If you’re familiar with Southeast Texas, you may scoff and think that Beaumont is nothing more than a quick fast-food stop when traveling between Houston and New Orleans on I-10. But with new restaurants opening all the time, it’s evolved into a foodie destination in its own right.
Beaumont’s culinary scene is a beguiling mix of Lonestar pride, Southern staples, and Cajun flavors that make for Texas-sized portions with a touch of Creole soul and seasoning. If you haven’t given the Beaumont restaurant scene a look lately – give it another chance. And while you’re in the area, take in the colorful murals, nature trails (yes, Texas has nature), and quirky local attractions like Gator Country, many of which are free.
Some food guides simply regurgitate restaurants they find on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Not me. I’ve personally eaten at every one of these restaurants (ofttimes, many times) and only included my personal recommendations as a long-time food writer. This guide isn’t a top 10 list; it’s every restaurant I felt worthy of inclusion and believe you need to taste for yourselves. Pack your stretchy pants and come hungry because Beaumont has a lot of good food options.
Ready to taste Southeast Texas? Here’s where to eat.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name – J. Wilson’s
The go-to neighborhood bistro, J. Wilson’s, is like the Cheers of Southeast Texas. A restaurant that can seemingly do no wrong; they put approachable twists on classic American comfort food. The Man Candy (candied bacon) is the go-to breakfast item, but it’s the oyster nachos I could devour multiple plates of.
For the Best Brunch (Once A Month) – Katharine and Co.
What started as a catering company evolved into a full-fledged restaurant in a gorgeous historic building downtown. But the semi-retired chef didn’t want to commit to working full-time (can you blame her?), so despite demand being red-hot, Katharine only offers lunch Monday through Friday, dinner the first Thursday of the month, and brunch the second Sunday of the month. A full-on town affair, the line is often out the door for their tasty sweet and savory creations that rotate at their discretion. And if you end up splurging at the pastry case before noon, no judgments here.
For the Best Viet-Cajun Fusion – Sweet Basil
One interesting fact about the Southeast Texas food scene is that you’ll find tons of Vietnamese restaurants (pho spots in spades). A lot of Vietnam War refugees were resettled in the area, which was a blessing to our palates. Vietnamese-Cajun is some of the tastiest fusion you’ll ever try with Sweet Basil featuring Asian-inspired crawfish boils, banh mis, and noodle bowls – the best of both worlds.
For the Best Thai Food (Like Anywhere) – Chaba Thai Bistro
Traditional sit-on-the-floor Asian-style dining, Chaba is one of those strip mall holes in the wall you can’t believe is as good as it is. The Taste of the Triangle winner, they’re known for their Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodles, made with ground pork, rice noodles, and fresh basil that I dream about.
For the Best Drinks – Tia Juanita’s
New Orleans-style frozen cocktails as big as your head, Tia Juanita’s is the place to go when you’re looking for a night you won’t remember with the friends you’ll never forget. It’s always boisterous, busy, and loud with live music and a “laissez les bon temps rouler” atmosphere.
For the Best Seafood Platters – Reel Cajun
The gem of Port Arthur, Reel Cajun, is the place to roll your sleeves up and get messy with saucy crab, shrimp, and crawfish boils served by the pound. While you could easily gorge on all that delicious Gulf Coast seafood, be sure to save room for other local bites like boudin balls and Cajun egg rolls, too.
For Crazy Cajun Staples – Rodair Roadhouse
A go-to hangout for the refinery boys (ladies, take note), Rodair Roadhouse has some of the best gumbo and jambalaya in town. It’s a casual spot with live music that also has Southern favorites like fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, and more exciting menu items like alligator cheesecake (which I could’ve done without, but decide for yourself).
For a Good Time, Call – Little Woodrow’s
The best bar in town, Little Woodrow’s, is a Houston outpost with a rockin’ patio. The outdoor space is a maze of firepits, swings (only mildly dangerous when drinking), and lawn games, so bring your crew and get to playin’ or people watching. You simply must try the Topo Chico Coolers that come in blueberry (my go-to) or watermelon.
For the OG – Jason’s Deli
Home to the original Jason’s Deli where the national franchise took off, the casual sandwich shop is a go-to for reliable lunch staples. Their soups are tasty, the baked potatoes are bigger than your head, and they have one of the best salad bars in town. Plus, free soft serve doesn’t hurt either.
