A Chef’s Picks for Keto Dishes at Top Houston Restaurants
About the author: chef Alvin Schultz is a former MasterChef Competitor who now runs Mind Body Fuel, a keto meal delivery service in Houston. He’s also known for his Eat. Drink. Experience! underground pop-up dinners. (The next one is in October; visit this page to get on the e-mail list.)
Thanks to changes in his eating habits and consistent Krav Maga workouts, Schultz has lost over 50 pounds over the past four months. While eating wholesome food at home or the office is necessary, his meal delivery clients regularly ask him for recommendations on keto and primal diet friendly restaurants and dishes in Houston. This is his list of some of his “favorite, most delicious” meals around town. “If you’re looking to eat outside the box, these are great choices,” he says.
Paneer Hara Masala and Steak Tikka from Himalaya Restaurant and Catering , 6652 Southwest Freeway: The late, great chef, writer, and travel personality Anthony Bourdain showcased Himalaya as a Houston gem during the Houston episode of his Parts Unknown series. Chef-owner Kaiser Lashkari, whose jovial, welcoming presence can be spotted almost anytime that the restaurant is open, is one of the hardest-working chef-owners in the industry. While his Spicy “Rocket Naan” and Goat Biryani are to die for, save them for cheat days or your carb-eating friends. One of the amazing, keto-friendly dishes is the Paneer Hara Masala, or chunks of Indian farmer’s cheese covered in spicy green sauce. Lashkari’s marinated and tandoor-grilled Steak Tikka is another great keto dish. It’s tender, succulent and the perfect accompaniment to the saucy hara masala.
Rib Eye for Two (or Four) at Riel, 1927 Fairview: Many Houston chefs regard the local, hormone-free, humanely raised beef from 44 Farms to be some of the tastiest, too. (We use it in all of our ground beef dishes at Mind Body Fuel.) Chef Ryan Lachaine’s Riel restaurant in Montrose serves a perfectly seared 48-ounce, 44 Farms rib eye steak with fried eggs, creamy béarnaise sauce, compound garlic butter and market vegetables. It’s a decadent meal. Order with the burrata or snapper crudo (or both) to balance out the meal. For those indulging in wine, Riel has a smartly curated list of affordable yet delicious selections. Pair the steak with a red blend form Chateau Franc Patarabet. It’s amazing.
Veal Sweet Breads at El Tiempo, 2814 Navigation: Skipping carbs at a Tex-Mex place is a test in willpower. Those with discipline, though, can push the chips aside, eat salsa with a spoon and order the Veal Sweet Breads, or grilled mollejas. These taste like juicy chicken thigh meat. Dress them with the drawn butter, sour cream and pico de gallo for an adventurous keto meal. If you’re not the offal type, fajitas are also keto. El Tiempo’s Paradillas Mixtos — mixed, grilled meats — are epic and the smallest one serves four easily, despite what the menu says.
Two-Meat Plate at Feges BBQ, 3 Greenway Plaza: Houston power couple and chef-owners Erin and Patrick Feges serve what is easily the best food court barbecue in Texas. Patrick worked as Ronnie Killen’s opening pit master at Killen’s BBQ, and Erin honed her skills as a chef in some of New York City’s finest restaurants before overseeing the menus of Houston restaurants like Plonk! Bistro and Main Kitchen. The smart keto order at Feges BBQ is the two-meat plate with fatty brisket and pork belly with a double side of coleslaw. It’s high fat, low carb and no sugar. The barbecue, smoked low and slow, is mouthwateringly good and the yogurt-based slaw is surprisingly light. Those enjoying a cheat day shouldn’t miss the chocolate and peanut-butter-and-jelly cake.
Sashimi Plate for Two at Kata Robata: Chef Manabu Horiuchi is a living legend amongst Houston chefs and should be considered a treasure. Just sitting at his sushi bar and watching him cut fish is an experience. For an impressive date night (or more impressive solo night) check out the Sashimi Plate for Two. It’s a big, beautiful platter with a variety of fish that’s mostly flown in from Tokyo’s Tsujiki Market. Each piece is tender and the expert cutting showcases the quality and freshness of the fish.
Grilled Meatballs at Nancy’s Hustle, 2704 Polk: Thanks to warm welcoming service, great food, and a top-notch bar program, Nancy’s Hustle is a breakout favorite in EaDo for many Houston diners. (Make reservations or expect a wait on the busiest dining nights of the week.) The grilled meatballs are just one of smart keto choices on the menu. A perfect meal for two starts with the Gem Lettuce with Crispy pancetta and Anchovies and the Tomato and Shrimp Salad, which is spiked with finely diced summer sausage. For the main course, move on to the Grilled Meatballs and Roasted Grouper. Let co-owner Sean Jensen and his bar team surprise you with wine pairings and have a little neat whiskey for desert.
Julep, 1919 Washington: This beautiful, Southern-inspired bar is a favorite date night and happy hour spot featuring one of Houston’s finest collections of bourbon and whiskey. Staying clean and keto at Julep isn’t hard (and that may be because I actually created the bar snacks). Owner Alba Huerta was one of Mind Body Fuel’s first clients and she prioritized offering healthy options to her guests. Choose from the Feges BBQ Pork Rilletes served with crispy pork rinds, the Tomato and Strawberry Salad, or make the Houston Dairymaid’s Cheese Board perfectly keto by substituting pork rinds for the crackers. If you’re out with non-ketoers, tell them not to miss the fried baby back ribs with spicy honey.
Shake Shack, multiple locations: Those following the keto plan should know this hack for quick food: all of the burgers from Shake Shack can be ordered without a bun. Instead, the meat and toppings are wrapped in in fresh lettuce. Add mustard for that Texas kick for a great keto lunch. Once the new Montrose location opens, grab an iced coffee from Blacksmith (bring your own MCT oil) and enjoy it with a bun-less Lockheart Link Shack Burger, made with Kreuz Market’s sausage.
Oyster Happy Hour at State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer: Indulging in great oysters is a wonderful way to stay keto and and State of Grace in River Oaks has one of the biggest selections in Houston. Chef Bobby Matos brings in bivalves from all over the east coast as well as several farmed Gulf varieties. During happy hour, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, a variety of oysters is available for just “a buck a shuck.” Order a glass of dry bubbles and the Wedge Salad or Gulf Fish of the Day alongside for a satisfying and delicious lunch.