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Anna Deans

9 of the Best Spots for Food on a Texas Road Trip from Houston to Dallas


July 31, 2023

For many of us, the journey from Houston to Dallas is strictly utilitarian, a task to be completed rather than savored. After all, whether driving I-45 the whole way or breaking off to hit the small towns running along SH 19, the scenery can be a bit monotonous. Unless of course there's a special treat waiting along the route.

Though Dallas and Houston metroplexes tend to get all the headlines when it comes to culinary delights, there are many delicious spots between the two cities. Some may require venturing off the so-called "beaten path," but it's worth it to get a meal that doesn't come from a gas station.

This list of the nine best places to eat on a road trip from Houston to Dallas will provide plenty of food for thought when you're mapping out your route.

Korean butter-poached crab with kimchi pancake, brown butter and house kimchi at Tris in The Woodlands.
Korean butter-poached crab with kimchi pancake, brown butter and house kimchi at Tris in The Woodlands. Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Tris in The Woodlands

Stopping in The Woodlands when a long drive is just beginning may seem silly, but considering the accolades executive chef Austin Simmons racked up over the past four and a half years, pulling over is smart. The Cordon Bleu-trained Simmons and chef de cuisine Courney LaCarter dish out globally inspired fare ranging from Korean butter-poached crab to a choose-your-own-adventure steak list on Tris' ever-changing menu. Perhaps Alison Cook summed it up best in her 2019 Houston Chronicle review, writing: "From opulent menu to intelligent beverage program, from stylishly reconfigured dining room to warm hospitality, Tris is operating tantalizingly close to a four-star level."

Find it: 24 Waterway Ave., Suite 125, The Woodlands, TX 77380; 281-203-5641

Porters in College Station

Part of the fun of a road trip is doing something completely unexpected, such as having a fabulous meal at a place like Porters, a steakhouse near Texas A&M University. Diners will find classic chophouse fare, beginning with appetizers such as shrimp cocktail and steak tartare. The steak offerings are also classic—rib-eye, filet and a New York strip—as are the non-steak entrees, which include sea bass and a pork chop. Don't sleep on the sides, including the "just good-ass mac 'n' cheese," and don't be surprised if a nap is needed after the meal. Those looking for a more family-friendly dining experience can opt for Porters Backyard, a casual concept located on the patio. Chicken tenders, burgers, sandwiches and salads are all available.

Find it: 180 Century Square Drive, Suite 120, College Station, TX 77840; 979-977-0700

Hullabaloo Diner in College Station

Perhaps feasting on an entire steak isn't exactly what you want halfway through a car ride, so get your kicks at the 1940s-inspired Hullabaloo Diner instead. Though it actually opened in the early aughts, the roots of Hullabaloo Diner trace back more than 80 years—and nearly 2,000 miles away. The original diner was located in Upstate New York and was eventually restored and shipped to Texas by owners Sydney and Rich Steinbacher, according to The Battalion, A&M's student-run newspaper. Today, this modern diner serves quintessential diner fare, like a Reuben sandwich and chicken-fried steak, but also caters to the Aggie crowd with college favorites like pizza and tacos.

Find it: 15045 FM 2154 Road, College Station, TX 77845; 979-690-3002

Farmhouse Cafe & Bakery in Huntsville

Huntsville is best known for housing the Texas State Penitentiary, but it's also the site of Sam Houston State University, and offers a handful of delicious restaurants that come with being a college town. Farmhouse Cafe & Bakery has been serving Texas-style fare for more than 30 years and has a menu that's brimming with crowd pleasers like hot wings and fried pickles, burgers, fish tacos and club sandwiches. The restaurant also offers a daily blue plate special where diners can choose between two entrees and an assortment of sides.

Find it: 1004 14th St., Huntsville, TX 77340; 936-435-1450

The 10-oz. rib-eye, the smallest on the menu, is big enough to share at Leona General Store near Centerville, Texas.
The 10-oz. rib-eye, the smallest on the menu, is big enough to share at Leona General Store near Centerville, Texas. Joe Holley/Houston Chronicle

Leona General Store in Leona

Yes, this is another steakhouse, but it's worth your while. The Leona General Store is self-proclaimed as "the best little steakhouse in Texas," and was even featured on Chron's best places to eat on your next Texas road trip in 2017. Be forewarned, this spot is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and offers a limited menu based on special theme nights (Thursdays are for fried catfish, Fridays and Saturdays are steak nights).

Find it: 136 N. Leona Blvd., Leona, TX 75850 (at the intersection of Hwy. 977 & Hwy. 75); 903-344-2202

Switch-Brick Oven Pizza & Wine Bar in Palestine

Texas Monthly described this pizza joint as "excellent" and declared it the "favorite top-of-the-hill pizzeria in Palestine." Switch-Brick Oven Pizza & Wine Bar serves up an expansive menu of salads, mains and desserts, but the specialty is, of course, pizza. Housed in a former Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, it also checks off another fun to-do on the road trip checklist: having a meal in an unusual spot.

Find it: 1615 S. Royall St., Palestine, TX 75801; 903-729-7700

An array of breakfast offerings at Magnolia Table.
An array of breakfast offerings at Magnolia Table. Al. L via Yelp

Magnolia Table in Waco

Waco is a bit out of the way, but what's 70 miles when you have Chip and Joanna Gaines' iconic Magnolia Market waiting at the end? The Gaines' sprawling campus includes a coffee shop, bakery and food trucks, but it's Magnolia Table—about an eight minute drive away from The Silos—where road trippers can order breakfast and lunch in the shabby chic, shiplap space of their dreams. Breakfast includes classics like French toast, eggs benedict and pancakes, while the lunch menu offers avocado toast, burgers and chicken salad. This is the detour to end all detours.

Find it: 2132 S. Valley Mills Drive, Waco, TX 76706; 254-265-6859

Old Mexican Inn Restaurant & Cantina in Corsicana

The town that Netflix's Cheer made famous is also home to Old Mexican Inn Restaurant & Cantina, which has been operated by the same family since 1941 and has developed cult-like status among locals. (Celebs have even been known to pay homage to this institution; beloved Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez made a visit last year). OMI, as it's known to locals, features classic Tex-Mex dishes like enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas and of course, queso. The restaurant is best known for its Orange Dip, a closely guarded secret recipe served with tortilla chips or as an add-on to other dishes. Orange Dip is so popular the restaurant goes through "12 to 15 40-gallon buckets a week," the family told the Navarro County Gazette in 2020.

Find it: 2407 W. 7th Ave., Corsicana, TX; 903-874-9061

Meridian in Dallas serves twists on Brazilian cuisine.
Meridian in Dallas serves twists on Brazilian cuisine. Emma Balter

Meridian in Dallas

Now that the trip has ended, it's time to celebrate. As one of the biggest cities in the U.S., The Big D offers no shortage of impressive, award-winning restaurants. Meridian, however, is the buzzy hot spot right now, having just earned a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist nomination. Executive chef Junior Borges creates his own modern twist on Brazilian cuisine, taking inspiration from seasonal ingredients and his own garden.

Find it: 5650 Village Glen Drive, Dallas, TX 75206; 469-659-6382