Holiday Gift Ideas That Support Houston Restaurants and Food Businesses

When it comes to where to spend your dollars on holiday gifts in Houston, it’s good to be choosy. Your spending makes a bigger positive impact when it’s at a small, local business rather than a big corporation that doesn’t have to hustle for its sales. Many Houston restaurants and other food and beverage businesses also have plenty of incentives at this time of year, such as getting an extra gift card when you purchase one and gift packages specially created for this time of year. Below are some options to consider. 

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Gift Card Deals From Local Restaurants

Restaurant gift cards make terrific stocking stuffers and thank-you gifts for neighbors, teachers, vendors and others whose work supports your life. 

Dish Society and Daily Gather: Both this Houston-grown chain focusing on quality ingredients and its CityCentre restaurant in the Memorial area are owned by Five 12 Restaurant Concepts, so the Dish Society gift cards work at both businesses. At any location, spend $50 on a gift card and get a $10 one for free. The deal is running through December 31, and the cards are available to purchase online or in person. 

H Town Restaurant Group: This well-regarded business run by restaurateur Tracy Vaught and James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega owns some of Houston’s most popular restaurants: Hugo’s, Xochi, Backstreet Cafe, Caracol and Urbe. Right now, for every $100 H Town Restaurant Group card purchased, get a bonus one worth $20. Conveniently, you can buy the gift cards online and choose to have them delivered via email, text or regular mail. Note that the bonus card starts being valid after December 31, while the ones you purchase are available immediately. These additionally work at Vaught’s Rice Village restaurant, Prego.

Molina’s Cantina: One of the oldest Tex-Mex businesses in the city is offering a $5 bonus gift card for every $25 one purchased. The deal is only available through Christmas Eve. The bonus cards will be delivered via email on 12/23 and are redeemable January 1 through March 31, 2024. Purchase at any of the three locations (scroll to the bottom of the homepage for the addresses) or online. 

Money Cat, 2925 Richmond: This beautiful restaurant in Upper Kirby is a spin-off of Tobiuo, a Japanese restaurant in Katy. It’s offering two gift card deals through December 31. Drop by the restaurant and pick up the above-pictured adorable, gift-worthy T-shirt for $30 and get a bonus $10 gift card. In addition, a $200 gift card purchase lands a bonus $25 card that’s valid through March 31, 2024. Gift cards are available online

Palace Social, 4191 Bellaire, Houston and 5950 Fairmont Parkway, Pasadena: This is a great gift for anyone you know who enjoys dishes and drinks along with their games, whether arcade-style, bowing or virtual experiences. At Palace Social, the bigger the gift card, the bigger the bonus. Get 10% off of gift cards up to $499, 15% off values from $500 to $999 and 20% off lavish cards of $1,000 and up. The discounts are available through December 31, and gift cards can be purchased onsite or online

Phat Eatery, 23119 Colonial Parkway, Katy: This destination for Malaysian fare is making it easy to make plans for dinners with dishes such as siu mai (shrimp and pork dumplings), chili prawns and beef rendang in 2024. With every $100 gift card purchase, get a second one worth $20. The bonus one is valid from January 2 through March 31, 2024. It must be used for dine-in purchases and cannot be combined with other offers. Buy gift cards at the restaurant or online

Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, 113 6th Street, San Leon: The acclaimed seafood restaurant featuring dishes by executive chef Joe Cervantez has a gift card deal that is only available through Christmas Eve. Every $100 gift card purchased comes along with a $10 free card that’s valid starting on January 1, 2024. The deal is only available for in-person purchases. 

Special Dining Experiences

chef Yoshi Katsuyama of Aya Sushi
Highly experienced (and entertaining) chef Yoshi Katsuyama of Aya Sushi trained in Tokyo and spent four years at Uchi Houston. Courtesy photo.

