The Texas Medical Center — often referred to as the Houston Med Center or simply the "TMC" — is the largest medical complex in the world, spanning roughly 50 million square feet and employing more than 100,000 people. With so many patients, medical staff, office workers and visitors coming in and out of the area each day, there is no shortage of great places to eat. Whether you're looking for a quick bite, something late, or just a quiet spot for coffee, here are the best spots to eat in the Med Center.
While hospital coffee stands and Starbucks counters are abundant in the Med Center, a quiet place to meet with a colleague or old friend is better found outside the hustle and bustle in neighboring West University, Montrose or Museum District.
Tinys No. 5 is just a short drive from the Med Center, but it might as well be miles away. The restaurant's big windows, elegant decor and quiet outdoor patio are a stark contrast to the fluorescent-lit hospital corridors, busy waiting rooms and massive medical office buildings. The open-air feel and natural light make Tinys No. 5 a great spot for a relaxed chat or offsite work meeting.
Tip: In addition to the standard espresso drinks, the restaurant has a full food menu and a rather legendary bakery. Be sure to try the chocolate chip cookie — it's the restaurant's biggest crowd-pleaser.
Best for: Coffee/Brunch
Fellini Caffè is about as close to a cozy Italian cafe as you can get in Houston. The coffee and espresso drinks here are high-quality and well-crafted, the desserts are plentiful, and tea options are available for the non-coffee drinkers. Inside is airy with plenty of small, two-person tables. When the weather is nice, you can also sit outside, though space is more limited. Even when the place is busy, the volume stays relatively low — perfect for conversation or working.
Tip: Parking can be a bit of a challenge. If you can't find a spot curbside, try the Hanover Parking Garage.
Best for: Coffee
Dimassi's Mediterranean Kitchen is on the southwest side of the Med Center area, near NRG Park. This buffet has a wide selection of Mediterranean foods, including grape leaves, lamb shank, tabouli and falafel, as well as some of the best hummus in the city. The restaurant is usually busy during peak meal times, but the buffet line moves quickly, and there is nearly always plenty of seating.
Tip: Don't have time to eat there? Carry out boxes are available for you to load up with what you'd like from the buffet, and you pay at the front.
Best for: Quick Bite
Most of the major hospitals have cafeterias or cafes that serve food to the public. And along Fannin Street, there are fast food chain restaurants like Chipotle, Salata and Subway that will do in a pinch. But if you're looking for something fast and high-quality, you can't beat Houston's Famous Deli.
This spot is great if you want a fast sandwich. The restaurant's large parking lot and efficient counter mean you can get in and out quickly without much hassle. And the low prices and high quality make it worth the trip. For less than $10 you can get a 6-inch sandwich, chips and a drink, and kids' meals are $3 before tax.
Tip: Be sure to try to the King's Muffaletta, a local favorite.
Best for: Quick Bite
Like downtown, much of the Med Center empties out around 5 p.m. when employees of medical offices — and the cafes and restaurants that service them — close up shop and head home for the day. But there are still some great places to eat for those in the area after hours.
Island Sizzler offers a variety of Jamaican and Caribbean classic dishes like jerk chicken and beef patties. The staff is notoriously friendly, and portion sizes are generous for the prices. Combine all that with its convenient location right off the METRORail Red Line train and late-night hours, and it's an ideal pick for a late dinner — especially if you're tired of hospital cafeteria food and standard deli sandwiches.
Best for: Late Dinner
Driscoll's is located within the Marriott hotel right across from Houston Methodist Hospital and the METRORail Red Line train's Dryden/TMC stop — making it a great option for those who don't want to venture too far from the Med Center's main cluster of hospitals. The menu is standard American fare, but what it lacks in creativity, it makes up for in quality. Pretty much anything you order will be tasty and satisfying.
Note: This location is only open for dinner during the week. For weekend nights or for even later hours, check out the hotel's Paladora Lounge, which serves a nearly identical, though more limited, menu.
Best for: Late Dinner