Exploring Houston's culture
Guides and Itineraries,  USA

From BBQ to Ballet: Exploring Houston’s Diverse Culture

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Houston, Texas is a city that is known for its diverse culture and rich history. From its famous BBQ scene to its world-renowned ballet company, Houston has something to offer for everyone. The city’s diversity can be seen in its cuisine, arts, and entertainment.

In addition to its BBQ scene, Houston is also home to one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, the Houston Ballet. The company has a diverse group of dancers, with performers from all over the world. Its first African-American ballerina, Lauren Anderson, broke barriers and paved the way for more diversity in the world of ballet. The Houston Ballet’s performances showcase a range of styles, from classical to contemporary, and are a must-see for anyone visiting the city.

Exploring Houston's culture
At downtown Houston.

Houston’s BBQ Culture

If there’s one thing that Houston is known for, it’s their barbecue. The city’s diverse cultural influences have shaped its cuisine, and nowhere is that more evident than in its barbecue scene. From mom-and-pop shops to chef-driven restaurants and food trucks, Houston’s barbecue joints offer a wide range of flavors and styles. Here’s a look at the history of BBQ in Houston and some of the famous BBQ joints in the city.

History of BBQ in Houston

Houston’s BBQ culture has a rich history that dates back to the early 1800s, when German and Czech immigrants settled in the city and brought with them their love of smoked meats. Over time, African-American pitmasters also made their mark on Houston’s BBQ scene, using techniques and flavors that were unique to their culture.

Today, Houston’s BBQ scene continues to evolve, with a new generation of pitmasters incorporating traditional influences with the city’s booming culinary diversity. Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, and many other cuisines have all left their mark on Houston’s barbecue, making it one of the most diverse and delicious BBQ scenes in the country. 

Famous BBQ Joints in Houston

Killen's BBQ - one of the best Houston BBQ
(Photo by Killen’s BBQ)

When it comes to BBQ in Houston, there are plenty of famous joints to choose from. If you are a foodie person, buffet in these Houston restaurants for exciting taste and flavors. Here are just a few:

  • Killen’s BBQ: This Pearland-based BBQ joint has been named one of the best in the country by numerous publications. Their brisket, ribs, and sausage are all smoked to perfection, and their sides are just as delicious.
  • Gatlin’s BBQ: Located in the Heights, Gatlin’s is known for their tender brisket, juicy ribs, and flavorful sausage. They also offer a variety of sides, including mac and cheese, green beans, and potato salad.
  • Ray’s BBQ Shack: This Third Ward joint serves up East Texas-style barbecue and soul food, including smoked boudin and smoked oxtails. Pitmaster Ray S. Busch has been smoking meats for over 20 years, and it shows in the quality of his food.
    The Pit Room: This Montrose favorite is known for their Central Texas-style barbecue, including brisket, beef ribs, and pork ribs. They also offer a variety of sides, including creamed corn, jalapeno cheese rice, and mac and cheese.

Houston’s Ballet Scene

Houston’s ballet scene is a vibrant and diverse part of the city’s culture. From world-renowned companies to local troupes, Houston offers a wide range of ballet performances for all tastes. In this section, we’ll explore the history of ballet in Houston and the top ballet companies in the city.

History of Ballet in Houston

The history of ballet in Houston dates back to the 1950s when Tatiana Semenova, a former ballerina with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, established the Houston Ballet Academy. The academy grew in popularity, and in 1969, the Houston Ballet Company was founded, with Nina Popova as its first artistic director.

Over the years, the Houston Ballet has gained international recognition for its innovative productions and talented dancers. Today, the company is led by artistic director Stanton Welch, who has brought a fresh and dynamic vision to the company’s repertoire.

Top Ballet Companies in Houston

Houston Ballet
(Photo by Houston Ballet)

In addition to the Houston Ballet, there are several other ballet companies in Houston worth checking out. Here are some of the top companies:

  • Dance of Asian America: This company showcases the rich cultural heritage of Asia through traditional and contemporary dance performances.
  • METdance: METdance is a contemporary dance company that has been a staple of Houston’s dance scene since 1995.
  • Houston City Dance: Houston City Dance is a non-profit organization that provides dance education and performance opportunities to young dancers in the Houston area.
  • Houston Ballet II: Houston Ballet II is the second company of the Houston Ballet and is made up of talented young dancers who are on the cusp of professional careers.

Other Cultural Offerings in Houston

Houston is a city that is brimming with cultural offerings beyond just its famous barbecue and performing arts scene. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there are plenty of museums, live music venues, and art galleries to explore in Houston.


Houston Museum of Natural Science
(Photo by Houston Museum of Natural Science)

Houston is home to a variety of museums that cater to different interests. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a must-visit for science enthusiasts, with exhibits on everything from dinosaurs to space exploration. If you’re interested in history, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is a great place to learn about the contributions of African American soldiers throughout history.

Live Music Venues

The Continental Club in Houston, Texas
(Photo by The Continental Club)

Houston’s music scene is as diverse as its population, with venues catering to all kinds of music lovers. The Continental Club is a beloved institution that has been hosting live music for over 60 years, with a focus on blues and rockabilly. For something a little more modern, check out White Oak Music Hall, which hosts a variety of genres from indie rock to hip hop. If you’re looking for something more intimate, head to the Mucky Duck, a cozy venue that hosts acoustic acts and singer-songwriters.

Art Galleries

Houston’s art scene is thriving, with galleries showcasing everything from contemporary art to traditional paintings. The Menil Collection is a must-visit for art lovers, with an impressive collection of works from ancient to modern times. For contemporary art, head to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which showcases cutting-edge works from around the world. And for a taste of local art, check out the Art League Houston, which features works by emerging and established Houston artists.

No matter where you go in Houston, you’re sure to find delicious barbecue that reflects the city’s diverse cultural influences. Whether you prefer traditional Texas-style barbecue or something with a little more flair, Houston’s BBQ scene has something for everyone.Overall, Houston’s cultural offerings go far beyond just barbecue and ballet. With its museums, live music venues, and art galleries, there’s something for everyone to explore and enjoy.

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