Aya Sushi, 5407 Bellaire: Gift yourself and a friend a Saturday sushi class with one of Houston’s most colorful chefs, Yoshi Katsuyama. The class covers how to make classic maki, Aya’s house maki, crudo and nigiri — and attendees even get a knife, cutting board, rolling mat and chopsticks so they can continue practicing at home. The cost is $129 per person. You can buy tickets to the January 20 class online, and if you’d like a card to present as a tangible gift, send the restaurant an email

Brennan’s of Houston, 3300 Smith: Gift one of Houston’s premier chef’s table dining experiences. Called The Kitchen Table, this lets diners meet the chefs and get close to the behind-the-scenes action. It all happens in a private room adjacent to the busy kitchen. The Kitchen Table experience is available for groups of 4 to 10 people at lunch for $73 per person and dinner for $95 per person. Wine pairings are available for an additional cost. Please note that the experience isn’t offered on major holidays. Go online for further details, then call (713) 522-9711 for reservations. 

Local Ingredients, Gift Packs & Baskets

Craft Pita's spices and sauces
Add some Mediterranean spice to your home dishes with Craft Pita’s ingredients. Courtesy photo.

Craft Pita, 1920 Fountainview and 5172 Buffalo Speedway: Owner Raffi Nasr’s family produces their own olive oil in Lebanon, so the good news for Houston is they can stop by either the West University or Fountainview location and obtain their own bottles. That’s not all of Nasr’s interesting, gift-worthy products. He also crafts his own hot sauce tempered with a dash of Texas honey, and there are custom spice blends, too. 

There are a few gift boxes that allow recipients to try more than one product. The Craft Pita Spice Set includes Mediterranean sea salt, za’taar blend, kafta seasoning, falafel seasoning and shawarma seasoning, and costs $32. The Olive Oil Holiday Box includes the Lebanese olive oil, and choices of the hot sauce or pomegranate vinaigrette, and two jars of spices. The cost is $60. The Wine Holiday Box is $70 and replaces the olive oil with a bottle of rosé, white or red wine and includes the same choices for hot sauce or vinaigrette and spices noted for the Olive Oil Box. Stop by either location for a quick gift or go online to order

bright yellow Dish Society gift set
Bring some sunshine into the home with the bright yellow Dish Society gift set. (Note that this photo shows the regular mug, not the travel mug.) Courtesy photo.

Dish Society, multiple locations: This restaurant’s yellow and blue corporate colors also lend themselves well to eye-catching merch. (I actually own a Dish Society mug, and it’s my Saturday morning cup because it’s bright and happy-looking.) Right now, a gift pack is offered combining a Dish Society travel mug with a bag of a custom coffee blend of medium-roast Ethiopian and Colombian beans from Greenway Coffee. Bonus: bring your travel mug to any Dish Society location and get it filled with brewed coffee for free once per visit. You can also purchase just the coffee beans for $20 a bag. 

DR Delicacy, 1291 North Post Oak, Suite 120: This local shop specializing in gourmet ingredients has created three gift sets for varying interests and tastes. The DR Delicacy + Madame Zero Caviar Gift Box includes Madame Zero Champagne (an extra-aged brut with less than .5 grams of sugar), Italian White Sturgeon Caviar, two mother-of-pearl spoons and a pair of cooling caviar pouches. The pricing depends on which additional caviar you select to complete the box. The Bronze-level box is $169 and adds Smoked Trout Roe, the Gold is $212 includes Kaluga Black Caviar and the Platinum is $227 and comes with Osetra Amber Caviar.  Delivery is available for orders of $150 or more, or pick up at the DR Delicacy shop. 

The Truffle Gift Box has everything a truffle-loving cook could want: Truffle Salt, Black Truffle Olive Oil and White Truffle Texas Wildflower Honey. There are even two bags of truffle potato chips to snack on (and share — maybe) while coming up with new creations in the kitchen. The cost for this box of little luxuries is $88.56. 

DR Delicacy olive oil
DR Delicacy’s gift box sets includes one of three single-varietal olive oils. Courtesy photo.

