Houston is a car-centric city on the go, and there seems to be fewer diner-style restaurants here than most big metropolitan areas and older parts of the country. The offerings at this city’s morning places can be more diverse than diner fare, in addition to those Mexican and Tex-Mex preparations. Similar to almost everywhere these days, chicken and waffles, once unusual, are widely found during the mornings. And avocado toast has made it nearly everywhere in the past decade, even most of the greasy spoons that can be found here.
Listed in order of preference.
Goode Co. Taqueria – Friday from 7 to 11 AM; Saturday and Sunday 8 AM to 12:30 PM – It might be not an understatement to write that Goode Co. Taqueria serves the best breakfasts in the city, the state, the country; etc. This comfortable, counter-service Goode family restaurant has been fashioning gustatory masterpieces with large eggs, potatoes, mesquite-grilled meats, butter, nicely discernible manteca de cerdo, a bit of salt and pepper, and the ancillary grease, cholesterol and fat for years during, once only on weekends and every morning in recent years. The place has long been busy on weekends, but those patrons must come solely from the nearby neighborhoods because, from unscientific polling on my part, seemingly too many people beyond the 77005 are still unaware of the amazing breakfasts here. The breakfasts are Texan and Tex-Mex in nature. Strongly influenced by Mexico and south Texas ranch cooking, these are consistently exceptional and hearty. But, it is all done in a distinctively Goode Co. manner and better than elsewhere. It begins with top-notch ingredients, which are well-executed no matter how busy the place gets, and an understanding how to improve upon the familiar. Dishes seem both more robust and refined than typical. Really tasty pecan waffles, too. West U
The Breakfast Klub – Weekdays 7 AM to 2 PM; Saturday and Sunday 8 AM to 2 PM – On the weekends, and seemingly most days during the week, lines form well outside the entrance; some evidence that this has become a local icon since opening in 2001. Deserving of its national attention, The Breakfast Klub serves excellent and interesting, fun and unpretentious food – Green Eggs and Ham and Katfish and Grits – for breakfast and lunch in an informal setting with a certain amount of cool. Though stylish, the staff are noticeably very friendly, and the restaurant always seems to have a warm vibe to it. Though not soul food in the traditional sense, the offerings have a noticeable African-American feel, and are divided neatly among breakfast plates, omelets, breakfast sandwiches, salads, and lunch sandwiches and larger format lunch specials, most with a fair amount of fat and a lot of flavor. Midtown
Picos – Monday to Saturday 9 AM to 11 AM, Sunday brunch 10 AM to 3 PM – It's easy to forget that this very adept, long running Mexican restaurant also serves breakfast each day, one of the best breakfasts in the city, in fact. The wide-ranging menu is mostly Mexican morning classics like migas, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles with a choice among five sauces, proteins and whether or not you want an egg, and an especially well-done huevos con machacado. Plus pozole rojo or verde and menudo daily. There's also pancakes, fresh fruit in a couple of ways, and a design-it-yourself omelet with four items, common and less so, including huitlacoche and fresh serranos. The execution and presentation of any of the dishes, in line with its later service, are both much better than you'll typically find at other places serving similar fare. Sunday is a brunch buffet that's both morning and afternoon preparations, and more of an enticement to drink. And Picos has been for decades regarded as one of the top margaritas shakers around. Upper Kirby District
Buffalo Grille – Weekdays from 7AM, Weekends form 8 AM – Open since 1984, and seemingly crowded during Saturday and Sunday morning hours since then, with folks stretching well outside the restaurant waiting to order food at the counter during peak times. The lengthy weekend line usually moves quickly because the friendly counter staff and kitchen are quite efficient at dealing with crowds. Breakfast, served all the time, features the basic Houston-area morning meal options: pancakes called hot cakes here, French toast, bacon, potatoes, a variety of omelets, and several Mexican egg dishes. Some things work better than others. The French toast, large whole slices of thick bread that is surprisingly light, is among the best around. The pancakes and the create-it-yourself omelets with three very large eggs are generally good, too. The hash browns, though not the home fries that are often served under the guise of hash browns, should usually be avoided. Too often these can be strangely gray in color, and rather listless and unappealing. The thickly sliced pecan-smoked peppered bacon, however, is excellent, if not cheap. It’s diner fare, but this provides some nice touches that you would certainly not find at a diner like heated syrup and the option of regular coffee and that flavored with a little bit of cinnamon, which are both quite palatable. West U, Briargrove
