Don't mess with Texas, especially when it comes to food. The second largest state in the U.S. by land area is the originator of Tex-Mex cuisine, is at the forefront of food truck technology and mobile culinary acumen, and is home to some incredible steak. But that's not all the birthplace of such larger-than-life characters as Lyndon Johnson, Willie Nelson, George Foreman, and Beyoncé has to offer. See why the Lone Star State is a total standout in our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
How did we compile this assortment of restaurants from the great wide expanse that is Texas? Over the course of the past year we've honored everything from its best hot dogs and fried chicken to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We're thrilled to celebrate the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Texas gallery here.
Best 24-Hour Diner: Magnolia Café (Austin)
"Everybody knows, everybody goes" is the tagline of Austin's king of late-night dining, which has two locations in the city. Open "24/8," the diner is renowned for its queso, gingerbread pancakes, and burgers, but is perhaps best known for its Tex-Mex breakfasts, especially the Love Migas - eggs scrambled in garlic-serrano butter with tomato, onion, bell pepper, tortilla chips, and Jack cheese.
The Best 24-Hour Diners in America
Best Airport Restaurant: Salt Lick BBQ (Austin-Bergstorm International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport)
Barbecue is a Texas staple, which is why both the Austin and Dallas/Forth Worth airports offer the option of dining at The Salt Lick BBQ, widely regarded as among the best barbecue purveyors in the state, providing authentic Texas barbecue for a fantastic layover or if you're simply hoping to get in on the Texas goodness one last time. Fan favorites include their signature beef brisket and pork ribs, but desserts aren't to be overlooked either, with delicious options like peach cobbler, pecan pie, and blackberry.
The Best Airport Restaurant in Every State
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Allen's Family Style Meals (Sweetwater)
This humble, unassuming restaurant located in small-town Sweetwater (located about 40 minutes down I-20 from Abilene) has been in business since 1952, when Lizzie Allen began cooking fried chicken for locals, and today it's run by two of Lizzie's grandchildren, Billy and Suzan, and has become a must-visit for those in the know. Pay 10 bucks when you arrive, take a seat at a communal table, and you'll be treated to a family-style feast of fried chicken (some of the best you'll ever try), creamed corn, carrots, potatoes, mac and cheese, okra, beans, cobbler, and more, all prepared according to Lizzie's old recipes. They just don't make 'em like this anymore.
The Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal in Every State
Best Bar: Anvil Bar & Refuge (Houston)
Anvil Bar and Refuge was one of the first bars in the United States to serve classically styled cocktails like The Brave (mezcal, tequila, amaro, Curaçao, and Angostura bitters, served at room temperature) at lower prices. There are 110 cocktails on the menu, but the bartenders can make far more. The lively space, opened by Bobby Heugel in 2009 when he was just 24 years old, features a bar running the length of the space and a huge spirit collection. Heugel is also one of the bar owners behind OKRA Charity Saloon, a not-for-profit bar. There is a small food menu of nibbles like cheese, charcuterie, and snacks.
The Best Bar in Every State
Best Beach Bar: Clayton's (South Padre Island)
You can spend the whole day at Clayton's, the largest beach bar on the Texas coast, and never need to leave the beach. Grab a signature Turbo piña colada and head down to frolic in the waves and lounge in the sun. After the sun goes down, enjoy live music and fireworks over the water, every weekend and holiday from March to September.
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Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill/Yelp
Best Beer: Atrial Rubicite, Jester King (Austin)
Unfiltered, unpasteurized, and 100 percent bottle-conditioned, Jester King's Atrial Rubicite is a sour brew that won't make you pucker your lips despite having literally hundreds of pounds of fresh raspberries in its mix. A subtle dryness makes this beer far more complex than the juice bomb it sounds like.
The Best Beer in Every State
Best Brazilian Steakhouse: Estância Brazilian Steakhouse (Austin)
Estância presents its rodizio dinners in an upscale but relaxed setting. Their wine list covers many regions - Chile, France, Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Australia, and the U.S. - complimenting the varied food selections. The beautiful salad bar is so well-presented it may rival the meat service; indulge in the marinated vegetables and pretty salads like arugula with sliced mangoes. Chocolate molten cake and crème brûlée with fresh berries are two dessert specialties here.