The third box is a set of three olive oils pressed from single-olive varieties: Bérguette, Grossane and Picholine. The Bérguette offers notes of artichoke and green hazelnut, the Grossane is reminiscent of freshly cut grass and the Picholine is powerful and fiery. Visit the website for guidance on how to use each with specific dishes. The cost of this olive oil set is $101.25. Visit the shop to pick up. The hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hope Farms, 10401 Scott: This urban farm from the non-profit Recipe for Success has numerous handcrafted gifts to help support its mission of helping kids and adults learn about food, eat healthier and live better lives. These include the Farm Peace pack with a 12-ounce jar of HIVE Bee Farms honey and Flower Child Hibiscus Tea for $59, Wake Up With Hope Farms with two coffee mugs and a special coffee blend by Fontana Coffee Roasters for $39 and the Hope Farms Culinary Adventure, which includes a Hope Farms apron and gift certificate for a Cook The Harvest class for $149. Several gifts include add-ons or upgraded packaging options for additional charge. Delivery to a limited area around the farm is available. Otherwise, order by 5 p.m. on Friday for Saturday pickup. Go online to view the full selection. 

Jonathan’s The Rub, 12505 Memorial and 9090 Katy Freeway: Visit either location of the Levine family restaurant for 6-ounce jars of owner and patriarch Jonathans custom meat rub blend. This blend of seasonings and cracked spices is well-balanced and not overly salty, and goes well not only on steaks, but chicken, pork and roasted vegetables. The cost is $12 per jar.  

Kin by Chef Evelyn: longtime Houston chef and former “Top Chef: Houston” competitor Evelyn Garcia is now well-known for her restaurant, Jūn (recently named among our Best New Houston Restaurants of 2023), but she also has a business for her catering and products called Kin. It includes an online shop where she sells custom sauces, rubs and snacks. We love the Thai-Spiced Peanuts, and the KinChup — Garcia’s twist on ketchup seasoned with cumin and tamarind — is very popular. The hot sauce is excellent, and chili oil is a must for any home cook who enjoys spice. These are also available to buy at Jūn; look for the display near the host station. Online purchases are available to ship nationwide; allow five to seven days for arrival. (Might not arrive in time for Christmas, but I bet it will still be a welcome package nonetheless.) 

Molina’s Cantina, three locations: Friends who love this local Houston Tex-Mex restaurant will appreciate finding its Zesty Seasoned Salt in their stocking or gift basket. The uses include as a seasoning for beef, such as burgers or fajitas, enhancing vegetables or even just sprinkling on popcorn. A jar costs $7.95; stop by your closest location to purchase. 

Montrose Cheese & Wine, 1618 Westheimer: This one is a great gift for your wine-loving family or friends — or perhaps a gift for yourself for a year well-done. Montrose Wine & Cheese Club offers two monthly memberships. The $75 subscription, called The Scooby Snack, has three bottles of wine and one artisanal cheese. The Advanced Course membership costs $175 and includes six bottles of wine and two half-pounds of cheese. During the initial purchase, you can opt to also include co-owner June Rodil’s own wine, June’s Rosé. Rodil, by the way, is one of only four women currently in Texas who earned their Master Sommelier designations by the Court of Masters. 

Gifts of Local Pastries, Ice Creams, Chocolates & Breads

Cacao & Cardamom chocolate trees
Cacao & Cardamom has numerous stunning chocolate creations for Christmas, including these big, dark chocolate trees. Photo by Ryan Kasey Baker.

Cacao & Cardamom, 5000 Westheimer: Eagle-eyed writer Ryan Kasey Baker was browsing chocolatier Annie Rupani’s shop in the Galleria area when he spied the big, sparkly chocolate Christmas trees in the above photo, as well as chocolate ornaments. Those are just a few of the special holiday items for the season. Whether shopping in store or online, you’ll also find assortments of beautiful truffles ranging from 4 to 24 pieces, gingerbread chocolate bars, chocolate bark and hot chocolate sticks. Some of the special holiday items are already sold out, so move quickly if you’re interested. 

Fat Cat Creamery, 1225 West 34th Street: Whether you’re looking for the perfect ice cream for your à la mode, some of the best brownies in town, a surprise gift, or even just a respite for yourself, this ice cream shop at the Stomping Grounds is a great place to stop. Eschew mass-market plain vanilla ice cream for your pie in favor of the Cat’s Meow Mexican Vanilla or go creative with the Amaya Coffee & Cream, made with locally roasted coffee. For the kids (big or small), check out the current special cookie offering: Honey Chocolate Chip. Call (713) 869-1080 with questions or to inquire about in-stock flavors. 

A beautifully decorated Christmas tart at French Gourmet Bakery
A beautifully decorated Christmas tart at French Gourmet Bakery. Courtesy photo.

