The Best Places to Eat in Houston Right Now
Houston is a sweet symphony of cultures, so when it comes to food, our city arguably has it all. And while we love to tell you about the finest burgers, most righteous brunches, and even all the hometown foods you need to eat before you die, we also like to keep you abreast of the places that best define Houston’s food scene at this moment in time. That means putting a spotlight on the most intriguing places that opened recently, as well as paying tribute to the classics that everyone, whether tourist or local, should cross off their list.
The past few months have brought to the table a high-end food hall where top local chefs take center stage, a Gulf Coast concept from a game-changing restaurant, and what just may be the coolest, wackiest dining experience in town. Below, you’ll find all the reasons why there’s never been a more exciting time to not cook your own meals in Houston.
Game-changing restaurant switching up concepts every year for five years
Chris Shepherd & Co. has done it again. After literally changing up the game at this game-changing restaurant three times now (from One Fifth Steak to One Fifth Romance and to One Fifth Mediterranean), the chef and his talented team -- including but not limited to Chef de cuisine Matt Staph, culinary director Nick Fine, and pastry director Victoria Dearmond -- have opened doors on their latest concept, keeping things a bit closer to home this time. One Fifth Gulf Coast zeroes in on foods from “Texas to Florida, earth to ocean,” offering a bounty of eats like hearth-fired flounder almondine and blackened ribeye, a black lime take on key lime pie, and an entire section just for shellfish: raw, cold, roasted, smoked, cured, and fried. It’s even replaced its fan-favorite “Baller Board” (first made famous at the steakhouse) with a “Baller Ship,” ripe with a chef-calls-it lineup of fresh, fried and seasonal seafood. And for the first time ever, there’s brunch!
Houston’s hottest new ticket offers a mad, inspired taste of Madrid
Houston has been in dire need of a late-night dining experience as fun and whackadoo as the one this Madrid-inspired haute-spot provides; but that’s not to say that the fun and whackadoo-ness comes without some serious talent behind it. The restaurant comes from partners Ignacio Torras and Chef Luis Roger, also known for the insanely good Spanish fine dining spot BCN Taste + Tradition. This time, the duo wows with avant-garde cuisine that pays homage to the capital of Spain with a mad twist -- think squid ink chicharrón, “mac” & cheese where the noodles are made of gelled broth, and a foie gras tapa made to look like an ice cream cone. The whimsical food isn’t the only reason you’ll find a month-long waitlist for reservations, though. Dining inside MAD is like living inside a real life Picasso painting, from its rich colors and gold-plated everything to a bathroom you’ll definitely be ‘gramming, and its gin collection is equally as impressive, with cocktails like the stunning matcha-infused gin & tonic that comes with tray service.
Modern food hall where the chefs take center stage
Downtown’s coolest new spot has taken the food hall concept and cranked it up at least 10 levels. The 9,100 square-foot space here serves as a creative incubator for talented chefs and barkeeps, with five open-kitchen concepts that include a contemporary global diner (Atlas Diner from Chef Richard Knight, previously of Feast and Hunky Dory); a Vietnamese street food kitchen (The Blind Goat from Chef Christine Ha, season 3 winner of MasterChef); a from-scratch pasta and pizza joint (BOH Pasta from Chef Ben McPherson, formerly of Prohibition and Conservatory); a wood-burning steakhouse (Cherry Block Craft Butcher + Kitchen from Felix Florez, owner of Black Hill Ranch, and Chef Jessica Timmons); and a sushi/yakitori spot from two Uchi veterans (Kokoro from Chef Daniel Lee and Chef Patrick Pham). On the beverage side, there’s Lockwood Station from industry vet David Daiquiri; Secret Garden Bar from Jonathan Gallardo (known from spots like Hughes Hangar and Prohibition); and Bravery Wine Bar by restaurateur and grape alchemist Shepard Ross. If that seems like a lot of options, that’s because it is -- this place is tailor-made for return visits.
A high-end seafood tavern with one of the biggest raw displays in town
This sibling establishment to Ouzo Bay is part-seafood tavern, part-speakeasy, hosting live music every night alongside reimagined tavern fare and high-end cocktails. Antique mirrors, brass fixtures, and white-washed wood accents give the space a ship-wrecked feel, while tufted red leather banquettes and rich cherry trims bring the sex appeal. On the menu are New England lobster rolls, Viet-Cajun crawfish, and Eastern Shore fried chicken, but the restaurant’s pièce de résistance is its incredible raw bar display: an ice tower swimming in lobster, oysters, and caviar.