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Best Brunch: Little Red Wasp (Fort Worth)
What's an unassuming Downtown Fort Worth restaurant and beer bar during the week becomes a showstopping brunch destination on the weekends. The brunch menu at Little Red Wasp is a whole lot of fun, and is also chock-full of fun plays on Texas classics. Start your meal with some shared plates like brisket potstickers with hatch chiles or wings with Crystal's hot sauce and homemade ranch; and follow it up with a cheeseburger, Reuben, crispy chicken sandwich, French toast with maple syrup and berries, a chicken biscuit, hot ham and cheese with eggs and black pepper gravy, or short rib Benedict. Don't forget the house-made doughnut holes for dessert.
The Best Brunch in Every State
Best Burger: Maple & Motor (Dallas)
Maple & Motor has been known to serve its signature attraction with a side of attitude, although it certainly isn't the first casual spot with a following to develop a little arrogance. But Big D's burgerphiles will tell you it's worth braving the fray, and hey, you don't mess with Texas, right? The cheeseburger is really where it's at, and we'll let the menu description speak for itself: "A half-pound of finely ground American beef flat grilled in its own juices. Dressed in traditional Texas fashion with mustard, lettuce, red onion, and dill pickle. Served on a toasted, grill-shined bun. If perfect ain't enough, add a slunk of American, Cheddar, or Pepper Jack."
The Best Burger in Every State
Best Burrito: Campechano, El Burrito Wey Estilo Jalisco (San Antonio)
This neighborhood spot has worked its way into the hearts of locals thanks to its consistently astounding lunch specials, combination plates, and, of course, burritos. It's a warm and inviting restaurant with a large outdoor patio for al fresco dining, and there's a wide variety of burritos available in some creative styles (including one with corn). But we suggest you choose the best of both worlds and go for the campechano, which contains al pastor, carne asada, grilled onion, cilantro, and cheese, all wrapped up in a homemade flour tortilla. No rice, no beans, no problem.
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Best Chili: Armadillo Palace (Houston)
Real Texas chili can be found at Armadillo Palace in Houston, which celebrates old-school ranch-style cooking. The chili here is made with big chunks of venison, served in a thick and spicy cumin-kicked chili sauce and topped with a handful of shredded cheese. Onions and jalapeños are served on the side, but you'll definitely want to add those into the mix.
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Best Chinese Restaurant: Asia Café (Austin)
Asia Café was made for takeout (the space isn't exactly super-welcoming), but that doesn't mean that it's not slammed most nights. Austinites flock to Asia Café for its steamy bowls of ground beef and cilantro soup, spicy honeycomb tripe, and pan-fried shrimp with crushed peppers.
The Best Chinese Restaurant in Every State
Best Chocolate Shop: Kate Weiser Chocolate (Dallas)
The chocolates hand-crafted by Kate Weiser are simply gorgeous. Her bonbons (which come in inventive flavors such as lavender apricot, yuzu, and buttery popcorn) are bright and colorful. Don't discount her handmade chocolate bars, either. With influences like milk and cookies and trail mix, these creations make Snickers look sad.
The Best Chocolate Shop in Every State
Best Coffee Shop: Caffé Medici (Austin)
Using the Orion blend from Minnesota's Spyhouse Coffee Roasters, Caffé Medici's espresso has a fruitier taste with a chocolate finish, and their daily house coffee is Wild Gift's Troublemaker - citrus flavors with a kick of mango, pineapple, and caramel. You'll also find that the chain's five Austin locations have some of the best hot cocoa in the country.
The Best Coffee Shop in Every State
Best Cupcakes: Toot Sweet Cupcakes & More (Austin)
This bakery has major design prowess and the flavors to make its cakes taste as beautiful as they look. Toot Sweet's expertise expands far beyond cupcakes (try the artisanal breads and breakfast pastries), but the cupcakes are where the true joy lies. The Lemon Lusty cupcake - made with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon curd, topped with lemon buttercream - is the perfect way to celebrate spring.