French Gourmet Bakery, 2250 Westheimer: No matter what kind of sweet treats are dancing in your head, chances are that this top-notch pastry shop from chef Patrice Ramain and family has them. If you’re open to anything or looking for ideas, just stop by and ogle the beautifully decorated goods. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 23 and Christmas Eve, which is Sunday, December 24.  However, you can also order in advance from the website — a must for the by-special-order-only Bûche de Nöel in chocolate-rum or alcohol-free chocolate raspberry flavors. There’s also fruitcake, a wealth of cookies, including gingerbread men, tarts, breakfast breads and a stunning Black Forest cake. Visit the website for the full selection. 

Kolache Shoppe, 1031 Heights, 3945 Richmond and 11940 Broadway, Pearland: On your way to dinner at someone’s house and don’t know what to bring? Drop by a Kolache Shoppe location for buttery dinner rolls or a Holiday Sweet Roll Loaf in either cinnamon roll or poppy-pecan. Go online to choose your pickup location and order. A 48-hour notice is required, which means Christmas Eve pickups must be placed by Thursday, December 22. The best bet is to call your closest location, as the online order pages were not working as of press time. For an enduring memento, consider one of the handsome dark blue coffee mugs — and a box of kolaches for Christmas breakfast, of course. 

Mostly Chocolate, 1050 North Post Oak: Numerous wrapped and packaged holiday treats from chocolatier Dany Kamkhagi simply demand inclusion in a holiday stocking. Most items can be shipped, although a few have to be picked up in person. The 12-piece box of chocolates has three each of four holiday flavors: Spiced Eggnog, Peppermint, Gingerbread and Almond Coconut Crunch. There are gaily iced and decorated pretzels that come six to a bag, tubes of five truffles in Don Julio Tequila, goat cheese, salted caramel, and rosemary and olive oil flavors perfect for party favors or stockings and Hot Chocolate Snowballs. Go online to view the full selection.

Ooh La La Sweets, 23920 Westheimer Parkway and 20155 Park Row: The deadline to pre-order the fun Christmas pastries from this longrunning shop is Thursday, December 21 at 1 p.m. Otherwise, you can drop in during regular business hours (hours on Christmas Eve are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and see what’s still available. This year’s seasonal cupcakes include frosting designs such as Santa’s Belt and Holiday Wreath. There is also red velvet cake and Gingerbread Macarons decorated with happy gingerbread people’s faces. Go online to view photos of the holiday selections.

Xochi, 1777 Walker: This is the perfect kit for those who are interested in the culinary arts and love hot chocolate. Xochi’s Holiday Gift Box includes a copy of Hugo Ortega’s “Street Food of Mexico” cookbook, a 9-ounce Mexican chocolate tablet that makes five cups of hot chocolate and a beautiful wooden molinillo. The molinillo, a traditional Mexican whisk, is for getting your hot chocolate nice and frothy. H Town Restaurant Group makes its chocolate tablets from scratch using roasted cacao beans, and the chocolate can also be used in mole recipes. The gift basket costs $60. Visit the Xochi website to purchase. There, you’ll also find other gifts, such as boxed Oaxacan-inspired chocolates, the Backstreet Cafe cookbook and Xochi-branded mugs

Houston Restaurant Swag

Phat Eatery's insulated WTF mug
Phat Eatery’s insulated “WTF” (Wow Tasty Food”) mug. Photo by Alex Au-Yeung.

Phat Eatery, 23119 Colonial Parkway: When you get merch from this Malaysian eatery in Katy, you’re not just buying a shirt or a cap. You’re buying the future glee of seeing people do a double-take. The slogans include “WTF” (it means “Wow Tasty Food” — what were YOU thinking it meant?) and “Phat People Are Harder to Kidnap”. There are handsome “WTF” insulated tumblers, too. (I own one, and it’s outstanding at keeping my coffee piping-hot on road trips. Hand-wash to preserve the outer finish.) To purchase, visit the restaurant, call (832) 913-6382 or go to the online ordering page to schedule pickup (scroll all the way to the bottom for the merch). Remember, if you ain’t Phat, you ain’t nothin’

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