For more than 30 years, Backstreet Cafe has been a Houston dining tradition. It has grown from a "watering hole" with soups, salads, and sandwiches to a critically acclaimed, chef-driven Seasonal American Bistro that is a top table in the city. Always innovating, always updating, Backstreet Cafe has served generations of families and is a communal place to celebrate special occasions and every day with food, friends, and family.
The kitchen is under the direction of award-winning Executive Chef Hugo Ortega, whose American Dream started at this neighborhood cafe. He began his career in the restaurant business at Backstreet Cafe, first as dishwasher and busboy and later as a line cook before graduating from Houston Community College's culinary program and later becoming its executive chef and owner, along with wife Tracy Vaught. A former geologist, Vaught decided to forsake the oil business for a more people-oriented profession and opened Backstreet Cafe, her first restaurant, in 1983. Together, they have created an award-winning Houston restaurant family that also includes Hugo's, Caracol and Xochi in Houston, and a partnership in Origen in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Backstreet Cafe's menu is a perfect reflection of diverse Houston, with Southern, Cajun, Creole, Hispanic and Asian influences, among others. The menu changes seasonally to capture the freshest flavors, with a nod to local and sustainable ingredients. Backstreet Café is famous for its Sunday brunch, complete with live Jazz, great food, and eye-opening cocktails! The wine and spirits program is well-known throughout the city and beyond for its depth and creativity, a perfect accompaniment to the menu.
Housed in a cozy '30s-era house in Houston's River Oaks, Backstreet Cafe affords diners several cozy dining areas on two levels. The downstairs dining room features a large marble-top bar, intimate banquette seating, and views of both the front and back patio areas. Upstairs, the restaurant has two dining rooms for brunch, lunch and dinner seating and private functions. The Solarium is a wonderful room for everyday dining and private functions, separated from the main upstairs dining room by French doors.
One of Backstreet's most popular attractions is its legendary patio. More often than not, diners opt to eat on the New Orleans-style patio under the spreading camphor tree in the midst of flowering shrubbery. Backstreet Café is your home away from home.
Awards and Accolades
Hugo Ortega named 2017 Best Chef: Southwest at James Beard Foundation Awards
Chef Hugo Ortega received Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 from Southern Foodways Alliance
Hugo Ortega finalist for Best Chef: Southwest ~ 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012 James Beard Awards
Tracy Vaught recognized at Houston Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business Awards - 2017
Semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur (Tracy Vaught) ~ 2016 James Beard Awards
Houston Classic, 2015 Houston Culinary Awards
Tracy Vaught, Restaurateur of the Year, 2014 Houston Culinary Awards
Backstreet Cafe wine list by Sommelier Sean Beck #1 in Top 10 Wine List ~ Houston Press
Hugo Ortega, 2012 and 2002 Chef of the Year, Houston Culinary Awards
Tracy Vaught ~ Outstanding Restaurateur, Texas Restaurant Association ~ 2008
Top 100 Dishes in Houston, Cauliflower “Steak,” 2015 Houston Press
Sean Beck named Rising Star Sommelier by StarChefs.com ~ 2011
Sean Beck three-time winner of Iron Sommelier Competition ~ 2010, 2011, 2013 & “retired”
Tracy Vaught ~ Restaurateur of the Year & Ruben Ortega ~ Pastry Chef of the Year 2003 Houston Culinary Awards
Best Wine Program/Bistro, Cooking for Wine and Cooking with Wine - Mountain/Southwest
~ Santé Magazine’s 2002 Wine & Spirits Hospitality & Cooking Awards
Hugo Ortega ~ Chef of the Year ~2002 Houston Culinary Awards
Wine Spectator Award of Excellence ~ 2001- 2013
Hugo Ortega – one of Houston’s Top Chefs, Inside Houston Magazine
Hugo Ortega – Up-and-Coming-Chef-of-the-Year for 2000 Houston Culinary Awards
Hugo Ortega and Backstreet Cafe - two-time guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House in New York
Sean Beck named one of the country’s best bartenders, Southwest Spirit