The Best Cupcake in Every State
Best Dive Bar: Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon (Austin)
Considered one of the absolute best dives in the nation, Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin is iconic. On Sundays, come in and drink cheap Lone Stars, eat free hot dogs and play chicken bingo. If the fowl poos on your number, you win! Does it get more Texas than that?
The Best Dive Bar in Every State
Best Doughnuts: Round Rock Donuts (Round Rock)
Round Rock's doughnuts are known for their orange-yellow color and their puffy, yeast-risen appearance. The color comes from the high-quality eggs that are used in the dough, and the "rustic" appearance is a result of using the same recipe since the 1920s. Opt for the classic plain glazed for the most wonderfully simple doughnut.
The Best Doughnuts in Every State
Best Farmers Market: Hope Farmers Market (Austin)
Described by some as "dripping with Austin attitude," the Hope Farmers Market is a gathering place for everyone. Visitors come to shop for fresh food and one-of-a-kind crafts, and to listen and dance to music performed by local musicians. With market food like wheatgrass, lavender, and mix-and-match ice cream cookie sandwiches, as well as handmade crafts like wooden rocking chairs and beaded jewelry, there's something here for every free-spirited hipster in Austin.
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Best Food Truck: The Waffle Bus (Houston)
Featured on The Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Zagat, The Waffle Bus earned its spot by turning out some over-the-top waffle-inspired sandwiches. For their savory selection, The Waffle Bus offers a fried chicken and waffle sandwich which can be topped with spicy mayo or ancho chile honey. If you're looking for something on the sweeter side, check out their Strawberry Irish Cream Crème Brûlée or S'mores waffle sandwiches.
The Best Food Truck in Every State
Best French Fries: Salty Sow (Austin)
This funky gastropub puts a lot of care into the fries, which are hand-cut and fried in duck fat not once, not twice, but three times. Just to gild the lily, you can get yours topped with a runny sous-vide egg and a side of béarnaise.
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Best Fried Chicken: Lucy's Fried Chicken (Austin)
Lucy's Fried Chicken knows when to stick with the classics and when to experiment. Their menu offers fried gizzards and fried livers alongside the expected fried chicken basket, with no fancy explanation as to why the chicken tastes so good. They even serve a cold fried chicken that's also delicious, and that's saying something. It's in their other menu items that they get creative: see the grilled diablo oysters, Mexican Coke sweet potatoes, and sweet tea cheese pie.
The Best Fried Chicken in Every State
Best Fudge Shop: Jefferson Fudge (Jefferson)
One of the finest candy shops in Texas, Jefferson Fudge, which opened in 1979, sells more than 20 different varieties of fudge today from a counter that's more than 30 feet long. Fudge is handmade and the staff will let you try any variety you like, so make sure you sample the vanilla pecan, peach pecan amaretto, apricot nut, maple nut, peanut butter, and chocolate pecan before you settle on one. You know, just to be certain.
America's 25 Best Fudge Shops
Best Grocery Store: H-E-B
Texans are just wild about their H-E-B grocery stores. In a Thrillist article about popular grocery stores, author Dan Gentile said he was "severely disappointed that H-E-B isn't the most popular chain in Texas." (Texas' choice? Walmart. Reasonable observers unanimously agree that H-E-B is wildly better.)
To reinforce this H-E-B love, another reviewer said of the store, "HEB is the best grocery store in town, bar none. Which is probably why it's always so busy. Truthfully this is the only downside to shopping here. Weekends are especially bad with pretty long lines at every open register. They do the best they can however, and the staff is always friendly, so I don't mind the wait. A byproduct of being great is that you are also popular."
