Food & Drink

The Thrillist Awards: Houston's Best New Food & Drink of 2015

Published On 12/28/2015 Published On 12/28/2015

With a brand-spanking-new bar and restaurant popping up in nearly every nook and cranny on the regular, 2015 has been one hell of a year for Houston. And since we know you couldn’t possibly have gotten to every single opening (or have you? tell us your secrets!!!), we’ve rounded up the best of the best in every category we deemed worthy. Here’s this year’s best new everything in Houston:

Pizaro’s Pizza

Best new pizza place

Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana

Address and Info

Montrose

Inner-loopers did a collective happy dance when this Memorial pizza spot finally opened its Montrose location in the Spring. The counter-service spot has the same casual charm as the original (and the same BYOB policy -- score!), but this time it has an 80-seat dining room, host seating, and two colossal wood-fired ovens for pumping out hot-and-blistered Neapolitan-style pies on demand. 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 because you’re not a complete idiot.

The Burger Joint

Best new burger place

The Burger Joint

Address and Info

Montrose

The former Little Bigs space has been transformed into this open-air burger joint, the brainchild of partners Shawn Bermudez (of bars like Royal Oak and Stone’s Throw) and Matthew Pak (of popular food trucks Koagie Hots and Golden Grill). All of the eatery’s hand-crafted burgers are made with locally sourced Texas beef from 44 Farms and topped with things like caramelized kimchi, bacon aioli, serrano peppers, and mac & cheese. But it’s not just the burgers that are wooing locals, there’s loaded frankfurters, chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, stellar fries, and a lineup of craft brews and excellent shakes, too.

Les Ba'get

Best food truck turned brick-and-mortar

Les Ba'get

Address and Info

Montrose

This haute Vietnamese eatery-on-wheels took their already excellent menu of duck-pate-loaded banh mi, egg rolls, and noodles to the next level when they opened up their brick and mortar spot this fall. The tiny house has been packed with fans looking to pack in things like crazy rich, 24hr slow-cooked bone marrow pho and fish sauce marinated fried chicken & pandan coconut milk Belgian waffles in addition to the classics.

Cureight

Best new tasting menu spot

Cureight by Hubbell & Hudson

Address and Info

Woodlands

The Woodlands' first tasting menu-only restaurant is well worth the drive out of the city. It’s there that you’ll find Austin Simmons’ 25-seat, interactive chef’s table, where the young gun chef imagines up impressively ambitious eight-coursers week after week. With a focus on sustainable fish, seasonal produce, and high-quality, dry-aged meats, Simmons transforms ordinary dishes into upscale plates. Think classic carbonara remixed with sea urchin, miso, and Alaskan king crab; or bread & butter in the form of smoked duck, foie, brandied cherry, and brioche. And just when you think you it can’t get any better, Pastry Chef Nguyet Nguyen knocks you out with her lineup of dreamy, high-end desserts. Like we said, it’s worth the drive.

Best new cocktail bar

Spare Key

Address and Info

Midtown

If you can find it (hint: follow the neon key), you’ll know this spot is Midtown’s most worthwhile secret. Powerhouse drink master Chris Frankel is behind the concept, which houses a short, but expertly curated collection of classic and house cocktails, plus an intimate, laid-back feel that is a breath of fresh air from Midtown’s party-hard feel. Sip on seasonal cocktails like the Cesaro Swing, a bourbon and amaro concoction with hints of lemon and lightly hopped pilsner. Bonus fun stuff: imbibers are invited to “Unlock the States” with the drinkery’s 51-drink cocktail menu, featuring all things bold, bitter, sweet, and refreshing.