A hipper, more modern take on the iconic Spaghetti Warehouse
After Hurricane Harvey wiped out the repurposed warehouse that played home to the original Spaghetti Warehouse in Downtown, its founder decided to start anew rather than rebuild the old. Taking inspiration from its first run, Warehouse 72 is a cooler, more modern bistro and bar that sports exposed brick, bright murals, and new American fare with a Mediterranean touch. At the helm is Jamie Salazar, who earned his spurs at spots like Coppa and Brasserie 19 and is now showing off his skills in an open kitchen. Reserve the Chef’s Table to taste a custom menu, or dine on grilled octopus, truffle cream pasta, and za’atar roasted chicken under the drop ceiling’s starry night sky.
Stylish cafe and wine bar that goes from morning ‘til night
Sleek leather and bar-top seating, wood and gold-plated accents, and an all-day coffee and wine menu make this the kind of place you’ll want to hang out all day. At least that’s what Bobby Heugel & Co. are hoping for. The team is pretty much as seasoned as it gets; among the key players are Justin Vann on the wine program, Alex Negranza up at bat as coffee director, Jusin Yu overseeing the food, and GM Tommy Ho. Stop in for an espresso paired with an array of toasts, like avocado with salsa verde, sweet pea with yogurt, and pistachio butter with burnt honey; or go for a glass of wine coupled with pan con tomate, parmesan and black pepper frites, or a bistro steak.
New-age food hall redefining Houston’s downtown tunnels
Walk down “The Great Steps” and you’ll find yourself in a soaring, light-filled open space that’s a far cry from the downtown tunnels of the past. The 35,000-square-foot community hub sits at the Bank of America Tower, and its food hall is one for the books. Right now, you can get cold brews and milk and honey lattes from Boomtown Coffee, the O.G. Mama Ninfa’s pescado tacos and barbacoa tortas, build your own pastas from Mona fresh Italian food, lobster rolls at East Hampton, Flip ‘N Patties Filipino-inspired burgers, and fresh poke from Seaside Poke, with more tastemakers expected.
All-day Latin spot con excelente comida, café, y cocktails
You may have seen its dreamy, mint green Avocolada on Instagram. But the iced coconut, tequila, and avocado concoction isn’t the only reason to pay this coffee bar, cocktail spot, and Latin kitchen a visit. There’s also the modern, the Havana-like feel, and the rockstar team behind it which includes Greenway Coffee Co.’s David Buehrer, Morningstar’s Carlos Ballon, and Aqui’s Jill Bartolome. Plant yourself on the lush patio and enjoy cortados, cervezas, or those Avocoladas alongside morning-to-night eats like fried yucca breakfast tacos, salmon ceviche, and Cubano sandwiches.
The closest you’ll get to Santorini in Houston
This Baltimore import fits right in at the ritzy River Oaks district, bringing real-deal Mediterranean fare and fresh seafood flown in daily. We’re talking langoustines sourced directly from Norway, jumbos prawns from Madagascar, and Bronzino straight from the Aegean. Dine on ouzo blue mussels, lamb meatballs, and lobster pasta, and transport yourself to the Greek isles as you work your way through the fresh Fish Market selections like a wine list. Speaking of wine lists, the restaurant has brought in acclaimed local sommelier Evan Turner (you may know him from his rockstar past at Helen Greek) to cherry pick a big, bold collection, housed right in a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling, glass-enclosed wine room.
Neighborhood icon rocking old school darts and a menu refresh
Rudz is another institution that revamped this year. The beloved bar is still gritty and grungy in all the right ways, only now, its kitchen is helmed by Pi Pizza OG Anthony Calleo, who turns up the volume on pub grub with a mosh pit of flavor bombs. While you can’t go wrong with an elevated Patty Melt or the Gay Fil-A (yep, just like the famous chicken sandwich but without the gay-hate), unexpected plates like the Not-A-Shitty-House-Salad and Chicken Parm Pasta (made with BOH Pasta Co. bucatini, fermented garlic-thyme butter, and house smoked tomato) are the unsung heroes.
