KIMBERLY PARK
Food & Drink

The Best Places to Eat in Houston Right Now

Published On 10/05/2017
Julie Soefer

Coltivare

Heights

In early 2014, Revival Market's Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber brought us this fresh-from-the-garden restaurant that puts a welcome spin on traditional Italian foods. Think arancini and house charcuterie, whole-roasted fish, flawlessly executed cacio e pepe & oxtail sugo, and bubbling, wood-fired pies. Three years later, this ticket is still hot as ever. The bad news is, it still doesn’t take reservations. The good news is, you can sip on a few of Weber’s classically inspired tinctures while you wait.

Julie Soefer

Cureight by Hubbell & Hudson

The Woodlands

It’s no surprise that this intimate tasting restaurant has no problems keeping its 25-seat chef’s table packed. Chef Austin Simmons changes up his über-sophisticated eight-courser weekly to keep things exciting, but you can expect gloriousness in the form of fresh, sustainable fish, dry-aged meat, and deliciously creative desserts that will have you happy you drove to The Woodlands.

Shannon O'Hara

Helen Greek Food and Wine

Rice Village

With both the highly respected Chef William Wright and sommelier Evan Turner in the house, this no longer NKOTB and big brother to Helen in the Heights will flip the switch on everything you thought you knew about Greek food. Game changers like the massive pork shoulder, build-your-own gyro plate, and the second-largest Hellenic wine list in the US ensure you’re in for way more than a simple meal -- especially now that they’re offering brunch. The unfamiliar wine list offers recommendations like “I know this is technically terrible to say but this wine will make you forget how awful your relatives are.” Though if you need more help than that, Turner and his staff are more than eager to recommend stunners to suit your tastes.

Kimberly Park

Killen's Barbecue

Pearland

Killen's Barbecue, along with its three follow-up concepts, covers all the bases of Texas’ Holy Trinity of meat: Smoke, Burgers, and Steaks (oh, and Smoke & Steaks). At the Pearland barbecue temple, King of 'Q Ronnie Killen and his team pump out over 2,000 pounds of smoked meat per day. To say that his unctuous, Bronto-sized beef ribs are good is an understatement. But you’ll be sorry if you skip out on things like the meltingly tender bone-in pork belly, 24-hour brined fried chicken, and beautifully marbled American wagyu gold smoked brisket. (To ensure satisfaction every damn time, Killen changed his brisket purveyors to Snake River Farms earlier this summer.)

La Table Houston

La Table

Uptown

At the end of 2015, the former Table on Post Oak was given a facelift -- and maybe some botox, teeth-whitening, and major body sculpting, too. The rebranded spot now offers four types of service: elegant, four-star dining at The Chateau; casual eats at the cozy Marche; private dining at Privee; and coffee & pastries at their French-inspired Macaron bakery. Ostensibly, La Table is a one-stop-shop to experience all the elements of French cuisine. Get classic poached pear tarts and smoked duck brioche that taste just as good as they look; power lunch with towering caramelized cheese soufflés and tuna niçoise; or go wild with Parmesan-crusted rack of lamb and double-pound rib eye for two.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Galleria

With two Houston locations, at which you can fashion a lobster bib out of your fancy cloth napkin, this homegrown steakhouse is the place to bring anyone you want to impress (although, if that’s the case, maybe don’t do that lobster bib thing). But you really should come here for the steaks, which are butchered and aged in-house using a more than 28-day dry process that concentrates the flavors and makes the beef so incredibly excellent that you’ll want to save all your change to come back for more. Don’t miss the stellar wine program, or the whiskey cart, which houses selections cherry-picked by Anvil alum and bar director Matt Tanner.

Ralph Smith Photography

The Pass & Provisions

Montrose

Two-faced in the best way possible, The Pass & Provisions in Montrose offers you a choice between a more refined experience or a more relaxed one. The Pass will serve you polished tasting menus over a white tablecloth; earlier this year, the team revamped the format to provide a more approachable, fluid dining experience with a supplemental five-course tasting menu as opposed to its former nine-course experience. While on the other side, Provisions will provide hearty pizzas, pastas, and shared bistro plates in more rustic surroundings. Some serious cocktail and wine programs push the two restaurants to the next level, as does Julia Child's Muppet voice playing on repeat in the unisex bathroom.