The Best Grocery Store in Every State
Best Hot Dog: Frank (Austin)
This sausage-centric restaurant is an Austin gem, serving sausages made in-house or by a local sausage-maker with brilliantly creative toppings. While they also serve regional dogs, like Chicago dogs and Sonoran dogs that are faithful to their forebears, it's the custom creations where they really shine. Take the "Carolina Pork It," for example: a 100 percent Vienna beef hot dog, stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and topped with grilled horseradish coleslaw and house-made pimento cheese. It's cheesy, smoky, crunchy perfection, and you can have it wrapped up in a corn pancake instead of a bun if you prefer.
The Best Hot Dog in Every State
Best Ice Cream Stand: Amy's Ice Cream (Austin)
This Austin ice cream shop has over 350 flavors in rotation (because everything is bigger in Texas, even the menus!) and they all have cool names like All Thai'd Up, After Dinner Mint, and Dementor's Cloud, just to name a few.
The Best Ice Cream Stand in Every State
Best Inexpensive Steakhouse: Dunston's (Dallas)
Dunston's has been around since 1955, making it the city's oldest steakhouse, and it's also its least expensive. Six- or nine-ounce bacon-wrapped fillets go for just $13.95 and $17.95, respectively; an eight-ounce rib-eye costs $18.95, and an eight-ounce New York strip costs just $17.95. And if you want to try one of the city's finest chicken fried steaks, that will set you back just $8.95.
America's Best Inexpensive Steakhouse
Best Irish Pub: B.D. Riley's (Austin)
Named for Bessie Dee Riley, the daughter of an Irish immigrant to Texas, B.D. Riley's boasts an impressive selection of beer and Irish whiskey. Sourcing much of the interior directly from Ireland, the bar's proprietors have succeeded in making the place both authentic and unique. The award-winning menu is a favorite of Irish expats, and of course, it being Austin and all, there's great music as well.
America's 25 Best Irish Pubs
Best Italian Restaurant: La Traviata (Austin)
A downtown mainstay that's been pulling in crowds since 2000, La Traviata is turning out a different homemade ravioli every day, and its lineup of pastas is classic and comforting. All the basics are covered here - spaghetti alla carbonara, pasta norma - and they're all done very, very well; but make sure you try the rigatoni with spicy lamb meatballs, San Francisco-style cioppino, and veal piccata.
The Best Italian Restaurant in Every State
Best Jewish Deli: Kenny & Ziggy's (Houston)
Chef-partner Ziggy Gruber is a third-generation deliman, having plied his trade for literally his whole life, with a stop at London's Cordon Bleu along the way. He's run delis in both New York and Los Angeles, but today he calls Houston - and Kenny & Ziggy's - home. Houstonians pack into his deli for housemade pastrami, corned beef, softball-sized matzo balls, knishes, smoked fish flown in from New York, blintzes, stuffed cabbage, and other traditional Jewish favorites, all made with love to Gruber's exacting specifications.
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Best Lasagna: Kenny's Italian Kitchen (Dallas)
Complete with the old-school red gingham tablecloths, this wonderful home-style Italian spot makes you feel right at home when you dine there. Despite a large menu with all the Italian-American classics, there is one dish that stands out. Their lasagna, layered with delicious ground beef, ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and red sauce is out of this world and worth a trip to check out.
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Best Lobster Roll: Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar (Austin)
On an oak-shaded patio in Austin's South Congress, you'll find one of the best lobster rolls in America. Perla's chefs/owners Lawrence McGuire and Thomas Moorman Jr. ship in seafood from both coasts daily, and the lobster here comes from - where else? - Maine. The lobster is blanched before being tossed with a house-made lemon mayo and herbs, and then it's placed into a homemade bun with some Bibb lettuce and served alongside drawn garlic butter.
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Best Mexican Restaurant: Hugo's Regional Mexican Cuisine (Houston)
Hugo's opened in 2002 in a restored Latin-inspired building designed by Joseph Finger (also responsible for the art deco-style City Hall) and launched into a diverse regional approach to Mexican food. Chef Hugo Ortega, a finalist for the 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest, cooks food that's elegant, inventive, and inspiring. Order the much-heralded lamb barbacoa braised in garlic and chiles then slow-roasted in agave, and, for the name alone, the manchamanteles, described on the menu as the "tablecloth stainer," a sweet mole stewed pork and chicken dish.
