from hotdogs and chili to drug store burgers, deli sandwiches, and breakfast medleys.
8. City Cafe
Located in South Houston a stone’s throw from the airport, the colorful City Cafe is in some ways a relic of another time. For one, there is still a smoking section. Otherwise, the interior looks like a portrait of small town Texas a la Lonestar (1996). The diner serves breakfast all day with notable options including the chicken fried steak, waffles, and grits.
9. The Buffalo Grille
Now with three locations – Bissonnet St., S Voss Rd, and Galveston – The Buffalo Grille specializes in “the food you know, the food you love”. The seventh-generation-family owned diner opened back in 1984. Today, The Buffalo Grille continues to serve par excellence, with a certain specialty for plate-sized light and fluffy pancakes that feed the soul.
10. Harry’s Restaurant & Cafe
For over 70 years, Harry’s Restaurant & Cafe has racked up numerous accolades for its renowned breakfast options. In addition to diner classics, Harry’s offers an array of worldly options, incorporating Southern, Latin, and European dishes, with enticing options including Baklava French Toast, handmade Salvadoran Papusa Mañanera, and Pork Gyro. Harry’s Restaurant & Cafe is located at 318 Tuam St. and is closed on Tuesdays.