Courtesy of State of Grace

State of Grace

River Oaks

Atlanta restaurateur and Houston native chef Ford Fry has brought his culinary magic back home with this modern, globally and coastally inspired lodge. Former Ciao Bello chef Bobby Matos mans the kitchen (and the giant, wood-fired hearth) as it pumps out butter-basted rib eye, twice-fried Korean chicken wings, and king crab garganelli next to a seriously excellent oyster program. Considering it also offers an egg-topped butter burger and cream cheese-frosted cinnabuns at brunch, you’re going to want to get here.

Flickr/T.Tseng

Uchi

Montrose

This Austin import has become a local standby thanks to a sophisticated, upbeat spirit that is wholly Houston. Even sushi traditionalists will be tempted by the razor sharp cuts with funky, outside-the-box adornments and dishes that run the gamut from pork belly tataki to foie nigiri. If you’re having trouble deciding, go for the 10-course chef’s tasting. It may have been around for a while now, but this sultry spot’s not leaving the hot list anytime soon.

Julie Soefer

Underbelly

Montrose

When you think of Houston culinary talent, you think of chef Chris Shepherd. So it’s no surprise that his badass restaurant -- which tells "the story of Houston food" through an ethnic mosaic of seasonal shared plates -- has managed to keep its name on the top of Houston’s best list. Locally raised meats are butchered in-house and served family-style in the form prosciutto aged for 26 months, smoked beef shoulder, and Korean-braised goat & dumplings along with fresh catches, seasonal sides, and an admirable wine program.

Corkscrew BBQ

CorkScrew Barbecue

Old Town Spring

Fresh off snagging the No. 7 spot in Texas Monthly's 50 Best Barbecue Joints in the State, this hometown hero is well worth the quick trip out of the loop. The cult favorite started with humble beginnings in a no-frills pink-and-black trailer, co-owned by married all-stars Will and Nichole Buckman. Today, the slightly bigger pink-and-black brick & mortar remains just as humble. With a silky, perfectly rendered cap and crusty, blackened bark, the moist brisket here is one of the finest BBQ specimens in Houston. Get to Old Town Spring to blissfully destroy some, alongside stupendously blistered ribs, overloaded taters, and snappy pork sausage.

Kimberly Park

Killen's STQ

West Side

Part smokehouse, part live-fire steakhouse, this relaxed space from revered local chef Ronnie Killen took over the former Bramble spot at the end of 2016. After a half dozen months of success, Killen tapped Graham Laborde (previously of Bernadine’s) as operations chef for all Killen’s restaurants, thanks to his serious seafood savvy and fine-dining skills. Now you can mix and match delicious menu items, including pecan smoke-kissed pork belly, rendered and glistening with cherry habanero glaze; roasted corn ravioli swimming in a corn milk you’ll most certainly be spooning up; grilled Gulf snapper dripping in a crawfish butter you’ll also be scooping up; and specials like a massive (and intensely seared) long bone-in wagyu rib eye special that clocks in at 48 ounces. Maybe share that one. You’ll want bacon tres leches bread pudding for dessert.

Ohn Korean Eatery

Ohn Korean Eatery

Chinatown

Mike Tran -- the genius behind all the Chinatown faves, including Mein, Tiger Den, and the soon-to-reopen Night Market -- brought the heat with his latest venture. This time, a Koreatown club vibe adds extra spice to his concepts’ always crowd-pleasing menu. Sip late night soju from a watermelon keg (seriously) while you share small plates that are downright addicting, including but not limited to crispy skin pork rinds, sweet-and-spicy Korean fried chicken, and a gooey, cheesy riff on creamed corn that is an absolute must for the table.

Julie Soefer Photography | One Fifth Steak

One Fifth Houston

Montrose

Houston’s coolest restaurant isn’t really a restaurant: It’s five of ‘em. The game-changing concept from Underbelly Chef/Owner Chris Shepherd literally changes what it is once a year for five years. First up was One Fifth Steak, under the careful direction of the incredibly talented chef de cuisine Nick Fine. You’ve missed your chance to dine on wagyu beef fat candles, chef-calls-it Ballers Board, and flawlessly executed steaks, including an unsuspectingly delicious hanger steak that will change how you view hangar steaks. But no worries, One Fifth Romance Languages -- inspired by French, Spanish, and Italian fare -- is up next (doors open in September), followed by One Fifth Fish (and two to-be-announced concepts).

