While you’ve been busy figuring out whether or not it’s flip-flop weather (it’s hot, but it’s raining! What to do, what to do?!), these 18 NKOTB have been busy heating up Houston’s food and drink scene. They win. But you can too -- all you need to do is put on some shoes and go check them out.

Bovine & Barley

Bovine & Barley

Downtown
42 taps, featuring all varietals of -- you guessed it -- barley, line the wall of Downtown’s newest craft beer spot. But you’ll find way more than just beer here. Shimmy up to the massive, industrial-style bar to grab a pint of the good stuff along with things like Kobe beef burgers, beer-can chicken, and thai noodle salads.

Harwood Grill

Harwood Grill

River Oaks
Goodbye, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. Hello, Hardwood Grill! With a mission of bringing good food and good service, the resto’s menu is both approachable and unapologetically meat-heavy. High-quality Akaushi beef comes in many forms, for instance, in a jumbo meatball appetizer; pulled over pappardelle pasta; or as a massive, Béarnaise-coated porterhouse cut. And that's just three of them.
 

Jackson Street BBQ

Downtown
This BBQ spot may have just fired up, but it has already garnered a loyal following. That may have something to do with its pedigree -- the smokehouse is the latest venture from Caswell & Co. (as in chef Bryan Caswell of standbys Reef & Little Big’s) and Greg Gatlin (from the highly revered Gatlin’s Barbecue). Head here for a range of masterfully smoked brisket, ribs, sausage, and yardbird with swoon-worthy sides like fried mac and dirty rice.

Julie Soefer Photography

Añejo

Galleria/Uptown
Tex-Mex gets elevated at this newest venture from Lasco Enterprise (Max’s Wine Dive, The Tasting Room). A sophisticated dining space makes way for elegant and vibrant flavors in the form of cotija-topped broiled Gulf oysters, chorizo-stuffed Texas quail, and wood-fired prime filet with cilantro butter. Diehard Tex-Mex fans need not worry -- you’ll find classics like fajitas, queso, and nachos, too.

Sud Italia

Sud Italia Ristorante

Rice Village
Tucked away in the bungalow that formerly housed Bistro de Amis, this cozy neighborhood resto dishes out Coastal Southern Italian foodstuffs that are as addicting as they are purtty. Start with saffron-kissed arancini or smoked salmon affumicato before moving onto the regionally inspired big guns -- think squid-ink lobster pasta, fresh zuppa di mare, and crispy, bone-in veal chop.

BuffBurger

BuffBurger

Memorial
With a focus on local, all-natural and sustainable ingredients and from-scratch condiments, this newbie burger joint is all kinds of fresh. Get there for craft taps and "in the Buff" meatstuffs like the aioli-, onion-, and raclette-loaded Truffle burger. There’s also Buffdogs, green & noodle salads, and sides like edamame, house fries, and Texas chili.
 

Bollo Woodfired Pizza

Upper Kirby
This fresh-out-the-oven (get it???) pizza joint from the owner of the more casual Pepperoni’s chain features Italian small plates and entrees along with pies cooked from an authentic VPN-certified wood-fired oven. Feast on white truffle butter lobster ravioli, a local kale & garbanzo salad, and bubbling, smoky pies topped with things like soppressata, local micro greens, and mozzarella di bufala.

Ula's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina

Ula’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina

Washington
Lovers of wallet-friendly -- but still good-as-hell -- fajitas rejoice! Missouri-city based Tex-Mex god Ula’s has opened its Washington Ave outpost in the former Coppa spot. The cantina offers everything from tableside queso del mar and the aforementioned sizzling fajitas to California-style burritos and steak ranchero... all crafted with a focus on fresh flavors and even fresher ingredients.
 

Graffiti's at Union St

Washington
With nine outrageous "burger steaks" freshly ground with chuck, brisket, and short rib, burger-holics should most definitely add this fast-casual haunt to their burger bucket list. The substantial patties come loaded with everything from baked mac & cheese to house pickles and bacon chunks. But you may want to make a few trips so you can try the other offerings, including a Texas-sized CFS and peanut butter shake. 