Black Walnut Café – Daily from 7 AM – Breakfast is what this small, locally sprung counter-service chain does best. There is a wide range of offerings from playful versions of Eggs Benedict – Nashville Hot Chicken, Avocado Bacon, and Bacon Jam Cheeseburger – omelets, pancakes and French toast, combination plates and a few popular Mexican items. You can expect perfectly cooked eggs, thick, flavorful bacon, well-done pancakes served with warmed maple syrup. Handsome, inviting and friendly places, there’s even a bar area and a whole slew of alcoholic morning drinks, every morning. The lame breakfast sausage might be the only demerit here. Order more bacon. Rice Village, Memorial Park, The Woodlands, Katy, Cypress
Kenny & Ziggy’s – Daily from 8 AM – Toward the end of the lengthy menu at this amazingly popular restaurant-deli, there is a lengthy list of breakfast dishes, with all the expected American favorites along with Jewish-American ones – including more than lox among the preserved fish options – and more, often fun and caloric. But, healthy can be done, too with a quinoa bowl and granola with fruit and yogurt. No one really comes here to eat healthy, though. Galleria Area
Cucharita – Tuesday through Saturday 7 AM to 3 PM – The little sister to Cuchara, just a half-block away, is an extension on the motif of excellent, truly Mexican cooking that is lighter and more vibrant than most, this one only for breakfast and lunch. The menu is short but tempting and all done in a little more refined fashion than typical: several egg dishes, chilaquiles changing weekly, a tasty rendition of Huevos Montuleños with a patty of plantains and black beans substituting for tortillas, enchiladas filled with shredded chicken breast and topped with a creamy, green poblano sauce, waffles, and breakfast tacos served with corn tortillas. Portions are quite sensibly sized, as at Cuchara. There is also a pastry counter filled with tempting baked-in-house goodies that change daily plus the requisite coffee drinks and even a list of breakfast cocktails beyond just mimosas, bloody Mary’s, and micheldas. It is a pretty place – the food is pretty, too – with pinks and aquas, much different, much better, than when it housed Cooking Girl (which begat Pepper Twins and the acceleration of Sichuan cooking in Houston). Cucharita seats just about thirty, some is communal seating, helping quickly to make this feel like comfortable and appropriate part of this neighborhood that actually has some pedestrians. Montrose
Weights & Measures – Tuesday through Friday 8AM to 11 AM; Saturday-Sunday brunch 8 AM to 3 PM – One of Midtown’s best does a service with nearly daily breakfast that’s heavy on the eggs and breads; the excellent Slow Dough Bake Shop is a part of the show. The very small menu includes a take on Avocado Toast, of course, but with smoked bacon, fried eggs, and chimichurri sauce on ciabatta bread, and also preparations like smoked salmon with truffle scrambled eggs, dill-flavored cream cheese, purple onions and pumpernickel bread. Though there should be something for everyone including those eating healthy at this bright, inviting space, interestingly, pancakes and French toast are available only as sides. Midtown
Frank’s Grill – Daily from 7 AM; 6 AM in Spring Branch except on Sunday – Now a trio, these are very proficient greasy spoons that serve high quality diner-style food quickly, and usually with a smile. With the low prices and all-American fare, yet very humble setting, it’s the type of the place, you will readily expect to see a parked patrol car in the parking and both police and thieves enjoying the food (well, maybe not the latter). The breakfast offerings here are the basic American diner breakfast items with some concession to the region like breakfast tacos and the biscuits and gravy. Those biscuits are nicely made on-site. The S.O.S. on the menu is actually the biscuits and sausage-inflected gravy, and worth an order, as are the hash browns, which should be given a thought along with any of the morning mains: egg combination plates, omelets, pancakes, waffles, French toast and breakfast sandwiches. If you like the type of caloric, not-so-heart-healthy breakfasts that help make this country fat and happy, this a place for you. Spring Branch, West Houston (2)
Blacksmith – Daily from 7 AM – Though the breakfast / lunch offerings are limited, these are done well enough to encourage repeat visits, along with the serious coffee, at this very casual counter-service outpost of the acclaimed Underbelly Hospitality Group. Befitting that connection, the offerings are a bit offbeat, interesting and spot-on for present-day Houston. There is the Vietnamese Steak and Eggs that’s served with house pâté, French bread and a side salad, house-made biscuits or croissants with crème fraîche and jam, or bacon or sausage, egg and cheddar. Eating healthier but enjoyably is easy here, with oatmeal and yogurt headliners, and even the couple of breakfast tacos feature black beans. Montrose