Mark C Austin

Riel

Midtown

Manitoba-born chef Ryan Lachaine (Underbelly, Reef) named his solo stint after Louis Riel, the founder of his native province. You’ll see Canadian influences, as well as traces of Lachaine’s Ukrainian heritage speckled throughout his unpretentious menu offerings, which get fired off from a show-stopping open kitchen. Even the lowly beet is elevated at the Montrose stunner. It comes in the form of a velvety, bright magenta borscht that’s perfectly tart and kissed with some smooth crème fraîche. The simple Redneck Cheddar and potato pierogi are stars, too -- despite the fact that they actually serve as a side for an incredible hanger steak, along with perfectly-balanced horseradish cream. Of course, Lachaine’s Gulf Coast background also shines, especially through dishes like the suckable, hot-and-sour head-on shrimp with collard greens and kimchi-laced tempura cauliflower.

Julie Soefer Photography | Underbelly

Underbelly

Montrose

Chef Chris Shepherd is the ultimate champion of Houston, constantly exploring the city’s lesser-known parts and urging others to do the same, which is why he provides a “hit list” of under-the-radar ethnic spots with your check at his flagship restaurant, Underbelly. There, Shepherd takes diners on a journey through "the story of Houston food," which of course, means things like Korean braised goat & dumplings, Vietnamese-style “crawfish boil,” toast, and grilled whole snapper with vindaloo sauce and naan. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, check out the wine bar, where you can taste Chris’ “covers” of dishes made famous by some of his culinary buds, including David Chang’s Fuku chicken tenders, and Ashleigh Christensen’s fried bologna sandwich.

Xochi

Xochi

Downtown

This year Houston’s most deserving chef, Hugo Ortega, finally earned a James Beard Award after being a proverbial bridesmaid for five years running. That’s thanks in part to his latest concept, the sleek Oaxacan paradise that is Xochi. There, a labyrinth of moles (from the deep and earthy, to the smooth and mellow) muddle with unexpectedly pleasing touches like chicatanas and chapulines (that’s ants and grasshoppers, by the way). Just as thoughtful are the house-made masa preparations showcasing endless types of corn and topped off with wood-roasted octopus, roasted pork rib, and chorizo ismeño, as wells as homemade chocolate desserts from Hugo’s pastry chef brother, Ruben. Drinks come from the masterful Sean Beck, who’s built a wonderful library of agave-focused cocktails and interesting wines to pair with it all.

Morris Malakoff

Yauatcha

Galleria

Locals take notice when a London import with a Michelin star makes its way to town, which is why Yauatcha has been one of the hottest tickets around since opening its doors in the luxury Jewel Box building this spring. The Chinese dim sum teahouse offers a more upscale experience than pretty much all of the city’s other dim sum concepts, and although that experience comes with an uptick in price, many find shelling out the extra cash totally acceptable. Unwind over delicate, artful preparations of classics from scallop shui mai dressed with silky orange tobiko caviar to a coconut and pineapple tropical dome dessert that is just as tasty as it is beautiful.

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Houston's Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
H ouston’s had a rough year. But that’s not to say we haven’t banded together and shown the world what it means to be #HoustonStrong AND brought home our first World Series title in the process -- shout-out to Altuve! And while we’ve fared through the hardships, there were plenty of phenomenal things happening in background, especially in the culinary world. More specifically, the return of an old favorite, a hot concept from a Top Chef, and one restaurant that will be changing faces every year. Here are the Houston hot spots you’ll want to be eating at going into 2018.
Mauro Luna

Field & Tides

Heights

Gulf Coast fare paired with delicious cocktails and a yard to hang in
This 11th Street newcomer from chef Travis Lenig (formerly of Liberty Kitchen) plays to the tastes of the Third Coast, with both by-land and by-sea offerings in a warm and cozy setting. The space is small, so you may encounter a slight wait on busy nights; but fear not, there’s a yard and cocktails to keep you occupied. When you’re ready, you’ll want to start with a few appetizers -- pimento cheese fritters and sambal-glazed fish collars -- before moving onto the big guns, like confit duck leg with dreamy corn pudding and caramelized scallops over flawless shrimp and crab risotto. Brunch fans will also want to revive themselves with zippy house Bloodys and slow-roasted pork and pancake stacks on weekends.