The Best Mexican Restaurant in Every State
Most Expensive Restaurant: Killen's Steakhouse (Pearland)
Texas' most expensive restaurant can be found just south of Houston, in chef Ronnie Killen's hometown of Pearland. Steaks at Killen's start at $42 for an 8-ounce wet-aged fillet, and top out at $175 for a flight of four different four-ounce wagyu New York strips. In between you'll find an $85 42-ounce porterhouse, a $125 six-ounce Japanese wagyu New York strip, a $125 American wagyu rib-eye, and several other luxury cuts for those looking to burn a whole lot of cash.
The Most Expensive Restaurant in Every State
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: 72-Ounce Steak, The Big Texan Steak Ranch (Amarillo)
Everything really is bigger in Texas, particularly the famous 72-ounce steak at The Big Texan Steak Ranch. If you can eat it all (as well as a variety of side dishes) in one hour, you can have it for free. The challenge is said to go back to the restaurant's early days in the 1960s when its owner held contests among local cowboys to see who could eat the most. One day, a contestant ate five steaks, a salad, a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, and a bread roll; the steak came out to four and a half pounds, and so the 72-Ounce Steak Challenge was born.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Chateau at la Table (Houston)
The classy and upscale Houston fine dining destination Chateau, a formal dining room located upstairs from more casual eateries at the multi-part concept La Table, is gleaming, fancy, and undoubtedly romantic. This bright and spacious culinary gem is filled with light during the day, and at night, the gray walls, light woods, and modern lighting combine for irresistible romantic appeal, complemented by classic French dishes like gougères, French onion soup, steak frites, and caramelized cheese soufflé.
The Most Romantic Restaurant in Every State
Courtesy of La Table
Best Old-School Candy Shop: Big Top (Austin)
As the name suggests, Big Top is circus-themed and beautifully furnished with vintage mementos. The festive shop has a fully-functioning old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream case, as well as specialty chocolates, fudge, and thousands of new and classic candies, such as rainbow Whirly Pops, rock candy, and Pixy Stix. You can even buy a cola-flavored pug pop!
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Best Pancakes: Magnolia Café (Austin)
Open 24/7 since the late 1980s, the two Austin locations of Magnolia Café have become local institutions, primarily due to their spectacular breakfasts. And regulars will tell you that the true star of the breakfast menu is the pancakes. Available with three different batters - buttermilk, gingerbread, and cornmeal - they can be made with bananas, blueberries, seasonal fresh fruit, pecans, and chocolate chips. If it's your first visit, we suggest you go for the straight-ahead buttermilk pancakes, big pillows of deliciousness that you'll want to climb into and take a nap. Make sure you spring for the real maple syrup.
The Best Pancakes in Every State
Best Pizza: Home Slice Pizza (Austin)
What do you get when you combine a former food editor of the Austin Chronicle with a passion for pizza? One of the most heralded pizza spots in Texas. Jen Strickland must have had to forget everything she'd learned about the pitfalls and craziness of opening a restaurant during the decade she spent covering them for the Chronicle and Texas Monthly in order to take a leap of faith and try to open one with her husband Joseph Strickland and partner Terri Hannifin. Or maybe she just knew the New York City slices she ate while attending NYU would inspire her own pizzeria to greatness (there is a certain invincibility those slices can make you feel while eating one walking down the street Saturday Night Fever style). The end result at Home Slice Pizza has been a South Austin smash hit: New York-style Neapolitan thin-crust slices and pies (try the pepperoni and mushroom) that just might inspire a South Congress strut, Tony Manero-style.