The Republic Smokehouse Saloon

The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon

Midtown
Modern Texas barbecue -- think braised and smoked veal shank, BBQ brisket avocado, and brontosaurus beef short ribs -- has a home in the party-centric Midtown thanks to the group behind Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Mr. Peeples. Complete with an in-house pitmaster, a full food and bev menu, and 30 flatscreens, this sports bar-smokehouse hybrid puts an upscale spin on things like game-watching, dancing to live bands, and brunch.
 

The Commoner and The Boulevardier

Downtown 
This fresh-faced dual bar -- consisting of a laid-back bar on the first floor and an intimate, swanky lounge on the top -- replaced the old Clutch City Squire in March. Partygoers can pick their poison -- hit The Commoner to imbibe in local brews and boozy libations over a game of darts, or head upstairs to The Boulevardier for a posh night of bottle service and fancified cocktails.

Hugs & Donuts

Hugs & Donuts

Heights
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the owners of popular food truck H-town StrEATs were finally able to open their brick-and-mortar donut and kolache shop. Gorge yourself on freshly baked gourmet goodness, including but not limited to things like lemon-curd filled lemon meringue pie donuts and Gatlin’s BBQ brisket kolaches.

Revival Market

Revival Market

Heights
It may not be new, but this neighborhood butchery and market recently added banquette seating for 50 and a must-hit dinner service to its resume (in addition to full-service breakfast and lunch). True to form, the hot new menu spotlights first-class, locally-sourced goods and house-made charcuterie -- meaning you can stuff your face with things like hot smoked bacon and pan de mie and roasted chicken with thyme and caramelized lemon. Note: t’ll be BYOB until it receives its private club licensing, expected in early summer.
 

Mala Sichuan Bistro

Montrose 
The wait is OVER. Inner-loopers can finally get their fill of authentic, Szechuan-style Chinese thanks to the second location of this Chinatown cult classic. Prepare yourself (and your mouth) for tongue-scorching, intense flavors in the form of water-boiled beef and pot-roasted fish, all swimming with chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Our advice: bring friends and get adventurous. 

PESKA Seafood Culture'

PESKA Seafood Culture

Galleria 
After opening two successful restaurants in Mexico, sibling owners Maite and Diego set their sights on opening this fine-dinging seafood venture in Houston. In addition to plenty of badass seafood preparations -- including an herb-packed, salt-baked branzino that’s broken down tableside -- the fresh seafood market and restaurant concept also features an impressive raw bar and a "seafood sommelier" to assist you in picking out a fresh fish to your tastes.
 

Spare Key

Midtown 
An outcast among neighboring party spots like The Dogwood and Midtown drinkery, this hidden, tasteful bar has just five classics and five house cocktails on its rotating menu. But with powerhouse beverage guy Chris Frankel behind the operations and the bar (at least for now), those 10 cocktails are sure to be mighty fine. Take the staircase inside sibling resto Cook & Collins to get to the second-story, where you’ll find refreshingly bold libations and an easy-going crowd. And be sure look out for the 51-drink "Unlock the States," which debuts Memorial Day weekend.

Pizaro’s Pizzeria

Pizaro’s Pizzeria Napoletana

Montrose
Houston’s best pizza joint is finally slinging its hot-and-blistered Neapolitan-style pies inside the Loop. The Montrose location has the same casual charm of the first (counter ordering, BYOB service), but this time it has an 80-seat dining room, host seating, and two colossal wood-fired ovens. Go for the caramelized onion- and pepper-loaded Sweet Pea or the addicting Arugula, dressed simply with garlic oil, shaved Parmesan, and the prosciutto you just added.
 