Empire Café – Daily from 7:30 AM – For almost thirty years now right on Westheimer, this counter-service stop serves most of the local breakfast staples, which includes some Tex-Mex ones, tempered with some flair. Packed on weekend mornings for the four-egg omelets, and packed a great many mornings, its version of French Toast made with an Italian-style of bread and topped with mixed berries, and range of other items you’d expect in a Montrose restaurant with some personality. A true café, it’s popular for a coffee with work to do on the laptop. Montrose
La Guadalupana – Tuesday through Sunday 7 AM to 2 PM – Though the kitchen is reliable for all meals, breakfast have been the most enjoyable of the hot items and this tiny and still-not-so-attractively-adorned spot on Dunlavy that’s become popular in recent years. The breakfast tacos served in the mornings are still quite popular can be quite good, if maybe not once they once were. A judicious amount of fillings – eggs, bacon, etc. – are ladled into either a thin flour or corn tortilla, which are then rolled fairly tightly around the fillings. The salsas, a nice complement to these and most dishes, are fiery and packed with flavor. The other breakfast preparations like Huevos Rancheros, Huevos a la Mexicana, and Machaca Norteña featuring dried beef are also commendable. Don’t forget about the breakfast croissant as this is a bakery foremost. Then there are an array of tempting items in the display case by the door that can make this a quick stop for pastry-centric breakfast on the go. Montrose
Dot Coffee Shop – Open 24 hours – The Dot Coffee Shops were the restaurants that got the Pappas corporate juggernaut rolling in the 1960s. The only location left is the one just off the Gulf Freeway, near the Gulfgate Mall. This is an skillful interpretation of the traditional American diner, done more nicely. As with most of the Pappas establishments, the restaurant is quite large, even big for a diner. It seems spacious, though it’s usually crowded with patrons. The service is usually a little better than other similar places. The kitchen does not quite have the deftness of the much humbler Frank’s Grill, but it does well enough and there are enough variety to satiate everyone in the group: pancakes, French toast and omelets in a variety of ways along with eggs that can be paired with a number of proteins including chicken fried steak and catfish. The egg dishes are the best breakfast items, featuring eggs are noticeably large and even the simple eggs over-easy have a surprisingly amount of flavor. The French toast is nearly as good; some of the best around, in fact. The small-sized regular pancakes are nothing special, the bacon at times can seem like it has spent too much time under a heat lamp, and, annoyingly, vegetable oil spread is used instead of butter. No matter, this is still worth a visit for your breakfast cravings, and at any time.
Pondicheri – Daily from 9 AM – The Indian-influenced breakfasts dished counter-service in this smart upscale urban retail setting will likely entice about any Houstonian who enjoys well-done breakfast. There are about a dozen hot items all arriving quickly from the proficient kitchen plus several of the tempting breakfast pastries. It’s not your diner breakfast. There is a coconut pancake that’s also made with almond and rice flour, a fermented dosa waffle, the French toast is brioche with cardamon, chocolate and bananas, and the Morning Thali. That’s uppma, sambar, saag paneer, a fried egg, and a potato cake that’s served with a carroty paratha. Among the knowing, international patrons you’ll probably hear an expensive English accent or two and have a sense that you’ve made a keen choice. Upper Kirby District
Barnaby’s / Baby Barnaby’s – Fairview, weekdays from 7 AM to noon, weekends 8AM to 2PM; Shepherd, Tuesday to Friday 7 AM to 10:30 AM, weekends 8 AM to 11 AM; Heights and Binz, weekends 8 AM to 11 AM – Not every location of this comfortable big food local chain serves breakfast, which is quite good, though does not seem as satisfying as the lunch and dinner offerings. As with those, the fare is diner-esque with nods to our locale. A couple of the pluses are that the bacon is thick, crisp and excellent, and coffee is charmingly served in small individual pots. Montrose, River Oaks, Museum District, Heights
Lankford Grocery – Daily – Here you get the basic American breakfasts plus, requisite for this city, a few Tex-Mex items: three eggs and toast with bacon or sausage and sautéed potatoes or grits; French toast; biscuits and gravy and sausage; omelets; oatmeal; Chilaquiles served with eggs and either bacon or sausage, and breakfast tacos on flour tortillas. Also the unique and messy Lonestar Tostadas, layered crispy corn tortillas, refried beans, Monterey Jack cheese, eggs, fried or sunny-side-up and choice among bacon, sausage, or ham and ranchero sauce. These are all generally quite fulfilling, filling and nice values. The hearty biscuits and gravy, which are served with a couple of good breakfast sausage patties, might be the best in town. Fresh, butter-laden biscuits and thick flavorful gravy complement each other very well, if not your arteries. Service is always very friendly here, as are the regulars. Montrose, Bellaire
Carne asada and eggs at Goode Co. Taqueria