A Texas “Top 10” BBQ joint by way of Brenham
With its roots in a roadside outpost in Brenham, Truth made big waves when it was snagged the No. 10 spot in Texas Monthly’s roundup of the Top 50 BBQ spots in Texas. But it rightfully had many fans well before that. Pitmaster Leonard Botello IV did us all a favor when he looked to Houston for his next expansion. Now, local barbecue enthusiasts get get their fix without the drive to Central Texas, filling up on fatty, 18-hour-smoked brisket and succulently-crisp burnt ends, moist, peppery pork ribs, and sides from a dreamy mac & cheese to old school Tater Tot casserole. Save space for the daily selection of monster-sized, multi-layer cakes by the slice.
Euro-style bistro with breads and pastas made from scratch and a must-have burger
Bar genius Bobby Heugel, food wunderkind Justin Yu, and restaurateur Steve Flippo are a match made in heaven, as evidenced by their first Heights powerhouse, Better Luck Tomorrow. They’re at it again at Squable (pronounced “squabble”), this time backed by Mark Clayton and Drew Gimma in the kitchen. You’ll want to try Clayton and Gimma’s aptly named French cheeseburger, in which a perfectly fatty beef patty and a gorgeous house-baked pain de mie bun are made all the more mouthwatering by an oozing cascade of raclette cheese. That said, you’ll also want to try pork neck schnitzel, broken, butter braised onion pasta, and an ingenious creation that is basically a mussels and calico bean bruschetta. Our advice? Come with someone you don’t mind sharing with.
Inspired “chef incubator” and bar featuring rotating talent and first looks at new concepts
Part restaurant, part bar, and part pop-up factory, the former Beaver’s space now hosts a rotating selection of chefs-in-residence. First up, chef Evelyn Garcia, who shows off her distinctive approach to southeast Asian cuisine via the flavors from her Latina heritage -- think coconut jasmine rice, Thai chili roasted fish, and ginger oxtail curry. The supremely talented Leslie Krockenberger is in charge of the bar, offering local craft brews, wines, and expertly prepared cocktails like the banana chip-infused Banana Stand.
Serious seafood spot with an ice bar, high-end gin, and caviar service
Revamping the old Star Fish space, this first-rate seafood kitchen brings together well-known chef Lyle Bento (Southern Goods, Star Fish) as culinary director, Executive Chef J.D. Woodward (Underbelly, Rainbow Lodge, Southern Goods), and Chef Michael Nutt (Star Fish).
That kind of talent means you’ll find game-changing things like smoked, cured, and preserved seafood charcuterie, tom yum hot pot laced with all kinds of high-end shellfish, and a few surprises that will pull you over to the land side, including a knockout Rohan duck salad.
Gin and tonics, mules and tikis, and spot-on martinis round out the fun.
Progressive look at the soul food experience from a young gun chef
Houston’s most intriguing restaurant comes from chef Jonny Rhodes and his wife Chandra, where the power couple looks to not only feed you fantastic food, but to use that food to guide you on a journey through history. Here, Rhodes dreams up thought-provoking neo-soul food that explores the roots of the African American experience, including a food movement that managed to flourish even in dark times of slavery and oppression. Reserve a seat at the 13-top communal table for a guided tasting of herbivore, omnivore, and carnivore menus, with ever-changing dishes from an emulsion of candied yams with smoked pecan butter to mollusk and wild boar gumbo. And be sure to dress up for the occasion.
Cult favorite pop-up BBQ gone brick-and-mortar
It doesn’t get much more “Houston” than a Chinese- and Vietnamese-American-owned smokehouse telling the true story of Houston barbecue. Here, Alief natives and “blood brothers” Robin and Terry Wong and Quy Hoang take their popular side hustle to the next-level with locally-inspired flavors and the very best cuts from Texas farms, including Black Hill Meats and 44 Farms. Aside from the flawlessly executed holy trinity of brisket, ribs, and sausage, we’re talking special offerings from gochujang beef belly burnt ends and smoked turkey banh mi to Thai green curry boudin.
An eclectic dining experience worth the drive to The Woodlands
Chef Austin Simmons (Cureight) has another place to show off his superlative talent in the kitchen, this time at the recharge of the old Hubbell & Hudson Bistro. Here, Simmons takes charge by combining global flavors with classic technique, from the raved-about Korean butter-poached crab and kimchi pancake pairing to an over-the-top four-person steak board featuring 5 different cuts of meat: Black Angus, Texas Certified Akaushi, Wagyu, and Japanese Black Wagyu. And if you’re a sucker for a good burger, stop by for lunch. Tris’s comes hard with two smashed and juice-dripping Akaushi Wagyu patties, bacon jam, and American cheese and iceberg lettuce on a toasted English muffin.