Aqui

Montrose

A Top Chef alum brings reenergized Asian food to Houston
Top Chef and JBA winner Paul Qui’s first Houston project arrived to quite a buzz this summer, for good reason. Though the striking roof and high-ceilinged space gives off a bare yet tranquil vibe, the food is anything but, with bold, bright flavors dreamed up by Qui and chef de cuisine Gabriel Medina (a hometown hero known for stints at Kata Robata and Soma Sushi). Travel to Southeast Asia via kamayan or “hand-to-mouth” bites like the Singapore hot chili crab and fried bao. Order yourself a few “perfect bites” -- literally bite-sized puffs, cakes, dumplings, and toasts made for one, and/or bring some friends to share tom yam noodles, grilled octopus adobo, and the star of the evening: a succulent, crispy skin lechón served with Filipino pork liver sauce.

Kimberly Park

Killen's STQ

Galleria

A meats expert adds seafood to the lineup and will make you re-think that steak
Smoke and steak combine at this relaxed space from acclaimed local chef Ronnie Killen, which took over the former Bramble space near the end of 2016. Earlier this year, Killen tapped Graham Laborde (previously of Bernadine’s) as operations chef for all Killen’s restaurants, which added some serious seafood savvy to the barbecue and steak focused kitchen. Book your reservations in advance and gear up for a meal that will no doubt loosen your belt a few notches... but you know, in a classy way. We’re talking pecan-smoked pork belly glistening in habanero-cherry sauce; Creole shrimp over grits cake; the choicest wood-fired rib-eye and NY strip; and the pièce de résistance, a silky/smoky bacon tres leches bread pudding.

Kitchen 713

Washington

A reopened soul food joint is back and better than ever
Once a tiny, bare bones restaurant housed in EaDo, Kitchen 713 closed in 2016 to find new digs (and get a liquor license). At the turn of the year, it emerged bigger, better (it got that license), and somehow, even more satisfying. It’s all about pure, unadulterated soul food, here... though you’ll find way more than just one the city’s best takes on shrimp & grits. Chef and co-owners Ross Coleman and James Haywood take inspiration from around the globe, bringing their take on soul food to the highest level. Dig in to fiery and smoky Caribbean jerk ribs, catfish tikka masala that’s at once light and rich, and a stupendous New York strip. Also, since this is the South, weekend brunch means fried chicken, mac & cheese, and biscuits, obviously.

Julie Soefer Photography

One Fifth Houston

Montrose

For five years, this restaurant will change its concept every year. Go now.
From Underbelly chef-owner and champion of all things Houston, Chris Shepherd, this concept is literally changing up its game once a year for five years. First up was One Fifth Steak, which gained fans aplenty under the careful direction of the incredibly talented chef de cuisine Nick Fine. Now, Shepherd, Fine and Co. have turned their attentions toward love languages and the cuisines that represent them. One Fifth Romance pleases with dishes that can probably make anyone fall in love -- mussels escabeche, duck heart Bolognese, truffle chicken roulade, and orange-anise croquembouche. Just don’t forget to make your reservations now, as the tides will turn once again in August and September.

Ohn Korean Eatery

Chinatown

An Asiatown legend opens the neighborhood’s hottest new spot
Mike Tran has quietly been taking over Asiatown, winning over locals with favorites like Mein, Tiger Den, and the newly revamped Night Market. The same attention has been paid to what just may be his coolest venture, Ohn. This time, a clubby K-Town vibe adds sex appeal, while the kitchen dishes out shareable plates that are downright addicting as hell. Sip late-night soju straight from a watermelon keg and complement it with kimchi fried rice, jeyuk bokkeum (spicy pork stir-fry), sweet and hot twice-fried Korean chicken, and corn cheese -- a cheesy riff on creamed corn that is an absolute must for the table.

