A decade ago, Houston’s dining landscape was dominated by a handful of chefs churning out very good—but fussy—upscale food. Yet Texas’ most populous city has come into its own in recent years, blossoming into something refreshingly funkier than its white-tablecloth past would have predicted.

Today’s adventurous brood of Houston chefs isn’t scared to meld fresh produce (pro tip: you’ll find many of them perusing the impressive Urban Harvest Eastside Farmers Market on Saturday mornings) with distinct traditions from both the Lone Star State and the many immigrant communities represented in the city. On those rare days off from their own packed restaurants, it’s Mexican pastries, fiery BBQ pork, and hearty bánh mì sandwiches they crave.

Here, 14 of Houston’s top chefs reveal their favorite dives to visit when the floor mats are up and the shift ends.

Hugo Ortega

Executive chef/co-owner of Hugo’s, Backstreet Café, and Caracol

Favorite under-the-radar spot: El Bolillo Bakery (2517 Airline Dr; 713-861-8885, elbolillo.com)

Ortega says: “A true Mexican bakery. I love their pan dulce, conchas, and tres leches. When I lead Houston culinary tours, this is always one of our stops for a morning pastry.” (Photos: Courtesy Hugo Ortega, El Bolillo)

Manabu Horiuchi

Executive chef at Kata Robata

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Huynh Restaurant (912 Saint Emanuel St; 713-224-8964, huynhrestauranthouston.com)

Horiuchi says: “It’s my go-to place: close to my house, always comfortable, easy. I order the #99 (bánh mì with Vietnamese ham) or #94 (rice noodles with pork, shrimp, fish cake, shredded cabbage, and banana blossom). I don’t know what their names are, just the numbers. Regardless, it’s great food.” (Photos: Courtesy Manabu Horiuchi, huynhrestauranthouston.com)

Ryan Pera

Chef/co-owner at Coltivare and Revival Market

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Bon Ga Garden Restaurant (9861 Long Point Rd; 713-461-5265, bongarestaurant.com)

Pera says: “I love Korean food, and this is my favorite spot in town. It tastes freshly made and they use charcoal for the bulgogi. I see a lot of Korean families dining there, which is something I take a bit of comfort in too. I like to order the chap chae, a dish of sweet potato noodles, beef, vegetables, and oyster sauce. It’s seasoned just right, and I can put down a plate in no time. I also order the naengmyeon, or cold noodle soup. On Houston’s blazing hot summer days, this hits the spot. I also like the tofu and kimchi soup, which has just the right amount of funk.” (Photos: Courtesy Julie Soefer, Yelp)

Ronnie Killen

Chef/owner at Killen’s Steakhouse and Killen’s BBQ

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Lila’s Restaurant (2704 South Main St; Pearland, 281-997-1288)

Killen says: “It’s a humble, family-run restaurant serving great, authentic Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve been going there for years and everyone’s always friendly. I order the breakfast tacos, or the Lila’s Deluxe—with one chicken and one cheese enchilada—for lunch or dinner.” (Photos: Courtesy Kimberly Park, Yelp)

Chris Shepherd

Executive chef/owner at Underbelly

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Asia Market (1010 West Cavalcade St; 713-863-7074, asiamarkethouston.com)

Shepherd says: “The truest form of Thai food that I know. It’s small and set inside a grocery store. I get the green papaya salad and preserved duck egg curry. Be careful when you order Thai spicy—they don’t mess around.” (Photos: Courtesy Julie Soefer, Yelp)

Justin Basye

Chef at Museum Park Café

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Hong Kong Food Street (9750 Bellaire Blvd; 713-981-9888, hongkong-foodstreet.com)

Basye says: “They serve authentic Chinese BBQ and spicy tofu dishes. It’s open late and is perfect for a Tsingtao, BBQ pork, and fried Dungeness crabs after a long day at work.” (Photos: Courtesy Justin Basye, hongkong-foodstreet.com)

Bryan Caswell

Chef-owner at Reef, Little Bigs, El Real Tex-Mex Café

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Catbirds (1336 Westheimer Rd; 713-523-8000, catbirds.com)

Caswell says: “Catbirds is my neighborhood joint. It’s where they blend jazz, stiff cocktails, and trivia like no other place in town.” (Photos: Courtesy Bryan Caswell, Yelp)

