Every day, thousands of Houstonians migrate to work in downtown Houston. But underneath all the buildings and one-way streets lies another bustling metropolis: the Houston Tunnels.
Built in 1930 by the 31st governor of Texas, Ross Sterling, the Houston tunnel system was modeled after New York’s underground Rockefeller Plaza. It started off as a connection between two buildings but construction of the tunnels boomed in the 1960s, creating a six-mile tunnel that links 95 city blocks that is still used today.
The tunnels are lined with restaurants, salons, pharmacies, banks and more. And every day around noon, the sprawling tunnel system fills with hungry businesspeople in need of a hearty midday meal and a quick break from work.
Some “underground” restaurants are better than others though. These are the Houston tunnel restaurants you need to know:
Location: 811 Louisiana Street
Phone Number: (832) 742-5332
To satisfy a craving for South American flavors, check out 5411 Empanadas. This restaurant was started in Chicago in 2009 to bring Argentinian flavors to that city and has grown to Houston since then. The small destination looks chic with white furniture, floor-to-ceiling windows, and wooden accents, but it’s great for a quick takeout meal.
5411 Empanadas food is also available for delivery with the Favor app. We recommend the Malbec beef empanada, which contains angus beef, yellow onions, carrots, Malbec wine, garlic and rosemary. Chimichurri sauce and the banana and Nutella empanada are never bad choices for dessert.
Location: 808 Travis Street
Phone Number: (281) 257-9500
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pelidelihouston/
Peli Deli offers flavorful South African dishes filled with flavor and a kick of spice. Although Peli Deli is technically not located in the tunnels, it only an escalator ride up from the tunnel food court at 808 Travis Street. This location is big enough to have many tables available for a sit-down meal, but it’s also fast enough to grab on the go.
Peli Deli is also available with the Favor app. We enjoyed eating the Huguenot pork belly naan taco and the tomato and peppadew soup.
Location: 1001 Fannin Street
Phone Number: (713) 659-3288
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BaozDumplings/
Baoz Dumplings serves some of the best dumplings in Houston — and it happens to be in the tunnels. Located in the food court at 1001 Fannin Street, Baoz Dumplings has been a popular destination for downtown office workers since 2008.
The restaurant’s flavorful dumplings are especially delectable during the colder months, but they don’t sit too heavy in the stomach with their light skin. Baoz Dumplings is perfect for a quick bite rather than a sit-down lunch and is also available to order to go on grubhub.com. We particularly enjoyed the steamed chicken dumplings and the steamed shrimp dumplings.
Alonti Market Cafe
Location: 1111 Louisiana Street, 1001 Fannin Street; 1221 McKinney Street; 600 Travis Street
Phone Number: (713) 752-0999
For a wide variety of soups and sandwiches, Alonti Market Cafe is the place to be. The restaurant also offers catering for corporate events, holiday parties and meetings.
One favorite? The California Club Sandwich is served on a ciabatta roll, and comes with roasted turkey, avocado, bacon, provolone cheese, Roma tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, and mayonnaise.
Alonti has a diverse menu and hot ready to-go options. Alonti Market Cafe’s food is available for delivery on its own website and through the Favor app.
Tacos A Go Go
Location: 910 Louisiana Street
Phone Number: (713) 226-8226
For traditional yet adventurous Tex-Mex tacos, try the tunnel’s Tacos A Go Go. This popular small Houston chain started in Midtown in 2006 but has opened four other locations around town and started Fajitas A Go Go on Kirby.
This eclectically decorated restaurant offers a wide variety of tacos and the tortillas have impeccable texture. The grilled shrimp taco and the breakfast taco with mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese are more than worthy picks. Tacos A Go Go is also available for delivery on the Favor app.
Location: 1100 Louisiana Street; 711 Louisiana Street
Phone Number: (832) 443-0414
To satisfy a craving for classic Vietnamese cuisine like banh mi, spring rolls or pho, try Bodard Express. Located in the food courts at both 711 and 1100 Louisiana Street, these small takeout restaurants are always busy with downtown business people in need of a quick bite to bring up to the office.
Most of the items on the menu stick to the Chinese and Vietnamese fast food staples, but don’t sleep on the unique Bodard rolls which puts the rice paper outside a spring roll and contain grilled pork, lettuce, carrots and cucumber like an egg roll.
Lost in the tunnels? Download the Houston Tunnels app to find your way.