Texas is full of charming small towns with hole-in-the-wall, hidden gem restaurants that don’t get nearly enough attention. That needs to change next year, which is why we’ve compiled a list of some of the most unique, lesser-known restaurants we featured in 2016. Here are 10 places you absolutely have to eat at in 2017.
Railroad Crossing BBQ (Houston)
This building looks like an ordinary train depot, but it's actually a restaurant! Right in the middle of the biggest city in Texas sits a charming Southern barbecue joint inside an old-fashioned train car. Dine on tender brisket, juicy sausage, or crispy chicken-fried steak in an atmosphere that will take you back to your childhood.
Uchi, a high-end sushi bar, was named one of the best restaurants in the entire world by Conde Nast Traveler. Even though the opinions of food critics don't always line up with our less distinguished taste buds, giving a restaurant a rank of that caliber is a heavy statement that's bound to hold some truth to it for everyone who eats there.
Spaghetti Warehouse (Houston)
Spaghetti Warehouse is one of the most haunted restaurants in the country. Thousands of customers have reported seeing or hearing things that can't be explained, from the laughter of small children to disembodied footsteps. The antiquated decorations only add to the creepy ambiance, and the delicious Italian food brings the whole package together. You'll never forget your meal here, that's for sure.
Mary's Cafe (Strawn)
I've mentioned Mary's more than a handful of times, but for good reason - their chicken-fried steak is simply the best in Texas. The crust is crispy enough to balance out the tender meat inside, and the flavor explodes and deepens with every mouthful. The homey atmosphere sends it over the top with some of the friendliest staff and local regulars you'll ever meet.
The Shed (Edom)
Not many people have heard of this little country cafe, but that needs to change. The Shed might not look like much, but we Texans don't care too much about that. We're only concerned with the quality of the food, and this restaurant delivers every time. You'll be hard-pressed to find pie as good as theirs, and the service is never without a smile.
Snow's BBQ (Lexington)
Snow's is a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere - the small town of Lexington, to be exact. It's been voted the best barbecue joint in the state by many Texans, and I think it might be worthy of that title. The pitmaster is a 73 year-old woman named Tootsie who works as a school janitor on weekdays, and she's been slow-smoking meat to perfection for over 50 years. From brisket to sausage to anything in between, Snow's has it at top quality.
Scholz Garden (Austin)
Scholz Garden is the oldest restaurant in Texas, having been in operation since 1866. It was founded by a German immigrant who simply wanted to establish a gathering place for the Germans in Austin - he had no idea it would grow into the lively restaurant it is today. You can order authentic German food or a good old-fashioned burger, but you'll enjoy the history and ambiance no matter what you eat.
Blue Bonnet Cafe (Marble Falls)
Blue Bonnet Cafe definitely deserves the countless features we've given it this year. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it has the best pie in the state: it's decadent, made fresh every day, and reminds you of holidays Grandma's house with every bite. They also have killer food, so you can indulge in dinner and dessert.
The Pickett House (Woodville)
If you have a Texas-sized appetite, this is the place for you. The Pickett House serves all-you-can-eat, family-style meals that remind you of childhood Sunday suppers. Plus, the delightful waitstaff will make you feel right at home. You won't find a restaurant quite like this anywhere else - not even in other cities in Texas.
Cattleman's Steakhouse (Fabens)
It might be in the middle of nowhere, but it's definitely worth the trip. About 35 miles outside of El Paso, on a breathtaking ranch reminiscent of a movie set, sits Cattleman's Steakhouse. The food is critically acclaimed, and getting to eat it with a view like that? Not much to complain about.
Have you been to any of these restaurants? What other restaurants would you add to the list?