Johnny’s Gold Brick

Heights 
The guys behind Grand Prize Bar and Moving Sidewalk teamed up with powerhouse restaurant group Treadsack (of stars like Down House, D&T Drive Inn, Kipper Club) to debut this vintage joint in the Heights. Perfectly poised concoctions crafted by mastermind Leslie Ross include a stellar frozen marg and Tom Collins among eight other classics (all 10 are $8 a pop). And just an FYI: there’re also house picklebacks.

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Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Bovine & Barley 416 Main St, Houston, TX 77002

This cool-kid's craft brewpub is famous for their ginormous HTX marquee letters and forty-two taps of barley. The spacious room is a nice change from other downtown Houston bars where you’re used to being packed like sardines. A projector wall gives this hotspot the edge for catching a game, and the fantastic food deals on their meat-centric menu will fill you up without breaking the bank.

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2. Harwood Grill 2300 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098 (River Oaks)

With a mission of bringing good food and good service, the resto’s menu is both approachable and unapologetically meat-heavy. High-quality Akaushi beef comes in many forms, for instance, in a jumbo meatball appetizer; pulled over pappardelle pasta; or as a massive, Béarnaise-coated porterhouse cut. And that's just three of them.

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3. Jackson Street BBQ 209 Jackson St, Houston, TX 77002 (Downtown)

Two homegrown chefs— Bryan Caswell of Reef & Little Big’s and Greg Gatlin of the highly revered Gatlin’s Barbecue— teamed up to create this steakhouse that serves great Southern-inspired fare day-in and day-out. Head over for a range of masterfully smoked briskets, ribs, sausages, and yardbird with swoon-worthy sides like fried mac and dirty rice.

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4. Añejo 1180 Uptown Park Blvd Ste 1, Houston, TX 77056 (Uptown)

Tex-Mex gets elevated at Añejo. A sophisticated dining space makes way for elegant and vibrant flavors in the form of cotija-topped broiled Gulf oysters, chorizo-stuffed Texas quail, and wood-fired prime filet with cilantro butter. Diehard Tex-Mex fans need not worry -- you’ll find classics like fajitas, queso, and nachos, too.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Sud Italia Ristorante 2347 University Blvd, Houston, TX 77005 (Rice Village)

This cozy neighborhood resto dishes out Coastal Southern Italian foodstuffs that are as addicting as they are pretty. Start with saffron-kissed arancini or smoked salmon affumicato before moving onto the regionally inspired big guns -- think squid-ink lobster pasta, fresh zuppa di mare, and crispy, bone-in veal chop.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. BuffBurger 1014 Wirt Rd, Houston, TX 77055 (Memorial City)

With a focus on local, all-natural and sustainable ingredients and from-scratch condiments, this burger joint is all kinds of fresh. Get there for craft taps and "in the Buff" meatstuffs like the aioli-, onion-, and raclette-loaded Truffle burger. There’s also Buffdogs, green & noodle salads, and sides like edamame, house fries, and Texas chili.

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7. Bollo Woodfired Pizza 2202A W Alabama, Houston, TX 77098

This Upper Kirby pizza joint from the owner of the more casual Pepperoni’s chain features Italian small plates and entrees along with pies cooked from an authentic VPN-certified wood-fired oven and made from imported "double zero" flour. Get them topped with everything from creamy buffalo mozz to Texas Wagyu beef. Sip on house cocktails or choose from a carefully curated wine list to pair with your Italian fare.

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8. Ula's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina 5555 Washington Ave Ste A, Houston, TX 77007 (The Greater Heights)

These dudes have the benchmarks down: spicy fresh salsa delivered warm, thick nutty chips that hit the table hot, great guac, and knock-your-socks off frozen ‘ritas. Save a little room for the ridiculously tender chicken tacos al carbon rolled in house made flour tortillas, or the beefy smoke-tinged skirt steak tacos. Come back for hella good Mexican smoked ribs!