Tarakaan

Best new spot for dinner & drinks

Tarakaan

Address and Info

Midtown

Fact: Midtown has no shortage of places to drink. Also fact: Midtown has no shortage of places to eat. But what about a spot where you can combine an excellent meal with the Midtown party scene we all know and love? Enter this Buddakan-style resto and lounge. With exposed brick walls and floor to ceiling geisha art, it’s one of the sexiest, coolest looking spots in Midtown. We don’t know what’s better: the shareable, Asian-inspired plates like foie and duck bao, or their exquisite cocktails infused with things like Thai chili, lemongrass, and coconut milk. Our advice? Get both. And also some pandan panna cotta.

BBButchers

Best new steakhouse

B&B Butchers & Restaurant

Address and Info

Washington

With a front house butcher shop, native NY owner, and handsome interior complete with exposed brick, this steakhouse oozes the kind of old school charm that feels classically New York. Of course, the in-house dry-aged USDA Prime and Texas Wagyu served in cuts larger than your head feel 100% Texas. Start with steak tartar or Carpetbaggers, fried oysters atop thick cut bacon and meltingly tender filet with blue cheese sauce. Then go big with the 40z prime porterhouse for two, beautifully seared and sliced table-side.

PESKA Seafood Culture

Best new seafood

PESKA Seafood Culture

Address and Info

Galleria

Get your seafood on at this fine dining/fish market venture from sibling owners and Mexican restaurateurs Maite and Diego Ysita. And do it all with the help of a “seafood sommelier” who’s on hand to assist you through 20-year-old prodigy Chef Omar Pereney’s killer menu. Any of the delicious preparations, including but not limited to an impressive raw bar, BBQ paku ribs, miso bacalao, and lobster “cappuccino” with white truffle foam, are a good idea. Also a good idea? Oyster happy hour!

Weights + Measures

Best new brunch spot

Weights + Measures

Address and Info

Midtown

Part bake shop, part bar and restaurant, weekend brunch at this cool, '70s-esque cafe is always popping thanks to things like house-smoked salmon with truffle egg scramble, fried chicken, and cake donuts, and dukka-spiced roasted carrot and redneck cheddar pizza. Oh, and brunchy drinks like espresso and stiff as hell raspberry fizzes. Those help, too.

Hunky-Dory Tavern

Best chef comeback

Chef Richard Knight/Hunky-Dory Tavern

Address and Info

Heights

Chef Richard Knight’s adventurous, offal-heavy fare gained a cult following at the late and great Feast, so it surprised absolutely no one when this British-American concept from Treadsack was met with an equal amount of excitement. Feast’s fan favorite Exmoor Toasts reappear on the HH menu or at brunch as Hunky Dory’s Boquerones Tartine; and you’ll find even more show-stoppers in the form of hearth-fired rib steak with bone marrow and Bordelaise, whole hog housemade cavatelli, and four-, eight-, or 12-stack pork chops.

Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts

Best new concept

Lee’s Fried Chicken & Donuts

Address and Info

Heights

It seems so obvious, now that we have it. But why wasn’t anyone doing this before??? Proving that hindsight is 20/20, F.E.E.D. TX’s latest concept combines fried chicken and donuts TOGETHER. The seriously crisp Dixie-fried birds -- offered by the piece and in salad and sandwich form -- taste even better when paired with daily made praline bacon donuts, apple fritters, and superior Southern sides.

Fluff Houston

Best new bake shop

Fluff Bake Bar

Address and Info

Midtown

Screw Willy Wonka, we want to live in “Sugar Hooker” Rebecca Mason’s chocolate dipped, sugar-dusted, buttercream-frosted dreamland instead. Open since June, the creative confectionery’s rotating lineup of sweet and savory pastries offered during the Saturday bake sale are a weekend must. So are the old-school classics Fluffernutters, Hobnobs, and SHOS (those are Sugar Hooker Oreos, for you neophytes).

UberEATS Houston

Best new BBQ

Pappa Charlie’s Barbecue

Address and Info

EaDo

This shiny new spot from pit-master Wes Jurena didn’t make Texas Monthly’s list of 25 Best New and Improved BBQ Joints in Texas without reason. Jurena’s gorgeously burnt 44 Farms brisket, glistening pork ribs, over the top cheesy five-cheese mac, and Caribbean jerk-style tri-tip are just a few of them.