The Best Pizza in Every State
Best Ramen Shop: Ramen Tatsu-Ya (Austin)
A thing of cultish devotion, Tatsu-Ya is a jewel in Austin's ramen crown. One of Bon Appétit's 50 best new restaurants of 2012, Tatsu-Ya also happened to be the first brick-and-mortar ramen shop to open in the city. The brainchild of two former DJs, the 38-seat restaurant is fun, energetic, and soulful, serving bowls of ramen that people line up out the door for. The original tonkotsu is the best way to first experience the restaurant, with chashu, egg, mushrooms, and scallions, but shoyu, spicy, and veggie varieties are also available, along with tsukemen, or dipping ramen. There's plenty of room to get a little crazy, though: toppings include self-pressed garlic, grated Parmesan, and fried Brussels sprouts.
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Best Restaurant for Breakfast: The Guenther House (San Antonio)
The home base of Pioneer Flour Mills, originally built in 1859, this restaurant ison the National Register of Historic Places. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and the waffles, biscuits, and pancakes here are renowned (as you'd expect from a restaurant run by a flour company) and delicious. Their biscuits and Southern "Sweet Cream" waffles and pancakes are made with proprietary mixes that you can buy online. Other specialties include a breakfast platter with two fresh buttermilk biscuits, country sausage gravy, house-made preserves, fresh fruit, and bacon or country sausage; breakfast tacos; and strawberry waffles. It may not be a massive breakfast menu, but everything on it is just about perfect.
The Best Restaurant for Breakfast in Every State
Best Restaurant: Fearing's (Dallas)
Located in The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, Fearing's features modern Southwestern-American cuisine with a farm-to-table approach. Indeed, along with Stephen Pyles and Daily Meal Council member Robert Del Grande, chef Dean Fearing (also a member of The Daily Meal Council) kind of wrote the book on modern Texan cooking (one of his cookbooks is literally called The Texas Food Bible). What does "modern Southwestern-American cuisine" mean? Barbecued shrimp taco with mango and pickled red onion; barbecued short rib enchilada with queso fundido; mesquite-grilled wagyu ribeye with West Texas mop sauce; and "Texas carpaccio" - wagyu beef with Texas olive oil, grana padano, crispy capers, and pickled golden beets. With many dining venues on-site, diners can choose from anything from the outdoor patio to the more upscale Gallery. If you're dining chef-side in Dean's Kitchen, or at the Chef's Table, look for the ebullient chef; he's almost always present. And make sure to order his signature tortilla soup.
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Best Ribs: Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor)
Less than a 40-minute drive from Austin is the small town of Taylor, Texas, and in Taylor, Louie Mueller Barbecue. This barbecue spot features big, meaty beef ribs, which they rub with salt and cracked pepper before slow-cooking them over post oak wood; pork spare ribs, which get salt-and-pepper rubbed just like the beef ribs; and their newest entrée, baby back ribs, which are dusted with a "magic" spice mix and basted with a sweet glaze. Let's not kid ourselves here - just order all three, because you know you want to. You can blame it on us; we won't mind.
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Best Sandwich: Noble Pig, Noble Sandwich Company (Austin)
This sandwich, from Austin's Noble Sandwich Company, is a work of art. Start with the bread. It's your choice of white or wheat, made fresh in house. It gets a light layer of whole-grain mustard and aïoli, both also made in house. Some bacon, cured in house for five days (sensing a trend?), is then added, then topped with a little pulled pork that's slow-roasted overnight. Then the real star of the show is added: house-cured ham, rubbed in ancho chile, dried chile flakes, sugar, salt, and pepper and brined for six days before being baked and sliced paper thin. Finally, the top slice of bread. This sandwich is a beauty, one of the country's finest homages to, well, the noble pig.
The Best Sandwich in Every State
Best Seafood Shack: Snoopy's Pier (Corpus Christi)
Snoopy's Pier is swimming in a seafood shack vibe - no surprise, given that it was once an old fisherman's hangout. Its menu is small and simple, with fried fish, fried shrimp, crabcakes, fried drum fish, and fried oysters receiving a heap of praise from the locals - probably because Snoopy's has an on-site fish house and shrimp-breading facility. Grab some of the state's best seafood and take in the view from a table on the pier.