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9. Graffiti's at Union St 2003 Union St, Houston, TX 77007

With nine outrageous "burger steaks" freshly ground with chuck, brisket, and short rib, burger-holics should most definitely add this fast-casual haunt to their burger bucket list. The substantial patties come loaded with everything from baked mac & cheese to house pickles and bacon chunks. But you may want to make a few trips so you can try the other offerings, including a Texas-sized CFS and peanut butter shake.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon 1910 Bagby St Ste 100, Houston, TX 77002 (Midtown)

Modern Texas barbecue -- think braised and smoked veal shank, BBQ brisket avocado, and brontosaurus beef short ribs -- has a home in the party-centric Midtown thanks to the group behind Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Mr. Peeples. Complete with an in-house pitmaster, a full food and bev menu, and 30 flatscreens, this sports bar-smokehouse hybrid puts an upscale spin on things like game-watching, dancing to live bands, and brunch.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. The Commoner and The Boulevardier 410 Main St, Houston, TX 77002 (Downtown)

This is a dual bar -- consisting of a laid-back bar on the first floor and an intimate, swanky lounge on the top. Partygoers can pick their poison -- hit The Commoner to imbibe in local brews and boozy libations over a game of darts, or head upstairs to The Boulevardier for a posh night of bottle service and fancified cocktails.

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12. Hugs & Donuts 1901 N Shepherd Dr Ste 4, Houston, TX 77008

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the owners of popular food truck H-town StrEATs opened a brick-and-mortar donut and kolache shop. Gorge yourself on freshly baked gourmet goodness, including (but not limited to) options like lemon-curd filled lemon meringue pie donuts and Gatlin’s BBQ brisket kolaches.

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13. Revival Market 550 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

This craft butcher and cafe in The Heights offers breakfast, lunch and full-service dinner and even has an in-house charcuterie program. Most of what Revival sells is made in-house, from all of the butchered meats to bottled jams, pickled vegetables and condiments. What is not made from scratch is sourced from other local and artisanal vendors.

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14. Mala Sichuan Bistro 9348 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

Inner-loopers can also get their fill of authentic, Szechuan-style Chinese thanks to the second location of this Chinatown cult classic. Prepare yourself (and your mouth) for tongue-scorching, intense flavors in the form of water-boiled beef and pot-roasted fish, all swimming with chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Our advice: bring friends and get adventurous.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. PESKA Seafood Culture 1700 Post Oak Blvd Ste 190, Houston, TX 77056 (Uptown)

After opening two successful restaurants in Mexico, sibling owners Maite and Diego set their sights on Houston. This aquatic-themed eatery and seafood market is serving up fresh, Mexican-inspired in Galleria. Peska also has an impressive raw bar and a hired “seafood sommelier” who will assist you in picking a fresh catch to fit your tastes.

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16. Spare Key 2416 Brazos St Ste C, Houston, TX 77006 (Midtown)

This hidden, tasteful bar has just five classics and five house cocktails on its rotating menu. But with powerhouse beverage guy Chris Frankel behind the operations, those 10 cocktails are sure to be mighty fine. Take the staircase inside sibling resto Cook & Collins to get to the second-story, where you’ll find refreshingly bold libations and an easy-going crowd.

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17. Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana 1000 W Gray St, Houston, TX 77019 (Montrose)

The second location of Houston’s best pizza joint slings hot and blistered Neapolitan-style pies inside the Loop. This Montrose branch has the same casual charm of the first (counter ordering, BYOB service), but it also has an 80-seat dining room, host seating, and two colossal wood-fired ovens. Count on fast service, since the pizzas only take about 90 seconds to crisp in the 900+ degree heat of their oven.

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18. Johnny's Gold Brick 2518 Yale St, Houston, TX 77008

The guys behind Grand Prize Bar and Moving Sidewalk teamed up with powerhouse restaurant group Treadsack (of stars like Down House, D&T Drive Inn, Kipper Club) to open this vintage joint in the Heights. Perfectly poised concoctions crafted by mastermind Leslie Ross include a stellar frozen marg and Tom Collins among eight other classics (all 10 are $8 a pop). And just an FYI: there are also house picklebacks.

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