Modern, worldly American food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Named after a Matagorda Bay ghost town that was once a historic port of entry for Texas, Indianola is part of the trio of fresh concepts from Agricole Hospitality (Revival Market, Coltivare, Night Heron, the cocktail bar Miss Carousel, and pizza joint Vinny’s). Here, modern American food is celebrated through chefy interpretations and worldly influences -- crispy duck wings with fresno chili, ricotta gnudi with blistered tomatoes, za’atar-spiced wood-grilled cauliflower, and a Texas Wagyu burger on a cheddar-jalapeño bun. Whatever you do, start with the house-made sourdough with sea salt and cultured butter.
Powerhouse chef making boring steakhouse classics fun
Chris Shepherd has proved his love of cooking -- meat, specifically -- time and time again. There was Underbelly, where he championed a nose-to-tail program, and One Fifth Steak, the first iteration of his changing concept restaurant that started the meal off with Wagyu beef fat candles and finished with a big ol’ cast-iron steak. Both concepts may be over, but Shepherd’s still got steak on the mind, and this time he’s doing it big at Georgia James in the old Underbelly space. He and his crew (which includes culinary director Nick Fine) dreamed up a menu focused on quality, technique and fun -- steaks are dry aged in-house and cast iron seared, a barbacoa-style 44 Farms Short Rib is marinated overnight, smoked and braised until seriously tender. And add-ons like the “Lamburger Helper” and roasted Gulf oysters swimming in bourbon barrel-aged hot sauce butter are next-level sides. Can’t decide what to order? Go for the “Baller Board,” a truly fantastic chef’s pick ‘em that is sure to leave you satisfied.
Cultured Cajun-Creole brasserie pairing European and Gulf Coast bites
Court-bouillon grand-mère. Blue crab tartine. Dirty “duck duck” rice. It’s all on the menu at this high-class meets the Dirty South spot. Helmed by internationally-trained chef Drake Leonards (whose pedigree includes Nola hotspots like August, Domenica, and Shaya), Eunice is a visual stunner, with a striking U-shaped quartz-topped bar, soaring windows, and Live Oak-shaded patio. The sensory overload continues as you ease into the meal, sopping up every last drop of your New Orleans BBQ lobster and toast, and etouffee over handmade campanelle pasta.
An unlikely, whimsical sushi spot in burbs
Sushi chef Mike Lim made a name for himself at last year’s Roka Akor (and before that San Francisco’s Roka Akor and Morimoto in Napa), and he’s brought his skills to the perhaps the most unlikely place in Houston: Katy. The suburb is becoming a dining destination thanks to his artful, A-list treatment of classic Japanese dishes and flavors -- his fish aging program works to extract and intensify those flavors in the way steakhouse dry-aging program would. Treat yourself to a worth-the-splurge omakase, or bring a crew and share uni flights, tableside foie gras kissed with applewood smoke, bone marrow, and tastings of bluefin.
World-renowned sushi with polished service and a local spin
Time to stop saying Houston goes unnoticed, because we now have ourselves our very own Nobu (sup De Niro?). Open on the second floor of the former Saks Fifth Avenue in The Galleria, this HTX edition combines restaurant signatures like the miso black cod and jalapeño yellowtail sashimi with Houston-inspired dishes and cocktails. Take, for instance, the Sakura Smoking Pot with cherry blossom-smoked Japanese A5 Wagyu. Or the emphasis on locally sourced fish, as seen in specials like the Gulf red snapper tempura. Expect to crack your wallet wide open for this buzzy, high-end experience, and crack it open even further if you want the omakase.
A worldly kaleidoscope of high-end fare with a decidedly Southern touch
Over in Arts District Houston’s Sawyer Yards, Poitín is the brainchild of restaurateur and Dublin native Ian Tucker. Here, Tucker embraces his immigrant spirit with the help of chef Dominick Lee (former sous chef at Kiran’s), executing a menu with influences from Houston to the culinary capitals of the world. Most recently, the restaurant has moved in a Southern direction, showcasing eats like baby beets with New Orleans cream cheese, citrus-kissed beef cheek with spoonbread, and cornmeal-breaded Gulf catfish. Don’t miss the Sunday Roast, a “carve-it-yourself” family-style meal worth of closing out the weekend with.