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Best Soup: Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup, Gourmands (Austin)
This local hangout has been slowly establishing a great reputation since it opened in 2011, largely thanks to its comfortable vibe and scratchmade dishes. Its soups are made in-house daily, and the must-order is the broccoli beer cheese soup, with chunks of fresh broccoli, several types of cheese, and Shiner Bock, served in a bread bowl.
The Best Soup in Every State
Best Sports Bar: Cover 3 (Austin)
Cover 3, which has multiple locations in the Austin area, is all about sports, providing access to all major networks; the bar even dedicates an extensive page on its website to upcoming game times. Texas Monthly ranked their burgers as No. 12 in the entire state of Texas, and Sports Illustrated's Extra Mustard called them America's Best Sports Bar in the Central Region.
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Best Steak for $20 or Less: The Hay Merchant (Houston)
The Hay Merchant chef/owner Chris Shepherd has made a name for himself in Houston with restaurants Underbelly and the shapeshifting One Fifth, but this casual gastropub isn't one to be overlooked. The burgers, brunch fare, and family-style dishes like half a roasted pig head are worthy of renown, but in-the-know locals drop by on Tuesdays, when an eight-ounce Angus sirloin from 44 Farms served with seasonal vegetables costs just $15.50. Get there early, though; they sell out fast.
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Best Steakhouse: Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (Dallas and Houston)
If you're in Dallas or Houston and you find yourself in need of a perfect steak, a red leather booth, wood-paneled walls, and a wine list that boasts about 2,300 options, head over to Pappas Bros. At this shrine to beef, which has repeatedly been lauded as one of the state's best restaurants since it opened in 1976, the meat is dry-aged in house and served bone-in or bone-out. There's something for everyone, from a 40-ounce porterhouse carved tableside down to an 8-ounce filet mignon, with stops along the way including an 18-ounce bone-in New York strip and a rib-eye of Texas Akaushi Kobe beef. They're seasoned with just salt and pepper and finished with some butter. The entire experience is about as classic steakhouse as you're likely to find.
The Best Steakhouse in Every State
Pappas Bros Steakhouse/Yelp
Best Sushi: Tei-An (Dallas)
Teiichi Sakurai is single-handedly elevating Dallas' sushi game at his Tei-An. Teiichi is a master of soba noodles, which he makes by hand and serves both cold and hot, and it's best enjoyed at the end of a seven-course omakase, which you need to call ahead to request. The fish he serves will undoubtedly be the freshest and highest quality possible, and don't be surprised if you also get served a slice of A5 wagyu.
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Absolute Best Thing to Eat: Barbecue Plate, Franklin Barbecue (Austin)
By 10 a.m. on a Friday there will be more than 90 people in line at this modest establishment, which traces its roots back to 2009 and a turquoise trailer. The 90 people who show in the next half-hour wait in vain; a waitress will tell them that there's just no barbecue left. So it goes at Franklin, where Aaron Franklin serves some of the best of Texas's greatest culinary claim to fame (a devastating fire in August 2017 destroyed the smokehouse and caused $350,000 in damages, but it reopened four months later without skipping a beat). No single offering here stands above the rest; the mixed-and-matched plates (technically, sheets of butcher paper) of barbecue each lucky guest can order has become iconic in itself. The brisket, with its peppery exterior, falls apart as you pick it up. The turkey is what presidentially pardoned birds aspire to be. The sausage snaps loudly when you slice it, juice splashing out and up... You've heard the buzz. You've seen Franklin on TV. You're heard his acolytes' brisket gospel. It's not hype. It really is that good.
The Absolute Best Thing to Eat in Every State
Best Taco: El Conquistador, Tacodeli (Austin)
Austin without Tacodeli, which has ten locations, just wouldn't be the same. Its made-from-scratch sauces are works of art, and its most popular taco, El Conquistador, is a perfect showcase for the house chile pasilla sauce. Mixed in with shredded, slow-roasted pork shoulder topped with avocado, cilantro, and onion, all wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla, it's the star of a taco you'll be dreaming about. Go for lunch - all Tacodeli locations are only open until 3 p.m. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.