For the Most Instagrammable Dishes – Tokyo Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar
Sure, hibachi’s always fun and tasty, but how many times can you really be amused by an onion train? If you follow the mantra, “the camera eats first,” for the photographers, the best part of Tokyo is the sushi, who take their caterpillar and dragon rolls super literally. Come see what other crazy rolls they come up with.
For the Best Happy Hour – the Grill
The quintessential white table cloth fancy pants restaurant, the Grill’s patio is the best date night spot in town. Adorned with twinkling lights and live music to set the mood, it’s the perfect spot to share some laughs over a bottle of wine.
For the Best Cheap Eats – Tacos La Bamba
Looking like a color bomb went off, each table and wall at Tacos La Bamba was hand-painted by a local muralist to create a fun, festive atmosphere (they even have Lucha libre in the parking lot sometimes). With $1 taco nights and 20 for $20 platters, it’s a cheap night out to feed the whole family. You can even get a whole fish for less than $10. Or, bring a crew and order the beautifully plated shitshow known as the “Charola de Cerveza & Camaron,” a messy tray of Micheladas, beers, and shrimp cocktail.
For the Best Quickie Breakfast – Rao’s
The staple neighborhood bakery since the ‘40s, Rao’s breakfast sammies, pastries (hello giant cinnamon rolls), and kolaches are the best way to start the day. Truth be told, I had no idea what a kolache was before visiting Beaumont, but these little life changing bites of flaky dough stuffed with locally-made Zummo’s sausage are much like a pepperoni roll. They also have sugar-bomb coffee creations like the Snickers Frappe, and if that doesn’t jolt-start your heart in the morning, I don’t know what will. They are also the King Cake headquarters of Southeast Texas come Mardi Gras season.
For the Best Mexican Food – Carmela’s
Boasting one of the top 10 quesos in all of Texas is quite the feat, but Carmela’s is just that good. Rich, creamy, and just the right thickness that you want to drizzle it on everything from the warm chips to the sizzling fajitas, you can also shovel it straight in your month – no judgment here.
Fun fact: Little Rock claims to have invented cheese dip and challenged Texas to a cook-off in the Senate (Arkansas actually won).
For the Other Best Mexican – Amacate Tortilla Bar
This is Tex-Mex country; did you think I’d have just one favorite restaurant? Amacate’s tacos are the bomb.com. Juicy meats and seafood on homemade tortillas, they wash down great with a giant avocado margarita. They also have churro ice cream sandwiches for dessert — you’re welcome.
For the Best BBQ – Boomtown BBQ Company
Twisty takes on your favorite BBQ plates; Boomtown’s smoked meat platters and sandwiches seriously pack a punch. Try the BBQ nachos or taco bomb, which are both a mess of melty cheese and sloppy pulled pork goodness. And the best part? You won’t have to wait in line for hours on end like you would in say Austin.
For the Most Instagrammable Desserts – La Real Michoacana
I don’t know why Mexican ice cream tastes so much better than American ice cream, but everything from basic vanilla is just more intensely flavorful. Most go to La Real Michochana for their mangonadas (fruit bowls topped with tajin), but if you know me, you know my go-to is the excessive rainbow freakshakes that are as delightful as they are photogenic.
For the Best Fried Chicken – Republic Chicken
Home-cooked fried chicken just like your granny used to make, Republic Chicken’s the quintessential Sunday supper meal with family-style sides, although ironically, they’re closed on Sundays. Wah wah. Get your cravings filled the rest of the week and save room for the white chocolate bread pudding, which just might be the best thing you’ll ever put in your mouth.
For the Best Sunset View – Amelia Farm & Market
A third-generation pecan farm, Amelia Farm, has a beautiful outdoor space that seems to extend forever. Perfect for sharing some apps and cocktails under the setting sun, it’s an ideal spot to enjoy the big Texas sky.
If you’re looking for more places to explore, check out these are other intriguing areas in Southeast Texas:
Baytown: Try geocaching, the art scavenger hunt app, and don’t miss Buc Ee’s, a gas station that has better BBQ, jerky, and snacks than most of America.
The Woodlands: Pleasantville on steroids, the Woodlands has great shopping, riverfront trails, and one of the best outdoor concert venues in the country.
Brazosport: Five destinations in one, Brazosport, is one of Southeast Texas’s most accessible beach getaways.
Corpus Christi: A bit further afield, Corpus is home to thousands of acres of dunes as part of the Padre National Seashore. Try watersports, go horseback riding on the beach, and watch the waves.
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