Exploring Houston’s mosaic of cultures through refined small plates and shareables
Chef Chris Shepherd’s young spot is a hot take on the now defunct Underbelly, telling the story of Houston food without the self-imposed restrictions of nose-to-tail cooking. Housed in a smaller space on Westheimer and with chef de cuisine Nick Wong (formerly of New York’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar) manning the kitchen, this evolution of Underbelly continues its mission of showboating Houston’s diversity. Share plates of duck egg curry, crispy rice salad, and queso fundido made with blood sausage and pork fat tortillas; or try Sunday’s dim sum-style brunch, which brings turkey neck molotes, wild boar gyoza, and smoked trout hash browns into the mix. When you’re done, take Shepherd’s suggestion and use this experience as a jump-off point, paying a future visit to the inspirations listed on the leaflet you get with your check.
A high-end Israeli steakhouse by way of the Big Easy
Housed in the former Triniti space off South Shepherd, this New Orleans import feels right at home in the Bayou City. The chic steakhouse veers away from the norm, instead playing on its Middle Eastern heritage via dishes like sweetbreads decorated with beautiful pearls of yogurt, tahini-kissed Jerusalem cauliflower salad, and a 24-hour, fall-off-the-bone "shpondra" (short rib) finished with smoked tomato au jus. Since it’s still a steakhouse, you’ll also find top quality cuts of beef (from prime bone-in ribeye to Japanese A5 Wagyu), each rack dry-aged in a show-stopping meat locker complete with a chandelier.
Late-night bistro and bar making familiar food with a hint of the unexpected
Soulful comfort foods go ‘round the globe at this popular EaDo haunt, which opened in late 2017 and has been drawing in crowds until the wee hours of the night ever since (by the wee hours, we totally mean midnight because we’re old now). And it just so happens to be the perfect excuse to have pancakes for dinner. Here, the namesake Nancy Cakes are served as a small plate, light and fluffy with a side of whipped butter and smoked trout roe (get two orders if you plan on sharing). Parlay that with the lamb dumplings, delicate little pasta pockets stuffed oh-so-carefully with lamb and finished with spicy tomato vinaigrette, labneh, and lamb jus. Bigger plates come in the form of roasted snapper, saffron cavatelli, and a deservingly hyped burger on a brioche English muffin bun.
Stylish spot showing off a global palate
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 showstopping open kitchen. Even the lowly beet is elevated at the Montrose stunner. It comes in the form of a velvety, bright magenta borscht (seasonal) that’s perfectly tart and kissed with some smooth crème fraîche. The simple Redneck Cheddar and potato pierogi are highlights as well (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 Third Coast background also shines, especially through dishes like the kimchi-laced tempura cauliflower.
Constantly refreshed plates proving simple can be spectacular
James Beard Award winner Justin Yu may have shut down the highly revered Oxheart in 2017, but he wasn’t done with the space inside the historic Erie City Iron Works building. No longer confined by strict tasting menus, Theodore Rex (named after Yu’s nephew, Teddy) shows off a playful new look, new chef de cuisine (Jason White) and new a la carte menu, setting the tone for a new kind of dining -- one that mesmerizes with simple plates of pan con tomate and cauliflower braised in Bordelaise sauce in the same way as it does with hearty mains like the Texas wagyu roast strip. Note: The menu will change often due to “availability, quality, and boredom,” so come prepared.
Masterful Oaxacan flavors in the heart of Downtown
In 2017, 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.
A Chinese dim sum teahouse gone over-the-top (in a good way)
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 in 2017. 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 matcha and yuzu tart that is just as tasty as it is beautiful.
Global riffs on French traditions with a bright open kitchen that takes center stage
The Heights got a French infusion thanks to this chef-driven neophyte, set in former Black & White space on Studewood. The eclectic restaurant is the culmination of a 20-year dream for chef Manuel Pucha (formerly La Table), showcasing French cuisine with touches from Pucha’s rich Ecuadorian heritage. It’s a family affair, here, with co-owners and brothers Victor (pastry chef) and Cristian (front of house) getting into the mix. Dine on sophisticated classics -- bouillabaisse, wagyu frites with béarnaise, canard confit -- alongside unexpected jewels like the Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche, Peruvian tiradito, and ponzu crab.