Izakaya Midtown

Best new Asian

Izakaya Midtown

Address and Info

Midtown

When culinary jedis Manabu Horiuchi (of Kata Robata) and Jean-Philippe Gaston (of the late and great Cove) join forces, you get things like Brandy-cured Foie in a Jar, panko-crusted Texas quail scotch egg, kimchi CFS, and a whole bunch of other amazing Japanese-inspired eats. You’ll have just as much fun making your way through the not-so-traditional izakaya menu as you will partaking in flights of Japanese whisky.

Helen's Greek Food and Wine

Best new Mediterranean

Helen Greek Food & Wine

Address and Info

Rice Village

This stunner, helmed by Chef William Wright (of Philippe Restaurant & Lounge and Table on Post Oak) and respected sommelier Evan Turner, isn’t your average Greek spot. Instead of tired falafel and boring souvlaki, you’ll find refreshed Greek fare with a touch of Gulf Coast soul, plus an admirable Greek wine list that is just as thoughtful as it is impressive (it’s the second largest Greek list in the US). Hit it to revel in wood-grilled octopus, massive pork-shoulder build-your-own gyro plates, and a sundae that stars Texas pecan baklava.

State of Grace

Best new Southern

State of Grace

Address and Info

River Oaks

Houston native Chef Ford Fry has been off impressing Atlanta for a while now, but the restaurateur has finally returned home to bring us this modern, globally and coastally inspired lodge. And Houston’s is better for it. Former Ciao Bello Chef Bobby Matos mans the kitchen (and the giant, wood-fired hearth) as it pumps out brown butter pork schnitzel, crispy whole snapper, and a caramelized cream ricotta gnudi that will have you saying grace. And then there’s the seriously great oyster program.

Best new gastropub

Karbach Brewing Co. Restaurant

Address and Info

Lazybrook/Timbergrove

This fan favorite Houston brewer upped the ante when it opened up an on-site, full-service restaurant earlier this summer. Chef Joseph Stayshich (of Benjy’s Rice Village) helms the kitchen, which pumps out staggeringly good eats to match the brewery’s solid lineup of suds. Share plates of Korean-fried chicken with house kimchi, malted ricotta gnocchi, and Weisse Versa-battered fish & chips. Then wash it all down with beer, because obviously.

Beckrew Wine House

Best new wine bar

Beckrew Wine House

Address and Info

Upper Kirby

The old The Tasting Room River Oaks-space has been replaced by this white-bricked, metallic-laced wine and espresso bar with an all-star roster of local talent behind it. The small vineyard selections are curated by wine director William Fuller, the coffee program has an assist from Blacksmith’s David Buehrer, and you’ll find eats from places like Houston Dairymaids and Kraftsmen Baking. Sip wine flights as you snack on truffle frites, warm brie, and Jamón Ibérico. It’ll only take one taste to see why it’s been named one of the Top 20 Wine Bars in America by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Wooster's Garden

Best new beer garden

Wooster’s Garden

Address and Info

Midtown

Beer nerds have mad love for this totally chill craft cocktail and beer garden, which rocks 49 on-tap brews that run the gamut from the dark and savory to the sour, funky, and alluring, plus some intricately crafted cocktails. Grab a pint or five to wash down badass pub grub like country-style chicken buns with drunken pickles and Takashi dogs with spicy mayo, fries, and beer cheese sauce. Oh, and some housemade Fireball. Bottoms up!

Best new nightclub

Clé

Address and Info

Midtown

It’s fitting that “clé’ is French for “key,” because you’ll probably need one to get inside Midtown’s hottest ticket -- or at the very least, money/an in with the bouncer. The exclusive 9,000sqft plush playground has been packed with short skirts, high heels, and even higher rollers since its opening in June. Go day or night and get Vegas-style bottle service in a private booth because 1) it’s a nice sweat-break from the dance floor, and 2) you may just be next to a Texans or Rockets player.

