Eating your way through Rodeo Houston! Look below for rodeo food prices, vendors, deals and awards.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is reasonable to enter (especially on Wednesdays), there are lots of free things to do with kids… and there are A LOT of ways to spend money.
The carnival costs money, shopping is everywhere, the food smells delicious and then there are pony rides, bucking bronco pictures, old time photos and more!
Rodeo Houston is one of our very favorite Houston events of the year… so I try really hard to strike a balance between enjoying the once-a-year event and not spending a fortune. For us, we decide before we go what we will buy and what we will skip.
And we really like the rodeo food.
We have a season pass and go most days for a few hours, so here is our strategy:
- We only ride 1 carnival ride each, each year. I know, I know… this won’t work for all families, but it works for us. Now that the kids are bigger, they can bring some money for extra rides.
- We do not buy the extras. We go to the free petting zoo but do not pay to feed the animals. We skip the pony rides, pictures, etc. (Of course, if the extras are your favorite… do them!)
- We bring our own drinks. I have a really hard time paying $4 for a bottle of water.
- We pick one great food item per person (and expect it will cost about $10 each)… and we do not buy drinks.
But then the question becomes, which is the very best food item to try? You could probably eat nonstop for 3 weeks and still not sample everything. So, we toured the restaurants, tried a whole lot of things and wrote down the highlights from all over the rodeo… (And for more Rodeo tips, go HERE.)
The restaurant highlights are:
- Coupons: If you pre-purchased the discount carnival packs, the drink, cotton candy, etc coupons can be used at the carts inside the carnival area. Look for the “RCS” flags.
- Gift Certificates: If you are “RAK” Certificates, these can be used at a lot of the restaurants and not just in the carnival area. Look for the “RAK” sign in the window.
- Drinks: Sodas, water and tea, all over the rodeo, cost $3.00-$4.00. Inside the carnival is not any cheaper than at the restaurants. Save a lot of money (especially with a big group), by bringing your own drinks to the rodeo. (Food and drinks are allowed through security.)
- Price: Most menu items are just under $10.
- Kids Meals: Many of the restaurants offer kids meals. Most have chicken tenders or quesadillas, fries or chips and a drink for $5.00+.
- Vegetarian Options: If you are a vegetarian and don’t want more fries and funnel cake, try the Black Bean and Spinach Burrito at Tad’s Bodacious Burrito, in the “middle” big food tent. I asked and it’s 100% vegetarian.
- Breakfast: If you are at the rodeo early in the morning, many of the restaurants are still setting up. Inside NRG Center, in the lobby by the Livestock Show, you can find several breakfast options… including the award winning Stubby’s Cinnamon Rolls.
- Some of the best prices and most interesting things I found in 2016 are below… but I did not try them all (yet)!:
- $3 Hotdog at Jack’s. Add $1 to make it a chili dog.
- $3 Cinnamon Roll at Stubby’s. $4 for Cinnamon Roll with icing. (I tested these… and they are good!) (Update: for 2017, add $1!)
- $4 Kids Meal at Holmes Smokehouse, $5 Kids Meal at Freebirds
- $4 for 2 Chicken Strips at Sills Funnel Cakes
- $6 Funnel Cake at Corny Dogs & Funnel Cakes
- $6-7 for Lots and Lots of Fried Things at Fried What!
- $10 Scorpion, Cricket or Meal Worm Pizza Slice at Pizza by the Slice
- $9.00-$12.00 Turkey Legs all over the rodeo
- Try the winners of the 2016 “Gold Buckle” contest:
- Best New Flavor: Paradise Burgers, “The Brookie”
- Most Creative Food: Custom Confections, “The Ultimate”
- Best Fried Food: Custom Confections, “Fried Brownie Ball w/ ice cream”
- Best Breakfast Food: Stubby’s Cinnamon Rolls, “Cinnamon Roll w/icing”
- Best Food-on-a-Stick: Berryhill Baja Grill, “Shrimp Diablo Kabob”
- Best Dessert: Custom Confections, “The Emma”
- Classic Fair Food: Holmes Smokehouse, “Bacon Chili Cheeseburger”
- Best Value Food: Stubby’s Cinnamon Rolls, “Original Cinnamon Roll” ($3)
- Updated: The winners for 2017 are:
- Best Breakfast Food: Stubby’s Cinnamon Rolls (L259) – “The Works Cinnamon Roll”
- Classic Fair Food: Stubby’s Cinnamon Rolls (L259) – “Cinnamon Roll with Icing”
- Best Value Food: Stubby’s (AR 903) – “Loaded Baked Potato”
- Best Food-on-a-Stick: Berryhill (RP85) – “Shrimp Diablo”
- Best Fried Food: Berryhill (RP85) – “Crispy Shrimp Taco”
- Most Creative Food: Cowboy Kettle Corn (Carnival) – “Nitro Pop”
- Best New Flavor: Mad Hatter Funnel Cake #2 (Carnival) – “Chocolate Dipped Oatmeal Cream Pie”
- Best Dessert: Fried What (J203) – “Buckeyes”
If you want a whole lot of information, here is what we found:
Find the NRG maps HERE. Food is EVERYWHERE, but most of it can be found in 3 huge tents in front of the Livestock Show in NRG Center. More restaurants are inside the lobby of NRG Center, along the outside of NRG Center and on the edge of Kids Country.