Ryan Hildebrand

Executive chef at Triniti

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Hughie’s Vietnamese Tavern and Grille (1802 W 18th St; 713-869-1830, hughiesgrille.com)

Hildebrand says: “I don’t know if it is necessarily a dive, but it’s a good neighborhood spot close to home. I like the people, the food, and the beer selection. I also like that you can get good Vietnamese food or even a chicken-fried steak in the same spot. I order the Vietnamese eggrolls, lemongrass beef bánh mì, and a pint.” (Photos: Courtesy Jenna Barrett, Yelp)

Terrence Gallivan

Chef/co-Owner at The Pass & Provisions

Gallivan’s favorite under-the-radar spot: Alice’s Tall Texan Drive Inn (4904 North Main St, 713-862-0141)

Gallivan says: “This was one of the first bars we went to when I moved to town. It’s very welcoming and homey, like walking into someone’s living room. Regulars bring potluck foodstuffs and the jukebox is pretty solid. I order schooners of Lone Star.” (Photos: Courtesy Terrene Gallivan, Yelp)

Seth Siegel-Gardner

Chef/co-owner at The Pass & Provisions

Siegel-Gardner’s favorite under-the-radar spot: West Alabama Ice House (1919 W Alabama St, 713-528-6874)

Siegel-Gardner says: “On a good day, the entire demographic of Houston will be there. There’s cheap beer—I get Pacifico—amazing lengua tacos at the truck across the street, and a basketball that’s not quite flat to shoot hoops with.” (Photos: Courtesy Seth Siegel-Gardner, Yelp)

Monica Pope

Chef/owner of Sparrow Bar + Cookshop and co-owner of Beaver’s Ice House

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Tacos A Go Go (3704 Main St; 713-807-8226, tacosagogo.com)

Pope says: “Like mine, Tacos A Go Go was an early business to recolonize a formerly desolate stretch of Main Street between downtown and the Medical Center. Now called Mid-Main, it’s home to a growing mix of walkable, independent businesses ranging from restaurants to record stores. And as with all our neighbors, Tacos A Go Go is cool, quirky, and homespun. I love starting a Sunday with the carne guisada tacos and a Corona.” (Photos: Courtesy Monica Pope, Yelp)

Justin Yu

Chef/co-owner at Oxheart

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Long Sing Supermarket (2017 Walker St, 713-236-8171)

Yu says: “Long Sing Supermarket is the last of the family-owned and operated supermarkets in town. I don’t even know why they still bother to call it a supermarket at this point; the only reason to go is for their six dollar Chinese BBQ lunchbox, and maybe a bag of homemade frozen dumplings from their freezer. I’m convinced that everything in their aisles is past their expiration date. The lunchbox has rice, stir-fried vegetables (I love the bitter melon when they have it), and two choices of meat. My preferences are the roast pig and char siu. Of course, you’ll want extra sauce—made up of the drippings that fall off the roasted animals.” (Photos: Courtesy Justin Yu, Yelp)

Kevin Bryant

Executive Chef at Eleven: Eleven Restaurant & Bar

Favorite under-the-radar spot: D&T Drive Inn (1307 Enid Street; 713-868-6165, treadsack.com/dtdriveinn)

Bryant says: “This seriously old-school, neighborhood ice house got a new lease on life a couple of years ago. The spit and shine was everything you could hope for: The laid-back, come-as-you-are feel is still intact, but with the added bonuses of some seriously good food, a great beer selection, and an awesome jukebox. I’m a fan of the grilled brie and ham sandwich with grape relish, plus Dan and Ted’s plate: an appetizer sampler with pickled eggs and pimento cheese.” (Photos: Courtesy Kevin Bryant, Yelp)

Michael Cordúa

Founder of Cordúa Restaurants

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Garson Restaurant (2926 Hillcroft St; 713-781-0400, garsonhouston.com)

Cordúa says: “It’s like a trip to the Middle East. I’ve been going here for more than 20 years, and they’ve had the same friendly staff and chef the entire time. They love to serve family-style, and I love to eat that way. They normally offer two types of basmati rice, one with dill and one with butter, which are both amazing. They serve it with radishes, parsley, basil, feta cheese, and fresh onions with a special seasoning. You can’t go wrong, but make sure to order some type of grilled meat. My personal favorite is the shishleek, grilled ribeye chunks.” (Photos: Courtesy Julie Soefer, garsonhouston.com)