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston writer who totally loved 2015 but is already eyeing the PYTs set to open in 2016. Follow along with her @BrookeViggiano
 

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. 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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2. The Burger Joint 2703 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006 (Montrose)

Get ready to meet the burger of your dreams at this food truck turned brick-and-mortar spot in Montrose. The Burger Joint serves up juicy American cheese-topped patties on perfectly squishy potato rolls. While some things are best left classic, others are better with a little heat, like the house Fire Burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, Serrano peppers, jalapeños, chipotle mayo, and fire sauce. Make sure you order a draft root beer to wash that one down.

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3. Les Ba'get Vietnamese Cafe 1717 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006 (Montrose)

This tiny Montrose area kitchen brings the best of Paris and Saigon to Houston in a two fold way: satisfyingly crunchy baguettes and delectably seared pork belly in the form of a killer banh mi sandwich. Vietnamese/French-inspired breakfast items -- such as the ham and egg croissant -- appear alongside fresh sandwiches, a variety and spring rolls, and pho on Les Ba'get's cosmopolitan menu.

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4. Cureight by Hubbell & Hudson 24 Waterway Avenue Suite 125, The Woodlands, TX 77380 (The Woodlands)

Cureight is what happened when Chef Austin Simmons (of Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, where Cureight is located) let his imagination run wild. This intimate restaurant's menu, hand-picked by Simmons himself, changes weekly and revolves around tasting (that is, very small portions with very chic presentation) and always features fresh, sustainable fish, dry-aged meat and creative desserts. Despite its Woodlands location (a 30-minute drive from the city), it has no problem keepings it's 25-seat chef's table packed, so be sure to lock down a reservation before you show up.

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5. 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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6. Tarakaan 2301 Main St Ste 200, Houston, TX 77002 (Midtown)

With one of the coolest looking bars— think exposed brick walls with floor to ceiling geishas painted over it, this spot not only has great Asian fusion cuisine (get the pad thai) but has a really beautiful and cozy atmosphere with custom cocktails like the Champagne Firecracker.

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7. B&B Butchers 1814 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007 (Washington)

With a front house butcher shop, native NY owner, and handsome interior complete with exposed brick, this steakhouse oozes the kind of old-school charm that feels like a classic Big Apple restaurant. Of course, the in-house dry-aged USDA Prime and Texas Wagyu served in cuts larger than your head feel 100% Texas. If you’re looking for something more casual, the butcher shop Italian-style subs are top notch and there's weekend brunch to unwine at. Plus, there’s a superbly stacked wine list at this upscale butchery and steakhouse.

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8. 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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9. Weights + Measures 2808 Caroline St Ste 101, Houston, TX 77004

Weights + Measures in Montrose is a restaurant, bakery, and bar triple threat that delivers exceptional and inventive takes on meals and drinks. The 70s-esque decor contrasts with the industrial exterior, and the huge space can accommodate bar-goers and diners all in one open space. Stop by in the morning for daily-baked breads, pastries and coffee, or swing by at night for a more relaxed meal.

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10. Hunky-Dory Tavern 1801 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77008 (The Greater Heights)

Built around a wood-fired hearth, this dark, sophisticated Heights restaurant serves British-American cuisine like black pudding, pork belly, and game pie in a romantic dining room. At the full-service bar, a shorter pub menu features steaks and chops along with a selection of wines and around a dozen specialty cocktails. Polished wood tables, classic white-rose centerpieces and low lighting makes Hunky-Dory the ultimate date spot -- just be sure to come hungry and ready to share because they don't fool around with portions here.

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11. Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts 601 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007 (The Greater Heights)

Offering fried chicken and donuts under one roof, there's not much more could you ask for at this Heights Staple. Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts supplies Southern sides like creamed corn, gravy, and mashed potatoes, in addition to its claim-to-fame centerpiece: a golden brown, perfectly friend piece of bird flanked by two whole glazed donuts. There are also a number of daily-made donuts and sweet and savory kolaches in crazy good combinations -- think glazed with praline Bacon and caramel icing or iced blueberry cake.

