This is the fourth installment in By The Way’s secular Christmas series. Read more about D.C., New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.
These days it can be easier to go out to Chinatown, also known as Asiatown in Houston, to eat either hot pot, dim sum or more traditional Chinese food. Over the years, Asiatown has grown exponentially, and food lovers have their pick of Vietnamese and Korean, too.
Houston will be affected by an Arctic blast this week, but there are several ways to get outside for those who want to brave the cold.
Restaurants open in Houston on Christmas Day
FuFu Cafe for soup dumplings
My favorite restaurant is FuFu Cafe in Chinatown because they make these incredible, savory soup dumplings known as xiao long bao. Eating them in a deep soup spoon is the best way to make sure you don’t let any of the broth from the pork dumpling go to waste.
Ocean Palace or Crown Seafood for Cantonese banquets
If you prefer the larger, more banquet-style restaurants, check out Ocean Palace or Crown Seafood, each on the west side of Beltway 8. Both places also serve dim sum if you prefer to eat earlier in the day around brunch time. They also serve traditional Chinese entrees that include Dungeness crab, lobster and striped bass.
Confucius Seafood Restaurant for Peking duck
If you’re craving meat, crispy Peking duck is always a good option. At Confucius Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, you can eat crispy, roasted duck with some fresh lobster and noodles for a relatively inexpensive meal.
Shabu Zone for shabu-shabu
For shabu-shabu, the Japanese version of hot pot, go to Shabu Zone. Options for all-you-can-eat meals include a variety paper-thin slices of red meat — even rib-eye and Wagyu beef — along with pork, lamb and seafood such as shrimp, oysters, octopus, scallops and mussels. The broths used for shabu-shabu are often lighter than hot pot, including a variation of miso soup. Shabu Zone allows you to order different broths and dipping sauces such as ponzu, kimchi and black sesame.
Aside from the traditional Korean barbecue, fried rice topped with a runny egg is a must-order at Hamdam BBQ. The banchan is excellent, and the restaurant is one of the few places in Chinatown to have a patio because of space constraints.
Pho Saigon Noodle House
You can fill your craving for rich Vietnamese soup at Pho Saigon Noodle House, which has five locations in the area, including downtown, Katy and Sugar Land.
Where to see a movie in Houston on Christmas Day
Until the River Oaks theater reopens with its iconic art deco signs, you can splurge at the local location of luxury-minded IPIC theaters, where you can recline in a leather seat while you sip cocktails and watch “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
Star Cinema Grill
Another small chain, Star Cinema Grill, has locations in suburbs such as Missouri City, Katy and Friendswood with leather seats and good food options. Popcorn lovers will appreciate that the melted butter comes in a separate container, so you can dip kernels or pour as you eat. The nachos and pizza are better than your standard fare. There is a good variety of beer, including local favorites from Saint Arnold and Karbach.
Where to go sightseeing in Houston on Christmas Day
Drive in River Oaks and Tanglewood for Christmas lights
If you like the pageantry of Christmas decorations, check out the River Oaks or Tanglewood neighborhoods. Expect a long line of cars to view the large homes and yards with elaborate Texas-sized setups and sparkling lights. Bring a carafe of hot chocolate or hot tea such as oolong from a Chinese restaurant, and buy a box of chocolates infused with liqueurs such as Cointreau, Courvoisier, rum or Kahlua from British Isles in Rice Village to make the viewing more decadent.
McGovern Centennial Gardens
You can also walk around the McGovern Centennial Gardens, which has a lovely array of flowers, especially roses. You can rent a bike from the BCycle stations and check out the rest of Hermann Park, including the Japanese Garden and Miller Outdoor Theatre.
Afterward you can head across the street to Rice University and catch “Twilight Epiphany,” the James Turrell Skyspace at the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, a light-filled architectural space that’s an iconic piece of public artwork.
More spring travel tips
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The basics: Tip without cash | Traveling with kids | Decide where to stay | A pre-trip checklist of house chores | How to get your passport | Plan a ski trip | Eat without feeling terrible | Budget for your next trip | Plan a cheaper Disney trip
Flying: Fly like a decent human being | How to set airfare price alerts | Flying with an injury | PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR | Can I fly with weed? | AirTag your luggage | Airport parking 101 | Deal with airport crowds | Why Stalk airfare after booking
Driving: 9 tips for road tripping with a baby | Try the Airbnb of rental cars | Rent an EV | Do I need an international license to drive abroad? | Avoid big rental car fees
Greener travel: Bike to the airport | How environmentalists travel | How to find ‘greener’ flights | Make your travel better for the planet
Pets: How to travel with pets | Why the pet fee? | Pet flying 101 | Alternatives to flying with your pet
In case of emergency: Manage airport disasters | Your flight is canceled | How to get a human on the phone | What to do if your car gets stuck | Find your lost luggage | How to get a refund for a canceled flight | Deal with a bad hotel room | When you’re bumped off your flight | If you get rebooked without your family | What are my rebooking rights? | Recover a lost item at TSA, the airport or your flight