Ronnie Killen’s first in-the-loop establishment shows us all what we’ve been missing
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.
Home to an unparalleled omakase experience and “Magic Fingers”
Chef Chris Kinjo -- affectionately known as “Magic Fingers” -- was dearly missed when his highly revered sushi joint shut its doors in 2014. Thankfully, Kinjo kept his knives sharp and returned with an even more badass version of the place a year later. For best results, sit at the 12-seat sushi bar, where you can experience an umami-filled omakase alongside showy entertainment, course after impeccable course. If you can’t snag a spot, though, you’ll be just as happy dining on fatty toro, salmon tataki, and miso-marinated black cod with the masses.
Classy Mediterranean fare with a blowout all-Hellenic wine list
This powerhouse restaurant 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, and chef William Wright’s menu is constantly refreshed with explorations like risotto-style Cretan wedding rice and salt cod brandade. 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, the staff is more than eager to recommend stunners to suit your tastes.
Melting pot eats from the hearth with an oyster room, to boot
Atlanta restaurateur and Houston native chef Ford Fry has brought his culinary magic back home with this modern, globally and coastally inspired lodge. Here, executive chef Bobby Matos mans the kitchen (and the giant, wood-fired hearth) as it pumps out things like Thai curry Spanish octopus, wild boar Bolognese and duck carnitas for two (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.
A fine dining take on Barcelona in Houston
When an El Bulli-trained chef creates the first Spanish fine dining restaurant in Houston, you don’t ask questions: you just go. You go for hard-to-score-elsewhere things like jamón ibérico de Bellota and anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea. You go for a lineup of both intriguing and stunning seafood dishes, intoxicatingly good grilled duck breast, and flawlessly executed bone-in ribeye & frites. Perhaps most importantly, you go for the exceptional wine list and transcendent desserts like the rum raisin Catalán brulee, all of which you take down while being treated like Spanish royalty.
Italian shareables with goods picked fresh from its garden
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. Five 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, and the restaurant recently snagged a lease on the space next door so a new concept may be on the rise.
Putting Houston barbecue on the map since 2014
Killen's Barbecue, along with its follow-up concepts, covers all the bases of Texas’ Holy Trinity of meat: Smoke, Burgers, and Steaks (oh, and Smoke & Steaks and Tex-Mex, too). 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 great is an understatement. But you’ll be sorry if you skip out on things like the tender bone-in pork belly, 24-hour brined fried chicken, and beautifully marbled American wagyu gold-smoked brisket from Snake River Farms.
Your significant other wants you to take them here, trust us
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.
A husband-and-wife duo making the perfect marriage of meat and smoke
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.
Iconic seafood restaurant makes a salty, triumphant return
Sure Reef isn’t exactly new, but after being dealt a “salty hand” (their words) and closing for nearly two years due to damage from Hurricane Harvey, its 2019 comeback marks a new beginning. Chef-owner Bryan Caswell hosted pop-ups in anticipation of the icon’s triumphant return, playing with things like BBQ crab and boiled crawfish, and this time around, you can expect Caswell to continue the fun. Now, the culinary team will be rocking out a seafood-focused menu featuring fresh-caught jewels of the Gulf and beyond, from whole-roasted snapper and oysters with hot sauce to a crab fat and dough appetizer that just may be your favorite dish of the year.
A proper Texas steakhouse that is equal parts flavor and class
With two Houston locations at which you can fashion a lobster bib out of your fancy cloth napkin (Downtown and Galleria), 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.
A Tex-Creole temple that has stood the test of time
It’s not just time that this storied institution has withstood, it’s also been through too many hurricanes (including one in which it burned to the ground: Hurricane Ike), countless sweltering Houston summers, and several generations of the Midtown crowd. Today, you’ll find the Milk Punch flowing, jazz quartet blasting, and oysters being shucked and slurped just as you would back in the day. The iconic restaurant pulls every trigger when it comes to hospitality, from the crisp, white-clothed tables to its famous tableside flambéed Bananas Foster. Show up and get down with Louisiana crawfish ravioli, Texas mole braised duck tamale, and mesquite grilled Palacios Redfish; or treat yourself to a Sunday brunch experience like no other.
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