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12. Fluff Bake Bar 314 Gray St, Houston, TX 77002 (Montrose)

This restaurant serves up the much loved goodies of Rebecca Mason. Try a SHOS, otherwise known as a Sugar Hooker Oreo.

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13. Pappa Charlies Barbecue 2064 Rusk St., Houston, TX 77003 (Downtown)

Opened by a native Houstonian, Pappa Charlies uses only minimally trimmed, choice or grade briskets, and the only seasoning used are salt and pepper so diners can enjoy the real meat taste. Unlike the orthodox low and slow BBQ method, Pappa Charlies makes its meat by cooking (on) high and fast. It’s harder to do, but the juicy taste is worth the effort. This is a proud Texas facility with state-inspired decor and live music from local artists.

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14. Izakaya 318 Gray St, Houston, TX 77002

This Midtown gastropub serves up Japanese small plates from culinary jedis Manabu Horiuchi (of Kata Robata) and Jean-Philippe Gaston (of the late and great Cove). The drinks are as important as the food, and you’ll have just as much fun partaking in flights of Japanese whisky as you will making your way through the not-so-traditional izakaya menu. Heavy wood tones and painted concrete floors add a luxe industrial element to the space, as do the prismatic murals done by a local tattoo artist. Snag a spot on the patio in warmer months.

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15. Helen Greek Food and Wine 2429 Rice Blvd, Houston, TX 77005

Chef William Wright (of Philippe Restaurant & Lounge and Table on Post Oak) and respected sommelier Evan Turner assure this Rice Village spot isn’t your typical falafel-fueled Greek restaurant. Instead you’ll find refreshed Greek fare with a touch of Gulf Coast soul alongside a Greek wine list that is just as thoughtful as it is impressive (it’s the second largest Greek list in the US). Nosh on a dolma, sip on Hellenic wine, and let yourself feel godly for at least as long as the meal lasts. This intimate and romantic is great for small groups or dates.

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16. State of Grace 3256 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098 (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 open kitchen and the giant, wood-fired hearth, offering you not only great food but an entertaining and immersive experience. There's a great oyster program and an upscale, vintage feel to the space, with a marble bar and handsome wooden and leather furniture.

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17. Karbach Brewing Co. 2032 Karbach St, Houston, TX 77092

Though they’ve only been around since 2011, Karbach has already made a name for itself as one of Texas’ fastest-growing breweries. That’s thanks to a solid line up of monster brews, including the crisp and refreshing Sympathy for the Lager and rich and hoppy Rodeo Clown double IPA. Find them all over town or visit the sparkling facility for tours and tastings, movie nights, and good vibes.

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18. Beckrew Wine House 2409 W Alabama St, Houston, TX 77098 (Montrose)

Fancy a nightcap? Make it a Pinot or a 'presso at Beckrew Wine Bar in Upper Kirby. The kitchen serves Italian and Spanish fusion dishes while the wine bar has more than 100 bottles on offer from spots around the globe (there's an emphasis on small vineyards and producers).

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19. Wooster's Garden 3315 Milam St, Houston, TX 77006

This totally chill craft cocktail and beer garden is rocking 49 brews on tap. It also comes fully loaded with an incredible lineup of fancified cocktails featuring touches like fresh-squeezed juices, infusions of fruit smoked with wood chips from repurposed whiskey barrels. The barkeeps pull out all the stops here, with showy concoctions that range from the bittersweet and robust to the tropical and Tiki.

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20. Clé Houston 2301 MAIN ST HOUSTON TX 77002 200 W 39th St, Houston, TX 77002 (Midtown)

Slide past the velvet rope to get into this palatial downtown lounge and bar that regularly hosts VIP events and hip happy hours featuring Houston's finest.

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