To give you an idea on food options and prices, here is a quick overview from 2016… just scan through and see if anything jumps out at you! This is by no means official or all-inclusive… and if you have a favorite spot to go, tell us! If you own a restaurant, tell me and I’m more than happy to eat more rodeo food!
From 2016 (and note that most years are very similar… I just haven’t walked booth to booth yet! )
In the small food tent by the METRO Rail (NRG Parkway East) Entrance:
- Oakridge Smoke House: Hot Dog $4.25, Nachos $4
- Texas Skillet: Breakfast Tacos $4, Breakfast Quesadillas $6.50. Some drinks were $2.50 (but I do not know the size). Opens Earlier than most tents.
- Burger and Chili Shack: Hot Dog $3.75, Funnel Cake $6.50.
- Go Tejano Diner: Kids Meal $5.50, Nachos $5.00-$8.00, Burriot $6.00.
In the big food tent in the middle:
- Blue Ribbon: Kids Meal $6.00
- The Finer Diner: “Fancier” Rodeo Food. Waffle Bowls $8.00, Gyro Sandwich $8.00.
- Good Co.: Sandwich $8.75, 2 Meat Plate $16.00.
- New Orleans Shrimp Hotel: Turkey Leg $9, Fried Alligator $7.00, Crawfish Etoufee $7.00.
- Holmes Smokehouse: Sausage on a Stick $6.00, Kids Meals $4.00
- Tad’s Bodacious Burgers: Taco Salad $9.50, Nachos $6.00=$8.00, Curly Fry Loaf $7.50, Black Bean and Spinach Vegetarian Burriot $9.50.
- Pappasitos: Nachos $6.75-$11.25.
In the big food tent, by NRG Stadium (and Championship Wine Garden):
- Pappas BBQ: Baked Potatoes $6.75-$975, Nachos $6.75-$9.50. The no-meat potato was just potato and a whole lot of cheese.
- Berryhill: Chips & Salsa $3.50, Breakfast Taco $3.00, Kids Meal $5.50, Fried Avocado Taco $4.50.
- Paradise Burger: Roasted Corn and Old Fashioned Burgers $6.50+.
- Sundies: Seafood Baskets $9.00+.
- Yoakum Packing Co.: Turkey Leg $12.50, Foot Long Corndog $7.00.
- Texas Pride Grill: Baked Potato with Beef $9.50, Foot Long Hot Dog $7.00.
- Ranch House: Sweet Potato Fries $5.00, Fried Pickles $5.25, Burger $6.75.
- Sills Funnel Cake: Kids Corndog Basket (with fries) $6.75, Funnel Cake $7.00-$9.00. 2 Chicken Strips $4.00. We tried the funnel cake… my 4 year old’s first.
- New Braunfels Smokehouse: Sausage on a Stick $7, Baked Potato $7.50-$9.50.
- Freebirds: Kids Meal $5.00, Taco $3.00, 3 Tacos $5.00.
At the edge of Kids Country/Kids Carnival:
- Polonia: Polish Food. I did not grab prices!
- Triple Js Smokehouse: Turkey Leg $12.00.
- Jack’s: Hot Dog $3.00, Fries $5.00-$8.00, Add Cheese, Chili or Bacon for $1.00.
- Pinchie’s: Fried Oreos $7.00.
- Pizza on a Stick: Pizza Slice $6.00, Pizza on a Stick $12.00, Stuffed Pizza $8.00, Pretzel $8.00, Scorpion, Cricket or Meal Worm Pizza Slice $10.00.
- Kona Ice
- Kettle Korn: Kettle Corn $4.00-$9.00, Hot Dog $4.00.
- Harlon’s BBQ: Ribs $12.00.
- Roasted Corn: $4.00, $5.00 in bowl
- Fried What!: Lots and lots of fried things, including fried pies, fried oreos, bacon wrapped fried oreos $6.00-$7.00.
- Corny Dogs and Funnel Cakes: Corn dog $5.00, Funnel Cake $6.00
In the Kids Carnival, between the rides:
These “RCS” Stands are where you can use your coupons from the half-price carnival booklets. The prices are not really cheaper than the restaurants… except the coupons can help.
- Jumbo Corndog $7.00
- Lemonaide $4.00
- Cotton Candy $5.00-$7.00
- Drinks $4.00
Along the outside of NRG Center and the Livestock Show:
There are several restaurants, but the 1 below is the winner of 3 “Gold Buckles”.
- Custom Confections:
- Most Creative Food: “The Ultimate”
- Best Fried Food: “Fried Brownie Ball w/ ice cream”
- Best Dessert: “The Emma”
At peak times, these restaurants will get very very crowded. The tents especially can be hard for kid-hauling parents. For tips on how we avoid the crowds at the rodeo, go HERE. And if you just want to eat at meal time… either look for a restaurant without a line, try one by the carnival (which has more empty space) or be ready for crowds!
If you have a favorite thing to eat at the rodeo, let us know! For more rodeo tips, go HERE.