Houston is home to many cultures and is considered to have one of the most diverse cuisine selections within the U.S. In addition, Houstonians love to eat. There are many festivals hosted in Houston and the main attraction is often the food, such as the Italian festival, the Greek festival, and the iFest (Houston International Festival), just to name a few.
As it is home to more cultures than most American cities, Houston offers a great variety of foods such as Italian, Mediterranean, Asian (including Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese, among others), French, German, Brazilian, Mexican, South American, Portuguese and Polish. If there is one thing you will notice is that Houston’s culture is definitely present in its culinary presentation.
The Mexican culture has the strongest influence and Texas has developed its own TexMex style. It is a heavily Americanized version of Mexican food.
The typical foods you find in Houston are TexMex, BBQ and traditional American. Popular American or home-cooked meals in Houston include baked potatoes, steak, seafood, chicken wings, macaroni and cheese but also many different vegetables such as corn, okra, and broccoli. Of course, a large variety of burgers are also popular and range from the not-so-out of the ordinary cheeseburger to mushroom burgers, BBQ sauce burgers and burgers with bacon and fried onions or gorgonzola-stuffed burgers. The list is as endless as your imagination.
Houstonians like spicy foods and Tabasco sauce, jalapeno peppers and many other kinds of pepper are often used. The fresh vegetable aisles in grocery stores carry large varieties of peppers.
Supermarkets have aisles marked with sections for these different foods from the world. There is an increasing selection of organic and natural foods and many fresh fruits and vegetables for every culture’s taste. If the major supermarket chains don’t carry the food you are looking for, then you will most likely find it in one of the many specialized grocery stores.
Other foods, such as bakery goods can also be found in supermarkets rather than traditional bakeries, which are rare in Houston. Bread in the U.S. is often sold in packages and not traditionally baked fresh for sale; however, in recent years, newer grocery stores are now including bakeries inside their stores and offer fresh bread even at later hours. Cakes can also be purchased in such bakery stores, even customized cakes for birthday, graduation, and other special occasions. Popular places for expats to get bread are Whole Foods Markets and La Madeleine French Bakeries.
Establishments that sell food, such as supermarkets, street vendors, businesses and restaurants are all regulated by the Texas Department of State Health Services and must have permits and undergo regular inspections. Foods are mostly sold prepackaged. If a food is sold unpackaged, it will be placed behind a counter and only be handled by a specific food handler who follows sanitary rules. Supermarkets, convenient stores and restaurants are generally clean and pleasant.
Wine and spirits are also strictly regulated in Texas and there are laws that you will need to be aware of when purchasing or consuming alcohol. While wine and beer are available at the local supermarket, spirits may only be purchased at specialized stores. Texas is not as well-known for its wineries as California, but it offers quite a few very good wines, even local to Houston. The Houston area and the nearby Hill Country area are home to many wine growers with fine wineries. Texas also celebrates many wine festivals.