Jennifer Caswell

Oxbow 7

Downtown

Elevated bayou food in an unexpected location
Gulf Coast chef Bryan Caswell already had seafood (Reef), barbecue (Jackson Street BBQ), and Tex-Mex (El Real) under his restaurant umbrella. And now, along with his wife, Jennifer, he has a modern concept in Downtown’s Le Meridian -- one that vows to change what you think you know about bayou fare. Refined techniques and touches enhance what the kitchen describes as “elevated bayou cuisine” -- East Texas caviar service with house potato chips, creme fraiche and ghost pepper caviar; crispy duck egg with duck confit and basil oil; and even Caswell’s take on bun rieu, a traditional Vietnamese crab stew that gets poured tableside. Aside from elevated small plates, the restaurant also plays to the hotel crowd with double cheeseburgers and build-your-own breakfasts.

Potente

Potente

Downtown

The only Italian steakhouse you’ll need to know in Houston
With a piping hot location across from Minute Maid Park, this highly-anticipated concept from Astros owner Jim Crane hit a grand slam (!) when it nabbed chef Danny Trace (of Brennan’s fame) to helm the kitchen this spring. Potente oozes sophistication, with a dark and luxe interior that evokes a modern villa, top-notch service and superb wines, and high-end Italian steakhouse fare that pays respect to local ingredients. Dine on a beautiful branzino hit with burgundy grapes and romanesco; impossibly silky burrata caprese, dressed up with things like confit cherry tomato and smoked sea salt; and cacio e pepe upped with black truffles shaved tableside.

Mark C Austin

Riel

Montrose

Southern food from a Canadian chef and a constantly changing menu
All hail Manitoba-born chef Ryan Lachaine (Underbelly, Reef), who fires off worldly dishes straight from Riel’s showstopping open kitchen. Said dishes offer some familiar tastes from our French Canadian neighbors, like the artful Montreal smoked meat and rye, and sticky toffee pudding with foie gras torchon. That said, the ever-changing menu is just as likely to feature influences from Houston’s culinary melting pot, from Vietnamese fried oysters and Gulf redfish karaage (with its tail intact), to a beautiful corn gnocchi dusted with cilantro, lime, and cotija fondue.

Jenn Duncan Photography

Theodore Rex

Warehouse District

Simple but spectacular plates with a menu that will change due to chef’s “boredom”
In a shock felt around the city, 2017 brought the closure of our beloved Oxheart, a year after chef Justin Yu won James Beard’s Best Chef Southwest for his highly revered veggie-centric tasting menu. But it wasn’t always Yu’s plans to be confined by tastings, so he shut down his spot inside the historic Erie City Iron Works building and re-birthed it entirely. With a new, playful look, new chef de cuisine (Jason White) and new a la carte menu, Theodore Rex sets the tone for a new kind of dining -- one that mesmerizes with simple plates of pan con tomate and farm potatoes dripped in chicken in the same way as it does with mains like collards-steamed grouper and Texas wagyu with fermented radish. Note: The menu will change often due to “availability, quality, and boredom,” so come expecting the unexpected.

Xochi

Xochi

Downtown

A hometown hero is dishing out Oaxacan cuisine after winning his first James Beard award
With a James Beard Award under his belt, chef Hugo Ortega is storming out of the gates. That’s thanks in part to the deserving chef’s latest concept, the sleek Oaxacan paradise set on the ground level of the gorgeous Marriott Marquis (the one with the Texas-shaped lazy river). Equally as gorgeous are Xochi’s impeccably composed plates -- a showstopping labyrinth of moles, from the deep and earthy to the smooth and mellow; house-made masa preparations showcasing endless varieties of corn and topped off with wood-roasted octopus, roasted pork rib, and chorizo ismeño, and impossibly good homemade chocolate desserts from Hugo’s pastry chef (and brother), Ruben. Drinks come from the masterful Sean Beck, who’s built a thoughtful library of agave-focused cocktails and interesting wines to pair with it all.

Morris Malakoff

Yauatcha

Galleria

Upscale dim sum that’ll have you prying your friends off the couch every Sunday
It’s fitting that this Michelin-starred London import is housed in the Galleria’s luxury "jewel box" building. Every plate coming out of the kitchen is a gem, both in a breathtaking, aesthetic way and a more figurative “give me that now!” way. This is not your typical Chinese dim sum teahouse -- Yauatcha offers a more contemporary tasting experience, and although that comes with an uptick in price, we’re guessing you’ll find shelling out the extra cash totally acceptable. Bring friends and sip tea while ogling over the restaurant’s delicate and artful preparations, from crispy duck rolls and scallop shui mai with tobiko caviar, to seasonal chocolates and patisserie.